Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tip & Tell

Stand-up comedians aren’t normally on the list of folks who work for tips but it happens. It’s a nice, unexpected bonus considering that we don’t always get paid for performing. In fact, early on, it is often we who have to pay for the privilege. Getting a cash tip then is actually a step up.

Street Comedians are different. They are the uniquely talented and brave stand-ups who perform outdoors in places like New York City’s Washington Square Park. They attract the crowd, entertain them, and then pass the hat. This elite group once included the likes of Master Lee and the late Charlie Barnett. 

An early mentor encouraged me to give street performing a whirl but I’m made of slightly softer stuff. I want a building, a stage, sound, lights, and an audience that shows up on purpose. Oh yeah, and I’d like to get paid. Ironically though, the comics who work the street for tips make a helluva lot more money, and they should. Big risk. Big reward.  

Even so, I’ve been cash-tipped twice. Though separated by time and geography both tippers were well-dressed, older gentlemen. They came up to me post-show and smoother than I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter slipped me $20. (I would’ve said as smooth as butter, but real butter can be a bit unwieldy.)

I take pains to emphasize here that there was nothing shady or untoward about these encounters. Surprising? Yes. Creepy? No. There was no lascivious look in the eye, no phone number scribbled on the back of the bill. These gentlemen enjoyed my work and chose to tangibly show it.

When I said, “Thank you, sir, you don’t have to do that.” They each said with an air that was part Rat Pack, part Spaghetti Western, “I know.” They made it Hubble Telescope clear they are the type of men who never say or do anything they don’t want to. Ever. They are that breed of man with an easy swagger that I find it hard to imagine hipsters ever attaining.

But don’t worry. My Inner Feminist is not fooled.  These could easily be the same alpha males who think their dinner should be on the table at 6 o’clock, and that allowing dames the right to vote was a deeply flawed and dubious decision. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my IF was, and is, intrigued.

It’s also worth noting that any attempt to return the money to these daper dons was deftly but firmly rebuffed. And to press the issue would have been an insult. I knew to smile, say thank you, and keep it moving.  Now, we’re not talking a lot of money, but it’s enough to make me wonder if maybe I should go the street comic route and literally take my act out on the road. But I fear I’ll find myself in the comedy version of Pimps Up, Ho’s Down. That’s not exactly the HBO Special I still dream of having.

Thanks for reading The Urban Erma. You can subscribe to the blogcast (yes, I made up this word) FREE on iTunes. And, in case you were wondering, in addition to blogging I am also an amazing stand-up comedian. I do "Thinking Cap Comedy." Basically, if comedy were music, I'd be Jazz. Want to see a show? Check out my schedule at @

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