Last Sunday I was trying to check into my hotel room at Lake of the Ozarks when there was a small problem. The front desk gave me the phone and said it was the guy who runs the room and booked the hotel. “Hey Rob. Are you just going to pick up the keys for everyone?” For some reason he thought that I was touring and good buddies with Rob Schneider, the headliner, and that Rob Schneider would be okay with sharing a suite with me. Ten years ago I probably would’ve thought that was cool, but as a grown man I don’t want to share anything with anyone, nor does the headliner…especially if he’s famous like Rob Schneider. I got a different room.
The only reason I got to work with him was because I have a reputation for working clean. When a headliner has pull, he can request that (I mention all the other benefits of working fairly clean in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage). Schneider ended up walking through the back of the room halfway through my set which distracted the crowd somewhat, but with headliners who are famous, especially in smaller towns, the room will be filled meaning I could sneeze and get a laugh. Record your sets with someone famous. They make good demos, however, don’t get inflated by how well it goes because those people are excited for someone after you. It’s also okay to joke about that. “Hey, we’re all excited to see (headliner), I am too. But let me help you get a few drinks down before that.” Acknowledge, but don’t apologize for going first.
Your interaction with the famed headliner is important too. Exchange a hello after your set if they make eye contact, and let him/her compliment you. Instead of trying to blab that you’re a fan let him or her speak, record all that in your head and use it as a quote (stick it next to a picture with him on Facebook or your webpage and watch those oh-so-validating “likes” come in). If you’re working with him/her the entire week or weekend, wait a couple shows before holding a conversation. They’ll listen to at least a little of your set and be happy to chat if they respect it. Keep it brief and let them be alone if that’s what they prefer. A lot of them aren’t used to the road full-time so they’re weird about interaction. If they like you, you could get future work with them. Other than that and the great crowds, it should be just another gig. People think we get to work with big names because we’re special…nope, just lucky that week.