Comedians Are Embracing the Music Industry’s Farewell Tour Grift

Other than the fact that they’re both collecting sweet Pixar residual checks, you might not think that Ellen DeGeneres and Lewis Black have all that much in common. But both comedians are on tour right now, and both are advertising said tours as a final farewell to stand-up.

Black has stated that he isn’t giving up on show business altogether, he’s “only retiring from touring.” DeGeneres, on the other hand, has claimed that after “Ellen's Last Stand... Up Tour” she’s going to disappear completely. “This is the last time you’re going to see me. After my Netflix special, I’m done,” the comic recently told a theater full of people (despite being “kicked out of show business”).

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It kind of seems like the comedy world is now trying its hand at an old strategy that’s been a big moneymaker for the live music industry: the so-called retirement tour. Black even named his series of shows after Elton John’s recent farewell tour: “Goodbye Yeller Brick Road,” instead of “Farewell Yellow Brick Road.”

Farewell concerts have boomed in recent years, as artists like Paul Simon, KISS and Lynyrd Skynyrd have all bid adieu to fans. 

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This certainly isn’t done purely out of sentimentality, it allows artists to jack up ticket prices, and increase demand for seats. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, the cost of tickets for the final shows of acts like Elton John and KISS were much higher than their earlier non-final tour prices. 

It obviously makes total sense: People want to see their favorite musicians before they pack it all in. But it’s also kind of a scam.

It’s not uncommon for artists to make big money from “final” tours that are in no way final. For example, Cher grossed $250 million from an epic three-year “Farewell Tour” that lasted from 2002 to 2005. She then landed a residency at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace, and toured again in 2014, calling it her “last” farewell tour. 

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And Ozzy Osbourne embarked on a “No More Tours” tour in 1992, but he returned to the road in 2019 for the cheekily-titled “No More Tours II.”

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Fans aren’t always thrilled about this. Barbra Streisand has staged many, many final concerts, leading some irate fans to threaten her with a lawsuit after they “paid a fortune to see her 'last-ever' performances” only to have her perform again soon afterwards. 

More recently, KISS ended their supposed final tour with the reveal that they would continue touring, but as “immortal” CGI cartoon character avatars.

It’s not wholly unprecedented for comedians to go on “final” tours, but are we really supposed to believe that Ellen DeGeneres will never be seen on stage again? Or is she, possibly, just saying that to bolster ticket sales? 

If that is the case, her strategy doesn’t seem to be working.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).