A guide to DIY comedy tours with the Fine Gentleman's Club
Interstate comedy tours have typically been the métier of famous names capable of drawing big crowds and veterans of the club circuit. Many obstacles stand in the way of aspiring comedians eager to earn their living on the road, from bookers who are unwilling to take a chance on an unknown commodity from out of town to the financial constraints of travel. For most novice comedians, a "tour" of open mics and free showcases in other states amounts to little more than a road trip taken at their own expense, which is fun but fiscally unsustainable.
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But the members of the Fine Gentleman's Club have found a way to do it on their own. They book their own shows across the country, cover their own travel costs, crash on couches to save money, and hustle between states. "Sam Tallent does a lot of the booking for us, both because he rules and because he has a lot of experience booking his band, Red vs. Black. He's great at setting up tours, and everywhere you go, people love Sam," says Chris Charpentier, squad leader of the Fine Gent's mustache division.
"Part of the reason we have to [organize our own tours] is because we don't have the big credits you need to get into clubs, and partly because it helps build up a real fan base while being tons of fun," he explains.
Adds Nathan Lund: "It's hard to make money when you're not headlining, and putting together shows for months on end. Gas, lodging, and drugs add up. But it's still worth it to head out with my best friends and try to get our names out there through live shows."
The Gents often divide their itinerary between paid performances at big clubs with smaller shows organized by simpatico local comics trying to build a scene anywhere from Omaha to San Francisco. "It's fun to see that there are other people doing the same thing we are doing at the Deer Pile with our Too Much Fun! show all over the country," Charpentier says. "It helps everyone get shows -- it's very punk rock. I love it."
Here a few tips from the road, which I compiled while traveling with the Fine Gentleman's Club last week:
1. Minivans are the ideal vehicle for a DIY tour. Legroom is a precious commodity on a long car trip, and minivans are surprisingly fuel-efficient for their size.
2. Sleeping on the couches or floors of friends, fellow comics, or strangers -- while sometimes awkward and less comfortable than a hotel -- cuts back on a major expense and offers a glimpse into what it might be like to live in another city. If possible, stay in home of a woman or a guy who has a girlfriend, as you're more likely to have a comfortable space and greater access to forgotten toiletries. Don't overstay your welcome.
3. Network with any local comedians or artists you happen to meet. Something as simple as a Facebook friend request can mean a place to perform or stay the next time you're in Kansas City.
Through their DIY tours, the members of the Fine Gentleman's Club have built bridges between the Denver comedy scene with other emergent scenes across the country, while seeing parts of the country they might not have seen otherwise. The best part of a comedy tour with the Fine Gentleman's Club, however, might be returning to Denver and realizing how awesome we have it here.