Standup Comedy Barry Neal Interview Headliner & Booking Agent

Great interview with comic Barry Neal, all about his life as a standup road comic; but the fun part for me was our discussion about his company, Entertainment Max, a Booking Agency for entertainment at military bases, casino, and colleges. Barry went from Hockey Star to Standup Comic to Comedy Booker and Agency Owner…fascinating! As a comic, beginner, or audience member, this shows shares a lot about the business of Comedy.
Good standup comic as well!

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Podcast Transcript:

Announcer: 

This is another episode of stand up comedy, your host and emcee, celebrating 40 plus years on the fringe of show business, stories, interviews and comedy sets from the famous and not so famous. Here’s your host and emcee Scott Edwards,

Scott Edwards: 

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another great episode of Stand Up Comedy host and emcee, we have another terrific interview in this one’s going to be extra special because not only was this guy a very talented headliner back in the day and still performing comedy, but they moved on and has a career as a booking agent has his own representation of comics called entertainment, Max. It’s great to have him on the show. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s headliner, Barry Neil.

Barry Neal: 

Oh, my gosh, you get a standing ovation. I’m getting. It’s incredible. The crowds going nuts. Barry, thanks for joining us today. Oh, Scott, good to be here. It’s so wonderful to run into people that it’s one thing nice about having this podcast is talking to people I haven’t spoken to. But we used to work a lot together. In fact, you worked for me quite a bit back in the day.

Scott Edwards: 

But I mentioned in the beginning that you were comic and you’ve gotten professional, I want to get into that. But why don’t we kind of explain to the audience, how did you fall into comedy? Is it is an art form as a business as a career?

Barry Neal: 

The standard part or the booking part? No, no, let’s start with the comedy part. I mean, you know, are

Scott Edwards: 

you 12 years old and the class clown.

Barry Neal: 

You know, I was always the son of a butcher. But it was more athletically. Like I always if I was like, in baseball, I wanted to I was the pitcher. I was the guy who I always felt as though the five people game is lost. I’ll bear that responsibility. And if the game is one, I’ll take the credit. I played hockey over in Europe, and I was the goalie. So the game is no way you played hockey in Europe. I did. Wow. And I know you and of course the audience can’t see you. But I would not have picked you as a hockey player. That’s a rough sport. It what’s funny is that when I started playing old man hack, you want to hit 40.

Scott Edwards: 

And again, if people are like you do comedy, you’re the least funny person on this team.

Barry Neal: 

People can’t, can’t sometimes wrap their mind around. There’s people of different aspects of their personality. So yeah, when I’m out playing hockey, I’m not interested in telling jokes and getting laughs But I’m very competitive. And so I went went to college, I did an improv group that we performed at the Edinburgh fair, if you’re familiar with that over in Scotland. Is that lovely? Is this where you’re from? Where are you? Where were you born and raised from Chicago? I’m from Chicago, and I went to Northwestern in it right outside of Chicago. And you got your feet wet with comedy in Chicago? Yeah. And I did stand up when I was in college. Wow. It was I mean, I was 18 years old. And watching these comics. And I kept thinking, I can do this.

Scott Edwards: 

Because you’re at? Oh, sure, you think you can do anything. And you have that kind of type A as you already mentioned, control personality. So if you were going to get into something you you probably latched on. I don’t suppose you remember any of your early material. Do you remember your first joke? Oh, my God, I think my very, very first joke was, I was 18 at the Comedy cottage, which I don’t even there anymore in Chicago, and there’s open mic. And I think one of the first jokes was like, talking about the Brady Bunch, because I love the Brady Bunch growing up in restaurants. Who didn’t? So it’s like the joke. And again, I’m paraphrasing it but like, you know, someone said, you know, Marsha said, you know, Dad, Greg’s being a real stinker. And I’m thinking that I don’t think that would fly nowadays.

Barry Neal: 

Nowadays, let’s face it, but if my sister does something distinct, there’s gonna be right behind. And I would say something a little more blue.

Scott Edwards: 

My sister’s being a real, you know what? Right, right, right? Yeah.

Barry Neal: 

No, and I could see the premise of the joke that is generations change. And especially when you’re talking about, you know, 60s and 70s. TV stinker was probably right on the edge of what you couldn’t do. You can never go my sister’s in a hole. Right.

Scott Edwards: 

And, and so doing that on stage. Well, that that would be a good initial premise, because it’s something everybody in the audience could relate to and back in.

Barry Neal: 

What year was this in the early 80s, late 70s. Now this is late 80s. Oh, late 80s.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, you’re a lot younger than me.

Barry Neal: 

I didn’t want to say anything because I probably look much older.

Scott Edwards: 

So, but the point is everybody remembered the Brady Bunch in the idea that times have changed. In fact, I know that you’re working with comics today. And I want to talk about this later on about how there’s kind of this counterculture and woke society that’s really made it difficult to talk about anything because everybody gets offended. But back in the late 80s, if you were talking about TV, like the Brady Bunch, everybody in that audience had seen the show or knew of it. And so it’s something that’s easy to relate to. And the fact that the society had changed, where being a stinker was the same as being an asshole, you know, how it changed and develop that? I mean, that’s actually a good first job, Barry. Well, yeah, you don’t you I always thought, and this is kind of what it still teaches that you got to talk about what you know, the idea that, I mean, I was not an experienced dating person. I was not dating anybody in college. So I’m not going to talk about relationships. And I’m not going to talk about politics, because it wasn’t in politics. So what did I know? I knew sports and I knew TV. So a figure start there. Well, you know, that’s good advice. For anybody listening that wants to be a comic, you got to talk about what you know, and then have it something that everybody in the audience can relate to. So talking about television, really, in sports, are a good place to start. So you started off in Chicago, how did you end up over in Europe?

