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The Great NYC Standup Debate

There’s been a debate raging across the internet this weekend about the UCBeast Theatre in New York’s practice of not paying stand-ups who perform there. The whole thing started last month when comedian Kurt Metzger, in his words, “trashed UCBeast” on Facebook for not paying comedians for a sold-out $10 dollar-a-head stand-up show called “If You Build It.” Here’s some of Metzger’s Facebook musings:

“So last week I trashed UCBeast for packing a 120 seat theater at 10 bucks a head for a standup show in NY on a Saturday night, and then not having the decency God gave Jerry Sandusky to peel the performers off a twenty. I’ll say again, this is not like Whiplash, which is an awesome show on a WEEKNIGHT that takes donations. I’ve got no problem with that. Just don’t make people pay to see comics and then not pay the comics…

I’m not telling anyone to boycott UCBeast or anything stupid, but I will say if you need to run an alt show, there’s this great place called the Creek and the Cave where the owner loves standup and standups, and doesn’t treat them like young college suckers she plans fleece out of trust fund money for bullshit Harold lessons. Also, she doesn’t feel entitled to run shitty little power trips on a new comic just because she listened to Amy Poehler queef over a speaker phone once.”

Metzger’s Facebook rants went viral and spurred a huge debate, with the conclusion being that UCB is running stand-up shows the same way they do their improv and sketch shows, which conflicts with New York stand-up culture. Kurt Metzger’s still posting about it on Facebook and talking down to the improv scene a ton and painting the UCB as a heartless corporation hellbent on taking advantage of stand-ups in doing so. A ton of comedians are weighing in all over the internet, including Nick Turner, Mike Lawrence, and Adam Conover, who all make some pretty strong cases for paying stand-ups for shows with a cover. Chris Gethard, a stand-up and improviser who’s involved in the theater but also in the rest of New York’s stand-up scene, also shared his thoughts on Tumblr and here’s a bit of it:

Anyone who gets good enough to make money consistently should stop doing things where they don’t make money, unless they opt in to do so for creative satisfaction. If you can make money, and you want to make money, you should do the things that make you money. If you for some reason don’t want to make money, or are not at a place to make money yet, the UCB does a pretty fine job of affording a hot stage to get your work up and running. I don’t begrudge Bobby Moynihan for not stopping by the Sunday night shows anymore. The dude is too busy being on Saturday Night Live these days. That’s awesome.

I personally have not been up at UCB as much as usual lately? Wanna know why? I’m real busy with my IFC development deal. The non-moneymaking endeavors can take a backseat to the money making endeavors for the time being. But believe me, when I have a new project I want to work towards, UCB is a stage I know I can figure out material on in front of a smart comedy crowd who is willing to let me fail because they only paid five bucks and are drinking cheap beers that they aren’t forced to buy.

Gethard’s is a fair and even-keeled argument that hears both sides out and pushes for compromise and agreement while debunking a lot of the bullshit surrounding this debate. Give the full thing a read!

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