I Learned The Secret To Getting Booked.

This past week I was fortunate enough to perform at Laugh Your Asheville Off Comedy Festival in Asheville, North Carolina. I got to attend an excellent industry panel where 6 bookers/club owners discussed what they look for when hiring comics and what we as up and coming comics could do to make ourselves more marketable and most of all, get paying work. The secrets were simple and not all that unexpected, but it was good to hear it come straight from those who provide the opportunities.

And the secret is…there is no secret. BEFORE YOU STOP READING, there are some tips which really all focus on strengthening the fundamentals of comedy and good business sense.

  1. Be funny.  A lot of us love comedy because it’s an art. It’s the last vestige of free speech. It’s a pure, unadulterated art form. Don’t lose sight of the fact if you are performing, there is an audience that paid money to be entertained. Church is free. Comedy shows typically have a two item minimum. If you’re going to preach, make sure it’s funny.
  2. That being said, be original. The bookers really are people. Most of them got into the business because they are comedy fans. Clubs are not all looking to book the same “type” of comic. Clubs are always looking to book new and interesting talent. One of the club owners at this panel said that it is important for his club to book real talent early in their career and build a relationship with the comic, or else he’ll end up paying more later. Don’t be afraid to be original and unflinchingly uncompromising. Even if you are afraid you aren’t going to hit as hard as a “hack.” “You do you.”
  3. Another thought that got put out: “no one gets paid to tell jokes” and “clubs don’t pay comics.”

What that means is, you’re not getting paid for your clever writing, your brilliant performing or you engaging act. You’re being paid to “entertain.”

This ties into something that I’m always trying to tell new (and by new I mean newer than me relatively speaking, <18 Months) You’re just trying to form a relationship with the audience. You need them to like you. You’re jokes are just an excuse to talk to them.

3a. And the club isn’t paying you. The audience is your source of money. You may not be splitting the ticket money, but with out the audience, there is no live comedy experience for anyone.

So that is just some of the things we went over. I think the real question that some of you that have been doing this less than me (I reiterate 18> months so not long) all I can do is give you some advice on a possible career path. This is one route out of many, and one that I am journeying on as we speak.

(note this is a recommendation only to get to the point I have gotten to which is not saying much.)

  1.  perform everywhere you can. Get comfortable telling jokes. It doesn’t matter if they’re hack. You’ll become more original eventually. Hopefully.
  2. Get good tape of yourself. Go to the Laughing Skull open mic. For 10 bucks they’ll send you a high res copy of your set. Buy a flip camera and record. Record, record, record. You must record very set you can so you can get good footage of you doing well.
  3. What you are looking for is long, full, strong sets. Post a 5-10 minute full set on youtube, vimeo or rooftop. I post mine on youtube. NOTE: Mine are set to private. No one can watch them except people I choose to send the link to. Here is why.
  4. Use your footage to get on better shows. If you have good videos you can submit those to clubs, contests and festivals. Many bookers don’t want to look at tape of you, but some will. If your tape is good enough, you can go perform at better, bigger venues. When you’re performing there, make sure to get a recording of your set. Now you have even better footage.
  5. Continue to progress in your comedy, write, record, revise and then get better footage.

This is basically what I have done. I got into LYAO because I put together a tape that was good enough to fool them into giving me a spot. I had that tape because I record everything. Even the bad ones. Trust me, you learn more from a bad tape.

Basically, do what ever you can to surround yourself with better comics. It is fun being the big fish at a tiny club, the talent in a pool of new comics, the seasoned comic. But trust me, it’s better for you to be the worst comic in the room. That gives you room to grow, and motivation to move up.

That is all.



About Jamie Ward
I am a comedian. At this point in my life I live comedy. I'm not all that funny, but it's all I think about every waking moment.

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