Shecky Magazine caught an article in the NY Daily News about a bill in Albany to make sure comics get $120 for a 20 minute weekend set. The bill was written by Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat. The Daily News editorial has had some fun with this, pointing out how ridiculous it is to claim comedians need a raise because they might have to cab between clubs. The Observer wonders if Espaillat is joking. And Shecky, though for stand-ups, is strongly against anti-raise efforts, stating “Nobody owes any standup comic a living.”
And they’re absolutely right, but the point here shouldn’t be not necessarily a living wage off of comedy but a fair one. Any language in the bill guaranteeing comics an ability to live off their comedy should be dropped. Entertainment is a crap shoot and if you try and eliminate the risk, you’d kill comedy clubs dead. But comedians should have some bargaining power to gain some money.
But the thing that gets me, isn’t this bill moot? Earlier this year the New York Comedians Coalition got club owners to agree to a wage increase. Sure it was not the $120 they originally wanted, but most went to $85, a compromise that all parties seemed grateful for, considering the potential work stoppage threatened at the time.
Worse, Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat seems unaware of this deal. The Daily News reports that a spokesman for Espaillat stated, “If they make a deal, we will withdraw the legislation.” But The Coalition website makes no mention of any sort of backtracking or reneging on the deal made in February, so why is the government getting involved? The two parties have already resolved their differences.
Espaillat might be helping comics just by making himself a good joke.