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Jack Diamond


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A survey  
  Started at Mon Nov 6 17:43:51 2006
There are so many people that do improv for so many different reasons.

I do as well, but if I found a way to do it for a living, that would be reason enough for me. That though got me thinking, and I wanted to see what other people thought. Feel free to respond or not. I'll go first.

1.) If you could do comedy Improv for a living, would you?

2.) If you would; Why don't you feel you can?

3.) Is it possible for one person to make a living doing improv, or does it take a troupe?

4.) What are the keys to success for living off of Improv performances.

5.) Why are there no local improv troupes living off of their performances?




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Jack Diamond


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #1 Posted at Mon Nov 6 17:54:22 2006
1.) If you could do comedy Improv for a living, would you?

2.) If you would; Why don't you feel you can?

3.) Is it possible for one person to make a living doing improv, or does it take a troupe?

4.) What are the keys to success for living off of Improv performances.

5.) Why are there no local improv troupes living off of their performances?

A1.) Yes- Absolutely

A2.) I don't think there's a strong enough culture and awareness here in Utah. If there was a way to do improv shows every day of the week and make more than 20 bucks; maybe. But it would still have to be suplimented by classes or merchandising or T.V. or radio spots. I don't know if people do it outside of Utah, though.

A3.) It would probably take a troupe to do it, so there's brand recognition and place within the troupe so you can perform, but then you're splitting profits. But if you're going solo, you may as well just do stand-up. I don't think it would work, even if you were a member of multiple troupes. They just don't pay enough or consistently to make a living. So it would proabably only work with a troupe that you played with almost exclusively that was as dedicated as you were to making a living.

A4.) First, marketing. Serious marketing. And then probably use someone elses theatre space to keep over head down, or combine it in a resturant or theatre that you also own or manage. Having a troupe that was dedicated to making a living at it would help. You get better performances and one to one marketing from them. Plus it helps to grow the culture that supports it.

A5.) I can only speak for my experiences here in Utah, but it seems like either the troupe isn't designed to do more than what it's doing at that time, or the members are working at cross purposes with each other on their goals, or worse still, there's just not enough talent or sufficient marketing to have shows of any serous size. Ticket prices aren't usually enough for a troupe to sustain itself either. Which completes a vicious circle; it undervalues what people are doing.

I'd love to hear someone elses thoughts on this.




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Junie B.


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #2 Posted at Mon Nov 6 23:26:07 2006
I would live off of improv if it were humanly possible. However, I have yet to see people strictly living off of improv. Even the UCB Theatre in New York doesn't pay their performers and they are some of the best performers/writers this great country has to offer. They supplement themselves with VH1 appearances, independent movies, teaching classes, and special performances. Most of them are still forced to have full time or part time jobs. I think if the cost of rent out here collided with the booming improv scene of New York it may be possible to live off of improv, but barring that I haven't seen it work for many people.

Now that I have convinced everyone I am a pessimist and have never learned to see the glass half full let me say this, It's always worth a shot. If you devote enough time and energy to anything I don't see why I wouldn't work. Doing it alone in the current Utah Improv community would be unlikely but the least we can do is start building it up and hope for the best. I am up for anything.

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Walken a Speer


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #3 Posted at Mon Nov 6 23:36:34 2006
Audition for second city. Its a full time job down there.


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #4 Posted at Tue Nov 7 11:50:14 2006
1.) If you could do comedy Improv for a living, would you?

Yes. I'd be worried about burning out, but I love the artistic aspect and teaching and directing.

2.) If you would; Why don't you feel you can?

I like a steady income with little risk. I think I could go off and help a place artistically, but having to manage the business aspect and deal with artistic egos is daunting.

3.) Is it possible for one person to make a living doing improv, or does it take a troupe?

If you have a reputation, you could make a decent income off classes and speaking arrangements. Maybe not enough to live on. It really takes a training center and a performance space to advertise your product. The regular performances are not the money makers. As Kaytlin mentioned, UCB and MANY other improv oriented theaters with significant reputations do not pay their performers. Some even charge performers for stage time. The money is in owning a theater with a training center and doing corporate gigs. Oh, and having a bar doesn't hurt.

4.) What are the keys to success for living off of Improv performances.

Get cast to Second City Mainstage. That's the only place I know that pays a living wage and they are mostly a sketch place.

5.) Why are there no local improv troupes living off of their performances?

