I am not sure if this is more of a “How-to” article, or something in the way of a confessional, but as a young stand-up comic I made some early mistakes that set me back from my goals that I would like to share with newer comics. It should be noted that in relative terms of performing, I myself am quite new to comedy having only been in the game for 2.5 years. However, the mistakes I made (and continue to make at times) are fresh in my mind, so here is what I have learned so far:
1. Don’t brag- “I killed tonight.” I can’t tell you how many times I posted that on my social media accounts when I first started. I can, however, tell you how many times I was told I was an asshole for posting it: daily, possibly hourly. If you are new, chances are your idea of “killing” is not the same as experienced comedians. Trust me, the good comedians will notice when you kill, you don’t have to say a word. Stay away from bragging too much and just stay humble. It will get you further. Be thankful, appreciative, and if you have to brag about something then brag about how great the venue or the crowd was, not yourself. Other people should be telling you how good you are, not you telling us.
2. Don’t create a Facebook fan page- You don’t have fans yet, why create a page for them? Chances are, your fan page will turn into a page with followers that likely are already your friends, your posts about shows will mirror the posts you put on your personal page, and in all likelihood you will not keep it updated anyways except for the occasional meme that you didn’t even create.
3. Don’t share your early videos– I burned 10 copies of my first performance and gave it to my friends and coworkers. It was a terrible idea. While I was proud of it, and I didn’t bomb by any means, the comedian on stage is nothing compared to the comedian I am today. I was hacky, uncomfortable, and rough. And it has taken me two years to be able to convince those people to buy a ticket to any of my shows, as they still think I am the same comedian. I had my first video on Youtube and it had 278 views before I pulled it. I don’t know who watched it but I wish I could track them all down and apologize. Take your first few videos and share them only to other comedians or friends that can offer advice as a learning tool, that is about the only use they have.
4. Don’t talk down to/about other comics- You will see terrible comics. Don’t say a damn word about how terrible they are. Some of them are new and will one day be in a position to help you. Some of them are good friends of people that are already in a position to help you. You will often hear people talk about a comedy community, and that is just what you will be a part of. Some people in the community are stronger than others, but bringing someone in the community down does no good for anyone and can alienate you.
5. Don’t think you have to do new material each time- You are not performing for the comics, you are performing for yourself and trying to get a stronger set. Your set can only get stronger by repeating and trying jokes until they work. Don’t be afraid to do the same material over and over, the other comics do too. It is all about the crowd. I know comics that have done the same set all 3 years I have known them and yet I still book them in my rooms because I know that they are good at what they do.
6. Don’t be (too) blue- I teach comedy at the Orlando Improv and I see every person that has never done comedy before run up on stage with their first joke ready. Nine out of ten times it is something sex or shit related. Filthy stuff with no punchline. Offensive material may seem fun at first because the audience will react, but chances are they will react by walking out. Being offensive or overly blue will not get you gigs, but it may make someone hate you if you walk the only 5 people that showed to their open mic. Try writing smarter, not darker and you will see more doors open for you.
7. Don’t overestimate yourself- If you have 5 minutes of material, don’t take a show that requires you to do 15. I took a charity gig that required 30 minutes of stage time. I had 10. I worked really hard to get that extra 20 ready and, honestly, it didn’t go that bad. However, had I been better prepared and had an established feature set prior, I could have made a lot of fans that day and possibly have helped my career. One gig should open the door for another.
8. Don’t do new material in big rooms- When I first started I had the opportunity to perform with Brad Williams and Tommy Davidson. Both guest spots I did new material and both times I bombed. I thought anything I wrote would be gold and I was wrong. If you are doing a big room, stick to the tried and true no matter how funny you think that bit is that you thought of on the way to the show. Trying new material can throw off your rhythm, make you uncomfortable, and likely it isn’t as funny as you thought it was. Try new material at open mics or, if you are doing a set that is longer than 15 minutes, you can slide it into the middle, not anywhere else. Always start strong, end stronger.
9. Leave family and friends at home- Inviting your family and friends to early gigs is a waste of time, yours and theirs. They want to support you but you shouldn’t make them feel awkward by forcing them to laugh at your crappy jokes. I invited a huge group of people to my first big hosting gig, and I bombed miserably. It is hard to get people to come see you again after a show like that.
