Film fans may be familiar with the Terrence Malick-partnered platform TUGG, in which independent filmmakers can list possible showings of their film in various cities, sell tickets online in advance, and only play the movie if a certain minimum threshold of tickets are sold. Four female comedians in New York City—Carrie Gravenson, Abbi Crutchfield, Kaytlin Bailey and Erin Judge—have now partnered with Kickstarter to create something similar for touring comedians. The Pink Collar Comedy Tour veterans have rebranded themselves as CAKE (you’ll find out why a little later, if you haven’t figured out why already) and are spreading the gospel of fan-supported tours far and wide. More importantly, they’re hilarious, as Paste found out firsthand when we interviewed Bailey and Gravenson in a West Village coffee shop recently.
Kaytlin Bailey First of all, where are you from?
Paste Magazine: I am from Georgia; I live in Atlanta. What about you?
Bailey: Nice! I was going to say I detect a southern twang. I’m from Raleigh, North Carolina.
Paste: Nice. And how about you Carrie, where did you grow up?
Carrie Gravenson: Actually in this neighborhood. I grew up in the West Village.
Paste: Wow, a true native!
Gravenson: Yep, and Queens. My parents were divorced so West Village and Sunnyside Queens, I claim them both.
Paste: And what were your spots when you were growing up around here?
Gravenson: There used to be a store called Star Magic, no one will remember this, but my brother and I were totally obsessed with it. They used to sell magic wands and crystals and like sparkly things, and just, as a six year old girl, are you kidding? We still talk about it, we miss it.
Bailey: I’ve always wondered sort of in the post-Harry Potter world, how do we not have magic wands?
Gravenson: I know, I know!
Bailey: The Magic Wand Industry could really pick up.
Gravenson: It would really take off, I would think.
Bailey: Yeah, there’s probably some lobby, preventing it. It’s all about politics.
Paste: We need to make magic wands great again.
Bailey: Yeah, yeah!
Paste: And Kaytlin, what about growing up in Raleigh? What were some of your favorite places?
Bailey: Well I moved there when I was ten, and so by that point I had already fallen into my antisocial tendencies of book reading. I read books everywhere. My favorite, Cup of Joe, used to be a coffee shop that you could smoke in. So when I was like —
Bailey: No, but a precocious, thirteen and fourteen year old.
Paste: [Laughs]. Nice!
Gravenson: Like in a smoky diner?
Bailey: An overdeveloped child, essentially.
Gravenson: I would bum cigarettes and flirt with adult men at this innocent little coffee shop. My parents were like, “She just has to read, and drink a latte” and I was just like smoking, having deep thoughts, existential crises. I went to a comedy show in Philadelphia called “Comedy for Gentlemen,” and it’s in a smoking establishment and I forgot, A) How terrible they were and, B) how much I fucking missed that.
Bailey: It was like both of those things at the same time!
Gravenson: I don’t miss the smelling of the clothing.
Bailey: I missed it so much.
Gravenson: Like the coat smelling.
Bailey: I had to step outside for a fresh air break.
Gravenson: Wow, the irony.
Bailey: Twice, because I felt faint and nauseated.
Gravenson: It’s like in New Orleans you can smoke and drink outside. It’s the reverse New York.
Bailey: It’s so great.
Paste: Mmm. New Orleans, that’s my jam.
Bailey:That’s your haunts?
Paste: Yes indeed. That’s my spirit place. I made my first movie about New Orleans actually. Great comedian town too, although comedians all love to party so everybody goes to New Orleans.
Bailey: Oh my gosh.
Bailey: We performed—we actually booked a show in New Orleans during Mardi Gras by accident.
Gravenson: By mistake! We did a show during Mardi Gras.
Paste: Oh my.
Bailey: It was fine, it was just that traffic, the getting in and getting out. What was the place called?
Gravenson: New Movement.
Gravenson: How did I remember that?
Bailey: It’s because you’re a goddamned genius. It’s why you’re the CFO.