Because there isn't enough support at any theater to have more than two or three nights of performances and no one is charging over $100 a person for classes. Other troupes constantly undervalue the craft by doing corporate gigs for less, having free classes, and throwing up fly by night improv shows that put a bad taste in the mouth of audiences that say "So that was improv". If we elevate it to an art and put actual production value into our shows, and then we don't give it away, there's a possibility to get momentum to make this a career rather than a hobby.

That said, I could probably count on one hand the people I know, nationally, where improv is their sole source of income.

-Jesster


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #5 Posted at Tue Nov 7 23:14:45 2006

On Mon Nov 6 17:43:51 2006, Jack Diamond wrote: (read quoted post)
There are so many people that do improv for so many different reasons.

I do as well, but if I found a way to do it for a living, that would be reason enough for me. That though got me thinking, and I wanted to see what other people thought. Feel free to respond or not. I'll go first.

1.) If you could do comedy Improv for a living, would you?

2.) If you would; Why don't you feel you can?

3.) Is it possible for one person to make a living doing improv, or does it take a troupe?

4.) What are the keys to success for living off of Improv performances.

5.) Why are there no local improv troupes living off of their performances?




1. Yes, of course! I'd do a lot to get to that point!

2. I feel that way because I'm in a young improv troupe. We're in the 16-17 age area. We're doing pretty good in my opinion. I hope we can do better.

3. I'd say a troupe. I guess you could do one person improv, but a troupe is more fun and you can get more people out to shows that way. In my opinion.

4. I'm not sure. Just be good. Get your name out.

5. Because the improv name isn't out there too much. Everyday, i prolly have to explain improv to 5 people at least.


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Jack Diamond


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #6 Posted at Tue Nov 28 12:24:48 2006
I was talking to Austin yesterday and he said that there are about three or so folks as DSI that make a living, the rest, not so much.

I agree with what Jesse said; it would take a training center and a performance space. But to find an affordable one.....

DSI does shows seven days a week. I assume that other venues striving for financial independence do the same thing.

So it stands to reason that the improv troupe that can find a permanant venue with the space for classes and is centraly located has the best chance. I can't think of any troupe in Utah off the top of my head. I suppose Laughing stock would qualify, but OBT is primarily for their plays. To make it a successful, improv venue, I think that Improv would have to be the meat and potatoes, rather than the bread and gravy.

These are my thoughts.

Anyone else care to chime in?


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jady

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Re: A survey  
  Reply #7 Posted at Tue Nov 28 12:46:40 2006


1.) If you could do comedy Improv for a living, would you?

If it comes to be, maybe. I don't like the level of travel involved for many of my friends, although the feedom to set one's own schedule long-term is quite appealing.

2.) If you would; Why don't you feel you can?

I'm still learning and teaching. I'm a bit young for the general demographic of pro improvisors, and I've only been doing it 5 years.

3.) Is it possible for one person to make a living doing improv, or does it take a troupe?

Yes, certainly is. A lot easier, in fact.

4.) What are the keys to success for living off of Improv performances.

Business improv, working with a company and keeping your options open. Second City is the best way to work as a perfomer, unless you have ties with people such as Sparkco and/or festivals hiring you on a regular basis.

5.) Why are there no local improv troupes living off of their performances?

Um...this doesn't apply to Chicago. But people tend to be discouraged because it's in no way easier than a 'real' job. It's work. and more than just work, it takes talent and intelligence that not everyone cultivates, and a passion for the work that not everyone mantains for long enough to make a real effort. Plus, location location location.

Chicago isn't a star-maker, but it does have a large community with many working professional who've been here for decades.




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Jack Diamond


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #8 Posted at Tue Nov 28 13:37:11 2006
I have another question:

How much is your show worth?

The most expensive Improv show in Utah that I can find is Laughingstock @ $14.00 a head.

The least expensive that I know of is Off The Cuff @ $3.00 a head.

Is there any difference in the quality of these shows?

I think that in general we improvisors in Utah undervalue our shows. Thoughts?

-Jake


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Re: Re: A survey  
  Reply #9 Posted at Tue Nov 28 16:02:55 2006

On Tue Nov 28 13:37:11 2006, Jack Diamond wrote: (read quoted post)
I have another question:

How much is your show worth?

The most expensive Improv show in Utah that I can find is Laughingstock @ $14.00 a head.

The least expensive that I know of is Off The Cuff @ $3.00 a head.

Is there any difference in the quality of these shows?

