Most one-nighter gigs at bars don’t have an MC for the show. If they do, it’s the bar manager or DJ just introducing you…very poorly (I can’t stress how awful most of them are at this). I’ve found they like to start the show late, but then wait until you’re going to the restroom or trying to get a drink to take on stage and then out of nowhere, you hear your name–mispronounced, your intro butchered, something about you that steps on one of your jokes, and all without any enthusiasm. You then start your thirty minutes to an awkward beginning (sometimes the sound still needs to be adjusted) with a cold crowd who is probably inexperienced to live comedy. There’s one way to avoid this and make your set go 100 times better. Bring an MC.
Obviously you don’t want to have to share a room on the road with some kid you don’t know, but if it’s within a three or four hour drive and you’re not staying the night, have someone tag along. You might not even have to pay them, just buy them a few drinks. Or if they’re hungry enough to improve in comedy, they’ll do it for free. You’re not using someone if it’s helping their career (you are, but it’s okay, they’re getting something out of it too). I know I would’ve loved to experience different stages on the road just to get five or ten minutes of stage time in. And what better way for a new comic to see what it’s really like out there. (*After revising this, yeah, throw’em a few bucks if it’s an out of town gig.)
Opening a show is one of the toughest things to do in the business. Give the burden to someone else and help them get better at the same time. The bar manager shouldn’t have a problem with it because they don’t know anything about comedy in the first place (as they’ll show). If you and your MC act professional, there shouldn’t be any problems.
To any comics at the MC level, there are a ton of tips on how-to MC in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage. For comics new to featuring, I’ve included a lot of other useful advice for the road.