Gravenson: I am a genius.
Bailey: So we did the New Movement.
Gravenson: I just remember that I went first and you were all like, “Let’s just wear a million beads!”
Bailey: Oh right! We did that to you.
Gravenson: They did that to me. So we found this giant 50 pound barrel of beads.
Bailey: Yeah, we all showed our tits for it. We wouldn’t lie to you.
Paste: [Laughs]. When in Rome, right?
Gravenson: Yeah! And I was like, “You guys, wouldn’t it be cool if we all wore a million beads on tour?” and everyone was like, “Yeah, totally!”
Bailey: So we all went through this show of like, dividing them up and carrying them and then Carrie went on stage with just —
Gravenson: Thousands of dollars’ worth of beads.
Bailey: Like a whole person of beads.
Bailey: And then nothing —
Gravenson: And no one else —
Bailey: And then we all took ours off and just didn’t do it.
Gravenson: So they all made me look like an idiot.
Bailey: Like an idiot. It was so easy!
Gravenson: And I went for it, hook, line and sinker.
Bailey: Hook, line and sinker!
Gravenson: But I owned it! I think I owned it. It’s all about confidence, wearing this many beads, it was hilarious.
Bailey: Don’t worry, it was hilarious. You were genuinely upset with us for like a second and a half before you realized how funny it was.
Gravenson: There’s some photos of me wearing the beads and I pulled my sleeves up as if I was naked. It was implied nakedness under the beads.
Bailey: That is pretty edgy, Carrie.
Gravenson: It was pretty edgy of me. I know, the implied nakedness tour. That’s an idea for the campaign.
Paste: [Laughs.] The implied nakedness tour?
Gravenson: I don’t think Abbi would sign on for that.
Paste: So y’all were all working together before this CAKE thing, right? Tell me about how you first came together.
Gravenson: It was Kaytlin’s brainchild. Kaytlin, I think, came to me first. .
Bailey: I came from a political campaign background, which awards gumption and delusional optimism. I came up with the name “Pink Collar Comedy Tour” and I wanted it to be like a girl tour, and then I called a bunch of people and verbally bullied them into booking this tour. And then they were asking me all of these follow-up questions, like who’s on it, and I was like, “Give me a second,” and I reach out to Carrie in New York and said “Hey I’m doing this thing, help me do this thing.” And then we reached out to Erin, right?
Gravenson: Yes. And then Abbi.
Paste: And where you already friends from doing shows around town and stuff?
Bailey: We were acquaintances.
Gravenson: We were very mild acquaintances. When I’ve been asked to do tours before and then never pan out, and materialized. People are like, “We should go on tour” and I’m like, “Yeah we should,” and then that’s as far as the conversation goes. So when Kaytlin asked me I was like, “Yeah, sure.”
Paste: That’s great!
Gravenson: “I’ll totally buy a domain name for you.”
Bailey: Yeah, and then 3 months later—
Gravenson Sure enough it really happened.
Bailey: And it’s always been the four of us.
Gravenson: You know, this is our fifth year, right? It will be five years in June.
Bailey: Yes. A couple of months ago, or maybe like a year ago, the girls finally sat me down and explained that they always hated the name “Pink Collar Comedy Tour” and that they only tolerating it out of love and respect for me, but that that had worn thin and so now it’s time.
Paste: Because that had gotten hacky?
Bailey: No, because people were asking, “Why do you call it the ‘Pink Collar Comedy Tour?” “Are you were ripping off the ‘Blue Collar Comedy tour?’” And the answer is kind of, but also pink collar is a socio-economic term that means low status wage for women.
Bailey: And at the time that we did the tour, I was working at Starbucks, and I knew all these girls had their fair share of experience with pink collar jobs. So it’s more of an homage, like we’re the opposite of it.
Bailey: So CAKE is our initials—Carrie, Abbi, Kaytlin, and Erin. After like a brainstorming session we discovered that. But it also came down to—we came up with lots of other great, right? They were just all taken.