Barry Neal: 

Well, I played hockey and a traveling team in Oh, cool. And then my coach was originally, he played on the Swedish Olympic team way back when, and we were a pretty good traveling team. And he thought, we should take a group of all stars and represent like the Team USA. And I was selected to to be the goal, one of the goalies on the team. And so I have a little Team USA Jersey, and I got to play with if you know, hockey, it was a thrill because I always played against him in Chicago, but now he was my teammate was Tony Coronado, who’s an author who was an all star for the Los Angeles Kings. Wow, coach the kings. Yeah, no, everyone in hockey knows that name. And that’s amazing. Congratulations, that yeah, that’s how cool and again, I have known you a long time and had no idea. You had a hockey background, and how proud you must have been to represent America overseas. You know what, it was kind of cool, because it was a time where, you know, right around that Olympic Miracle on Ice and chose to be over there and have the European crowd chanting USA, it was just, I mean, it was yeah, it was. It was cool. It was something one of the highlights of my life along with, you know, having kids and being married, but definitely going over and representing the country was pretty cool. Okay, now, I’m not really a hockey guy.

Scott Edwards: 

But inside that outfit that you wear as a goalie, could you hear anything?

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, because, remember, it’s like you get a lot of equipment, but the mask itself is actually, you know, it just there was just, I just gotta tell you, you have to have a really good bravery line in your makeup because when those pucks are coming at you at 100 miles an hour, it’s like a bullet. And I think being a goalies got to be one of the scariest jobs. I mean, hockey in its own right is a fairly rough game. But the goalie definitely gets the bulk of the punishment by the puck. The truth is, I could skate when I started. So that was the only position I could.

Scott Edwards: 

So that’s where they put the, that’s when they put the hockey players that cascade on ice, okay, you’re, you’re in hockey, you’re a goalie

Barry Neal: 

go suit up in the bed. And that’s that’s how I actually got started because nobody wanted to play goal. It’s not the glamorous position, and I couldn’t skate. So they put me in that.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, but but still you you turned it into something. And we’ve already talked about your personality type, and your dedication to something to stay with it even with those challenges, and then end up representing America. overseas as a goalie. I mean, I’m impressed. So I think that’s pretty exciting. Now, the other thing is, you have all this experience in a sport, but outside of the Northeast, it means not like you could go to LA and do hockey jokes, right?

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, you know, I think it’s very niche hockey. So yeah, I’m not. I never did a lot of hockey jokes. Just because it was part of my personality. that, you know, I don’t know if it really translated into, hey, here’s something funny about hockey, which is something that I love to do. Right, right. By the time I was in my 20s, I had already retired and stopped playing. So you know, it’s funny that you say, put your mind to it. This is what I tell my kids, I know you have kids. What I tell my students now is, nobody cares how smart you are, or how talented you are, like, my kids are in high school. And one of them’s valedictorian, and I’m proud of them. But I said, You know what, when you’re 25, nobody gives a crap what you got in chemistry. So the idea is, you have to outwork the people next to you. So, I say that in comedy, it’s like, you and I both know, people who’ve been so talented, but they didn’t take comedy seriously. And they’re out of the business. Right? So if you don’t take this seriously, and you don’t outwork every other comic, you know, like, during, during a time where you’re off for the week, why aren’t you writing? You know, you don’t sit around and oh, I’m gonna get high go see movies. I mean, that’s fine. If you’re to go see a movie get high. But every day, you should ask yourself, What did I do to improve myself as a comedian? You know, and it’s the same thing with the greatest athletes, you know, huge Michael Jordan.

Scott Edwards: 

That’s terrific. Everybody, right. And that’s terrific advice, no matter what you’re going to do. But I think it’s poignant to point out in a comedy podcast, that for those interested in it as an art form, which is what I celebrate, is that, and we talked a little bit briefly before the interview about this. It’s a job, you if you’re if you’re going to make it, just like if you want to be an accountant, or a lawyer or a doctor, you got to work at it, if you want to succeed. And so many people thought in the 80s, especially in the 90s, when there was a big wave of comedy success, that the people they were seeing on TV like Bob Saget or Jerry Seinfeld, or Dana Carvey, that they were like, quote, unquote, an overnight success. And that is so false. You know, the reality is all those guys were dedicated to the art form, worked at it, as you mentioned, had to write every day, tried out new material all the time, and built themselves an act a career that was able to launch them into the opportunity. And as you know, as a booker, both of us could probably name 20 or 30. Really funny people that worked at their career are very successful and made a living at it for decades. And no one’s ever heard of them. Oh, some of the funniest people in the country and they just didn’t get that. lucky break that. You know, let’s say Carvey getting the call from Michael Lauren, Lauren Michael got that backwards and getting Saturday Night Live. I mean, it that time when he got that call, which is about 1986. You know, though, I could have named 20 Other acts that were as funny as Dana. And Dana was one that got the call, and I’m really proud of Dane, and he rocked In, he earned it. But that doesn’t mean that the other 19 were funny as hell and working at their craft. So it is really, you know, the luck of the draw in some cases. But you’re getting back to your point. You have to work at it. And not just on Saturday nights, you got to work at it every day.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, I guess your point really is also for the people out there. We also probably know 20 People that were really funny, but they’re out of the business because they didn’t take it seriously.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, right. And didn’t know how to continue, you know, without the fame. I mean, I know a few people in I would never name names, but they’re bitter, that they didn’t get that stage called to be a celebrity. They could have had a fine career for their whole life making a living in this industry. But they’re so bitter that they didn’t get that one opportunity. That is really the luck of the draw. That that bitterness took them down the wrong path. And they ended up out of the business even though they were very funny. So we’ve kind of gotten off track so you’re, you’re playing hockey, you’re doing some comedy in college. How did you end up working for me at laughs unlimited.

