Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sidebar: Comic economics

Published in the Portland Phoenix

Nearly none of Maine’s comedians make their living at it — really only the folks who make it big and travel regularly around the country can do that. The rest work office jobs, retail counters, and anywhere else they can — just like other young, emerging artists and performers.

For a night of stand-up at the Connection, a local comic won’t make anything at all, says owner Oliver Keithly and booker Tim Ferrell: they’re just putting in their time, earning experience. Liquid Blue’s rotating cast of about 10 local performers make anywhere from $20 to $150 each, according to regular host Tammy Pooler, depending on how many people come in.

National headliners at both those venues make between $250 to $500, with Connection hosts and feature performers making $50 to $75 and $100 to $200 respectively, Ferrell says. “You’re not going to make money in comedy for the first four years” at least.

The money to pay comedians comes from the box-office receipts — between $5 and $12 for most shows — with bar receipts covering other costs, Ferrell says. The Connection packs people in, filling about 150 seats most nights, especially in the summer. Liquid Blue’s biggest show packed the house with about 100 people standing and sitting, according to club owner Tom Manning.

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