Of all of the types of shows in the comedy community, none is more polarizing than the ‘bringer’. (I saw a couple of you twitch from just reading the word.) If you don’t know, a ‘bringer’ is a show where the amount of time that you get is dependent on how many paying people you can get to come to see you at the club – even to the point where if you don’t hit a certain threshold, you don’t get to hop on stage at all.
When I say ‘polarizing,’ I mean that comics seem to not like the concept, and producers/clubs do like them. It is where comedy isn’t about friends – it’s about money, attendance, and maybe getting a nice video of your set for a nominal fee.
A lot of comics loathe the idea, but see them as a necessary evil that they have to do as they meander down their comedy path. They resent having to cajole their friends, family, acquaintances, racoons, homeless people off of the street to come to a club where – depending on how many of the people who say they are coming actually bother to show up – they may not even get to go on stage.
What? Yes. Many comics started grinding their teeth when I brought the subject up and went into a rant about the time at that eight o’clock show, where they only had 4 out of 6 people show up – and the producer kept them around until eleven-thirty under the auspices that they’d get up later in the evening – only to end the show and then feign confusion that they had ‘totally forgotten to put them up’ and that they should definitely come out to next Thursday’s show where they would definitely be put up – if they made sure to bring the proper amount of people, of course …
Rules are rules – but – listening to these similar stories over and over, where the comics feel cheated and used – because some of their friends had come out, paid the cover, dealt with the drink minimum, and then stayed out – only to not see their pal perform because they hadn’t hit the established number … I could definitely see where their anger and frustration were coming from.
One bit of advice that I’ve heard is that if you are booked to do a ‘bringer’, you should always over confirm the amount of people who say that they are going to come out – because – on the day of the show, most people won’t bother to go. Even though they promised, and you texted them ten times, and were going to pay for their drinks and admission, and they are your parents …
If you do find out that people are bailing, and that you aren’t going to have the necessary number, get in touch with the producer and let them know. Don’t waste you time, their time. or your friends time by showing up at the club and trying to get onto a show that you shouldn’t technically be on because you broke the contract. Have a night wandering around the city – and if you are hell-bent on doing one of these shows, then try again next month.
On the flipside, from both a producer and a club’s perspective, they see it as an opportunity to get people who are really green stage-time, and fill the club (make money) in the process … They have bills to pay – and most of the comics on these types of shows aren’t ready to perform at a professional club – but who knows – maybe someone will stand out, and catch the eye of a booker and actually move forward in their career. At the very least, they get the chance to hang out in the club, around people who are making their living in the comedy industry – and so – regardless of anything, it’s a learning experience. And – if people don’t like the set-up, then they don’t have to come back … There’s always a line of people just starting out who are more than thrilled to have their office come out to see the funny girl from the mailroom strut her stuff on stage.
Clubs are businesses, and producers need to eat … So, I can also see where they are coming from in this game … They also have a seemingly limitless pool of people who are willing to go through the process – and who have a great time doing it.
Where I start to worry is where it seems to end up being a practice that especially targets newer comics, people who are desperate to get any kind of stage-time that they can – who are less sure of themselves, their talents, their place in the industry, and the path that they need to use to get to their pearly dreams … And, I’ve seen comics hurt because they let the producer (who they mistook as being a friend – instead of the temporary business partner that they are) down – and that just stinks all the way around. Comedy is super-hard enough to do as it is … So – to guilt people who were only responsible for fifty or sixty dollars coming into the door of a Tuesday night show, instead of the one-fifty that was being banked on leaves a sour taste in the mouth of not only the comic – but also of the friends of the comic that spent money to come out and didn’t even get to see their friend perform.
For younger comics (and not just dabblers who want a chance to bring their family (who are visiting from Kansas), or their entire office (where they really just want that one girl to see how hilarious they are) – there is no reason to do a ‘bringer’ show … There are a million places around the city, and just outside of the city where you can get stage-time, to work on figuring yourself out – who you are, what your standpoint/voice is, work on writing your material, honing it, polishing it, and get to a point where being seen by someone in the industry is beneficial. Also, just because you did a bringer at a club in New York doesn’t mean that you get to add that club to your comedy resume … You were there, even performed there – but – you aren’t THERE (yet). So, avoid that pothole.
For producers/club – I don’t think that you are doing anything wrong … You are offering a type of dream/wish fulfillment for people. It’s not really that different from the people that pay go to Florida to play in an Adult Baseball Camp for their favorite team. They pay, they play. You are a business – and live in a world where there are a million distractions and you have an imperative to get butts into seats …Otherwise, you lose your seats.
In the end, the responsibility to bring the agreed upon amount of people is on the comics. You aren’t forcing them to be on the show. My only nudge that I would ask is that you try to not be predatory about it by over promising the opportunity to bright-eyed, bushy-tailed kids who can feel pressured by someone in a position of power in the industry (perceived or not) when they feel like this might be their only opportunity to get into a club, to move up the ladder, to get to their pearly dreams.
So – do you bringer? I’m curious as to what your experience has been, what you’ve gotten out of it, and if it is something that you’ll continue to do – both from the comic and the producer/club perspective.
Do I bringer? No, not really. I did a couple when my eyes were brighter, but really didn’t like how nauseous they made me feel. The added pressure of ‘where are my people? are they coming? what do i do? do i tell someone? am i even going to get to go up’ – on top of the normal butterflies of doing a show made the experience miserable for me. Then, on top of that not knowing any of the other performers and being socially awkward, and I stopped doing them pretty quickly. I have hosted and done guest-spots on several bringer shows, and anytime I do that, I make sure to talk to all of the comics – to build them up and relieve as much of the pressures as I can from the night. Because I get to have more fun when they are having fun – and because it’s nifty to live vicariously through people’s dreams.