Barry Neal: 

Well, you know, this name Steve Bruner. Yeah.

Scott Edwards: 

Still good, friendly.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, we’re still good friends. Every birthday, we talk. And he told me about your club. And I just called you up. And I said, you know, I’d love to come out and just open. You know, if I can’t see Bruna recommend to me back then. You know, a lot of times someone recommends you. You’re like, okay, and it was it was really that simple. He recommended me and I came out and I got to open and it went well you and I hit it off and I think because I was a really clean act that I always, I always wrote my stuff kind of like Steve, in terms of, if I could be clean. I anybody can be my headliner, anyone, no one’s gonna be offended that I’m opening for them. And I can work at colleges, I can work corporate. So I always work clean. So it was easy to book me. And I tried to be professional. I always tried to dress in a certain tie. I always tried to represent the club well, so I don’t know how funny I was with that. But it’s easy to hire. Because I stayed out of the way. I dress professionally. And it did my job. So

Scott Edwards: 

yeah, again, I’d have to say you did it right. Because you did start off as an opening act, but you worked your craft, and you got better and better. And I know you ended up headlining for me, the fact that you made the choice to work clean, does affords you the opportunity to work so many more events, you know, I’m always trying to recommend to comics that, yeah, it’s easy to go down the F bomb road. But if you stay clean, you know, you can work colleges, you can work, you know, you can work a bar mitzvah, who knows you’re going to get more gigs, and more money, if you can get in front of any crowd and not offend anybody. So you did work for me for many years. Did you remember working with anybody in particular? Or are any good memories of laughs unlimited.

Barry Neal: 

Of Well, I had great memories. There was a guy who had a TV show will we did New Year’s Eve together. Oh, trainer. Yeah, we’ll Shriner. And I remember we did New Year’s Eve together. And, you know, he was the nicest guy, we hung out on New Year’s Eve, he was missing his wife, I think I had a girlfriend at the time. And he and I just shot the shot the shit at the bar, just just talking and laughing. And I’m like, wow. And it was just a thrill to work for, you know, with him because he was a celebrity and a really nice guy. And that was one of my first, you know, times working with somebody on the road who was, you know, had his own TV show. So that was certainly a great memory. I have a memory. It’s a little bit making fun of yet, so just bear with me. Oh, it’s okay. But But. But you sometimes had a propensity for doing a lot of material.

Scott Edwards: 

Trust me, it’s been mentioned on the podcast by other comics.

Barry Neal: 

So the story is we have two shows on a Friday night. So it’s eight and 1030. So you go up and you do your 25 up fun.

Scott Edwards: 

To be five, right? Yeah. And then

Barry Neal: 

you get caught up in, you want to bring this guy up on stage because he was becoming a naturalized citizen. So you couldn’t find them. So you bring up the feature act. So the fee trek, he does 25. So now it’s about 850. Well, then you finally find the guy and go, Hey, I want to bring this guy up on stage because, you know, he was being a naturalized citizen. That was a big, big thing. But you find him, but he’s outside having a smoke. So you start improvising until he’s ready. He gets up, he finally gets up. And you do congratulations. It was a very nice moment for him. But at this point, I’m in the back going. The show supposed to be over at 930. And it’s not 910. So you finally get off, bring him done. Bring him on stage. everyone applauds. He’s either citizen today, this and that. That’s great. Then I see some guy walk up next man. I’m like, Oh, I’m sorry. Who are you? And you’re in the I don’t remember his name. And he’s like, Oh, Scott told me I could do a guest spot. And I’m like, the first show Friday night. It’s already like, you bring him up?

Scott Edwards: 

And I’m like, No, I brought him up instead of you. Yes.

Barry Neal: 

So you get off stage. And you’re like, do you mind doing 15? Like, I’ll do whatever you want.

Scott Edwards: 

I was such a jerk.

Barry Neal: 

I got up at 920. The show is supposed to end at 930. But you let me go to 935 to do my 50 to close the show. It was fun.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, man, I don’t remember that. But, you know, one of the advantages and curses of being the club owner is that you do control the environment. And I did have a propensity, especially later on. In fact, I quit using opening acts because I was having so much fun opening and warming up the audience. But sometimes, and apparently in this case, took it too far. So my apologies. But you’re not the first to mention that I tended to overdo my time on stage. I think I was having fun.

Barry Neal: 

That was the great part is that you were just having fun. And everybody in the crowd loves it. And it’s just like, you know, so that’s where again, you know, I sell comics, you know, shows. They’re not about us. They’re about the people having fun and they’re also about running a business because I tell people it’s like, especially we book a lot of casinos. So I’m like The casino show has to end at 815. That doesn’t mean a 20 or a 25. Because they’re losing a lot of money by you going on stage, and you’ll hear commentary. I was killing it. They don’t care.