Bailey: You know, like “Moxie,” the “Moxie Combinator,” “Tits and Tags Tour,” —
Bailey: Yeah, I know. “The Vaginas on Sticks!” You know, we came up with a ton of great names but we sat there in the car Googling every name and every one was taken.
Paste: Sounds like you guys were really channeling Courtney Love.
Gravenson: Well who doesn’t love Courtney Love in CAKE, and also cake?
Bailey: I love cake.
Gravenson: So the concept of the tour, we’ve been touring for 4 years as the Pink Collar Comedy and have been doing pretty well. We’ve never lost money, but we never really made much money either. What would happen was we’d sell out in places like Nashville or LA or Seattle, and then we’d bomb and not sell any tickets in Ashland, Oregon because some coked-up producer lied to us, or themselves, about what their capacity was. We wanted to help reduce the risk of touring for self-funded indie tours like ours, by saying, “Put your money where your mouth is, support your artists by proving it, not in a Facebook type of RSVP way, but in a money way.”
Bailey: Making dollars way.
Bailey: Yeah, yeah. Buy a ticket and if we hit the break even amount, $1,000, between the four of us, which is reasonable I think, then we’ll definitely 100% come to your town and if we don’t sell enough tickets and we aren’t fucking coming. Because then why? You don’t want us.
Paste: The audience can tell you where they want you to come.
Bailey: Not only do I want the audience to tell us where they want us to come, I also want the audience to tell us what kind of new experience they want before we come. So we tend to hit two types of audiences. We tend to get hip twentysomethings who love the fact that we’re edgy female comics, and then we tend to hit my mom’s book club who are just thrilled that us cute girls are doing a comedy tour. So we have a $10 ticket and we have a $25 ticket, and if we sell mostly $25 tickets then we’re going to put you in a place where there’s a waiter and nice chairs; somewhere my mother would be comfortable taking her friends and having that girls night out, and there’s going to be chardonnay on the menu. If we sell a bunch of $10 tickets we know it’s more of a rock show and if so I’m not going to have to do that to my mom’s book club.
Gravenson: Although they loved it.
Bailey: They did love it. I did bring my mother’s group into a rock club and it was the most exciting night of of their lives.
Paste: [Laughs.] And did you, you know, do different sets based on the composition of the audience?
Bailey: Yes! The audience always—any live performer’s responding to the audience. I’m doing—I think we’re all adjusting our sets based on feedback that we’re getting in real time. It’s not like we’re walking and running through demographic data, you know, we’re not running Hillary’s campaign. It’s not demographically that an older audience might not be up for dirty jokes. They’re going to tell us that over the course of the set.
Gravenson: It also helps us, you know, depending on who opens. You know, the four of us have different styles, so when we know if it’s an older crowd we probably want it start with our cleanest comic, and work them into like our dirtiest comic.
Paste: Which one of you is the cleanest?
Gravenson and Bailey: Abbi is the cleanest.
Bailey: I’m the dirtiest.
Gravenson: Kaytlin’s the dirtiest. Erin and I are on par.
Bailey: I think Erin is a little bit dirtier than you, because Erin is dirty in a cerebral way and you’re dirty in a silly way.
Bailey: You’re telling poop jokes and she’s telling trans jokes.
Gravenson: But my poop jokes are disguised, they’re not like dirty language.
Bailey: Your poop jokes are fantastic. I think Abbi’s sort of silly, word driven, she’s a wordsmith person. Carrie has this magic ability to turn an audience into, whether it’s six people trapped together in a snowstorm in Toronto or 300 people at a sold-out convention in Asheville and make everyone feel like they’ve joined her for an overnight dinner conversation.
Gravenson:Thank you! Nice.
Bailey: And then Erin, she’s like this feminist —
Gravenson: She’s like the approachable feminist.
Bailey: She’s the approachable feminist. And I call myself the professional comedian.
Bailey: [addressing the author] Did you play in bands or do music?
