As the fall festival season kicks off, The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC) is working to raise awareness that many comedians are often underpaid – or not paid at all – for professional gigs. CASC is on a mission to change this with #PayComedians.
Have you heard the one where a comedian dies of exposure? Professional stand-up, sketch and improv comedians often receive little to no payment, even at the most prestigious clubs and festivals. It is also not uncommon for the agreed rate to change dramatically upon arrival. #PayComedians is a collaborative effort to create a standard for clubs, corporations, festivals, and comedy bookers that present live comedy.
“We are in the midst of a cultural crisis in Canada that has precipitated an unprecedented exodus of our country’s most brilliant and funniest minds. Why? Canadian comedians occupy a second class status to foreign talent and content at our festivals, on our networks, and in our clubs. This is no longer acceptable to us. It is no longer tolerable to ghettoize Canadian comedians in our own country, especially from organizations and corporations who receive government subsidy,” said Sandra Battaglini. “We must stand up for our rights as artists and creators to be paid fairly and equally and to be granted the same access to government funds as other artists. We ask the entire industry to join us in this movement to celebrate the extraordinary legacy of comedic talent that has emerged from this great nation and broadcast it to the world. This starts simply by paying comedians and making space for our voices to be heard. We are proud and we deserve to share our stories with the rest of the world.”
The #PayComedians guideline is being established by consulting comedians and presenters of comedy. They will help the live comedy industry by providing everyone involved with a better understanding of the standard rates comedians can expect to be paid for their performances, and ensuring everyone makes money when presenting and performing live comedy across Canada.
Paying comedians at professional gigs is the best way to foster emerging talent, and support established comedians. Every comedian needs to pay their dues, but CASC wants the Canadian comedy world to know it is due time that comedians get paid.
CASC will use #PayComedians to work with their members and the wider comedy community to implement this standard across the country. CASC will also work with government agencies to end the practice of non-compete clauses common amongst comedy clubs that is prohibitive to comedians and limits their earning potential. CASC will call on bookers and presenters of comedy to implement complete transparency when hiring comedians to end the practice of gross commissions where in some instances bookers take upwards of 50% commission on gigs.
The #PayComedians guidelines will be released by CASC in 2020 after consultation with the wider community.
The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians was formed in 2017 to represent the first-ever unified voice for stand-up comics in Canada. CASC now works for professional stand-up, sketch and improv comedians and producers in Canada. In addition to getting comedy officially recognized as an art form, CASC’s mission is to build a thriving and dynamic comedy industry through advocacy, career opportunity, as well as professional development, improved labour mobility across international borders and workplace rights.