Scott Edwards: 

Right? Right. It has to be over because the wages

Barry Neal: 

have to clear the room and get people out so people can gamble. And it’s like, so, you know, to me, it’s like, back then I was like, I can’t believe this is happening to be the headliner, but look at the act like whatever, everyone had fun, nobody cared. It wasn’t like I was Barry. It was like, I was Jerry Seinfeld in the cage, just to see, I was just a guy that had a fun 15 minutes. That was it,

Scott Edwards: 

you know, and things and things would come up. I mean, I don’t remember that particular case in and again, it was probably not fair to you, but the audience was going along with it. But we had a couple times that Robin Williams dropped in or somebody else might have dropped by the show. And the axe just had to understand that you always want to do what’s best for the audience. And what are they going to get the most out of? It wasn’t like, you know, Hey, Robin, thanks for stopping by. But I can’t put you up because so and so’s on stage. You know, if Robin dropped in, I would literally walk on stage while the guy’s doing this set and say, Hey, that was great. Let’s hear for him. Hey, we have a special trade. Here’s Robin Williams. Because trust me, nobody in the audience was gonna complain.

Barry Neal: 

Wait, wait a minute, to John Smith. Just get interrupted for Robin

Scott Edwards: 

Williams. Yeah. Crazy. Well, you had a lot of success as a stand up comic and you are regular in my clubs for many years. And I’m assuming of somebody of your comedy stature and being clean. You worked all over the country, right?

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, I was. I was able to do you know, a lot of TV, which I always wanted to do.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, you were on Comedy Central MTV. A few things. Yeah,

Barry Neal: 

MTV. I did the Tonight Show. I did. VH one. So you know, got to do a couple evening at the Improv, you know. But more importantly, I guess I was able to do a lot of military I did some military tours.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, you did the tours as well, not just bases locally.

Barry Neal: 

Now, I went over to Japan a couple of times. And that was a lot of fun.

Scott Edwards: 

I’m always envious of the comics that got a chance to go kind of Bob Hope ish and entertain the troops. Because I would like representing our country as a hockey player. Going over as a comic and entertaining our troops would be such a moment of pride. And I’ve talked to a few comics that had a chance to do that. That must have felt amazing as well.

Barry Neal: 

You know, it does what’s so funny is they are so appreciative. They’re like, thanks for coming over. And I’m like, no, no, no, you guys.

Scott Edwards: 

Right? Cuz Trust me, I don’t want to do what you’re doing. You may want to do what I’m doing. But I don’t want to you know, especially when you’re if you’re working in the sandbox, you know, and your life is at risk, you know? Yeah. A little entertainment from stateside is is such a welcome sight. Well, what a great opportunity to mold yourself as a comic entertainer, getting all those experiences. And I think that because you had some success as a sports performer in hockey, you know, how to travel and in working in different regions of the country and even overseas, I’m sure helped develop you is the type of professional that allowed you some comfort level while you’re doing this, because I know a lot of guys struggle on the road or struggle with long booking trips and in your life kind of led you into that.

Barry Neal: 

I mean, there was a lot of, you know, that great moments, you know, traveling but it’s just, you know, and maybe because I’m a guy too, I’m not, you know, I think it would be harder. I just think it’s harder for women in terms of just you have to deal with guys on the road, you know, hitting on you and just being unsafe because there were some hotels. I would not have my sister stay

Scott Edwards: 

after me. Yeah, female comics did have it worse on the road. Lowest Bromfield, who’s a good friend of mine just came out with a book. Everybody should look for it lowest Bromfield. It’s on Amazon, but she talks about the scary part in the exciting and scary part of being on the road as a female comic, but still even for guys like you. Now as a club owner, and even though I emceed all over Northern California, I never was in an act where like you had to travel to, you know, the South or the or the east or somewhere, and in your case to entertain the troops going overseas. I mean, those experience says, Though sometimes scary. What a way to build yourself as a as a career path? I mean, I would think it would be a good experience.

Barry Neal: 

I think, yes, I think anyone who has a chance to go overseas, whether it’s your career not I think anytime you travel just as a human being, you get to learn and grow. My first travel experience was, of course in hockey. But then after college, I did the Edinburgh Fair, where I went all over Europe, we performed at the fair in Scotland, but then I traveled and I think travel is I don’t want to say the great equalizer, but you learned that there’s more out there than just your hometown, that there’s a whole world out there of people who don’t think like us who don’t look like us. And that’s a medium and you realize that everybody is like us, even though they’re not, you know, different but the same, right? Yeah, yeah. And I just think, you know, that’s, to me going out and traveling. And doing comedy is was awesome. Because, yeah, you play these small towns. And you’re like, Oh, my God, I would never live here. And you think, what a little shithole as you as you drive into their town, and then you do the show? And you’re like, these are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You’re like, wow, did I did I miss read this situation?

Scott Edwards: 

Right? That’s an interesting observation. But also, I think if when you’re also doing that, there has to be a realization that even though you’re in these little shithole towns, or versus LA, or San Francisco, getting up on stage, and being able to relate the audience and make them laugh, is such a universal thing. That that has to be some real sense of success in doing that.

Barry Neal: 

I think it again, kind of what I teach in classes, it is that people laugh. Because it’s not so much the joke or the word necessarily, it’s the emotion that you’re giving them because we’re all human. We all have similar emotional buttons and feelings. So that’s how, you know when you love a comic, it’s because you love who you feel as though you’ve met a new friend. Because it’s the emotion that the passion that they give to whatever, that’s whatever they’re talking about, which is why I always say talk about something that interests you. Because if you’re interested in it, you’re passionate about it. And you’re giving off that emotion about it. And people connect with that.

Scott Edwards: 

That’s interesting. That’s that’s taking the whole relating to the audience to another level. That’s That’s smart stuff. Barry, thanks.

