Sunday, September 13, 2009

Gladys Simon, comedy booker and manager

I met with Gladys on Sunday, April 26th, at the Silver Star Diner for a late lunch. Gladys and I have known each other for more than twenty years. We met in a comedy class given at the Manhattan Punchline by Gabe Abelson. Gladys had taken the class before, but she suffered from stage fright and she believed taking the class a second time would improve her level of confidence.

We began the interview. I asked Gladys to describe what brought her to a comedy class back in 1987. She said she had just gotten a divorce and she was writing for a soap opera and she gave that up because she was too depressed to write. She wanted a career in show business. Her goal in Gabe's class was to finish and commit to the class. She remembers her horrible stage fright. She was determined to stick it out and do the best she could. She attended every week until the comedy class graduation.

I asked Gladys if she believed stand-up could be taught in a class. She said you cannot be taught the gift of timing. She said you have to want to do the work. It's either in your gut and organic or it becomes intellectual... which is writing jokes. It is another story to be a great performer. Gladys said a comedian needs to have a passion and be driven and do "the process." She says comedy is not the destination, but the journey. It's a whole ball of wax and it is not just about the applause and making money.

We started to discuss "bringers." "Bringers" are defined as only allowing comics on stage if they bring in a required number of paying customers who at the door have to say they are there to see the specific comic. Gladys feels comics need to be clear about what they are getting out of bringers. She believes that comics who do bringers should feel they have received something from the experience... such as working for a larger and supportive audience. Her room is a development room; a booked open mic which provides a place for comics to have fun and to improve.

We moved to a discussion of ageism in comedy. Gladys says it is a business. The reality is the industry is looking for "young and edgey." Of course, there are exceptions to the rule such as Rodney Dangerfield... if you are that good. She feels it is the same in all fields. In industry, when you reach a certain age, "they don't want you." I agree; it is sad, but true.

Gladys went on to add that funny is funny at any age and if you can get people to laugh and pay a $20.00 cover and a two drink minimum to see you... you can be Grandma Moses. "So do it for yourself and forget the industry, they have been wrong!!" We ended the interview with Gladys saying it is all about having a good time. Then our food came and it became all about eating.

Gladys was the booker and MC first at Coldwater's and years later at Hamburger Harry's. Gladys now books the open mic shows at The Comic Strip. Gladys has real class and style and the comedy experience at her room is unique because Gladys creates a family of friendship and emotional support. Her shows hits the mark and she gets a standing ovation every time.

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