Rob Becker: Financing the 'Caveman'
Bankrate: When you were developing "Caveman,"
were you still doing stand-up?
Rob Becker: Yes. I would take little pieces
of the show that I was writing and put it in my stand-up so I could
try it out and see where the laughs were.
Bankrate: At what point did you make the transition
where you would just do the show and pull back on stand-up?
Rob Becker: I was headlining all these comedy
clubs, especially working for the Improv chain. The Improv in San
Francisco was going out of business. They had to find something
to keep it open. So they asked me to do the show there, and they
booked me for a month. I thought, if I can run for a month, wouldn't
that be great. But it took off. I never did stand-up again.
Bankrate: What did that do to your financial
situation, especially considering you were already making $100,000
Rob Becker: The money was exponentially better.
Not from the very first day, but within a very short time. They
charged $8 at the door the first few months, like they were used
to for stand-up comedy. As I did it at other Improvs, they kept
bumping the price up little by little to see what the traffic would
bear. So it went from $8 to $12 to $14 to $18 to $22, and at the
end, in Dallas and D.C., they were making people buy a dinner. So
people were paying $20 for a dinner, and $22 for a ticket to the
show, and a lot of people would say, "I don't want the dinner,
I just want to see the show."
Bankrate: So how much of that went to you,
and how were your finances affected as this was going up?
Rob Becker: Every time the ticket price rose,
I made more money. Whatever I was making when they were charging
$8 at the door, you have to imagine that went up when it went to
$40 at the door. Most of the places I play now have 2,000 to 2,500
seats, and the average ticket price is around $40, so you can do
the math. Eight shows a week times 2,000 seats, somewhere around
15,000 to 16,000 people a week, times $40 -- we gross around $600,000
Bankrate: And you own the show, right?
Rob Becker: Yeah.
Bankrate: So that means you rent the theater,
cover the expenses, and the rest of the money's yours?
Rob Becker: I have a lot of expenses to pay.
I have to pay 10 percent to an agent, advertising and theater rental
and so forth. So out of whatever I gross in a week, I probably take
home about 40 percent of it.
Bankrate: That's pretty good.
Rob Becker: I'm happy. I'm extremely fortunate.
When I first started doing the show, my agents were saying, "This
is a crazy idea you're doing." At the time, the trend was really
to bash men. When I told them I was calling the show "Defending
the Caveman," and I was going to defend men and take a real
even approach and not blame anyone, they said, "Boy, are you
on the wrong track. This is going to go nowhere."
Bankrate: So are you an investor? What's your
Rob Becker: I ran around for a long time with
big checks sitting in my wallet. I even didn't put them in the bank.
I wasn't focused on money at all. By the time I thought about it,
the stock market was sky high. The NASDAQ was around 4,000. Everybody
was saying, if you put your money in the market, you get 25-30 percent
return every year. But the stock market returned something like
11 percent over the last 100 years. It seemed that the market had
to cool down. So I was reluctant to put my money in the market,
and I put it into municipal bonds. All my friends said, "You're
out of your mind, you're going to get a 6 percent return and you
could be getting 25 to 30 percent in the market." While the
NASDAQ went from 4,000 to 5,000, I really regretted my decision.
But when it went from 5,000 to 4,000 to 3000 to 2,000, putting money
into bonds was the luckiest thing I ever did. So I missed out on
the downside, and I've been able to make a pretty good return.
Bankrate: So is all your money in bonds?
Rob Becker: I put a tiny amount into the NASDAQ
for fun, and I looked like a genius when it went from 4,000 to 5,000.
I had all this JDS Uniphase that I bought, and made all this money
really quickly. My NASDAQ portfolio doubled in about two or three
months, and I was thinking, "Damn, I wish I had put all my
money into the NASDAQ." Then so many of those stocks cratered.
If you take my losses from that, balance it with the 90 percent
of my money I put into municipal bonds, I still made money.
Bankrate: For the future, have you thought
about any creative investments?
Rob Becker: I thought about buying some houses,
but I feel like real estate now is like the NASDAQ was at 5,000.
In Northern California, real estate took a huge run-up over the
last year and a half. I think when inflation heats up again and
rates go up, real estate is going to come down. I don't think this
is a good time to buy real estate. So I'm holding firm. Municipal
bonds aren't as good as they were when I bought them, and the stock
market doesn't look like a good bargain right now. The P/E ratios
still look very high. So my money's in a holding pattern, probably
making 1.5 percent in some account. My joke with my financial guy
is, "I'm aggressively conserving capital."
Larry Getlen is a freelance journalist and comedian
in New York.