I think that in general we improvisors in Utah undervalue our shows. Thoughts?

-Jake


There is a difference in the quality of the shows. The majority of folks performing at OBT are veterans and have a very well established show. However, Off the Wall has shown its value and established itself as the premiere improv comedy location of northern Utah. $3 is too low. They should have no trouble getting $5-10 for a ticket.

There was a LOT of controversy within the cast of Laughing Stock when ticket prices were raised. We all thought our audiences would dwindle to nothing. But, they didn't.

When ComedySportz started their Thursday night long form show, they made it free. As they grew in skill and audience, they gradually charged more and more. I think you set expectations with a ticket price. Putting a higher value on what you do commands more respect. Lowering that not only lowers the expectations for your group, but for others as well.

This is also why I don't teach for free any more. I think learning improv is worth something. I loved teaching for free, but ultimately it set many others back who wanted to charge money for their craft.

-Jesster


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Josh Nufrio


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #10 Posted at Tue Nov 28 16:21:19 2006
What do you think is the best way to raise a price once it has ben set? Make a production out of it and raise it slowly over time or just drop a price increase on the masses? Oh I found this thread on yes and... that you might find interesting....http://forums.yesand.com/showthread.php?t=2384


I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Austin Nava

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Re: A survey  
  Reply #11 Posted at Tue Nov 28 16:24:00 2006
Quick correction.

There are seven (sometimes eight) shows a week, not necessarily every night, usually Thursday-Sunday. The other nights are used to teach classes.


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Jack Diamond


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Re: Re: A survey  
  Reply #12 Posted at Tue Nov 28 17:02:59 2006
Last Modified at Tue Nov 28 17:03:39 2006 by Jack Diamond


On Tue Nov 28 16:24:00 2006, Austin Nava wrote: (read quoted post)
Quick correction.

There are seven (sometimes eight) shows a week, not necessarily every night, usually Thursday-Sunday. The other nights are used to teach classes.


If I am to quote you, you are not allowed to correct me.
And on that topic; Jesse, I was referring to Off The Cuff in Cedar City, not Off The Wall.

-Jake


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Jack Diamond


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Re: Re: A survey  
  Reply #13 Posted at Tue Nov 28 17:42:18 2006
Last Modified at Tue Nov 28 17:42:59 2006 by Jack Diamond


On Tue Nov 28 16:21:19 2006, Josh Nufrio wrote: (read quoted post)
What do you think is the best way to raise a price once it has ben set? Make a production out of it and raise it slowly over time or just drop a price increase on the masses? Oh I found this thread on yes and... that you might find interesting....http://forums.yesand.com/showthread.php?t=2384



I loved that thread, Josh. According to the formula they used for producing a show, I should have charged 14 bucks a seat to break even with the Clearfield venue instead of six. I wonder if the market could have handled it? I say; probably not. One of the reasons we closed down. : (

-Jake


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Josh Nufrio


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #14 Posted at Tue Nov 28 18:03:34 2006
I wonder tho.... I think if you tell em its worth 14 then its worth 14. The problem is,imo,if you start at 5 then raise it to 14 you have to draw a whole new crowd. You spoil the first set of fans with a 5 dollar cover and they would feel odd paying 3 times as much for the same show.

That leads back to my question... How do you raise the price, once its set, and not lose more people then you gain? Will a paying customer accept an increase and not expect "more show"? Would you have to re-vamp the show? Give the apearance of a new show to equal the price hike? I dont think you could do it any other way. Maybe not change the show itself but give the show a higher stakes spin. ie. uniforms, brighter lights, merchandise or seats made of gold.

Is it possible for a show to raise the price without offering more?

If not..... Is a show stuck at the opening price?

Take Off the Cuff for example. Now I dont know anything about them, other then they charge 3 bux. Will they always charge 3 bux? Do they draw an older crowd? Will an older crowd ever take them serious at 3 bux a show? I would imagine that they pack the house with high school students and possibly even junior high. Not that its bad to draw a young crowd if three dollars a head covers your cost but i cant see a three dollar show as a spring board into a life supported by improv.


I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Jack Diamond


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #15 Posted at Tue Nov 28 18:49:29 2006
Last Modified at Tue Nov 28 18:50:40 2006 by Jack Diamond

Here's how I would up a price. I would introduce the show as it started out at a 50% margin, say $7.50. I'd tell everyone that it's a special introductory price because this location just opened up at the very begining of touting my show and that in a month or six or whatever, we'll be going back to the normal improv pricing. That way people at the very begining get the understanding what the show is worth and feel like they're part of an exclusive group. It'll build crowds at the begining without sacrificing a perception of quality.

