In 2004 I had been doing comedy for four and a half years and was spoiled as far as early stages of a career go. I was MCing the Columbus Funnybone on a regular enough basis with shows that often sold out in the middle of the week. 300 people on a Tuesday or Wednesday is not common, but it’s hard not to do well at a club with that much enthusiasm. Later that year I found myself failing to even advance to the finals of the local contest. Why? Because I had hit such a comfort zone that I wasn’t progressing as a comic. This was more than just not writing new jokes. I didn’t feel the desperate need to improve. Occasionally you’ll work with headliners with this same problem. They have the same 45 minutes every year because “it works” for them.
Moving from Ohio to St. Louis was the best thing for my career for a lot of reasons. The first being that it gave me more life experience. Second, it put me in a crowd of many more professional comics (no offense to my pals in Columbus, but when you’re sandwiched between comics like Tommy Johnagin, Greg Warren, and Andi Smith you have to up your game). I was able to get a lot of great feedback as well. The move was because of comedy so it made me take my career that much more seriously. There were fewer distractions (friends) here so I had more evenings for open mic. There were also more clubs here in 2005 (four within a half hour drive). The open mic night options alone quadrupled my stage time.
I’m not saying doing this as a commercial for St. Louis (only one of those clubs is still open), but consider whether you’ve hit your ceiling in your home city. It’s a well-known fact that your home club is the hardest one to get promoted in. They’ll always remember how you used to be. When you get to a new city and they know you moved there because of your career, it shows that you’re committed. It also gives you and your reputation a fresh start.
In Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage I discuss this option a little further including advice about L.A. and New York. Moving aways can be expensive and stressing, but that’s what getting your start in comedy is all about.