Comedy festivals are kind of a weird thing. If you aren’t involved in comedy, you probably don’t know the ins and outs and controversies surrounding them.
To give you the gist of it, a comedy festival is exactly what it sounds like: a two- to seven-day-long festival of various comedy shows at various venues with various comics from across the country. What might shock some people, though, is the submission fee most festivals assess. Yeah, a submission fee.
Unless you’re a headliner at the festival, not only do you not get paid to perform at the festival, but you actually have to pay to submit to be in the festival in the first place. Some festivals use the fees to pay the headliners, some use them for industry exposure, and others use them for god knows what because they’re just trying to profit off of the gullibility of comics.
Now, despite my personal feelings on comedy festivals (I’m very mixed: Some are great, some are shit; and I’m even more mixed on how gross submission fees are), the practice of assessing submission fees and/or how they’re used is not what this article is about. No, this is about a festival that’s happening up in New York City and why a lot of comics are currently bitching about it on Facebook.
See, this comedy festival realized that women and people of color are usually underrepresented at such events, which I totally agree with. So, the organizers wanted to book more women and comics of color, which I applaud. However, it’s the way they’re doing this that I take issue with. For every dollar a white male comedian pays, other performers will pay only 77 cents.
That’s right: They’re using the wage gap to “encourage more women and comedians of color to submit to and perform on the festival.”
Here’s another idea: Maybe just choose more women and people of color — rather than white men — who submitted and don’t bring this failed lampooning of the wage gap into it.
Before you click away, I’m not here to say the wage gap isn’t real or to undermine the idea behind what this festival is doing. No, I’m just here to point out that the manner in which they’re going about this is fucking stupid.
See, all this is doing is exploiting these groups of people. You’re still making them pay to submit to your festival, and maybe it’ll work. Maybe more women and people of color will submit, in which case, congratulations. You’ve now profited more off of women and people of color than you did off of white men (who probably just won’t submit to the festival in the first place).
Now, if you had said “Women and people of color: No submission fee,” I would have actually said “Wow! Good job! That’s for real a great way to add diversity and lift those groups up.” But instead, you’re just increasing your odds of making money off of those particular groups.
Or hell, here’s another idea: Maybe just choose more women and people of color — rather than white men — who submitted and don’t bring this failed lampooning of the wage gap into it. That would have been pretty dope, too.
So, what’s my solution? No comic of any race, gender, orientation, etc., should submit to any festival that has paid submissions. Festivals are cool and a great way to network and see great comics, but they aren’t worth the exploitation and profiteering off of the ones who just want to perform.
Let’s all just be cool with each other and support our own local comedy scenes. That sounds pretty neat to me.