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.

Jamie.

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One of the most valuable and under-utilized resources available to comedians!

It’s a website.

http://www.rooftopcomedy.com

That’s right. It describes itself as a youtube of stand-up comedy, but it is even better. Why? Because they have a screening process. A quick look will prove that it isn’t a deep screening process, but in order for your clip to be posted it does need to be visible, audible and take place at a real performance.

So Jamie, why does this matter to me? I’ll tell you the reasons you need to care about rooftop comedy.

1. You become aware of who many of the good comics working the scene are, and what type of material they are doing. Likewise, you can become aware of what type of material is being over done.  I often leave the video clips running while I work on other things. I have since become very familiar with the material from several very good comics I have had the fortune to meet, even before I had met them in person.

2. It’s great exposure for you. Your chances of being discovered on Youtube? 1:million bazillion, Your odds of being discovered on rooftop? A little more reasonable. I’m not saying it’s going to happen, but you have far fewer videos to compete with. Plus, the people that look at videos on rooftop are already interested or connected to comedy. I attended a festival in North Carolina a couple of years ago and I met a comic from Chicago who said he had been asked to attend the festival based on his rooftop clips. There is industry who looks at rooftop.

3. They provide great opportunities for comics. From contests, festivals, media to just plain old promotion. Rooftop is a fantastic resource for comedians. It’s free, it’s powerful, and I’m shocked every time I talk to a comedian who doesn’t frequent the site.

 

Really, if I cared more about my career I wouldn’t share advice with other comics. The sad truth is, I would like other people to talk to. When I talk to you, I’d like you to be the best comic you can be, because that’s what pushes me to be the best comic I can be.

 

Jamie.

Comedy Contests

I have certain feelings about the usefulness of comedy contests. Comedy is subjective. If you are using contests to prove you are a good comedian, then you should probably quit. You’ll never be satisfied. Even if you win, what does that mean? But, if you use comedy contests as a way to perform in new locations, meet new comics, and expose new potential fans to your comedy, then by all means go ahead. That’s just my 2 cents on the situation.

Now that I have prefaced this post, here are some of the upcoming comedy contests.

Scenic City Comedy Search (Previously Southeast Funny Person Search) Starts 23 June 2011

Chattanooga, TN. – The newly revamped SCCS is about to start up. It is now run by comics and they have tried to reduce the bringer element as much as possible. I have competed twice before. Once making it to the semi-finals and once finishing 3rd overall. The entry fee is a little on the steep side, but there are cash prizes for your preliminary round and the finals. I have been fortunate to make back my entry fee and more each time.

Comedy Catch Contest Page

Florida’s Funniest Comedian Starts 16 August 2011

Florida (Various) – This contest is in its first year. It sounds great. I’m not going to be entering this one, but let me tell you I thought about it. It’s definitely a tough format. Increasing set times. prelims, 5 minutes, then semis 10, and the finals are 20. The prizes are good though, because you are competing for multiple weeks of work.

Florida’s Funny

Rocky Top Comedy Contest Starts 26 August 2011

Knoxville, TN. – This contest is produced by Matt Ward, who also runs the Port City Top Comic contest. The PCTC contest is one of the best competitions I have competed in. I am biased, because I won the 2011 contest last month. The Rocky Top Comedy Contest is run in the same way. I have not entered it, but I am planning on it.

Rocky Top Comedy Contest
That is not all the comedy contests, but it is enough for now. Check back weekly, hopefully, I will update with more info on contests and festivals that are upcoming.

Jamie.