Barry Neal: 

Let me think about you. You’re a performative when people watch your set, 40 minutes, I say. I mean, like, I did a show last night, two nights ago, I did an hour, I promise you, they cannot remember more than one or two jokes. But people came up, they wanted to chit chat, they wanted to interview me and talk. But they can’t remember more than one or two. What they do remember is the feeling that they had when watching the set, talking about my children, and talking about my relationship and so that that’s how humans Connect is through feelings. And that’s what makes hopefully great comedy. And that’s why it works in small towns are the biggest towns.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, that’s great. And and you just bring to the point that you’re still performing, which I think is great, because you’re coming on, like 30 years of doing it. Now, you did a lot of road work. You did a lot of different clubs, any interesting road stories, anything that might be interesting, fascinating or scary for our audience.

Barry Neal: 

There was always your, your clubs were always there wasn’t too many crazy stories other than you know, you weren’t a good poker player. So it was fun taking their money.

Scott Edwards: 

Well, I just meant, you know, with all the travel experiences you had, there had to have been something.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, I mean, there were some moments where, you know, I was staying at a club, and there was a Red Roof Inn. It was just right off the hotel, and it was just mostly just pimps and hookers. And there was gunshots in the in the room next to me, and the cops had to come and I walked out of my room and guns were drawn, they go get back into the room like okay.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, man. Yeah, now that would that would wake you up. I don’t imagine you went right back to sleep after that.

Barry Neal: 

No, I called the club I said, I can’t stay here anymore. I mean, it’s bad enough. There’s there’s hookers and pimps but others gunplay? So I’ll get you out. Yeah, that was That was crazy.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, that that would be a scary moment. Well, we’ve alluded to it a couple times. And I want to go ahead and jump forward. So you are an entertainer for at least a couple of decades. At what point did you and you’re still performing so you’re still an entertainer which is which is incredible. But at some point you changed lanes and added the business aspect. And for everybody out there in podcast land. Barry Oh, accompany called entertainment max. And you booked comic entertainers at military bases, colleges, casinos around the country. How did that transition happen? What? Because that’s kind of my world. What had you shift from entertainer to business entrepreneur?

Barry Neal: 

It was having kids, I didn’t want to be for me. I didn’t want to raise a family being the guy on the road.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, I just said, Okay, that’s a good reason I need

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, I need to figure something where I can be at home, still do some comedy, and be involved in the business. But still, I mean, I want to be taking my kids to school, I want to coach soccer coach baseball. So I thought, You know what, there was a niche market of comics like me, headliners who weren’t big household names. And to fit into a colleges, it was really, really good colleges and military bases at first, because they’re worth a lot of businesses that we’re trying to fill that because colleges would go to major agencies that represent panics. So I’m just a talent buyer. So I would buy talent like myself and other headliners. And say, Look, I’m willing to come to a college for 1500. And they always thought, well, most comics because they go through your Moore’s or CA that represent bigger names, or they represent comics who are kind of at my level, but they don’t they they’re not taking 1500 I talked to so many colleges that are like, we can’t afford a comedy show. I’m like, well, wow, it’s the head. And they’re like, We got 4000. And I’m like, I could get you for comics that would drive your you know, and do it. And they’re like, really, and that’s how I got started. I mean, that’s our go to, yeah, that have $1,000 budget. And I’m like, I’ll book it for $1,000. And I can get you three comics. And you know, I’ll make money and comics were doing

Scott Edwards: 

was your end, because you understood both sides of the industry. And you weren’t trying to pay for some 10 storey building in downtown LA, like a lot of these large William Morris and some of these other large agencies, you were able to provide a service at a lower, more reasonable cost. I think that was genius Berry, and starting off with the colleges. And there was a couple people that specialized in college bookings. But adding military bases, especially after you’d worked a couple must have been a great, as you said foot in the door. Got you started. Yeah. And what year was that? Barry

Barry Neal: 

2000. And my son was born in 2003. So I think 2005 is when I really went all in on, you know, but 2004. And then 2005 is when I really started expanding the business and bringing people in to be salespeople. So 2004 2005

Scott Edwards: 

Wow. And what’s interesting now, and I don’t know if the audience is as interested as I am, but comedy had already started changing. One of the reasons and I’ve mentioned this a couple times, I sold my club in 2001 is that I could see the writing on the wall. They the heyday of stand up comedy and guys getting on The Tonight Show or getting their own sitcoms was kind of passing the comics seem to be, excuse the terminology, not working as hard and going a different path material wise than I was used to. And then I appreciated. And keep in mind. I mean, I worked with the best, you know, Gary Shandling Larry Miller, Mark Schiff. And will Shriner, by the way, you mentioned will I just interviewed amid his interview just aired, I mean, these guys were total professional, clean, funny. And it was all about entertaining the audience. And by 2001, we could see that there was this shift, where the stage was, people were going on stages therapy, you know, I want to go on and talk about me, the audience is there for me, as opposed to my theory, which is you’re there for the audience.

Barry Neal: 

I agree. I think there was also the shift for, at least for me to part of it is to be honest, I kind of hit a wall and and I got depressed. Because you know, when you do the same thing over and over, it’s like a relationship with a shark to move forward or dies. And to play the same club. You and I were talking about that for the same money. It’s like, you do that three or four times you’re like, What the hell am I doing? You know, so you know, so now

Scott Edwards: 

let’s jump forward to 2005 You’re starting this new business entertainment Max, a great booking agency for colleges and military bases and you end up being one of the key Booker’s for the smaller Casino. and casinos around the country? What was a difficult finding professional entertainers and in educating them on work in these types of locations? Because I think I would have found it challenging. But how did you get over that?

