Who's laughing now? Comedy clubs weather tough times

stand-upWhile the recession has hit nearly every industry, this article points to one niche that's actually thriving in the downturn: stand-up comedy. While many comedy clubs have had a tough time during this economic slump, the magazine The Atlantic profiles one long-time venue owner who's still packing in people looking for a chuckle, night after night. The only catch, and one that's no laughing matter for the club owners who host stand-up comedians, is that ticket prices have to be slashed to the bone or outright given away to fill the seats.

The owner profiled in the article says audience members are grateful for a little bit of escapism, but it needs to be on the cheap to be accessible anymore. People are dying for a laugh in these grim times, but can't fork over big bucks for a ticket on top of the usual drink minimums most comedy clubs slap on guests. The savvy owner interviewed by the magazine started offering a slew of giveaways through radio stations, special promotion and two-for-one sales. He says people are happy enough with the freebies that they can justify spending some cash on drinks or food, which keeps the club afloat.

There's speculation that this model of slash-and-burn ticket prices may become a new norm for comedy clubs, at least until the economic tide turns. This is sure to bring a smile to the faces of those who enjoy their live-action yuks, although we'd like to add a quick reminder: Even if you get in the door for free, that cheap evening out could turn into anything but if you use your free ticket to rationalize dumping a ton of dough on cocktails or munchies. After all, what good is an entertainer that makes you smile if the bill you get at the end of the night makes you frown?

Another big shift in the comedy-club landscape, according to the article: since big-name comedians are still demanding top dollar to show up and toss off an hour's worth of one-liners, club owners have been searching for fresh talent that's more affordable to book. If you like the idea of seeing tomorrow's Jeff Foxworthy or Chris Rock, this is an appealing prospect. The owner profiled in The Atlantic says he's paying as little as one-tenth what an A-list comedian would charge for an appearance by seeking out up-and-coming comics whose fees are more in line with today's economic reality.

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