10. Don’t sweat being accepted by other comics- I used to worry about what other comics thought of me until a seasoned veteran explained why that is a waste of time. He said, as a comic you see people come out to try comedy almost weekly. Each week it is the same conversation about how you got started, what you enjoy about comedy, and inevitably someone will run unfunny material by you. Then, you never see them again. They chicken out, grow tired of comedy, or just decide it isn’t for them. After a while, you stop getting invested in new people because they often don’t stick around. We grow tired of telling the same jokes on stage, so why would we enjoy the same story week after week off stage? It is nothing personal, but comics aren’t quick to pull in a new guy and teach him the ropes until you have showed you’re there to stay and are serious. Comedian groups exist, just hang around a while, tell some jokes, and make small talk and you will eventually find yourself in one of them.
11. Don’t bankrupt yourself without purpose- I considered quitting comedy at one point because I was bankrupting myself driving 4 hours for 5 minutes of stage time. Some people say “That just means you work hard and want it.” Maybe, but if you aren’t getting a new experience or taking anything away from the trip, why go? If it is for a new club that could book you then go for it. But if it is for a bar on a Tuesday night where you will likely spend 4 out of your 5 minutes just trying to get the crowd to stop staring at the TV’s, then I suggest you stay home and write. Create your own open mics or, better yet, paid shows. If you are driving 2 hours to do comedy, that means others have to drive 2 hours to see comedy. Start a show and help everyone out.
12. Stay close to home- Many comics head for NYC or LA with dollar signs in their eyes, and return a month later with overdraft fees in their bank account. There is no need to make the move until you are fully ready. If you are a great local comic, then next become a great area comic, then a state comic, and then hit the road. You don’t have to live in NYC to book in NYC, go there and test the waters first and make connections. I work an area with lots of NYC and LA comics traveling in. I network with them and hopefully when I am ready to make the move they will help me to make the best of it.
13. Don’t try and make the show about you- You are new, so you should concentrate on the job first and the comedy second. What I mean by that is, when you are hosting you should be professional, likable, and get the crowd ready for the comics that follow you. Always get the announcements and specials correct even if it eats into your stage time. If you are doing a guest spot you need to be aware of time and not go over. And don’t worry about merch until you are headlining or have been featuring for a while.
14. Don’t be unprepared- My number one pet peeve is when I go to an open mic and someone steps on stage and says “I don’t really know what I want to talk about tonight.” This open mic didn’t just pop up. You knew where you were going and when, likely days in advance. Don’t waste the time of the comics or the audience by getting on stage and bullshitting your way through a set. If you don’t go on stage with a purpose, don’t go on stage. Is it ok to riff or do crowd work? Sure. Just don’t go up there and tell us you are unprepared and stumble through your set. If you have to ask how much longer you have for the sake of trying to fill time, then you have already overstayed your welcome.
15. Don’t go over time- If you are given 5 minutes, use 5 minutes. Not 5:10. There is no quicker way to get comics or clubs to hate you then to go over time. Ask where and when the light will come and cut your joke short if you have to, just stay within your time.
While this is not all the information you need to know to get started, these are a few of the top items that I have done or seen done that have set people back from their comedy goals early on.
Got a tip you want to add? Do it in the comments below.
Author: Devin Siebold is a writer, stand-up comedian and comedy instructor at the Orlando Improv. Check out his album “Extra Credit” available in all online music stores, and watch a video of his stand-up here.
Many comedians, myself included, often wonder just what does it take to get into some of the bigger clubs? Should I go to their open mic? Take a class? Or should I just keep emailing and calling them relentlessly until they have to tap out and give me a spot? Once I have the gig, what does it take to get make me a regular? Exactly what is going through the mind of that manager when I am on stage?
In order to answer these questions, I decided to go straight to the source and interview Brian Thompson (known as BT to many of you), a comedy club booker and manager that has been in the business for seven years now at one of the larger comedy clubs in Florida, Side Splitters Tampa.
What is it like for a day in the life of a booker/manager (emails, phone calls, booking, etc)?
A day does not go by without getting contacted by comedians looking for work. There are so many more comedians than comedy clubs and only so much work we have to offer. Email is the most common (and least annoying) means of communication but you would be surprised by how much people abuse even that.
