Bergman: YukonomicsWritten by Keith Bergman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“Can you do a second show on Saturday, about 20 minutes from the first one? It’s a benefit for a family that lost everything in a fire. You’ll be here anyway, and the venue will comp you free pizza.”
“Wait… isn’t the first show already doing that?”
“Yeah… bring a defibrillator, I guess.”
I have a better idea. I’m bring a cooler and some one-gallon freezer bags. I will load up on as much free pizza as my little comedy act can earn, and I will bring it home. We’re having pizza for dinner next Sunday, if anyone asks.
The desperate act of a poverty-stricken artist? Not exactly. But having already made the decision to spend years learning the comedy trade at a net loss of thousands, the aspiring comic’s brain turns toward ways to save a nickel here and there. Sometimes only good thinking and flinty cheapness makes a roadtrip solvent, or worth doing financially.
Stopping for coffee? Forget it. Get a Thermos. Graze on snacks and eat one meal a day – preferably a comped meal at the venue. If you get a room and it happens to have a mini-fridge, order big and take leftovers back to the hotel.
(There are those who advocate taking everything from toilet paper to the very light bulbs when you get a hotel room, but I can’t make myself go THAT hard on the cheapness front.)
Oh, and don’t think about buying those snacks at a turnpike service plaza. Get ‘em in bulk at the store, then pack a kit full of easy-to-open road food. It doesn’t have to be all junk – take some nuts, some apples, dried fruit, maybe trail mix. Don’t take bananas unless you’re gonna eat them the same day. They don’t travel well and your car will smell like yellow farts forever.
Driving a long way for one show? Try to find a club that’s more or less on the way back and offer to stop in for a guest set, to audition for future work. Anything you can do to wring the most out of each tank of gas you’re burning up will keep you operational longer. And use your social network in real life — I’ve slept on couches on many nights where a hotel would have wiped out any money I’d made on that run. (Be sure to reciprocate when other broke wanderers are coming through your town.)
Nobody said it was easy, and when you’re cooking ramen noodles in a motel room coffee pot, it can seem a little discouraging. But if you’re in it for the experience, and the journey, and you keep a sharp eye on your expenses and the bottom line, you should be able to find a way to fit your creative pursuits into even the most unpredictable life. Learning to chase those dreams without racking up a bunch of crushing debt is arguably as important as learning the craft itself.