Recycled Rock N Roll

Recycled Rock N Roll

Friday, October 14, 2022



There are hundreds of stand up comedy shows in L.A. Netflix shoots dozens of one hour comedy specials a month. The big clubs like The Comedy Store, Laugh Factory and The Ice House are full every weekend. Comedians are obviously on those stages getting noticed, getting paid, and moving up in Hollywood, right?

Not exactly.

For more than a dozen years I've interviewed dozens of stand up comics. Although they are all different people with unique imaginations and their own style of comedy, stories they tell about the evils of Hollywood are often copies of each other when it comes to the abuses they suffer to get stage time. Extortion is common. Working for free is the norm. 

For female comedians it's worse. They often are asked to exchange sex for stage time and/or payment. Sexual harassment doesn't even describe it. Dating the host of a comedy show to get stage time can be mandatory for most women. To even be a part of "the scene" in stand up comedy if you are young usually means hooking up with other comics, if you want to move up.

Steven Marcus Releford, the headliner for THIRTEEN

Human greed is also a factor. In real life you work a job, get paid for it, and with more education and experience you move up and get paid more. Some people might work internships in college. Others work for free to get experience before a new career. At one point you will get paid for working a job, that's the logic. Not in Hollywood.

Stand up comics often pay for stage time. Gasoline, parking, and traffic tickets all take a chunk of money. After that they might buy two drinks to put their name in a raffle to go up or even pay $5 to perform for five minutes. Some clubs are generous. Any comedian going up only buys two drinks for the privilege. They cost $10 each of course. 

The worst are bringers. The producer/host demands each comic bring ten people to perform. Out of the $200 the comedian brings in they might get $20, while the bringer host happily brings in their friends to perform, too, without the burden of bringing anyone. It also does the beginning stand up comic no favors with their peers, who will despise the performer for performing in a bringer, even if they were paid. 

It's time to celebrate Halloween early...

If a comedian sees any money from their work early on, it will probably be out of a bucket or hat the producer of the show passes around the audience to pay the performers. Here's your paycheck...$3.72, plus dryer lint. This is after all the hours comedians spent driving to the event, before they get a parking ticket because L.A. screwed up the signs again.

Breaking into stand up comedy in Hollywood also means joining social cliques. Remember the cool kids in high school that looked down upon you and could ruin your social status with a word or lie? They are alive and well, producing and hosting comedy shows. Make friends and you might move up. Make someone jealous and you've made an enemy to your career. Refuse to date the wrong person and they'll make sure you never work in any show they are on. Nobody will defend you if that person is a producer or host known for abusing others...they need the stage time.

Holding a flyer for the show.

If you don't fit in because don't have the exact, specific, perfect personality to get along with the covert egotistical narcissists that infect any healthy social scene, you don't move up and you don't get stage time. Open mic nights can be miserable for anyone new, even if they are damn good. Every comedian in the audience is a potential rival, waiting to hold back laughter to hurt their competition.

Comedians MUST get stage time. Theater gives any actor hours upon hours of experience thanks to rehearsals, technical blocking and performance. Film repeats scenes and shots endlessly. An actor may say the same lines fifty times in one day. Stand up comedy only has the stage plus the audience. They have to get up there to get a measly 3-5 minutes, after hours of waiting. At the end of the month an amateur stand up comic might only perform for an hour, and they are often paying to do it. 

Releford on the mic, entertaining the audience.

THIRTEEN is a safe haven from all that useless chaos stand up comics usually deal with. Comedians get to work in a professional environment where they are respected, paid for their work, and not exploited. There will also be diversity, so that everyone is equally represented. While this might be common sense to the reader, it's brand new facts to some people running stand up comedy shows throughout California.

Guests at the THIRTEEN will notice the improvement in the performance of the comedians entertaining them. Great money means greater morale. Happy people are funnier to be around, and get bigger laughs from the audience because of their attitude. Paying stand up comics also means the audience gets the best performance for their buck because our show hired a person worth paying. They are, after all, professional comedians, not amateurs. 

Enter if you dare.

Another big influence is theater, specifically The Grand Guignol Theatre of Paris, France, more than a hundred years ago. Normally a stand up comedy show is just a comedian doing comedy until they bring up more comedians to do the same. There is nothing wrong with this. A variety show featuring comedians along with other artists using music, magic, improvisational comedy and even dancing is an experience worth paying to see, especially one like ours with a gothic, macabre sensibility. 

A prop from the comedy horror show THIRTEEN.

Theater has a resounding importance across time and space because of humanity. Plays written hundreds and thousands of years ago are still performed today, and still matter. When the electricity stops and it's just fire and humans, theater will be there, as it has always been. Stand up comedy is theater. It's also speech, film acting technique and properly done, like a funny conversation with somebody entertaining at a bar. It doesn't need CGI to succeed. Fake blood helps. 

Some posters for The Grand Guignol Theatre of Paris, France, from more than a century ago.

The Grand Guignol was simply a theater in France, and a style of drama, that was innovative, bloody and violent. Gore isn't new to the stage, just watch Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus or Macbeth. Then watch The Little Shop of Horrors and Sweeney Todd. Add elements of horror and science fiction, like Dracula, Frankenstein plus The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and you have the essence of Grand Guignol Theatre.

Audiences in the early 1900's saw shocking displays of blood, severed heads, scientific experiments gone wrong, tyrannical government tortures, executions, vampires, murder, madness, maniacs, werewolves and other dark subject matter worthy of modern Netflix Halloween specials, slasher flicks and Twilight Zone episodes. They were shocking senses and pushing boundaries, paving the way for horror and sci-fi films decades later. It is no mystery why Grand Guignol persists to this day, with troupes like The Molotov Theatre Group espousing it's gory glory. 

Stand up comedy vernacular fits right in with the ghoulish visualizations and horrific concepts The Grand Guignol Theatre espoused. Comedians "die" on stage, or they "kill." They "bomb" onstage, or they "slay" the audience, who were "dying of laughter." They "murder" the crowd. Even the end of joke is violent...a "punch line." Bomb too many times in Hollywood, if you are famous, and your career is "dead."

Our show is a theater production including horror and humor, with comedians appearing throughout to keep us all laughing. As THIRTEEN goes on we can add new acts, live music, belly dancers breathing fire, horror improv comedy and whatever it takes to give an audience their money's worth in an original way through a traditional theater, which never dies. Please donate at our gofundme, if you can. We plan to expand, hiring more people, different acts and innovating our live show as time goes on. 

So please join us at THIRTEEN. We've chosen the perfect lineup for your entertainment. The price is right and parking is free. Halloween is right around the corner, and our show is the perfect place to turn up to celebrate such a tenebrous season. Sure, The Host of the show is a little crazy, and by the end of the evening there will be blood. Our comedians are complete killers. You'll never forget the humor, as long as you live! After all, there is no slaughter without laughter.