Barry Neal: 

You know, it was a little bit challenging. You know, I, we put an itinerary together and said, Look, when you play a military base, it’s not your material that you normally do at a club. You have to be cognizant that I don’t want any politics. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Democrat, and just don’t stay away from it. Because, you know, the President is the commander in chief. So to make fun of any president is not okay. Well, I do this and I go not, not at my club, you’re not, you know, not to my face. You’re not you so

Scott Edwards: 

set a guideline, and they that they had to kind of toe the line or they weren’t gonna get work.

Barry Neal: 

I had people literally fired from a military tour. They were they were sent home. That’s how bad it was. There was a girl that just couldn’t follow the rules. And they they flew her out of, I think, Germany, and they said, she’s done. She’s gone. Like, okay,

Scott Edwards: 

wow, wow. And I bet she didn’t learn anything from that.

Barry Neal: 

Of course, whenever people some people like that, like, like, it wasn’t my fault.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, well, their arrogance and ignorance take over. But, but you also being a comic. And again, this is really fascinating for me, because I’ve always been on the business side, that was only on stage as an emcee for a comic to transition to the business side. Now you had an understanding of what you could pay people, the woes of traveling and how to make it reasonable. But you also, we’ve already alluded to you new people like Steve Bruner, timber door there. Stan Sellars is a bunch of people that are really, really funny and clean, that you could put on these tours, that somebody out of LA or San Francisco that wanted to start a booking agency, wouldn’t have those relationships wouldn’t know who to work with and who not I’m sure that helped you in the beginning.

Barry Neal: 

You know, it’s, it’s a small community comedy, but yeah, in the beginning, I had a group of maybe 10 People like the Steve pruners and Dustin sellers. And the people I really just, I just really leveraged in terms of base, they got all the gigs, because I knew I could trust them. But then, as people start hearing, oh, entertainment, Max is booking this booking. I started getting a lot more people coming and people get referred. And now we have literally, I think 2200 Comics in our database. Wow. You know, I we’ve also moved into performing arts centers. So we booked, you know, big bands like The Beach Boys and Daughtry. And, you know,

Scott Edwards: 

really so you’ve branched out you’re doing other things, then stand up, you’re doing music. Did you net I’m just this is totally off subject and I apologize to my podcast listeners. But as a booker, I always enjoyed all the arts. So did you ever get into jugglers and magicians are ventriloquist?

Barry Neal: 

Yep. Are we? What I learned as a booker again, it’s not about me. So my first response to the salesman is Yes, I have that because we get military people and they’re like, do you have hula dancers? And I’m like, Yes, I do. I didn’t pull it. The answer’s no, you

Scott Edwards: 

just find them. Right. But I can find them. Yeah.

Barry Neal: 

Of course, it’s like monkeys who can juggle I do in my database. So that’s how I kind of got into music and ventriloquist and because the military or a college they go, do you have a ventriloquist? Michael? Yeah, I’ll get you some things. And then I, I find him.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, that is so cool. I am. One of the reasons I was so excited about interviewing you is that I knew you as a comic, but I was unaware of entertainment Max and I did some research. And I’m just so envious, because one of the joys You know, as an entertainer, your joy is getting up in front of the audience and making a room full of people laugh for me, as a booking agent and as a club owner. And this is gonna sound really ridiculous to my audience. But I really enjoyed the thrill of the contract of booking a show, building a show, putting the right acts together. For me. Every time I did that, it was like starting a business and that’ll make some of my regular listeners laugh because I’m a serial entrepreneur. I’ve started over 12 companies, and it’s I don’t like really running the companies. But I like starting them the challenge and the organization that it takes to put together a company Well, when you’re booking a show, you’re doing that same effort, but it’s all for just one night. But you got to be thinking about all the contingencies that people don’t think about lighting, sound staging, you know, the audience who’s going to fit, who’s going to work together, the budget, and all those things. It sounds crazy, but those are what excite me, as a business professional. And so when I hear what you’re doing, even though I took a stab at it in the early 90s, and was too busy to really follow through, very envious and satisfied with your success as a booking company, because I love that part of it.

Barry Neal: 