Paste used to be primarily known for music, but yeah—I’ve written a lot about music and played in a few bands.
Bailey: That’s one of the things I love about this model, is that I think it’s so immediately applicable to bands where they’re in that sweet spot . You know, where they’re not Kanye West, they can’t sell out the Garden with a Tweet, but they are building a fanbase and they have a fanbase placed in specific places, and so rather than putting your livelihood on the line you can ask your fans to support you directly. I think that’s something that’s exciting about this model. When does this come out? This article? We’re not allowed to announce it yet, but we will be able to announce it soon, that we will be debuting at the Women’s Comedy Festival in Boston.
Gravenson: In Boston’s an awesome town, we’ve spent a lot of time in Boston and we love it. We really like Boston.
Bailey: I’ve gotten my best one-night-stands in Boston, like in the whole country. Period.
Paste: I thought you were saying that as a joke.
Bailey: Now I’ve had two very exceptional lovers, both of which I met on tour in Boston, on our comedy tour.
Paste: I would not have guessed that. Not knowing what kind of guys you typically date…
Bailey: One was an astrophysicist, and another cryptographer. They both had kids.
Paste: Oh, so they weren’t the typical, backwards-hat wearing, drunken Masshole.
Bailey: Oh, no way. If I wanted a racist redneck I’d go back to North Carolina.
Paste: So this is now a platform for other comedians to use?
Bailey: So CAKE is teamed up with Kickstarter to create the platform. We’re the beta test. We’re the firsties.
Gravenson: Firsty McFirsterson!
Bailey: And it is a little bit of a learning curve with each individual market, you know trying to explain why if you don’t buy a ticket now you might not be able to buy ticket later. Someone’s like, “Where are you playing in Indianapolis?” And the answer is—
Gravenson: It depends.
Bailey: It depends. If we get 4,000 people we’re going to be in an arena and if we get forty $25 tickets then we’re going to be in a really nice intimate venue.
Gravenson: Like a cabaret. Cabaret, right?
Gravenson: I mix up cabaret and Cabernet.
Paste: One little letter.
Gravenson: What the hell? They sound the same to me.
Paste: What are people surprised about, about the show?
Gravenson: A lot of people are like, “I expected you guys to be angry.” And I’m like, “Well, we’re not angry.”
Bailey: Only a little, we are sort of angry.
Gravenson: Well maybe a little bitter. A lot of people think, “Oh four women, all they are going to do is talk a lot about how men suck.” Yeah, but all of us actually like men.
Bailey: Yeah my favorite line is, and of course the narcissist that I am I’m gonna quote me, “All the audience are dudes who wanted to fuck me before I started talking.”
Paste: Those are the kind of guys you have to watch out for!
Bailey:Those angry ones. But someone who doesn’t believe that we can sell out their venue because we know we can. We’ve been doing it.
Paste: Exactly. Yes, power to the people.
Bailey: Power to the people. And I do believe it’s upon us as artists, whether you’re a band, a comic, or even a director, to build a relationship with your audience because that’s where the real artistic freedom comes from. If you have a group of people who listen to exactly what you do, you don’t need a booker, or a president, or anybody to state what you can or cannot say if you’ve cultivated an audience to support you. That’s our biggest vision as artists. So we were using the CAKE comedy tour to work for each other because we already respected each other as artists and comics, and placed out a platform to try to cut out all the middle men. All of the things that would get in the way of doing things exactly the way we want.
Paste: So, how can readers find out more?
Bailey: The Website is Cakecomedy.com, and the Twitter is @cakecomedy.
Bailey: Oh we have an Instagram?
Gravenson: We do! Kaytlin’s not on Instagram so she doesn’t know what that is.
Bailey: Do Twitter and Facebook and you’re fine.
Gravenson: And all four of us are hilarious on Twitter. So if you’re looking for a taste of our comedy, that’s not a bad place to start.
Michael Dunaway is Paste’s movies editor emeritus.