Doing Comedy on New Year’s Eve

Local veteran comics on the worst best-paid gig of the year.

Carl Warmenhoeven (former manager at the Comedy Underground)
Managing a New Year’s Eve show was a nightmare…especially if you handed out the noise-makers as the audience came in at 10:30. In later years we gave them out at 11:50.


Gabriel Rutledge
Working New Year Eve usually pays a little better, and it should. People go out on New Year’s Eve to party, and most people don’t consider “listening” a fun party activity. I’ve had some good shows on New Years Eve, some that were total drunken chaos, and a few that were both. I had to step over a pile of vomit on my way to the stage a few years ago, but it still ended up being a decent show. At least passed out people can’t heckle.

People who don’t even drink, drink on NYE, so they’re not very good at it. I’ve worked more than one club where at the end of the night the staff found woman’s heels left in the bathroom or under a table because a soccer mom of four had to be carried to the car after she added champagne to a stomach full of Long Island Ice Tea’s.

Also, not to be too “sad clown” about it, but it can feel very lonely to perform for people who are celebrating. I’ve been a comedian for a long time now. There have been hundreds of pictures of me taken on NYE in the last 10 years, and they all look pretty much the same. Me, glassy eyed, wearing a hat from the dollar store, noise maker in my mouth, holding a plastic bottle of champagne, posing with wait staff, bartenders, audience members, and other comedians. They are all fun memories of the great life I’ve had as a comedian, but I don’t have any pictures of me on New Years Eve with my wife. That would be nice too.
(Rutledge will be performing NYE with Eddie Ifft at the Admiral Theatre in Bremerton. His wife will be there.)

Alysia Wood
New Year’s Eve is the highest paid night of the year for most comics.  You can’t afford to lose it but it’s rarely FUN. Driving sober with swervy drunks is SO scary (road comics can’t risk their licenses). I have a close call EVERY year.  I used to swear that every year was my last but I took one year off in 15 years and was bored to tears.

One of my first NYE gigs I worked at the Underground with Ralphie May.  Someone handed out noise makers. The audience was ALL hammered, blowing noisemakers, and it was complete chaos. He tried every trick in the book to wrangle them and finally, exasperated, said, “Ya’ll GOTTA stop. Seriously. You’re fuckin’ up ducks for MILES.”  Miraculously, that did the trick.
(Wood will be performing NYE at Indulgence at the EMP.)

Susan Rice
Never bring in the New Year. Unless you’re a musical act. Never go on after 10 p.m. Be prepared to vamp. Oh, and I rarely travel too far unless there’s airfare and a solid contract. I did a NYE gig on a riverboat on the Columbia-I was forced to stay on the flipping boat the whole evening and experience the carnage.


Brad Upton
Do I like working on NYE? Hmmmmm. After nearly 30 years, I’m still not sure. They can be fun, they can be miserable. My general rule is, I’ll do it if it pays well. I HATE to perform and still be in the room at midnight-everyone kisses and screams and you’re the wallflower all alone. Sometimes, as the headliner, they want you to go on about 10 minutes after 11:00 and perform right up until midnight. You HAVE to tell the crowd that you’re aware of the time and that you’ll stop in time to have the big hurrah.

I’ve probably worked 24 of the past 28 New Year’s Eves. San Jose, Butte, Providence, Moses Lake, Tri-Cities, Bremerton, Seattle, Vancouver, Indian Casinos…everywhere. This year? I’m at home but available if someone has a big budget!

Cathy Sorbo
Typically I would avoid New Year’s Eve shows. As a performer you are almost always required by the booker to stand onstage with other performers to ring in the New Year for patrons who have been given hats and noisemakers before the show. 

For the past nine years I have been producing/curating a showcase for a large multi-stage party at EMP and have been able to block out a chunk of time for guests to comfortably leave the comedy venue, see the Space Needle fireworks, pee, grab a smoke/drink and get back into the venue to see the headliner. When the New Year comes, I am all alone in a large empty theater. Perfect.
(Sorbo will be performing NYE at Indulgence at the EMP.)

Mike Wally Walter
I personally like a New Years Eve gig, they pay great money and if it’s scheduled right you can do your set, eat and get out of there before the amateurs are on the road. There’s nothing better for a teetotaling comedian like myself than to be home with a check and my loved one when the clock strikes midnight! 

Susan Jones
It’s always enjoyable being with a group of people ringing in the New Year with laughter. It also usually means a really nice hotel room that I didn’t have to pay for-clean sheets are a great way to start the New Year.
(Jones will be performing NYE at the Liberty Theater in Puyallup.)


Tony Daniel
I have done NYE comedy shows in four different settings: large theaters, comedy clubs, house parties and night clubs. It is always great to start the year off getting paid doing what you love to do. The shows at comedy clubs and theaters tend to work best because the audience is there for comedy. Maybe a few more hecklers, maybe a few more WHOOOOOOO’s from drunk chicks but overall a good time. I feel honored that out of all the places you want to get drunk and puke in the bathroom you chose to do it with me!

The night club experience has never worked out well. The poor headliner is usually doing his set while people are filing in to the club. They have been pre-funking all day. They did not know and do not care about the comedy show. They came to dance and try to hook up with someone and you got some guy onstage talking about whatever! The comic puts on the blinders and tries to get through his time while praying to see the light. Finally at 11:55 pm the light comes. All are relieved. Now the comic can get his money and slink home before anyone notices he was there.

Note: New Year’s Eve is tonight, December 31. If you do attend a comedy show, try not to be a loud, drunk, heckling a-hole, okay?