I do too. I mean, it’s funny, dealing with, I like the contract part in the negotiation, you know, because I always say, you know, it’s adversarial by nature, but does not need to be acrimonious. And I’m like, so, you know, we’ll deal with these agents. And I get it, you know, they have a fiduciary responsibility to, like, we’re dealing with someone who’s pretty big that, you know, right now, and they’re like they want, you know, $60,000. And I’m like, we don’t have $60,000. And I know you’re open that day. So why don’t we do this, and then like, We will negotiate like, look, we’ll guarantee 40. And then we’ll do ticket prices. So if they’re as good as you say they are, and they’ll sell the place out, we’ll do a back end deal. So that we might send you isn’t on the hook for 60, around the hook for 40. And if all goes according to plan, everybody wins. Your client, your client gets 60. And we, we we make a little bit of money.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, I went through that, I think, yeah, when I was booking people like Jay Leno and Tommy Chong, and I got Graham Chapman from Monty Python and share soupy sales. Some of these guys that were names already will Shriner, when you’re booking somebody that’s already a celebrity, and you’re not actually able to negotiate with the entertainer themselves, because the entertainers would rather work than sit in a hotel room or sit at home. So you have an edge that you can negotiate with him. But when you get to the bigger names, you’re talking to their agent or their manager, it’s a different situation, because the more money they can get, because they’re on a commission basis, the more money they’re going to make. And they don’t have that sense of urgency that the entertainer does to get out and work, one because they want the money. But even more so and you can argue with me on this. But I think once you’re an entertainer, there’s a certain joy to just being on stage. A great analogy would be Robin Williams, the couple of times he worked for me, it wasn’t actually working for me, he had done a concert somewhere in the area, and then came over just to get on stage, because he loved the stage. He loved entertaining the audience. And here’s a guy I would never be able to afford. And he worked my room twice for free. I mean, the entertainers want to entertain, when you’re dealing with a booking agent, or a manager or an agency. It can, like you said, it’s it’s the art of negotiation. And what a lot of people listening are may know or may not know, you and I as booking agents, we’re really the go between, you know, we’re we’re between the location that wants entertainment, and the entertainment and so we’re trying to please both sides. I think there’s some excitement and fun and satisfaction to doing that well. And I do it as a comedy Booker of certain events or my rooms back in the day. You’re doing it is a career booking agency and for over 10 years, representing, you know, dozens of facilities and events. And apparently 1000s of entertainers I mean, very envious, very exciting. And a lot of work.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, the most work I think that we put in is we started a comedy festival. They went it was involved one and and now it’s in the Antelope Valley because I have a venue which is I think one of the nicest in the country I’ve ever played is the Performing Arts Center here in Antelope Valley and we’ve had Jay Leno Gabriel Iglesias, big manufacturer, Dana Carvey, Larry, the Cable Guy, they’ve all been part of this festival that we’ve put on. But what I love about the festival is we have a $10,000 comedy competition. So it’s kind of grown into pretty much the biggest one in the country because of the level of talent with that much money at stake.

Scott Edwards: 

Wow, that’s a good prize.

Barry Neal: 

That Yeah, and so we’ve had some amazing winners. And then what I love is because it’s close enough to LA is that we, you know, we actually have in History come out to the panel and judge. So

Scott Edwards: 

that’s that’s really bringing all the right aspects of the business together. That’s smart. Yeah.

Barry Neal: 

And you to a certain age, it’s like, you do want to give back. And it’s like I love when young comics come even if they don’t get into the competition, because we only have so many in the competition. But they should come, because they go, what you’re going to do is, you learn by watching briefly that the way I became a good comic, I think, is when I, but Friedman gave me the honor of being one of the hosts at the improv. So I post like, four to five times a week. And this is when I first started out, I was 2324. And I’m watching Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, you know, Ellen DeGeneres, and just watching every night, the greatest of the greats. And you’re like, wow, I need to get there. And to me, that’s when young comics should come to this festival, and see the people who are competing for the 10,000 because they’re all major headliners and, and then they can also be part of a q&a, and learn from industry that, for example, what I’m looking for when I want to book a comic, is very different from what an agent is looking for. If they’re going to take on a client. Yeah, an agent is very interested in what’s your social media? How many hits do you have on Instagram? I don’t care about that. What I care about is funny.

Scott Edwards: 

Wow, that’s so smart. So let’s plug, first plug, entertainment Max, what if somebody is interested in either booking somebody, or being on your list, how’s the best way to reach you?

Barry Neal: 

Best way to reach entertainment Max is just go to entertainment, Max dotnet. And there’s a little button that says info at Entertainment Max, and it comes to us. And if you have a venue that wants to do comedy, we can book it. If you have any event that you want to comedian, we’ll get you the best price. You know, don’t certainly, I don’t want to say don’t go to a big agency. But bear in mind, a big agency represents the comics interests. We represent our clients interests. So if you’re a client, we’re going to try to get you the best talent for the least amount of money. That’s still a quality fact.

Scott Edwards: 

And that’s a great way to do it. Good job.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah. I mean, like I said, when I had an agent, I remember my agent was saying, You’re not going to go out for less than 1500. Thinking, if there’s someone in town, that’s gonna pay me 300 or 400. I want that game.

Scott Edwards: 

Exactly.

Barry Neal: 

Like, are you kidding me? You’re going to lower your rate. I’m like, I have a family to feed. I don’t care what my rate is.

Scott Edwards: 

Yeah, that’s interesting.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah, Please don’t give away a gig because they’re not paying 1500. And then I’m, like, tell you a real quick story about, I don’t know if I could say their name, but I won’t. We booked a very big college. I went through their agent. And the college actually got $20,000. And she did a great job. But the agent was a total bitch. And just their negotiation. They didn’t negotiate in good faith. And they’re like, my client wants this. My client wants that. She wants a limo.

Scott Edwards: 

Trust me. I’ve dealt with those people.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah. And I’m like, Well, no, no, no, and no to the limo. You have your own limo or your mortgage, you give her a limo. So I said, we’ve already negotiated so I’ll see her at the show. She does the show. She was very nice to me. She didn’t care about, you know, her rider. I want this food and that didn’t Carolina do that. And so she did a show, someone from the show was that was from another college, came up to me and said, Oh my god, that was the best show. We’d like to have this person at my college. And the I call up the agent, and I said, Oh, she did a great job. Everything went great. She got the money. I said, there’s another college that wants to have your client, and they’re willing to pay the same $20,000. And the agent says, You know what, we just really, we weren’t happy to working with you. So if you just give me the name of the college, I’ll just take care of it.

Scott Edwards: 

Like, yeah, like that was gonna happen.

Barry Neal: 

Yeah. Yeah, I said the name of the colleges as in you.

Scott Edwards: 

Good for you.

