Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

Archive for March 24th, 2018

“Get the money!”

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“Let me give you a word of advice, young man,” [Henny Youngman] said. “Nem di gelt…Get the money. What we do—writing jokes and telling jokes—looks easy, especially when we do it well. It isn’t. It’s hard and the people who hire us make a lot of money off what we do. So always make sure you get paid. Don’t be afraid to get the money. Ask for it up front and ask for as much as you can get. Club owners…TV producers…they’re all crooks, trying to get out of paying us for what we do. Nem di gelt.”

I thanked him, and promised I would remember to nem di gelt, and he went on for his second show.

A few months later, someone told me a story about Henny Youngman which I believe is true. It was about what Henny would do when he was home in New York and found himself unbooked on a Saturday night. He would take his fiddle and go to some hotel that had banquet rooms. He’d consult the daily directory in the lobby and find a party—usually a bar mitzvah reception—and he would go up to the room and ask to speak to whoever was paying for the affair. “I’m Henny Youngman,” he would tell that person. “I was playing a date in another banquet room here and one of the waiters suggested you might want to have me do my act for your gathering here.” He would negotiate whatever price he could get—$200, $500, preferably in cash—and he would do his act for them.

That was Henny Youngman. I have no idea where is today but I’ll bet he’s telling jokes. And I’ll bet he got paid in advance.

Mark Evanier, in The Comic Buyer’s Guide

Written by nevalalee

March 24, 2018 at 7:30 am

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