The most annoying thing is when they email the club, then my personal email, then Facebook message the club, then find me on my personal Facebook page. We are not friends or even acquaintances. I think in their minds they think if we are Facebook friends, I will see first hand how hilarious they are on Facebook and have no choice but to book them.
What path would you suggest a new comedian take to getting paid gigs?
I tell comics that are first starting out to do comedy because you love performing. If you come into this looking to get rich you are only setting yourself up for disappointment. Of course there are people that make it big, people that make a solid living, and everywhere in between but it is a long road for most comics before they can quit their day job.
How far out do you book?
We stay at least 3 months ahead on the bookings.
What is the number one complaint you get from guests related to the comics?
What type of qualities do you want in a comic that works your stage as host/feature/headliner?
One of the advantages of being a privately owned club is that if you are not easy to work with we don’t have to bring you back. There are so many comics out there if you are a pain in the ass, chances are you won’t be re-booked at Side Splitters. Of course we want to bring in people that we think are funny but its not what ownership and management likes. It’s what the crowds like. Period.
The opening acts of course they have to be funny but also easy to work with, motivated, and eager to learn. It is always helpful to aspiring comedians if they can work clean. You will get much more work in your career if you can do a clean show.
Do you actually use comedians that you see at the club’s open mic?
We take a lot of pride in our open mic program and the comics who participate. We have at least two open mics each month and are booked at least two months in advance. Its fun to see some of the comics that started at open mic here starting to get paid work and have careers in this business.
You see comedy almost daily, what are some of the most hack subjects that you see consistently?
You can talk about anything you want on stage. Just PLEASE make sure it is original material. This is not comedy karaoke!
When should a comedian stop booking directly and start using an agent?
A comic should get an agent when he feels he is making 10% too much money.
What is the number one mistake a new comedian can make on stage?
We’ve heard enough dick jokes. Stop using the mic as your penis prop and write some clever jokes.
When you first hear from a comedian you have never heard of, what are some things you look for?
If we are pitched a comic that I have never heard of I first check his online presence. Does he/she have a website and social media following. How will you market yourself? A good example is Jon Lajoie. He is now on The League on FX but five years ago I had never heard of him. He became a sensation from his Youtube videos. He had literally millions of views and when he played our club, he had enough fans in our market to fill the shows. For a headliner we always look for how can we sell you.
The opening acts is more up to us. The headliner sells the tickets but the opening act can be somebody that we just see potential in but does not yet have credits or is known by the general public.
What do you think about specialty acts like hypnosis, ventriloquism, and singing comedians?
I’ll quote Bobby Jewell on this one. “If people want to see flies fuck, It’s our job to get the flies.”
What is the craziest thing that has happened during a show that you have witnessed?
For the most part comedy shows are fun and go on without incident but I have seen fights, marriage proposals, people get sick, and so much more.
What one piece of advice would you give to someone considering being a stand-up comedian?
Take it serious. Do something to work on your craft as often as possible. Hit as many stages as possible. Don’t get into the gossipy comic stuff and if you want to make money, Learn to work clean.
Where do you see for the future of stand up comedy heading?
We just celebrated out 22nd year. I hope live stand up comedy is here to stay. Technology and social media definitely waters it down but there are still some great venues keeping it going.
Live comedy is an art and one of the last forms of free speech we have.
If you are interested in getting your foot in the door at Side Splitters, or just want some stage time at an amazing club, take a few minutes to check out the schedule and sign up for one of their many great open mics here.
A lot of newer comics have asked me in the past how to get into certain rooms. Aside from calling, and following some of my booking suggestions, sending out an email is a common way to start dialogue. Below is a sample email that I send out to a new club I have not been booked at. I typically have a moderate-to-high success rate with this. This may be different for everyone, but I find that this email includes everything a booker would need to know and doesn’t give them an afternoon worth of reading. In addition, it provides just the right personal touch that it doesn’t give off the copy/paste feel.
***Finding out a booker’s email for a club you have never worked can be difficult. Ask around, look on their website, check their facebook, or just send to the general email of the club and hope they forward it.
1. I find I get the most response from just putting the name of the club in the email subject. Putting a title like “work” “feature available” or “please hire me I’m broke” can often be just deleted without reading them. Keep it simple and keep them guessing so they open it.