Barry Neal: 

I should there’s zero chance. I’m just giving you this. I said, that’s this is my, you know, I got the first gig for her. And really, I got the second gig because of the first gig. So I said, If you want I’ll just tell her that she’s not available. And I’ll book somebody else. I’ll make my commission that way. That either we do what she she never got the gig. And that that comic I saw her a year ago. And I told her that story. And she was

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, I bet she was. Yeah, because the comics would rather work. I mentioned that earlier. And then real quick plug the festivals it’s still going on.

Barry Neal: 

It is every year, of course, not this past year, but yeah, there’ll be September 11 and 12th at the Lancaster Performing Arts Center. It’s called the AV Comedy Festival.

Scott Edwards: 

AV as in Andrew Victor

Barry Neal: 

AV Andrew Victor at Antelope Valley Antelope Valley Comedy Festival. And if you’re a comedian listening and you want to be part of it, just go to entertainment Mac comedy festival.com. You submit your video, and we try to make it really affordable. So it’s $40 to submit your video, it gets reviewed, you might get into the competition, there’s only 48 Comics nationwide that get in. But even if you don’t get in, absolutely should come to meet agents meet managers. We have a cruise line director, who’s a booker for Princess Cruises.

Scott Edwards: 

And we’ll have what a great opportunity for people Well, everybody, hopefully you are paying attention. We’re running out of time here. But I want to make sure that audience members and also comics or even comic wannabes, Barry’s giving great advice you want to participate. And if you can’t participate, you want to be in the audience and experience great opportunities like this, the Antelope Valley Comedy Festival, and you can get to it through entertainment Max, what was the email once more for the festival?

Barry Neal: 

Entertainment Max Comedy Festival calm. That’s the website. So it’s kind of a long website, entertainment Max, that’s my company comedy festival.com.

Scott Edwards: 

Hey, well, that’s a great opportunity to share with people. Barry, this has been a really fun interview, not only catching up, and hearing about your career as a stand up comic, but sharing information about the business side. And what you’ve been able to succeed with is a booking agent, and entertainment Max and all of its success booking military bases, colleges and casinos. And you’re actually sharing your experience as a club Booker and as a professional comic, to young people in the form of a comedy school or consulting. These are all things that are giving back to the art form that both of us really love and enjoy doing. So thank you for that.

Barry Neal: 

It’s been my life. I know it’s been your life and for your listeners out there. It’s a mutual admiration society. Scott was one of the best owners. A lot of people treated comics in, you know, in the 80s, like a meat market. You’d be there for a week and the next ones would come in. There were clubs that would always tell me come in, you know, you’re not allowed to talk to anybody. And you know, your was always like family going to left. And I just really always appreciated it. It was it really was a great week of fun.

Scott Edwards: 

Oh, well, thanks for saying that. Hey, ladies and gentlemen, this has been just a great wealth of information and fun. talking to Barry Neil successful headliner and owner of entertainment Max, we’re going to have a little bit of his comedy coming up right now. So sit back and enjoy that. Barry, thanks for doing the interview. And if it’s okay with you, we’re going to air a little bit of your material. Sure, no problem. All right, ladies and gentlemen, here’s a little bit of comedy from Barry Neil.

Barry Neal: 

Word now that I have a child I realize my life is a circle. It’s a circle of life. If you don’t believe me, watch the Lion King. At one point, you live your whole life and you really end up at the same place. And you think about the things that we get to work on our life. You know, for example, my son he’s an infant in a crib once he even even a he’s an infant to the crib. You just want to pick out your name like eight months maybe a year to figure out your name if someone says my name Barry I don’t yet very I’m one years old. I figured that out. That’s me. This guy’s we get called different names throughout that circle of life. Some are better than others. Best thing you’ll ever get is a guy a lot of you ever hear tonight. Sure. This one best named Thomas Daniel again. It’s called boyfriend. Yeah, you’re tough. You’re cool. You’re in high school, college. You’re a boyfriend. You don’t use your name. Why? Because your boyfriend anybody talks to you know, who’s that? That Stanford who might have standards boyfriend and you’re tough. But guess what life marches on and you can’t stay a boyfriend forever. Now. Eventually you become engaged. And guess what? You’re a fiancee. And you think you’re so cool because you’re talking French. Lady marches on the circle continues. You don’t stay a fiancee forever. If you get very guys. You get a new name. Husband. That’s a weird one. I’ve been very 12 years I’m still not used to it. We had a party of Santhal introduced me she’ll go he says my husband Oh Were you my wife, we’re adults. And then last year we had our child and number one, her husband, I got a new date. That’s the name of deck. You guys the first time you hear it you freak show. I remember my brother Colton. They’re like, Hey, how’s dad? And I’m like, Oh my God, is he okay? Did you call mom? Which is hard. I’m fine. But who’s gonna march on him? Who is this? I’m not gonna stay dead forever. 25 or 30 years from now, my son will have a child, I’m going to get a whole new name. Totally say I’m gonna be grandpa. That will be my name of 25 or 30 years, I’ll walk into a room to go Hey, grandpa, Grandpa’s here. We’ll just go full circle because 25 or 30 years after that. I won’t even need any people just

Scott Edwards: 

Well, that was a little comedy set by Barry Neil. And I hope you enjoyed his interview as much as I did in his comedy said, Hey, thanks for listening to the show. We’ll be back next week with another great episode. Bye.

Announcer: 

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Stand Up Comedy you’re hosting MC. For information on the show merchandise and our sponsors, or to send comments to Scott. Visit our website at WWW dot stand up your host and mc.com Look for more episodes soon and enjoy the world of stand up comedy. Visit a comedy show room near you.

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