Merchandising emerges as a big draw for comedy shows



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Merchandising comedy shows Image: UTA

Merchandising has emerged as a big revenue generator for comedy shows hitting the road this year, says a report by VenuesNow, which emphasizes how it has evolved from a T-shirt table at best to online stores and full-fledged product lines including hats, pins, CDs, downloads and books.

The revenue is split in a similar fashion to a music show, with the venue getting the standard merch rate, according to the report.

“It’s a substantial business,” Matt Blake, head of CAA’s comedy department, told VenuesNow. “Often the artist just brings the merch with them. The artists make the majority of the merch money and it’s a good thing for the artist, and the fans get to take something home with them.”

“Merch is big part of the comedian’s package,” the report quoted Andrew Russell, a WME comedy agent, as saying. “Comedians often have a punch line they can put on T-shirts and hats.”

Live Nation artist Brian Regan directs people to his online store and “a lot sell their books at the shows,” said Geof Wills, president of comedy touring for Live Nation. “Gabriel Iglesias does a ton of merch. Louis Black travels by bus and brings his merch with him and sells a lot of it.”

Jeff Dunham has a “full-blown store,” said Nick Nuciforo, a UTA partner and the head of comedy touring for the agency, “There are so many items,” he said. “It’s really sophisticated and developed merchandising.”

Another popular trend catching up with comedy touring is the pairing of headliners for tours. Already a big trend with the musical acts, combination comedy shows are still a small percentage of what goes out.

“It’s act pending,” said Russell. “Some comedians want to create shows and go out with their friends. Others only want to fly solo.”

According to Steve Levine, co-head of concerts, ICM, guest stars are trending. “It’s pretty exciting when you go to see Chris Rock perform and out walks Arsenio Hall and Dave Chappelle to do a set.”

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