2. Don’t just say “Hello…” Use a proper greeting based on time of day so they know that you took the time out to type the email when you sent it. Also, use their name. Always use their name. If you don’t know their name, why should they take the time out to learn yours? Be familiar with the club and the booker first, it shows initiative to work there.
3. It helps to have a recommendation that frequents the club. If you don’t have one, just delete this line. Also, make sure that the recommendation knows that you are using them and is cool with it. Don’t piss a comic off and the club at the same time by throwing out a name of someone that doesn’t know you.
4. Put what kind of work you are qualified for here (Guest/Host/Feature/Headliner). Don’t sell yourself higher than what you are ready for. If you can headline off nights but feel more comfortable featuring then you might mention that here to be considered for a full weekend.
5. Comedy Club name goes here. Mention the club in the email so it shows you are directly contacting that specific club and interested mainly in that club.
6 and 7. Define your style. Please don’t be generic here and say Louis CK and relationship humor. Every comic under the sun describes themselves as Carlin in his prime but in actuality more of a Sandler in Jack and Jill. Also, don’t make this a book. No one reads your bio online, not even you. When was the last time you updated it? Are you really the same comic you wrote you were 10 years ago? Be brief and be original.
8. TV appearances, festival wins, major opening gigs, and anything else of national notoriety. Biggest credit goes first. If you don’t have credits, don’t sweat it. Just leave them out. You don’t need credits to host or feature, but as a headliner you should probably have something under your belt.
9. Big clubs listed here. Bookers know one another so don’t say you frequent the Improv when you did a guest spot for a hypnosis show. List 3 or so clubs you have been at and if you have any personal comic references (Pro comics) feel free to list them as long as they know, no matter how many times you have worked with them. I put Nick DiPaolo down as a reference after working three weeks with him and talking to him every day, and when he was asked about me by name had no clue who I was. Turns out the guy sucks with names, and I likely suck with memorable jokes. Regardless, make sure that base is covered before putting a name down.
10. If you are going to be in the area, say so. More bookers cater to people who will be in town already. I won’t say lie here to get the gig and say you will be in the area when you really won’t, but I won’t tell you not to lie either.
11. Put your avails here for about 4-6 months out. If you are just starting off, don’t list that you have absolutely nothing for the next 6 months. Give them options and make yourself seem more important than you really are. IMPORTANT: Research the club ahead of time and see when they book shows. Telling a club you are available Wednesday thru Sunday when they only book Fri and Sat will show you know nothing about the club. I sent out a list of avails to a once a month club and none of my avails lined up with any of their shows. The booker called me out and I learned my lesson.
12. A nice exit greeting showing that you have initiative and providing a call to action is a good way to close any business email, and yes, comedy is a business.
13. Phone number goes first. Most bookers prefer phone because it is quick and simple. However, if they book you I would try and get something in writing as to what was agreed upon over the phone. You would be surprised how often clubs “forget” that they were supposed to pay you $50 to host and slip you $20.
14. Have a website. Keep it updated and try to make it look professional. My site gets lots of traffic not only from people that have seen and are coming to shows, but also from bookers. I have booked several gigs just by having a nice site and providing lots of content for bookers to look at to make a decision. Links to buy tickets to your shows on your site help as well as it is another way for clubs to make money.
15. Link to your video here. Keep it short, 3-6 minutes and not a best of clip. Beginning to end, uncut and preferably with laughs. YOU MUST HAVE THIS. Every club will ask for one. They will not book you based on your twitter feed, they have to see you work.
16. If you have any extra profiles from comedy sites you can put one or two here. Rooftop comedy is popular because it has clips from various clubs you have worked and the short clips are great for viewing the topics you cover so someone can get a sense of your style.
17. Upload a headshot and send it. Make sure it is high quality because if you are booked it could be used for promotion. Make it a professional headshot or at least a clear photo of you.
I am sure you all have your own style for writing to bookers, calling them or even just showing up at the clubs and begging for gigs. I am not a seasoned 20 year veteran of comedy, but figured I would just put this out there as a place to start for new comedians interested in bookings. Feel free to add input below.
Booking gigs sucks, so here are some tips to get the right gig more often.
