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The Beards of Comedy’s Joe Zimmerman on Keeping Tour Costs Down and Morale Up

Comedy >

In January, the Beards of Comedy tour completed a two-week tour that began with a flight into Albuquerque, New Mexico and ended 3,000 miles and two weeks later in Seattle. It was our first trip out west, and we landed in ten new cities in twelve nights, with a show every single night, mostly ticketed through Brown Paper Tickets.

The trip was amazing, and we saw our first cactus forests, tumbleweeds, the Hoover Dam, and Mount Hood. Brian Regan is one of our comedy heroes, and he showed up at our show in Kennewick, Washington and not only did a guest spot, but hung out. It’s always a highlight when you hang out with a hero. In Las Vegas we got a $100 tip from George Maloof, owner of the Palms Casino, and we had 350 college students come out to our first show at the University of Eastern New Mexico. A journalist came along Almost Famous-style, and wrote a 7300-word article that is coming out in April in Atlanta Magazine. Finally, we had a great Comedy Bureau review from the L.A. show at Meltdown Comics, which gave us a bonus item to add to our electronic press kit. So yes, the road is fun, but let’s cut to what we learned from it:

Give yourself a night off. Twelve nights in a row looks great on a calendar, but is exhausting in reality. If you’re going to cool cities, wouldn’t you want to take a minute to see them? I think we saw less of the cities in person than we would have just looking at pictures online, or Google Earth. When you arrive it’s already dark, and when you leave at 5 a.m. it’s still dark. That’s the best part of working comedy clubs, is you can work in the same place all week. But often comedy clubs are built to turn out comedy in a very industrial, consumer driven fashion, so in a way doing one-off shows is a small price to pay for finding our audience.

One-way car rentals are disproportionately expensive. We picked up our Thrifty SUV in Albuquerque, and had to drop it in Seattle twelve days later. We could have saved money if we’d done a return rental, and paid someone on top of gas to drive the 36 hours back to New Mexico. If you have to do a rental and you’re on a budget, make sure to book your tour so that it ends close to where it started.

The biggest cost for comedians is usually alcohol and eating out, so we were smart about both and buying groceries early on saved us quite a bit. As for lodging, Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” option can be very helpful. You bid on an area and a star rating of hotels, and it’s not uncommon to land $100 rooms for $40. Staying in 1-star hotels is the quickest route to burning out – and catching a cold – so it’s nice to snag some quality rooms when you can. Another advantage was finding some help. The trip wouldn’t have been possible without support from Brown Paper Tickets and Laughing Skull Comedy Festival