It’s been clear to me for years the young comics you promote at your local club will end up hating your guts.
Not always, but usually.
We started doing comedy at Stanford’s in 1980. Stanfords in Westport opened in 1975, but my brother Jeff and I didn’t start doing comedy until later. David Naster came to us with an idea of doing it on a regular basis. I’d been to LA and at the Comedy Store. Originally I thought my father Stan and I would perform as well.
So we started it on Sunday nights in our waiting area bar called THE TREE HOUSE.
Then we added an open mic night on Mondays to find new young and local comics. We did too. From Kansas City’s Sinbad to Louie Anderson. Later even Lewis Black and tons more. Why? They had nowhere else to play. There were few clubs back then and those who had them, mostly LA, New York and Chicago, wanted name stars like Jimmie Walker to headline. Not unknowns. It’s hard to get a crowd to come see someone they never heard of before.
As time marched on we established a brand nationally, so we could use many of our local guys to headline, feature or open shows. One out of maybe 50 became pros and one out of a thousand became stars, got a TV show or movie work. Like Eddie Griffin, a waiter/busboy that started at Stanford’s. HOWEVER, Eddie moved to LA where he got his big break, not here.
In those days, back in the 80’s, we had scouts come to the club from TV shows like Star Search, who found Sinbad and Naster. Later even The Tonight Show and big agencies like William Morris. Those days are gone. The comics now have to move to LA at some point, maybe New York. Those are the feeder cities. Hollywood is lazy and never wants to travel.
I had to call every agent I knew out there to get ONE to come see Dan Whitney. You know him as Larry The Cable Guy. My current agent Matt Blake came, Larry did a show in LA and the rest is history.
Like many of the guys who went on to big careers, they soon forget you for the most part.
They don’t want to be reminded of "how it all began." And they only want to do theaters or TV/film, not a comedy club. They feel that’s a step down. Even if it’s a rare appearance.
But not everyone.
This weekend we have Tommy Chong from Cheech and Chong. He’s a good pal and is doing this as a favor. Lewis Black did our opening at Legends in 2007 for a fraction of his going rate. Neither of these guys do clubs now. Recently we had Carlos Mencia. That’s what sets us apart. We have long term relationships with big name people. Even then, it’s tough to get them in because there’s not much in it for them.
So I understand why our local guys kinda end up not liking me much.
I CAN’T make them stars. They have to start here and leave the nest. It’s not easy to move to LA or New York, when you don’t know anybody and have no money. Sure, I’ll call agents for them, send tapes or email them clips.
I did that for my pal Steve Kramer, who got a TV series in 2000 called Hype on the WB . But that’s rare. Just getting an agent is very hard now, one that matters.
There are more comics out there now than ever. More TV shows than ever, due to Reality TV and 800 channels. Yes. we still do open mic night and it’s a big draw. I use the top guys from that for MC work and later feature work. In some rare occasions even a headline night or two.
But in the end, they have to go create their own careers outside of KC.
Let’s face it, this is not a city on the radar of Hollywood much. So getting lots of laughs here when you are unknown is just a way to tell the comic, it’s ttime to spread your wings and fly to LA. It takes years to make it, an average of 8 to just be a name headliner.
Money is just OK then at $1,000 to $2,000 a week, but you are traveling all over hell and back every week. If you can get the work. It takes a national anchor to make the big money. Jim Jeffries did it recently with two HBO specials, but Jim still needs movies or TV to hit a long homer.
So in the end, the guys you help the most, dislike you the most because they call for work and don’t understand why you have booked, say, Mo Mandel instead of them. "Hey we know each other, Glazer."
And we do. But it’s a business and times are much different now.
The local media does not like putting on unknowns. I have done that with guys like Chris Porter, who immediately turned on us. People look out for their own ass, not yours.
Dig this, I have advanced and loaned (almost never get it back) over $100,000 to comics over the years.
Usually because they’re broke. The local guys. Then the second you can’t help them, you’re an asshole who never paid enough, drives an expensive car, lives better than they do and on and on. You’re a real jerk.
Hey we are the ones who gave them shot, after shot, after shot. This is how it is everywhere, not just in KC. The club owners in the end are the bad guys because we "can’t make you famous" only you can do that for YOU.
I noticed many of our past comics comment and many to the negative. Many have stories of not getting paid enough or not getting enough work and so on. All that said, why do they want to still work for us? Stanford’s is a top, top name in this business. And maybe, just maybe, No 1 overall.
We enjoy finding new talent. We just can’t make everyone a star. I wish we could.