1. Know Your Limits: First things first, take a look in the mirror and come to terms with where you are at. Don’t book yourself for something you are not ready for. Not only will it go poorly for you on stage, but off stage the club will likely not give you another shot for months, if ever. The headliner won’t like that you left him having to do more time or with a cold crowd as well. If a club only does two-man shows and you don’t have 30 minutes of solid material, just wait.
2. Have a Reference: Most traveling comedians have good reputations in a few clubs and are on a first name basis with the owners. Research your headliner ahead of time and see where they are going next. If it is a club you are interested in performing, ask them to mention your name at their next gig. Some headliners will even go out of their way to send off an email or make a phone call to the club you want in. Most times a great reference from a reputable headliner is all you need to start seeing gigs come your way.
3. Latch onto a Headliner: This doesn’t mean be annoying and try to get work from every headliner you meet, this is typically just someone that you did a few shows or open mics with over years and they have made the transition into headlining before you. Ask if you can feature or host for them at various clubs. It doesn’t have to be a long term thing, just enough time to get your face and name established in a few of the clubs they are at.
4. Don’t Burn Bridges: You would be surprised how many bookers are friends with other bookers. Mess up at one club and word gets out. If a club treats you poorly, just make a mental note of it and then don’t go back. Posting about it on social media, or telling the manager off looks bad to other bookers and people will know.
5. Be Aware of Club Conflicts: It is rare, but sometimes clubs feed off the same market and becoming a regular comic at one club can limit your ability to get gigs are a competing club. Weigh your options in that case and decide which club has the better potential for you and stick with them.
6. Do Contests: As a comic, either you love contests or you hate them. Most of the time the funniest comic doesn’t win and they usually cater to hack jokes. However, they are a great way to get stage time at a venue you would not typically have the opportunity to perform at. Use it to your advantage and film it so you have the background of a bigger club and the benefit of a larger audience. Also, talk to the judges. Usually they are headlining comedians or area bookers.
7. Start at the Bottom: Most clubs don’t care how many one-nighters you headlined. If you aren’t consistently headlining big clubs with a few credits to your name, chances are you are going to start at the bottom. Doing a few weeks of host work to be considered for future feature/headlining work is better than doing no work at all because you think you are too good for a spot. I frequently see local headliners featuring in clubs new to them and months down the road they end up headlining.
8. Go to the Open Mics: Aside from being an essential tool to building up your set and working different crowds, open mics are great for networking and getting gigs. Some open mics turn into paid showcases as well. Making friends in this business will essentially create more business.
9. Build Up Your Social Media Presence: Stop and face the music, social media is here to stay and essential for building a fan base at the smaller level. Clubs enjoy when you have a following large enough to fill some seats and that following can be obtained through Twiter, Facebook and Youtube. Starting a profile on sites like Rooftop Comedy and ComedySoapBox help as well. Friend request or follow the people from the club and make a connection and don’t hesitate to tag the clubs and mention them prior to shows so they see the exposure and self-promotion.
10. Package the Deal: Can’t get in a club on your own? Develop a package show. Shows centering around a profession, a benefit, or a common theme usually are great opportunities for clubs to fill the off nights. When you do the venue, if you have a great set you should approach the booker and let him know you also work solo and see what opportunities that brings.
11. Start your Own Room: Find a bar or restaurant that is willing to work with you and set up a monthly show. The pay doesn’t even have to come right away. Book yourself as a host and pay a headliner and feature. Work for free and pay them good, take a cut if you can but be careful not to reach too high or the venue will not be able to afford it. I personally book comedians that I know are busy and that I may be able to ask for favors from in the future. Scratch a working comedians back and they just may call you up when that opening spot is available.
12. Develop a Clean Set: Even if you aren’t a clean comic, have a clean set in your back pocket. Some clubs won’t let you go up for the first time if you aren’t clean. Once they see you can be funny clean, then they will likely let you work with your blue material in the late shows. This also opens the doors for a lot of corporate and college gigs, and the pay for those shows can be substantially more.
13. Call and Email, Email and Call: I send my avails out monthly to individual clubs and weekly to brands like Bonkerz, Comedy Zone, and Improvs. 99% of the time you will leave a voicemail and not hear back and never get an email response, but when that 1% of the time happens it can be some great opportunities. Click over here for tips on sending out a great email.
