On Saturday night I did a gig at a Moose Lodge (shut up, it paid really well) in a small town in Ohio. I got there around forty-five minutes before showtime and found the guy in charge. When you get to a one-nighter, especially at a place that has never had a comedy show, there should be a small checklist of things in place. You don’t have to be a diva, but it’s not too much to ask for a certain set of requirements. I have a much bigger section about this in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage, but here are two that I used to overlook years ago.
The first is the lighting. Most places will have a stage area with at least some sort of stage lighting even when there isn’t a stage. Even more importantly is the house lighting on the audience because it needs to be minimal. Unfortunately that can’t always be adjusted, but usually you can find someone to help. House lights hurt the crowd and comic and you really don’t want to see what’s going on while you’re trying to perform.
The second thing is to make sure there isn’t going to be any show interruptions by outside sounds. You’d be surprised how close to the stage a bartender will start working on a frozen drink. Look for rowdy tables that have no idea they’ll need to stop talking soon. Sometimes at larger venues there are other rooms that have bands or other events going on. Once I was at a show where I had to get up and shut a door every time the servers went through. The back half of the audience was flooded with the sound of the band in the next room every time someone needed a drink. I finally found a manager and explained the problem while the MC was performing.
Next week I’ll explain the benefits of having an MC at a one-nighter. Until then, don’t be afraid to let a venue know how they can make the show better (see how I phrased that?). These things are also helpful if you’re setting up an open mic. Again, lots more about this in my book.