Standup comedy is a business of 'worlds'. There is of course the world of the comic who for the most part simply wants to get on stage and do some of his/her material.... they want to be in show! When they get their act down they would like to get paid gigs and make some money....they want it bad! This unfortunately makes them vulnerable to being used and taken advantage of, for when you first start out you don't realize that YOU and your act have value. Or if you have an idea you have value you don't know how much value you have. I get it. It's not easy. Especially when the value has been set SO low for SO long by some bookers and club owners. It's time to change that.
Enter the world of the club owner. He/she has a stage the comic wants. The club is in existence to make money from customers and that's all. Club owners sell liquor and food. Do they know about show business and promotion? Probably not as much as you think...well, probably nothing at all.
All the club owner knows is when he's busy and making money or not. If the owner has a stage he/she wants to have entertainment to sell to their customers so that they can hold them in the club longer to sell to, they're not necessarily in any kind of show business.
Now the world of the booker enters. He/she may not know anything about show business either. What the booker has is collected information that may help the club owner. That information is a list of working comics that would be available to perform in said club. The booker brings with them a price for the show also, that I think was established in the middle ages because it hasn't went up in 25 yrs! ha!
I wish I was kidding. (this of course being the road comic kinda standup shows, not to be confused with higher show business.)
If you work for yourself and produce your own shows you will get better $$$ though, trust me.
The booker gets his/her money from a direct payment sometimes by the club owner or from commission charged the comedian. And unfortunately some bookers take both! :( The booker represents himself/herself to the club owner as somebody that has expertise in running a show and has all the comedian contacts the club owner will ever need. And that the club owner and the venue could never possibly do a comedy show without their help. And in some cases that's true. Especially if said booker practices bullying politics of threatening comics to stay out of clubs within a short drive of the club he/she wants to book.
The truth be known venues can run and book their own shows just fine. It's done all the time by independents and it works great. I've seen it! I do it!!
The common theme in all the worlds is people want to do a practice art, do a fair business and make money. Unfortunately for the past couple of decades it hasn't been working out that way.
Bookers, club owners and other comics are all guilty of allowing the standup comedy world on the road comic level to disintegrate. The typical small town tour or even medium city tour for a comic is unpleasant to say the least. The comic, who bares the brunt of the action on his/her shoulders for keeping the comedy business alive on the show level is given crap money and terrible to no perks at all. Bad hotels and nothing offered to them by the venues is common place. It doesn't have to be this way but it is and for the most part with some bookers turning blind eyes and venue owners being made to think this is the way to treat talented people. People that can do what they can't. It isn't.
How does this change for the world of the average working comic? Well in an immediate sense you can make the change on an individual level. You can look around and pick your shots and expand your comedy world so that you don't dance to the tune of everybody. From personal experience I can tell you it will take some time and may even be painful. You will lose some work and have to refuse to work for some bookers and club owners. But in the long run you are going to make more money per show and so it makes up for the volume of low dough no dough offerings elsewhere. (And that is where it's at! MO DOUGH PER SHOW!!?? LOL
Fight for your right to do comedy in decent surroundings and for a fair price my fellow comics, and fight for your right for respect.
It won't be the end of the world. It will be the beginning of a whole new one. ;)