Does it matter who you’ve opened for?

For most comics their first credentials will be getting the chance to open for someone famous.  It sounds like a big deal.  I can namedrop with the best of them.  Joe Rogan, Jeff Dunham, 2 of the 4 Blue Collar guys, 2 of the leads on Full House, etc.  You know who these impress?  The high school kids I teach.  You know who they don’t impress?  Club managers and bookers.  They know anyone can MC for anyone.  I’m not saying that club managers are just giving those weeks to anyone, but it certainly isn’t the honor that it sounds like.  Bob Saget wasn’t sitting around in his office in L.A. making calls in 2003, “Who’s going to MC for me at the Cleveland Improv next month?  Never heard of him…next.  Never heard of him…nope…who else?  Durham?  Rob Durham?!  Yes, that’s the guy I want!  This handpicking selection process is grueling!”

Sure, you have to be good enough for a club manager to trust you to host shows that will bring new customers to his or her club, but it’s not something that will impress other bookers.  By “opening” for someone it doesn’t distinguish between featuring and MCing either.  Most of those bigger names were just MC weeks early in my career.  I was fortunate enough to work often at an A room for my home club.

So what credentials are club managers really looking for?  The list of clubs on your schedule.  If you can pack a schedule with great rooms that are known around the country (not Corky’s Saloon and Grill), bookers will reward that much more than who you’ve opened for.  A lot of us don’t have that schedule and it would be absurd for this week’s advice to be:  Get a full schedule at all the great rooms!  Duh!  So what do we do about credentials in the meantime?  Go ahead, namedrop for the youngsters and the drunk girls at the party, but let your act prove how good you are.  In other words, don’t go around thinking you’re better than your are (someone should’ve told 23 year old Rob this) just because you’ve worked with bigger names.  As comics, it’s not hard for us to find reasons to dislike each other.  It’s okay to share stories about famous guys with your friends, but don’t overplay it.

Rob, didn’t you post a picture of yourself with Rob Schneider and his compliments this summer?  Yes I did.  That was more to break up the monotony of pet pictures and ecards, not a credential.  It was a really cool night that I was proud of, but I would never use that trying to get booked anywhere.  We can all pretend to our fans and family that the famous person has a say about who opens for them, but the real truth is that most of the time they don’t.  Almost everyone, including myself, loves working with famous comics because of the crowds, and it’s always fun to get to talk to a celebrity, but let it be humbling, not an ego booster.

*Thank you to a comic buddy for asking about this topic.  If anyone else has any questions please feel free to email me about them.

For other tips on how to make sure your entire comedy community doesn’t hate you, order Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage (now available on Amazon Kindle at a discounted price!)

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