Is it okay to repeat material through rounds of a contest? (and other contest advice)

Last year I wrote about why you should enter your local club’s comedy contest.  I included what to expect from the contest (because you’re not going to win), and plugged my book which has all kinds of tips on special contest situations and how to follow great comics, bad comics, freaks, etc.  For this year’s “contest eve” entry I thought I would share some more inside information which may seem specific for the St. Louis contest, but can actually be applied to whatever contest you find yourself in.

Here’s the basic breakdown of it…in St. Louis, there are 64 contestants and one winner who gets $600 and an MC week ($400 for 2nd, $200 for third).  The finals are on July 1 which makes this thing longer than the NBA playoffs meaning someone who does prelims early on, should be able to improve by July.  You know what else happens in July?  St. Louis opens an additional Funnybone on the southwest side of town.  St. Louis needs MCs.  What this means is that even though you aren’t going to win the contest, this is still a huge opportunity for you to land a paid MC week.  Matt, the booker, is not judging the contest, however, he watched every entry last year and plans to this year as well.  So if the judges rank you lower than you’d like, you still have a chance to get a paid week as an MC.

St. Louis is not short on people who have a funny 5-10 minutes.  St. Louis is short on people who can MC a show well.  There’s a huge difference which you can read about here (this archive is my highest read entry of all-time because other bookers shared it).  The need for quality MCs doubles in July.  That’s $30 a show and more importantly great stage time night after night in front of legitimate comedy crowds who will let you know if you’re funny or not.

Finally, the #1 question I get asked about comedy contests is, “Can I do the same material each round or do I need to have new stuff?”  I know for a fact this year that none of the St. Louis judges will see you twice, so it will always be fresh to them.  If you only have five to eight solid minutes, you should use them each time.  If you can shake it up, especially if you’re confident you can qualify out of your prelims, you may want to save your best one or two jokes for later on.  However, showing that you can consistently be funny is the most important thing.  The crowds will be plentiful and very good (they always are for contests).  Do not try anything brand new the night of the contest.  I’ve seen this go terribly wrong for many comics.

This week’s advice:

1. Don’t expect to win because it takes a lot of variables to line up perfectly for that to happen.

2.  St. Louis needs MCs, so use this as an audition for being considered

3.  Read last year’s blog here and/or order a book here.

4.  It’s okay to repeat material each round and play it on the safe side.

5.  Cleaner = more likely to get work.

6.  Don’t use anything brand new.

Next week I’ll share more information on how certain comics ruin their chances of work before they even get on stage.

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About Rob Durham

With an English Degree, three years as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone, over a decade of stand-up experience, and a recent certification in teaching high school English class, writing a book seemed like the next inevitable step for Rob Durham. The son of a coach, Rob has an excellent ability to teach and explain things in the easiest and most direct way possible. His (often labeled ridiculous) memory allows him to think of every possible situation that a new comic might face because at one point he was there too. Rob gives an inside look at comedy that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges every performer faces. Without ego and the myth that “anyone can do it” Rob gives the reader a true feel of what living the so-called dream feels like, from preparing for that first open mic night to touring the country. View all posts by Rob Durham

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