I was reviewing some blog stats this week and my highest week of hits was for an entry called, “Why do they get to MC and I don’t?” I thought for this week I would try the same approach on a different level. One of my bookers and I were trying to find someone for a one-nighter coming up so I posted something in the St. Louis Comics Facebook group. I was overwhelmed with the amount of emails…Fourteen to be exact. Most of them from comics who I’ve never seen perform except for at a few open mic nights (three from guys who I’d never seen). I was relieved to find out the booker had found someone who he worked with recently, but I still had to reply to a lot of these emails.
So what does it take for someone to get a feature gig? It’s a bit of a Catch 22 because to know that you have a solid thirty minutes someone has to give you a chance in the first place. And that chance often comes at a crap show with hardly anyone in the audience. I was lucky for my first feature show but it came with a small price. The headliner needed a ride and I was only going to make $100. It was an eight-hour drive but I was sure to tape it. Was I funny enough (probably not)? The show went fine, but it was for college kids and there were plenty of dead spots. Did any bookers ever take the time to watch that tape? Of course not. So what does it take to impress someone enough to get them to take a chance on you? You need to leave them wanting more after a ten to fifteen minute set. They need to see a number of great sets that have different setlists. Your one go-to bit isn’t enough anymore. The jokes themselves need to become longer bits and you’ll need to admit to yourself that a few of your bits are expired fluff. It’s really hard to produce that much quality material without enough life experience.
Just like everything else in comedy, it’s not fair. It took me six years before I was finally featuring on a regular basis (or really at all). What’s even more infuriating is the people who do get to feature who you know you’re funnier than. All you can do is bury them. There’s a lot more about this step (and actually becoming a professional comic) in my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage. In the meantime, consider how seriously you’re taking open mic night. Build your set! Keep what really works and build it into something longer.