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Scott Long's Comedy Schedule, Plus a Dirty Little Secret
2006-01-29 10:18
by Scott Long

I have been asked by some readers to put up a schedule of my comedy dates. Here it is through May. All the dates listed are headlining shows (50-60 minute sets) except for the ones with Frank Caliendo.

2     Spring Lake, MI
3-4   Merrillville Star Plaza (Chicago area)
9     West Lake, OH
10-11 Grand Blanc, MI
15    Decatur, IL
18    Bloomington, IL
21-22 Duluth, MN
23    Spicer, MN
24    Mantiwoc, WI
25    New Holstein, WI

1-4   Kalamazoo, MI
10-11 Twin Cities
17    Ste. Saint Marie, MI Casino
18    North Dakota
19    UP of Michigan
21    Sioux Falls, SD
22    Stevens Pt., WI
23    Newton, IA
24    Brainerd, MN
25    St. Cloud, MN
29    Carbondale, IL
31    St. Louis

1     St. Louis
6-9   DC Improv (w/Frank Caliendo)
12    Lima, OH
14-15 Milwaukee Casino
25    LaCrosse
26    Dubuque
27-29 Madison, WI

4-7   Chicago Improv (w/Frank Caliendo -- tentative)
10-13 Lansing, MI
17-20 Toledo, MI

(If you want more information about times and locations, please contact me via email.)

I'm sure many of you noticed that many of these dates appear to be in Single-A towns. Kind of like a Nike tour of comedy. I have played almost every major club in the country. I have performed at almost all the Improvs, which is the top comedy chain in the country. Go to and look at the schedule of comics that will be performing there. The roster includes about 40 comics. These comics, with maybe five exceptions are major draws; they are draws because they have been on network TV shows or have built a niche following through specific communities (Hispanic, Urban, Gay, etc.).

Besides the occasional Pauly Shore or Michael Winslow, the Improv headlining comics are hilarious. Much like the music world, it's important to find a niche to market yourself to. If you don't find that niche, you find yourself featuring at the Improvs and Funny Bones. ($500-$1,200 a week, depending on if the big-time headliner allows you to sell CDs or t-shirts.)

The dirty little secret is if you are not one of these top 40 or 50 acts, the best way to make money is to play smaller cities and towns. Do three or four nights and you will make between $1,000-$2,000 for the week, plus you are given celebrity status in these places. By the way, the worst places to do comedy on a money scale are New York and Los Angeles, as the clubs pay most of their comics $25-$50 a set. These cities have so many quality comics that the owners rule the supply and demand side of the equation. Why comics are willing to do this is if you want to get on TV, you need to live in one these two cities, as all auditions are based out of there.

There are a few ways of making a good living doing stand-up comedy.

  1. Corporate Shows
  2. Colleges (NACA)
  3. Cruise ships

    These first three categories pay well, but you need to be clean and extremely politically correct to do them. This is a big reason so few comics do them and why they pay so well.

  4. Travel the country doing a mix of one-nighters and clubs. (Comics in this category are often referred as road dogs.)
  5. Play small clubs and coffee houses in L.A., NY, or possibly Boston, which you will not making a good living, but hoping to be seen by someone who get you into TV.
I would guess that there are only 200 comics in the country that make over 50 grand a year, by just playing comedy clubs and one-nighters. If you add in the first three categories, I'm guessing you might be able to add another 100 comics who make over the 50 thousand barrier. Now there are some comics who make huge money playing theatres, headed by Larry the Cable Guy, but most comics are in category No. 4.

Morning radio is the No. 1 way to sell tickets. Now that Howard Stern is off the FM dial, the Bob and Tom Show is the most influential place to get people out to the show in the US. (They are in over 150 markets and have 5 million listeners.) Believe it or not, they will sell tickets in the markets they are in way more than an appearance on any of the Late Night talk programs. On the Bob and Tom Show the comic is on for a longer time and they mention where you will be at more often

Have you ever watched a show like Premium Blend on Comedy Central and thought, "Jesus, are these comics lame." I have been in the business for 13 years and I would say 75 percent of the comics on these shows have never performed more than a couple of times outside of SoCal or the East Coast. Almost everyone on these shows have Management and they are looking for young, telegenic people who they hopefully place in movies or sitcoms. I've had friends on these shows, but for the most part, the comics on Premium Blend would be openers for me, as they just don't have the experience or talent to perform in front of an audience for more than 15 minutes.

Just like any profession, comics have different goals. My goal was to travel the country doing live stand-up and hopefully get a TV writing job or two. Just trying to accomplish these goals was filled with frustration and disappointment, but fortunately I've been able to achieve mostly what I set out to do. I've had enough friends move to the coasts and have their dreams and fantasies squashed to not have much doubt that I made the right choice for myself.