14. Don’t give up: As many comedians will tell you, getting into some of the best clubs can take years of sending emails, doing guest spots, and having comedians vouch for you. Some bookers receive 20+ emails a day and it would be impossible to take a look at everyone and respond. Just because a booker doesn’t get back to you right away, doesn’t mean you give up on that club. Eventually you will get a response, maybe. Just remember what every established comedian will tell you: Comedy is a marathon, not a sprint. This is one of the few professions where age doesn’t matter as much as performance, so take your time and develop your craft.
Have other advice for comedians? Let us know in the comments below.
You go to a show, perform on stage, bring the house down, and now what? As a comedian, what you do next can have a major impact on your future in comedy.
Repeat your name: If you had a great set, before you get off stage you want them to know who you are. It is a very simple thing, but you would be surprised how many comedians exit the stage without telling the audience who they just saw. Maybe the host will say your name again, maybe he won’t. Don’t leave it to chance. Every single comedian is introduced in the same fashion and audiences aren’t going to make note of you until they find out if you are funny. If you are just starting out, your name isn’t on the marquee or any fliers, people they ask in the club may not know who you are, and they certainly aren’t going to remember to ask your name later if there are other comics following you. Before you leave the stage say “Thanks, I am _____________” and even if only 1% of the crowd takes note, that is 1% more than knew you before.
Talk to the club owners/manager/staff: They are nice enough to have you on their stage, so be appreciative. Don’t be overbearing and definitely don’t get in their way if they are busy, but just make small talk. Find commonalities, compliment the venue, ask about upcoming shows, and discuss future opportunities. Show an interest in the club and they will show interest in you. And before you leave, ask to come back. Don’t ask for a date directly, but definitely show interest in a future date and have your avails ready if asked.
Shake hands: So many comics run outside after the show and smoke a cigarette or retreat to a far corner of the bar to chat with friends. The crowd got dressed to go out, paid to come to a show, bought drinks at three times the cost of a normal bar, and sat quietly and respectfully through your set. The least you could do is shake their hands and thank them. Stand just outside the door, careful not to block the merch table for the headliner, and shake hands and thank them for coming. Some will just nod their head, some will tell you that you were funny, but quite a few will ask more about you. Most of the fans that I have made that consistently come to shows actually came from shaking hands and small talk after a set. Bonus: If you are lucky, one or two might even offer to buy you a drink.
Sell merch*: When you sell someone a CD, DVD, shirt, or something else, you are selling them something to take home and remind them of your set. They will likely share it with others as well. Any merch should have some reference to you on it, even if it is just your website address in small letters at the bottom. Who knows, maybe they will have a friend that wants that same shirt and you can sell them one online without them ever having seen your show (hint: make sure your merch is funny on it’s own, not an inside joke). The way you sell merch should be looked at as well. A lot of comedians stand behind a table and separate themselves from the crowds. That only invites people over to your table who plan on buying something. I like to stand to the side of or in front of the table and then shake hands. Come to them, don’t make them come to you.
* If you are anything other than a feature or headliner, DO NOT sell merch. Some showcases it is ok, but generally don’t do it. You need to work on your comedy first before you work on a sales pitch. Some features should avoid merch too at times. I generally ask the headliner first to make sure our merch doesn’t interfere with one another. The last thing you want is a headliner pissed at you because your pot shirt is taking all the business away from his cocaine shirt.
Business cards: You can literally buy 5000 business cards online for $80.00. There is no reason not to have one. People have short term memories these days with so much external stimulation. Give them something in writing about who you are and how they can find you. Personally, I bought a huge amount of cards and I hand them out to every single person leaving the club. Even the old people that didn’t like your set. You never know who could be in charge of planning the company Christmas party and sees your card laying on their dresser. To be honest, if I hand out 100 cards, I usually get 3 or 4 that will actually follow up and find me online. However, on nights I do not hand out cards I usually get 0.
Talk to the headliner/Buy a drink: This does not mean pester them and be as fake as possible to be their friend. A good headliner has worked with hundreds of other comics in the past and the odds of them scooping you up for a cross nation tour are slim to none. The main reason you are nice to them and offer to buy a drink or food is that they will remember you later. You may be in their hometown looking for stage time, they may come back and need a host, They may allow you to use them as a reference to get into a club you never could get a response from, or they may just offer great advice in casual conversation. Either way, being friendly to them doesn’t hurt your situation, but avoiding them doesn’t help it.
