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LAT Op-Ed Chooses a Bad Comparison

We know it’s April 1st and this could be a joke – but we’re buying it anyway. Michael Walker compares the Huffington Post blogger pay dispute with the Comedy Store strike of 1979.

Like Huffington, Shore insisted that the Comedy Store was a showcase where comedians could get exposure that would lead to paying gigs elsewhere — talent agents and bookers for “The Tonight Show” were in regular attendance, she pointed out. The comedians were unmoved; without them, they argued, there would be no customers. But Shore was adamant. “The Comedy Store is a workshop,” she said, “and in that environment the comics don’t deserve to get paid.”

First off – Huffington Post’s main bloggers get paid by the organizations they work for. That’s a big chunk of the now free bloggers. Can’t say that for the Comedy Store.

Second – stand-up comedy in 1979? Lucrative. You could make money at it. Especially if you left LA. Ask the old guys what it was like doing stand-up in that era – they were paid enough to have a coke habit, a secret family and still pay their rent. Freelance writing in 2011? Please.

Third – the Comedy Store still doesn’t pay all stand-ups on their stage – just like Huffington Post – there are Belly Room shows and showcases where stand-ups have to bring their own audience (i.e., promote yourself). The “pay” they do dole out isn’t enough for a coke habit let alone rent. If it’s anything. Even for marquis names.

Yeah, there’s pretty much nothing similar about the two disputes other than being disputes.

But really? Stand-up comedy as a model for labor? Stand-up comedy is a professional where maybe only 10 people currently make a living at anymore. There are more full-time drag queens than stand-ups today. Also you can be legally discriminated against. “They don’t want black comics there.” And you can get fired for no reason and with no recourse. The only upside is drinking on the job and sleeping until noon (same with drag queens, actually). Just because stand-ups and freelance writers both call their jobs “gigs” doesn’t make them parallel.

Freelance writing had been an okay way to make a living and then took a serious downturn. Huffington Post arguably helped it along driving down the wages. The Mitzi Shore dispute just so happen to be in the middle of the boom for stand-up comedy – Huffington Post was the boom for Arianna to cash in on the aggregation (as long as you hire reputable journalists too) model.

Walker writes:

Two labor disputes over talent and compensation, three decades apart yet eerily similar…

Yeah…nope.

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