Garrett Clark is a very funny Canadian comedian who sounds like a very funny Australian comedian. He was born in Canada, lived in Australia and eventually found his way back home to the great white north. He tours internationally and is a festival favorite, Garrett Clark is in The Guest Spot!!!
When beginning the journey of a comedian it’s easy to be overwhelmed with excitement and with questions. What open mics should I focus on? Who should I talk to? What’s the next step? You’re wandering blind into a strange new world, but things start falling into place if you hit mics regularly. For some comics their sights start setting in on “the road” or out of town paid gigs. Other comics may be more inclined to keep their focus in the city. But what draws a comic down one road or another? Is there a route a comic is better off taking?
Well of course the easy answer is that it depends what you are looking to get out of this unique venture. We all want to tell jokes for different reasons, but it’s hard to have the foresight of a long term plan in those beginning years. Your goals become clearer once immersed in the industry for a while. You begin to see what you’re cut out for and what you have available to you.
I developed a travel addiction early on as a result of a number of traveling jobs: I sold vacuum cleaners; I hosted a traveling TV show on CBC; I was a flight attendant. The list goes on! When the day came that I could make my living from telling jokes alone, it was pretty clear which path I was on. I had made connections and friends across Canada, I had the personality type to travel with little stress, and I loved being on the go. Two and a half years since leaving my day job, and it would appear I’ve taken the path of a road comic. Is there an advantage in taking this route rather than staying in the city and grinding it out in the same 5-10 rooms week after week? Well I can tell you first hand that life on the road takes it’s toll on your body. Planes, car rentals, hotels, time changes, poor eating and exercise schedules. Week after week and year after year. But let’s speak on a purely comedic and professional level.
As a ROAD COMIC the frequency and variety of rooms you play is of infinite value. You learn how to tailor your act to Legions where the audience is 40 years older than you, and you learn how to win over a bar of angry patrons who just had the hockey game turned off so that YOU can tell your little jokes. From theatres to clubs to bowling alleys to backyards, there is no measure of value to the skill this gives you after a few years. It’ll make you a solid comedian. The pay is a big pro to life on the road too. Staying in the city is next to impossible for a comedian to make a living only on stand up. Most of the big Canadian cities have roughly 3 comedy clubs. That’s 3 paid spots (MC, middle, headliner) at 3 clubs. So 9 comedians per city, per weekend, are getting paid club work. This of course doesn’t include one-nighters, bar gigs, or corporates, but none the less that’s roughly 9 comedians out of 50+ that are working in town that weekend. Needless to say if you’re not leaving town then you better listen to your dad and get a god damn job.
A big problem with being on the road is that too often a comedian will connect his/her weekends with the next city out of geographical convenience. A Toronto comic plays in Vancouver one weekend and Kelowna the next, maybe Calgary the weekend after. That’s 3 consecutive weekends gone from home. Gone from auditions. Gone from the hot city mics, and gone from a relationship. Sure comedians can hit mics in whatever city they are in but after a long bout of this, all it’s doing is reminding comics/bookers in those city’s that you’re still funny. This isn’t a bad thing, but if you want your hard work to pay off on a level that spans outside of the current room you’re playing, you need to make the effort to return to the big city between weekends. After 12 years of doing stand up with about 6 of that as an active road comic, I’m starting to see the immense value in being firmly rooted in one spot. Working your way up the food chain in the biggest city you can with the most options is pertinent to your growth within the industry.
As a CITY COMIC not only is there the opportunity for multiple sets each and every night, but the pressure to turn over material is far greater. When you’re playing to the same rooms with the same comedians standing at the back and a lot of the same loyal comedy fans in the audiences, you just don’t feel right in the gut telling the same joke more than 3 or 4 times. Even if the joke needs more polishing, that pressure lights a major fire under you to be looking around for the next funny thing. The trick then is to pocket the joke and work it out to fresh ears next time you’re in a new room. Your growth as a comedian is much quicker and healthier when you work this way. Not to mention, the city comic is home for those auditions and showcases. He or she is under the radar of a lot more TV and festival bookers too.
There is clear value to each path, but I think the answer lies somewhere in the middle. Get out there and build your chops. See the country and make some money. But hard work and consistency in the same place your industry thrives is bound to lead further than Fort McMurray.