Why I'm joining Equity | And all other comedians should too, says Paul Ricketts

Why I'm joining Equity

And all other comedians should too, says Paul Ricketts

Comedians (me especially), love to moan – in cars, onstage, backstage, on Twitter & Facebook, Chortle and most recently at meetings.

I hope most working stand-ups will have heard about the newly formed UK Comedy Guild which came into being after a series of meetings held in London – mostly initiated by the issue of late payments by Jongleurs.

The frustration by felt by some comics at Equity's response to this issue indirectly led to an invitation for a comedians' delegation to meet with Equity bigwigs. At these meetings both the delegation and Equity quickly realised that things need to change.

As a result, I'm not only going to join, but also ask other comedy performers to do the same.

After these meetings I'm now confident that finally comics can have the effective, professional and expert unionised representation to campaign and negotiate on pay and conditions, which can change the industry for the better at all levels. And while the nascent UK Comedy Guild will be a welcome watchdog overlooking and representing all parts of the comedy industry, only Equity wishes to solely represent all comedy performers (from sketch to improv, alternative to new alternative, clowns to musical comics) working in all the different circuits, venues and media.

This is a new start, but if we want Equity to take us seriously then we need to show that we take it seriously too. The aim is in the near future that comics will feel that Equity membership is a badge of professionalism – much like musicians in Musician's Union and actors in erm… Equity.

But will things change?

Already Equity has given the chance for comics to have a new, distinctive voice within the union by offering us the opportunity to form a Comedians' Network, and an allocated Equity official to work with us.

Further meetings are planned with the comedian's delegation and Equity officials have also offered, through the UK Comedy Guild, to come to a general meeting to answer comedy performers' concerns.

More changes have been offered such as the formation of a comedians' branch (removing us from being under 'Variety' branch of Equity), plus the possible future recruitment of a new dedicated comedy official.

But none of these things will happen unless loads of comedy performers choose to join (or re-join) Equity. I'm mainly preaching here to those comic performers who make (or part make) their living in the industry, but open spots shouldn't think that joining Equity won't be of use. If they want to graduate into regular paid work and already have evidence of earnings in excess of £500 from comedy (up to six email scans/screen grabs will do), then membership is an investment in their future.

In short, the more members we have, the more Equity can do for us!

What does Equity offer? Click here for the full details, but in brief it's protection from unfair treatment from managements, employers, agents or bookers, insurance, free legal services and tax and welfare support. And it can offer collective representation in disputes with employers, thereby minimising the risk of comics being 'blacklisted', as well as campaigning for better pay and conditions across the industry.

I know that for some comics unionisation conjures up images of obstreperous 'I'm Alright Jack' leaders asking workers for 'a show of hands' in factory car parks. But I'm not asking you to join Equity to 'break the balls of the bosses'. I know that the stationary and even reduced performing fees that currently exist are understandable during an eight-year recession.

What I want in the future is a flourishing and successful comedy industry and a professional body to represent and ensure that performers get their fair rewards in a growing multi-million pound business.

But as I said before we need lots of new members to make this achievable aim possible. So that's why I'm joining Equity and asking you to do so too.

Click here to join Equity; and once you've joined please email UK Comedy Guild with your name and conformation that you're an Equity member: comedianscollective@gmail.com

Published: 6 Mar 2015

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