I’ve talked to multiple headliners about this week’s topic and for obvious reasons they didn’t want to be named. There’s something that some comics are doing the wrong way as far as getting help. It has to do with getting guest sets at a new club. Newer comics are making the mistake of asking a headliner for a guest set at a club they’re trying to get into. The problem is, if that set doesn’t go well, it reflects on the headliner’s “recommendation reputation.” This means that next time, when the headliner (or feature) has someone in mind that they want to give a guest set to, the club manager will be less likely to oblige. Stop asking headliners to get your guest sets for you. There are multiple ways to get the set yourself (listed in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage), and if you happen to know the headliner that week, consider it a bonus.
But aren’t comics all about helping others? Yes, it’s a great feeling to get another comic into the professional scene. Most of us really enjoy doing that. However, comics help only those who are ready in their opinion. The comics who have helped get me into new clubs did that by inviting me for guest sets instead of me asking them. On the rare times that I asked a comic for a set on their show, it was because we had already worked together and they had told me that they would be happy to help any time. Honestly though, they usually offered the opportunity to me without me asking. When I had 15 minutes, they got me MC work. When I had 30, they got me feature work. Let club managers and old pros tell you how many minutes you have, assume your own opinion is inflated (more on that in future posts).
Sitting around and waiting for a headliner’s help isn’t going to get most comics anywhere, so there’s a tactful way to increase your chances. Get their attention by asking them what changes you need to make in your set in order to get work. If they’re fully aware of your set and haven’t reached out to help you move forward, you’re not standing out from the pack enough to do so (by standing out I simply mean being funnier).
Just because you are Facebook friends, does not mean you have the right to ask that comic to help get you into a club. It puts them in an awkward situation (and aren’t we all awkward enough?). So the main point is this: Get their attention and if they think your act is good enough, they’ll help get work for you.
As comics, we also talk about each other and who’s doing what. For a one-nighter last week I booked Columbus comic, Nickey Winklman, as my feature all on reputation. (It also helped that she wasn’t one of the Columbus comics who called this advice blog “spam.”) So if you’re funny enough, it gets back to the people who can help you out. I trusted her to bring a good MC and she came through with Anthony O’Connell…Great comics getting work that came to them instead of them asking.
What else matters? The way you are as a person. This is where it can even get petty. Working with someone means spending hours with them, sometimes for days at a time, before and after shows. If your act is annoying, you smell, you’re too dirty, you interrupt during conversations, you chew with your mouth open, can never pay for anything, you’re a close talker, you tell boring stories, you lie to impress people, drink like an idiot, you think you’re God’s gift to comedy, or have any other hangups, they’ll help someone else. In other words, you need to be a better person than you normally are (like a real job interview). And sometimes you have to pretend you like people in this business. Does that mean “being fake?” (And we all know from our Facebook friends that they “hate fake people”) No, it just means tolerating others for the sake of business and making a living. Many disagree with my opinion on this, that’s fine. I like money.
Be a good person with a strong act and the help will come to you when you’re ready. If it’s not happening, you’re not doing at least one of those two things.
Wow, this almost sounds like dating/relationship advice…it will happen when you’re ready. Until then, keep improving yourself.