I arrive just after the show starts and stand next to the bar, scoping out the crowd. I’ve been here a couple minutes when the bartender (also the owner) approaches. “What can I get you to drink?”
I don’t really want anything right now. I’m waiting for the host to finish his set so I can walk across the room to the bathroom. “Well…” I say. “Actually, can I just get some water?”
“We ask everyone to order a drink.”
This isn’t out of the ordinary. Some comedy shows that don’t charge a cover at the door have a drink minimum for the audience.
“Oh, I’m performing on the show,” I say.
“So?” he barks. “All the more reason for you to order a drink. You think you can just come here and use my stage for free and not buy anything?”
In all my years doing standup, I’ve never heard this before – requiring the comics on a booked show to buy a drink. I’ve heard it at open mics – buy a drink, get five minutes of stage time – but never at a booked show. In fact, sometimes I’m even booked on shows that provide the comedians with – GASP – free drinks!
I stand there staring at the guy, first trying to process his outright rudeness and then the implications of what he’s saying. He stares back.
“Well how about I just leave?” I ask.
He scoffs. “You can’t just buy a bottle of water? It's a couple bucks.”
“I never said I wouldn’t buy a bottle of water. It’s not about that. I would’ve bought one.”
“Okay.” He walks over to the cooler. “Perfect. I’ll get you one.”
He turns. “What’s the problem?”
I don’t know what to say, so I settle for, “I don’t like the way you approached that.”
I leave thirsty.
Here’s why that little interaction is bullshit.
First of all, really Cock ‘N’ Bull Pub? That’s how you treat people? Even if it were a one-drink minimum for comedians to perform, you feel it’s necessary to bark it at their faces rather than explaining the policy? (After I left, the booker told me that comics performing on the show are actually NOT required to buy a drink. He mentioned that the bar used to host an open mic with a drink minimum, so maybe the bartender was “confused.”)
Side note about me: I’m good to bartenders and servers. I tip them more than 22%, especially when they work in a place where I’m doing standup because it just makes sense to do that. That being said, I would like Dick Bartender to know this: I would’ve tipped you $3 on a glass of water, you fucking douche.
But all of these obvious reasons aside, what really offends me is the blatant disrespect for comedians.
I’m not going to go on one of those “standup comedy is hard” rants here. I’m not going to mention that I’ve sacrificed relationships, jobs, and time for the past 9 years of my life for basically zero monetary reimbursement. I’m not going to ramble on about how much gas I use in a week driving back and forth from mic to show to club to whatever. Or how I have a full time job on top of that, so weeks of my life get eaten up, and I miss out on just getting to enjoy a beautiful day. Or how the hours of waiting to get up can make you slowly lose your mind.
I chose this life and all that comes with it. I get that.
But I’d like to remind people, because some of you don’t seem to get this – standup comedy is a JOB that most people don’t get paid to do, and getting paid has little to do with talent. Of course, the best comedians around deserve to get paid for their work, but there are tons of lesser-knowns who don’t get picked up for some Hollywood reason and are nevertheless hilarious. In fact, some of my very favorite comedians to watch I see at open mics and on just a few good shows. And I’m not talking about people who get a few chuckles. I’m talking about people who I’ve only seen crush in any room.
Isn’t that worth something?
I realize I’m not a big name comedian, but I’m actually making some progress in my career doing standup here in L.A., so I’m lucky because I don’t have to do this show. Believe it or not, Mr. Dick Bartender, there are other places that have no problem giving me 7 minutes on stage AND a glass of fucking water.
I’m lucky. That’s not the case for all of us. Plenty of really funny people have to take all the stage time they can. And if this had happened when I first moved here and was dying for time, I would’ve had to give that bar my money, and I would’ve felt gross about letting a jerk treat me like that.
But I’m also lucky because now I can pretty much afford to buy a drink whenever I want. There are comics among us who sleep in their cars, who eat one meal a day, who sink all their money into this because they’re funny, and they’re meant to do this.
Cock N’ Bull pub, you should be ashamed of yourself. Bullying comedians into buying a drink in your bar when they’re there to entertain a room full of people who came to watch the show is straight up disgusting. If you think it’s too much to give a glass of water to a comedian who gladly drove out of her way to perform for free what it took almost 9 years to hone, then here’s an obvious solution: don’t have a fucking comedy show in your bar.