Nick Nuciforo, partner and head of Comedy Touring at United Talent Agency, says resilience was probably the most obvious job skill he strengthened early in the pandemic when comedy touring came to a screeching halt. Working with colleagues, clients and peers, the agent has witnessed the power of virtual events and helped develop new markets and educational initiatives to keep comedy live, although live comedy at social distancing, at a time when people needed a reason to laugh.
Fortunately, Nuciforo has continued to see demand for live comedy grow as well as the reach of live comedy content thanks to YouTube creators, podcasters, and other non-traditional creatives. And there have been no signs of waning public enthusiasm.
“People crave social interaction, people really need to laugh. And nothing at all for the performer or fan replicates that live comedy experience,” said Nuciforo whose client list includes Jim Gaffigan. , Sebastian Maniscalco, Taylor Tomlinson, Will Ferrell, Chelsea Handler, Bert Kreischer, George Lopez, Seth Meyers, Russell Peters, and Sarah Silverman, as well as non-traditional comedians.
Growing audience for live comedy
Nuciforo continues to see strong demand for comedy both domestically and internationally. “There’s been real growth that we’ve seen in comedy clubs. There’s more headliners now – and what I mean by that is 1000 [seat] ability to arenas [more] than ever before.”
An agent since 1996, he’s seen the live comedy space grow exponentially, with theaters and arenas now becoming more common landing spots for stand-up comedy. In one week in March 2022, UTA client Sebastian Maniscalco performed to sold-out crowds at four arenas, selling a total of around 80,000 tickets.
Find your comedy consumers
Nuciforo’s approach made it easy for audiences to find shows. Between the study of trends and the analysis of results, he also pays attention to the environment. “Visually, not scientifically, I keep an eye on the number of cranes in the sky when I travel. Population growth means more potential comedy consumers.
“Where are the people? You bring comedy to the people, instead of forcing the people into comedy,” Nuciforo said.
Earnings increases for top comedians on tour
Huge financial gains in stand-up are not typical for the majority of comedians. But more stages mean more touring comedians and top performers are cashing in and giving comedy the scream that has the potential to benefit all comedians and venues alike. Large comedy shows can lead to an increase in comedy consumption.
“Our customers are earning more than ever. Customer revenue is growing year over year… And I think that’s a result of ticket sales, revenue and the number of tickets sold in any of these markets. I think tickets are still underpriced for comedy, compared to sports, [and] concerts in theaters. So there is a lot of room for growth there. There are more comedians in the Top 100 Touring Artists,” Nuciforo said.
Comedy tours open doors
The popularity and success of comedy tours doesn’t have to stop there for an artist. A great touring career can help build a film career or open the door to creative opportunities beyond the road. “Everything is interconnected in how we leverage and grow someone’s career,” Nuciforo explained.
“For example, Sebastian Maniscalco was able to make a film about his life called About my father. Artists like Taylor Tomlinson were able to tell the story of the success of the tour through us, securing a film development deal. Bert Kreischer ended up shooting a special about his life called The machine. So we are able to build a story, which helps to accelerate and create opportunities in other parts of their career. Likewise, it happens in reverse – a bestselling book for a client like Chelsea Handler can help launch a truly successful tour, or a bestselling book for an author like Jim Gaffigan helps expand his audience and attract new new people for their [publishing/readership] spectators.”
International Comedy Trends
These days, comedy opportunities are expanding beyond the United States with many comedians including UTA clients performing or preparing to perform overseas. UTA closely monitors these trends.
“We are the only agency to have a dedicated full-time comedy agent in our London office. And for us, it’s a big investment. We see this as a big area for growth and something very important to us,” Nuciforo explained. UTA has worked with foreign-language comedians like Brazilian comedian Whindersson Nunes in their native-speaking country and expanded their tours and targeted their fanbases in the United States.
Future predictions for live tours
Nuciforo isn’t afraid of a comedy bust like the one seen in the ’90s after the ’80s boom. “I think there’s a lot of room for growth in the future,” Nuciforo said. “I think the conditions now are very different from what they were then. And I think the bust, while I wasn’t present there…from what I understand these conditions are not the same today. But we see a lot of avenues ahead of us in terms of content distribution. And content distribution is the number one thing that I think supports our market. The ability to perform – it there are more venues than ever before and more venues and opportunities are opening up every year. So that’s positive. And more opportunities in the global market. I mean, it’s now a global industry.