Pop Culture

Tensions Simmer Over Comicpalooza’s Refusal to Pay Burlesque Clown

Tensions Simmer Over Comicpalooza’s Refusal to Pay Burlesque Clown
Photo provided by Kiki Maroon
Photo provided by Kiki Maroon
Kiki Maroon is one of Houston’s most unusual, but excellent, burlesque performers, best-known for being the world’s sexiest clown. She’s taken her act all over the world, but she won’t be at Comicpalooza this year as she had hoped thanks to the convention deciding not to pay her for her performance.

Maroon said she, along with several other performers who were hoping to attend the Houston’s largest comic convention, was contacted by Sheri Shoemake, entertainment coordinator for the convention for promotional materials. Maroon had signed up for a slot in the convention’s massive block of programming under the “panelist” portion of their website, as she could not find a spot specifically for show proposals. She then sent a follow-up email to the convention explaining her act, Kiki Maroon’s Comic Strip, which sold out Warehouse Live in 2016 (you’re really going to want to check out our slideshow from it). She didn’t hear back until Shoemake’s email.

When Maroon responded to the email asking for promotional material with inquiries about budget, Shoemake responded…

We are not able to pay anyone this year, all our budget went to celebrities. SO, if you need to be paid, I’m sorry.

The response rankled Maroon, who felt it was unprofessional to expect performers to work for free, and she posted about it on her professional Facebook page, saying…

Dear Comicpalooza, you should be ashamed of yourself. YES. Performers need to be paid. YES. Artist need to eat. YES. You should be sorry.

Back story: I submitted my Comic Strip burlesque and comedy show, as I do to conventions all over the country. I was never contacted until being CC'd along with 15 other artist asking everyone for promo material. When I asked for details such as budget, amount of time needed to be filled, and type of promo needed THIS was your Entertainment Coordinators reply. I have performed all over the world. I have taken my show all over the country. And I have never received as disrespectful and unprofessional response as I have now, from an event put on and run by my own city. No convention has ever asked or assumed that I could produce an hour long, multi-act show for free. I hope any artist who come to Houston for this don't think less of us for holding the only convention of this scale who expects them to work for free.

(Non-celebrity ) KiKi Maroon 

Comicpalooza head John Simons initially did not respond to my text for comment. Aimee McCurtain, the conventions VP of marketing for the convention told the Houston Chronicle, “Comicpalooza appreciates all of the entertainers, volunteers and attendees who have made this show a success for so many years. Entertainment budgets for this year's event are still being determined. This was simply a misunderstanding, which we have addressed with the coordinator and Ms. Maroon."

We tried to reach Shoemake but were told by Simons that after her email address was printed in the Houston Chronicle, she had received threats and Simons wanted to keep her out of any further discussion. He told us he would have a statement and did so this afternoon:

"Comicpalooza did not contract Kiki. She submitted a request to perform through our panel submissions form, which is open to the public and not intended for paid performers.

"Once we learned of her post, we reached out to her immediately. She has been? understanding and professional in her responses to us."
Update: 10:29 p.m. March 13, 2017:

In a followup statement, John Simons said:

“Comicpalooza maintains detailed records of all performers and exhibitors contracted for the show. We are currently investigating these claims.” 

Comicpalooza has a good reputation with its guests and attendees. God knows it’s no Anime Matsuri or Space City Comic Con. However, it’s also not without its detractors when it comes to getting paid. In 2015 there was a minor scandal over winners of their costume contests getting shafted on prize money. On Maroon’s Facebook post, other acts, most notably Alexis Hollada aka as Doomstress, say she never received payment for appearances despite repeated attempts to collect. Nick Gaitan echoed this sentiment regarding the 2016 convention. We reached out to Addisyn Madd, a regular convention performer, regarding whether he had been paid to play, but did not hear back from him.

Maroon, for the most part, is just hoping to put the mess behind her and concentrate on her work. In a written statement to us she said…

I don't know what else to say. I've been told "we don't have it in the budget" by more cons than I can count. I'm not upset that we didn't get booked. I'm upset at the assumption we would do it for free and the completely unprofessional and rude responses.

Comicpalooza is largely regarded as having revitalized the Houston comic convention scene after it had largely died following the infamous “Con of Wrath” in 1982, and now has the City of Houston heavily involved in its continuation as a tourist destination. It’s a little disturbing how the last couple of years have apparently seen more and more local talent struggling to get their financial due from the operation.

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Jef Rouner is a contributing writer who covers politics, pop culture, social justice, video games, and online behavior. He is often a professional annoyance to the ignorant and hurtful.
Contact: Jef Rouner