I was just reading an article on the Guardian’s website about ‘bringer shows’ in London’s comedy scene (the Guardian is the UK’s biggest newspaper). I won’t rehash their writing (you can read it for yourself here), but it got me thinking about bringer shows in the local South Florida scene, including the New Faces show at the Fort Lauderdale Improv happening this week.
For any reader not steeped in comedy lingo, a bringer show is one in which the performer needs to ‘bring’ a certain amount of audience members to get stage time. This number can range from 1 person to 10, depending on the venue.
Here’s my opinion: I think there needs to be a change. However, the change I’m suggesting might not be the one you’re thinking of. I’m OK with the concept of the bringer show. I understand why it’s done and it’s a good way for a show to make some money and get promoted without having to spend money on marketing. What I think the bringer show is lacking is a second, monetary option other than bringing people. I’ll explain.
I’m 41, which is (at least) ten years older than the majority of comedians in the South Florida scene. My life is markedly different from that of someone who’s ten years (or more) my junior. My friends, all of them, have children. My friends, all of them, work standard, 9-to-5 type jobs. My friends rarely, if ever, go out on weeknights. We’re all just passed that. Well, they are. I can’t seem to let it go, but that’s a post for another time.
What this means is that for me to get 10 people to come out to a show in the middle of the week is nearly impossible. Plans need to be made, sitters need to be called, reservations, coordinations, and all kinds of other stuff needs to happen for just a single couple to get out, let alone five. Add to this that the ‘novelty’ of me doing comedy has long since passed. I perform a lot, so there will always be another, more convenient time goes the thinking.
Where does that leave me? Currently, unable to participate. Furthermore, it completely degrades my willingness to even try. I’ve already been in situations at a bringer show when one, two or even three couples show up to see me perform and there’s a chance that I won’t because I didn’t hit the magic number. While these three couples are still seeing the show, they are disappointed because they came to see me and I can’t participate because I didn’t qualify.
So, what’s the solution? I think there should be a second option. One that allows a person in a situation such as mine to participate. While I may not be able to bring the requisite amount of people, I’d be willing to pay my way on stage for a place that I wanted to be. I’m not saying this should be the first option or that it should even be encouraged or advertised, but there’s a reason venues let people in for free and make their money from the drink minimum. They need to generate a certain dollar amount to make the night worthwhile, to pay the staff, and to keep the place open and I get that. I’m willing to contribute to that cost, maybe not in people, but in dollars.
Here’s my thought: I’m going to use a bringer show that requires the performer to bring 10 people as my example as this, at least in the South Florida scene, is the most well-known. I’d be willing to put up $50 to get on stage, BUT, that amount goes down by $5 for every person I bring in. So, If I’m able to get my 10 people, no money is needed. If I can only get 3 people to come, I pay $35, but get to perform for those that I brought. This incentivizes me to still try to get the 10 people, but doesn’t punish me (or the ones who did come) if I don’t.
The concept of a bringer show has been around well before I got into comedy and I’m sure it will continue well after I’m gone. I don’t know if what I said will change anything (I doubt it), but it’s worth a shot. Especially because I’d love to participate.