Gather emails: I have worked a few shows with another comic, Michael Malone, and I learned a very important strategy watching him after the show. Malone stands by the table offering a free download of his CD if you just put your email in on his iPad. Show after show he gets dozens of people that put in their emails. At the end of the weekend he sends out their free download, which costs him nothing, and he includes all the applicable links to social media and ways to find him at another show. Aside from that, you are on his mailing list for all future information and news he wishes to share. He is building a fan base by providing something free to others that is also free to him.
Tip the wait staff, and tip them good: If the staff love you, they will talk. Most of the time they don’t get to hear your set, so the best way to get them to remember you is to tip them well, or at least leave a tip. If you have them running around getting you drinks that you don’t pay for and food you barely touch and don’t leave a single penny, they will remember you and not in a good way. Many of the staff talk to the club owners and will complain if you don’t treat them right. I have worked the Orlando Improv dozens of times and they have a great staff there that helps me out when I need it, and even comes to shows outside of Orlando just to see me perform. Trust me, making friends with the staff will improve your standing in any club.
Offer to drive*: Headliners rarely have their own car, so many clubs end up driving them to and from the hotel/condo. Often times the driver is a staff member who worked that night. Offer to drive the headliner before and after the show. This does two things, it gives you a chance to talk to the headliner (don’t overdue it, this isn’t an interrogation session) and it will save the club some money because they usually have to pay the guy driving as if he is on the clock. The headliner might even appreciate it more because they won’t have to wait around until someone is available if they want to head to the hotel right after the show. A few times I have even had the club pay me a bit extra for all the driving as well, so there is potential to make a buck or two, however, always offer it as a free service.
*Don’t offer to drive if you have an 72′ Dodge Dart that is going to stall out and make you and the headliner late for the gig or potentially give the headliner tetanus by touching the seatbelt. It doesn’t matter how nice your intentions were, a roomful of angry audience members or a disgruntled headliner takes precedent to any good deed you thought you were doing.
Follow up: After the show, go home and get online. Thank the club, the performers, and compliment the evening, even if it wasn’t one of your best. Send friend requests or follow comedians you met and tag everyone, you may even provide a link to the club’s website for good measure. This is all about building up your social network and online presence. Face the facts, comedy is not what it used to be and new comics need social media to get ahead of the game, so embrace it and make it a habit. Show you appreciated and remember them, and they will appreciate and remember you, if you are lucky some of the big headliners may pay you a public compliment on their accounts, which is definitely an amazing feeling.
Play your cards right and you will be invited back to the club. You already did the hard part by getting in the door and getting stage time, make the most of it.
Every comedy show has the drunk guy, the bachelorette party, and the woman that is inevitably going to embarrass her husband by getting called out by the comic and fighting back. However, after the show is an entirely different story. When the stage barrier is broken and you get to really see who people are, you quickly find their story can be much more interesting than yours.
Here are 10 types of people that comedians meet after the show:
The Jealous Boyfriend: He isn’t funny, but he knows his girlfriend likes to laugh. He took her to a comedy show thinking this would be a great date night until he realized that his girlfriend was looking at you the entire time and laughing at every dick joke you told. His blood is boiling because he knows he can never be you, he just got the bill for the $9 cosmos and she is asking him for cash so that she can buy one of your shirts and remind him every time she wears it just how unfunny he is compared to you. Inevitably he will get into the car and tell his girlfriend some bs story about how he was thinking about getting into stand up but he will never follow through. She will probably still think of him when they have sex though because, let’s face it, comedy only gets you so far.
The Lurker: I’d love it if you would stand directly across from me but not close enough to be actually engaged in conversation. Slowly take a sip of your drink, tell me “You’re funny” and then just stand there starring at me. I am sure if you stand there long enough I will decide to do the other half of my set. This isn’t a Marvel movie, asshole. Once the credits roll, I clock out and after the 20th time of me awkwardly standing there refreshing my Facebook newsfeed, maybe you should get the hint and leave.
