The Cost of Attending a Weekend-long Improv Comedy Festival in New York

by Andrea Laurion

Last summer, I looked out at the audience while performing at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and saw an entire row of people asleep. That’s what happens at 6:45 a.m. at the Del Close Marathon, an annual weekend-long improv marathon with more than 50 hours of continuous comedy on multiple stages. We were okay with this because we had also crammed a handful of Pittsburgh improvisers into a tiny New York apartment, saw some really great shows, and had a blast.

I had a pretty leisurely trip last year. I got to New York on a Thursday afternoon to catch up with a couple non-improv friends. A friend and I ended up spending our Sunday afternoon checking out the James Turrell exhibit at the Guggenheim (incredible). I also spent money without doing any kind of budgeting and, during a phone call on the bus ride home, discovered that I was being laid off from my job.

This year, I was a little more cautious with my spending. I took a volunteer shift for a free performer pass ($25). I brought snacks and packed my toothpaste instead of buying a travel size at my destination (a bad habit). I bought a ticket to the late night ASSSCAT show, but none of the other premium ones. My friend cut me a break on gas and parking. I still made impulse purchases (hello, drunk snacks from Duane Reade), but consciously staying aware of my spending helped keep my debit card in my wallet.

On Saturday night, I went to wait in standby for Improvised Shakespeare tickets. At the front of the line, I was told the show wasn’t sold out yet, so I could buy a ticket and be guaranteed a spot. A year ago, I would have bought one immediately — no question. Instead, I went to the back of standby and took my chances. The ticket line stretched longer and I wasn’t sure if I’d get in. I ended up being was one of the last people in, getting a decent seat, and seeing an amazing show for free.

Here’s a total breakdown of my spending:

• $2.75, two slices of pizza and a can of pop from a 99-Cent Pizza place around the corner from the theater where I was volunteering.
• $2, cup of coffee
• $1.50, another slice of pizza

• $30.05, including tip, for glass of sangria, a mimosa, and poached eggs on short ribs and kale with a bunch of other delicious things that I can’t remember other than I loved every bite.
• $2, coffee
• $7.07, AA batteries for a remote phone charger
• $6.25, three tacos
• $5.12, froyo

• $18.51, including tip, for bagel with cream cheese, two eggs with cheddar cheese, one raspberry tart. My friend got me an iced coffee ($3.50, whaaaat), so I picked up her bagel tab. I couldn’t help but think of how much cheaper this would be in Pittsburgh.
• $8.45, including tip, two happy hour beers. I was feeling overwhelmed and a little bit claustrophobic in the city so I read and drank for a bit at a Brooklyn bar while waiting to get dinner with a friend. It was lovely and I met some nice people.
• $39.93, including tip, a bunch of delicious Ethiopian food that I didn’t really know what it was but greatly enjoyed eating.
• $17.37, Dear Life, by Alice Munro. I used the money I didn’t spend on an Improvised Shakespeare ticket to buy this at Book Court for the ride home.
• $2.45, iced coffee to keep me from fading during the late night ASSSCAT show.
• $6.98, ice cream and chips at 3:30 a.m. from a 24/7 Duane Reade

• $11.18, including tip, eggs, bacon, home fries, and coffee at a truck stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. Take us home to Pittsburgh.

• $40, for my friend who watched my cat
• $9.29, granola bars, cereal bars, instant oatmeal
• $3.23, trail mix
• $20, Metro card refills
• $21, ASSSSCAT ticket
• $133, for the two nights I stayed with my teammates in a third floor Chelsea walk-up. My original plan was to crash at a friend’s place in the East Village, and I did for one night, but still ended up staying closer to UCBT.

Total: 388.13

Andrea Laurion is a writer, improviser, and performer living in Pittsburgh.

Photo: Alex Erde