If I was already in a venue and had to do an increase, I would do a huge advertising campaign of the show with the new prices listed and everyone new who comes to the show will be expecting to pay the new cover. Then you just announce it every show when the price hike is supposed to take place, but you tell them in a way that makes them want to come back more before the price hike to get their best value. At the point that the hike happens, hopefully you've got them hooked with your mad improv skills.

Or you could tell them that they can still get in at the price if they pay an upfront cost of whatever, but we need their information and then you get up front revenue, residuals with their discounted ticket prices and now you have a list of people you can market to with email blasts and the like. That's how I perceive it.

-Jake


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #16 Posted at Tue Nov 28 23:45:48 2006
Damn "Off The" groups... Off the Cuff may be a fairly new group, but it's time to make the jump to the $5-10 range.

-Jesster


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Re: Re: A survey  
  Reply #17 Posted at Wed Nov 29 03:03:06 2006

On Tue Nov 28 13:37:11 2006, Jack Diamond wrote: (read quoted post)

Is there any difference in the quality of these shows?

I think that in general we improvisors in Utah undervalue our shows. Thoughts?

-Jake


I have seen free shows that are way funnier that shows I have paid ten bucks for. Improv is in the eye of the beholder so all funny aside, the mechanics of imrpov will probably be better at a show where you pay more (at least they should be.)

Its undervalued because improv is unheard of for most of the public working at wal-mart I realized how awsome of a force advertisment is, more advertising more people more money.

Calvin


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Jack Diamond


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Re: Thoughts  
  Reply #18 Posted at Fri Dec 1 13:31:38 2006
Every place that I know of where improv is marginally successful, in that through the improv industry, some lucky few are able to make a career out of it, there are a few common themes. If you see this differently, please post and tell me what I'm missing.

An annual Improv festival

Primarily long form venues

Active harvesting of Improv actors in the country

Active involvement in the national improv community

Up to date web sites and forums for improv actors

Part of a larger acting community, i.e. mainstream actors that improvise, or venues that host multiple events.

Utilization of improv actors as a source of revenue or advertisement, i.e. improv events for improv actors where they bring their own crowds and pay to play or play for free

Sponsership

Active and consistent Marketing

An agreed upon and consistent central location for most mainstream, national, or collective improv events


Does anyone see anything else I may have missed? Or something up there that isn't necessarily common to all successful improv communities? Thoughts?

-Jake




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Re: A survey  
  Reply #19 Posted at Fri Dec 1 22:28:14 2006
You missed "Training Center".

Touring Company doesn't hurt.

-Jesster


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Josh Nufrio


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #20 Posted at Sat Dec 2 09:35:06 2006
I have always wanted to open " Josh Nufrio's Improv training center for kids who can't Improv good."

Seriously tho a training center would be fantastic. I would love to have a place to train and workshop. Maybe it could have cots so I could spend the night and perhaps a kitchen for mid-workshop snacks....




I cut it three times and its still too short..
 
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Jack Diamond


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Re: Re: A survey  
  Reply #21 Posted at Mon Dec 4 12:15:41 2006

On Fri Dec 1 22:28:14 2006, jesster wrote: (read quoted post)
You missed "Training Center".

Touring Company doesn't hurt.

-Jesster



And I'll add a bar.

Those three things would do a lot to insure the profitability of a venue.

-Jake



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Re: A survey  
  Reply #22 Posted at Mon Dec 4 22:20:54 2006
I would constantly go to a venue like that.

Calvin


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Jack Diamond


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #23 Posted at Mon Dec 11 15:37:14 2006
Last Modified at Mon Dec 11 15:40:10 2006 by Jack Diamond

It seems to me that the state of Utah improv took quite a hiatus, and now is back into an upswing.

That's just one man's take on it, though. Maybe it has to do more with how my improv state was and is.

But if we take the first statement as fact, how do we as Utah's improvisers make the most of this?

And what improv groups in Utah aren't represented or actively present on this site?

These are questions i'd like to have an answer for. Anyone care to take a stab at it?

-Jake


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Re: A survey  
  Reply #24 Posted at Mon Dec 11 18:22:19 2006
ComedySportz is woefully unrepresented here.

-Jesster


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