As a comic your ultimate goal should be to eventually make money by getting people to laugh (notice the subtitle of this blog). For the comics reading this, especially in the St. Louis scene, the first way you’re going to be able to earn a legitimate comedy paycheck is by getting an MC booking either for a local one-nighter or at a comedy club. So how do comedy club managers decide, out of all of the open mic comics, who they’re going to give a chance to?
It has nothing to do with being the funniest.
An MC’s 4th most important job is being funny so if you’ve ever seen someone get ahead of you in the business and thought to yourself or out loud on a Facebook post, “I’m much funnier than the MC!” you could be right. However, the person who got the gig does the other duties of an MC much better than you. These jobs are all discussed in depth in my book.
The biggest question comics have argued with me about is why they have to be clean. Actually only some have argued, many have just ignored the advice. Think about every joke in your act. Now picture a fairly conservative woman in her 50’s out at a non-smoking show on a Saturday night with her husband. She’s about to place her order when she hears your bit about masturbation and gym socks. She’s not the only one frowning at her menu.
When you host a show you become one of the club’s employees. You need to be a relatable person and ease the audience into the rest of the comedy. Does this sacrifice some of your act and artistic capability? Yes! Welcome to showbiz, you’re at the bottom of the comedy ladder. But until you make these changes you’ll never get the chance to climb it. In other words, write material that relates to something other than “slacker guy in his 20’s.”
So what are club managers really looking for in an MC?
I hosted shows for a good portion of the first six years of my career. The main thing they want in a host is someone who just comes off normal. That’s all you have to do…be normal. Be personable, decently funny, clean, but just normal. Dress normal. Talk normal. This way when you make the club’s important announcements, introduce the other comics, and represent the club, you’re not a liability to the show’s overall respectability and professional feel. If you’re confused, go to a club and watch a good MC open a show. (You’ll be able to tell if he/she did it correctly)
So how do you get the chance to MC?
My book covers the delicate process of getting the attention of a club manager, getting a guest set, and earning money. Comedy is not like other business when it comes to getting hired. If you happen to get a chance to be an MC you don’t want to screw it up, so my book answers a lot of other questions such as:
1. What are the other jobs of an MC other than being funny?
2. How does an MC’s set vary from a regular set?
3. What do you do while off stage?
4. When and how should you start self-promotion (without looking like a jackass in front of your peers)?
5. What should you do differently if the headliner gets a standing ovation?
6. What’s the process of getting paid?
7. What if there’s a bachelorette party in the crowd? Or birthday announcements?
8. What if you’re working with a famous headliner?
9. What are the rules on free drinks? Food? Passes for your friends?
10. What do you do after the show? More importantly, what should you not do after the show?
11. How do you get to MC at other clubs?
12. How do you balance dignity with pleasing a crowd?
13. How do you get a comedy club manager to like you?
14. Which shows will be the most challenging?
15. What should you know about the wait staff?
There has been a big shift in the St. Louis scene allowing for a lot of opportunity in the two major clubs. I know for a fact that a lot of new people will get a chance in the upcoming months to become MCs in the both venues. Some will make the necessary adjustments and get mass amounts of stage time in front of great crowds. Others will continue on with their social awkwardness and/or pride and keep bitching that they’re funnier and the club owners know less about the business than they do. And it’s not just St. Louis. Good MCs are hard to find all over the country…ask any touring pro.
Order my book at www.robdurhamcomedy.com to answer all of the above!
Note: I welcome any public or private questions of comments about this post.