2006-01-29 12:15:30
1.   deadteddy8
Scott, I've enjoyed your writing about comedy and the comedy circuit over the many months I've been reading here. I've got a couple questions...
1) Are the days of a standup comic opening for a musical act totally over? I find it interesting that the "headline in small towns" philosophy pays off more than the "play the big markets at all costs" philosophy, which seems to differ from my perspective of the music industry.
And 2) Even though everyone knows "March of the Penguins" is going to win the Oscar for Best Documentary, isn't it a travesty that "The Aristocrats" wasn't even on the short list for nomination consideration? Well, at least I think so...


2006-01-29 12:22:05
2.   joejoejoe
That was a very concise explanation of something I never thought about before but it's always fun to learn something new.

You must drive a lot. What do you do with your time while you are in the car? I love going through the open spaces of the midwest without any music sometimes - the whole world just unfurls before you.

2006-01-29 12:49:56
3.   Scott Long
David---Thanks for the nice words. I get some emails asking me about comedy and I thought I would share my experiences occasionally about it.

Opening for rock acts rarely happens, but there are a few comics who open for country or golden oldie acts. I had a friend work with Kenny Rogers for example. I guess I left out another category, but it's really small. Same goes for working with these acts, as with the first 3 categories, as you need to be clean and politically correct. Personally, that isn't usually my favorite type of comedy to watch, though I do corporate shows in that style, when the doe-re-mi is right.
Since I haven't seen a lot of documentaries from 2005, I can't make a judgement, but it's hard to imagine The Aristocrats not being in the Top 5. I've been meaning to review that movie here. Look for a post in the next 2 months.

I do drive a lot and actually am driving more this year, as my wife quit her job, so I need to bring home a bigger loaf each week. I fly to some gigs, especially when I play on the West Coast, but overall I like driving. I have the new XM MIFI! (which will be another post soon) and I also bring books on tape and my 40GB MP3 player, so I'm covered for entertainment. I find the time to myself generally cool, though it's a drag to be away from my 2.5 year old daughter.

I'm not someone who just likes to drive in silence, though some atmospheric music can make for your own little soundtrack. I can remember listening to Rufus Wainwright driving around the rolling wheat fields of North Dakota at dusk and it was one of those transcendent moments. Also, listening to Chris Whitley while driving through the Big Sky Country of Montana was another great feeling.

2006-01-29 12:55:15
4.   Scott Long
I should also mention that I've tried to stay closer to home (Midwest) in 2006, because of my daughter. It looks like I might have a new project in the Fall which will put me on the coast's more often.
2006-01-30 05:42:03
5.   Blotz
Nice post Scott. Reminds me of the 5 years of Pro Ams I did in Cincinnati in the mid 90's whilst comedy clubs closed all around me. I swear, Stand up has got to be the hardest art form to learn, I always compared it to learning to swim, but they only throw you in the pool once a month for five minutes at a time. Huge respect to anybody who makes a living at it.

It seems like the Comedy Club is making a comeback, at least around here. Are you finding more rooms to play than last decade?

2006-01-30 05:45:40
6.   jgpyke
It's Merrillville.

I know, I know--all Hoosiers pronounce it the way you spelled it.

I saw my first concert at the Star in 1982: Devo. And when Mark Mothersbaugh pronounced it the real way, and I wondered what the hell he was talking about.

2006-01-30 08:15:54
7.   Daniel Zappala
I'm glad I'm not funny. I couldn't handle all that travel. Thanks for the insight into your world, it makes me appreciate what you do a bit more.
2006-01-30 20:26:21
8.   rageon
Where are you performing in St. Cloud?
2006-01-30 20:28:07
9.   rageon
I missed the reference to North Dakota in #3. Are you from ND originally? I grew up in Cooperstown, and then did undergrad and law school in Grand Forks.
2006-01-30 20:53:36
10.   Scott Long
I'm not sure what the name of the place is downtown. Send an email to me at and I will return the info when I get it.

I didn't grow up in ND, but I've played every city in the state and really like the people. My brother lived in Grand Forks for awhile and I used to perform annually at the Comedy Gallery there. (The first club that regularly headlined Mitch Hedberg.)

One of my favorite moments in my comedy career was looking at a flyer for the month at the Comedy Gallery in Grand Forks, which had Hedberg, Todd Barry, and Mario Joyner in successive weeks, then me after them. The owner of the club really was a great guy and strived to bring in high quality comics, not always worrying about the bottom line. The great flood eventually made it impossible for him to continue. Sad story.

2006-01-31 05:45:44
11.   The Real Neal
Quote 'I didn't grow up in ND, but I've played every city in the state'

That must have been a hectic weekend.

2006-01-31 15:24:45
12.   Scott Long
Real Neal. Man did I set you up. All the same you hit it out of the park. Good work.

Cities for those keeping track I would list, even though the last 4 are really pushing the ideas of city. Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, Dickinson, Mandan, Devils Lake.

2006-02-01 07:27:27
13.   rageon
The people in Grand Forks really miss comedy at the Westward Ho. I'm pretty sure the situation was a lot more complicated than simply not being able to continue after the flood, but it doesn't really matter in the end.

As cool as it was that Hedberg used to play GF so much, it just never worked out so that I could see him. Now I wish I'd made it a priority.

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