The Offended _____ (insert your own colorful noun here): You saw it on her face the whole show. With each C word or B word that you threw her way, she was squirming in her chair. She wanted to speak up but instead she kept her mouth shut because she knew that she was in fact acting like the embodiment of all those words inside her own head. The show is now over, she stares at you and starts to walk by. You could let her pass by unnoticed and let it eat at her the entire night, knowing that you will be a story at her next book club meeting where she discusses how offended she was by a vulgar comedian as they prepare to discuss “50 Shades of Grey.” But no, you let off the slightest of smirks, and it suddenly sets off a wave of rage inside of her. She approaches you and the second you hear her start her sentence with “You know what, I wasn’t going to say anything but…” and at that moment you realize just why you enjoy writing offensive material so much. If Cosby knew this feeling, his comedy central special would be one continuous bleep.
The Bandwagon: Before this show, they have never heard of you and yet now they feel like you have given them comedy crabs and they want to spread you to all their friends. How nice of them. Until you start getting pokes at 3am on Facebook even though you could have sworn that Zuckerberg took away that feature. They feel the need to comment on all your posts, tag you in photos they think are funny, and do everything in their power to maintain contact with you by all means necessary, except coming to another show.
The “You Can Use This”: Yes, I just spent the past 45 minutes on stage telling you jokes that took me months or years to perfect and I would love it if you would come up to me and tell me your own personal story that you think would somehow fit into my act. Please, make it as personal and detailed as possible. Or better yet, tell me something you read in an email because clearly all my jokes on stage were direct rip-offs of chain mail. Oh, I didn’t fake laugh enough at your punchline? Please, elaborate more because you could have sworn that it was a funnier story than that. While you’re at it, kindly do your best to position yourself directly in front of my merch table and ruin all potential sales that I may have had. What, me? Talk to other people? No way, I am just trying to make eye contact with everyone else passing by you in an effort to pull them in so that they too can be privy to this amazing story that you are telling me. On second though, kill yourself.
The Comedy Connoisseur: “Have you ever heard of Louis CK?” No. No I haven’t. You mean to tell me that other people do this shit to? I thought I was the only comedian in this business. Why don’t you rattle off some more names of other comedians until you find one I haven’t heard of so you feel special? Or better yet, let’s take some time for you to do their material in front of me. Do you take requests because I would love to hear some Kevin Hart. It has been at least 9 minutes since I have heard “Alright! Alright! Alright!”. Ran out of material already? I thought you were well versed. Oh well maybe this is the part where you show me that you know what goes on behind the scenes of comedy and we talk about how Carlos Mencia stole material and Joe Rogan called him out. I love 2005, let’s never stop talking about it!
The Third Wheel: Wow this chick is really hitting on me. Wait a minute, I feel bad because her husband is right there. He is starring at me still and he clearly sees her wanting me but he is doing nothing. Now he is buying me a drink. This feels incredibly awkward but yet so right at the same time. I’ll just go with it until someone whispers in my ear, “Now, flip over.”
The Office Jokester: This guy is so funny… in the office. But this isn’t the office. He is playing an away game and his coworkers make this into game 7 of the finals. They want you to know just how funny he really is. They push him and humble him and put him on the spot. He will try to come up with funny stuff to say and will inevitably eat it. His confidence is zero now and he will most likely commit suicide by hanging himself with his tie shaped like a large mouth bass that used to get chuckles on casual Friday.
The Dreamer: I’m achieving my dream, and with every step I take forward, it reminds you of all those steps you never took. If life had a soundtrack, yours would be an endless loop of Sarah McLachlan songs and this. With every encouraging word you give us, we can see the life light inside you growing dimmer. I try to cheer you on and tell you hopeful stories of old comics that were successful and offer advice on getting started, but I know just as well as you that the second you get home it is back to Netflix to watch episodes of The Wonder Years and sorrow snacking on Triscuits.
The Glory Days: Very similar to “The Dreamer” but this guy thinks he actually lived the dream. He played in a band at a bar once, did stand up at a friends house once, or acted in a community theater play once, and he wants to tell you all about the showbiz life much more than once. He feels the connection after all those long minutes he put in on the road, wild late-afternoon parties and O’Doul’s and Swedish Fish fueled binges. Careful with this one, he may relapse and you could find yourself at an Applebee’s at 2am arguing the cut off time for half price appetizers.