10 great tips from a comedy booker…

A few weeks ago Steve Sabo shared some booking tips.  Here is more advice from another booker.  Connie Ettinger sent these my way to share with you.  Though I haven’t worked for Connie, I’ve heard nothing but good things about her over the years.  As always, there are always exceptions to rules, but these all make really good sense and are definitely worth sharing…

1. When you send your avails, make sure you indicate if the dates you are  submitting are open dates or booked dates. Don’t make me guess. List  the category with the fewest dates and indicate CLEARLY if those  are UNAVAILABLE or AVAILABLE.  Everyone seems to do it differently;  all I ask is clarity.  Make sure to include personal time off in your unavailable dates.  (Some comics forget to include family vacations,  honeymoons, etc., and then get stuck calling me and explaining why  their dates don’t work.)
 
2. I sometimes book rooms on what are usually “off” days.  Please send us your avails for the entire week.
 
3. Keep your avails up to date and in front of us.  I personally don’t  mind if you send them every other week. Hitting “delete” is very easy.   Please forgive me if I don’t send you an e-mail with each set of avails saying,  “Sorry, nothing this week. Best of luck in your future endeavors”  But  remember: Out of sight, out of mind.  If I have an opening, and I just got  your avails, chances are much better that you will get the gig IF you are  qualified and you haven’t worked that room in a decent interval.  And if I  get all amped up, thinking you are available from a list your sent me six weeks  ago, and you are no longer available, I get disappointed AND I wasted  my time.  So keep those avails coming.
 
4. I MUCH prefer e-mail to Facebook (I have about 2000 unread Facebook  messages; I don’t care what people had for breakfast or find pictures of  the last set of comedians you worked with informative; your civilian friends  might but I don’t have time to follow everyone, or even a few people, on  Facebook. ) Please also include your phone number in case I need to contact  you ASAP.  My e-mail address is cdettin@aol.com.  
 
5. Recommendations: I take recommendations VERY seriously, IF they come  from people proven reliable in predicting comedians who will work well in my  rooms.  I have about five or six people I trust not to steer me  wrong.  Pass recommendations out sparingly.  Some comics think  everyone who paid them a compliment is FABULOUS, and then recommend them without  thinking of the consequences.  The consequences are:  You send me a  dud, I use the dud, it will be a long time before I can trust your  judgement again, and I may have to bench you for a while to make sure you  learned your lesson.
 
6. Asking for a particular person to work with you:  This raises a red  flag for me sometimes.  Either you really DO work well together, or  you want a lightweight to open for you so you can blow them away.  I know  or know of just about everyone, or have ways of finding out, and I take great  pride in actually putting together shows that work well because of who I  book together. I don’t book rooms like sorting mail.  That’s why I get  paid the small bucks, but also why the shows I book pretty much rock. So don’t  ask for someone just because he/she’s your best buddy (remember, give the new  kids a chance, too, even if your BFF is funny) or you think they will set you up  to crush.  The shows needs to make sense as a whole or we all look  stupid.
 
7. Cancellations:  Simply put: DON’T CANCEL.  If you get  a WAY better gig (and by WAY better, I mean at least triple the  money or a chance to really break out in a new market) and let me know  sufficiently in advance (a month or more,) I can be very understanding.   Don’t say. “Pencil me in,” all the while looking for something that pays  better.  Stand me up for an extra hundred bucks and you will be dead to  me.  As in RIP, never again, nada, zip, zilch, bupkis.  Same thing for  lying about the urgent need to cancel.  I have caught a few people doing  this and they wonder why I’m being mean to them when I won’t rebook them.   I’m not being mean; it’s business, baby.  My time is valuable (and for what  I get in commissions for booking, barely worth the effort,) but I do it because  I love comedy and comics, so don’t screw it up for everyone else.
 
8) If you aren’t having fun, QUIT.  Too many comics phone it in  because they are unhappy with the business end of things.  If you aren’t  happy, do the right thing and let the others take the stage—and let them  have the opportunity to become disenchanted with a business that  has too many comics and too few gigs, thus lowering the overall price  anyone, good or bad, can get paid.  (That damn supply exceeding demand  thing never goes away.)   Comedy is about joy, or the rush, or the  challenge.  It is NOT a get rich quick scheme.
Sometimes it’s not even a break even scheme.  😦
 
9) IF I SCREW UP, try to understand that I, too, am human.  No pointy  hat and red shoes here.  I try not to let it happen but sometimes I get  interrupted with a phone call or a domestic dispute (it could happen; my cats  are always fighting) before I can write the date down, and I  think I have early onset Alzheimer’s .  I WILL make it up to you.  It  might take me a few months (hopefully not) but I have NEVER bumped someone to  book someone else and then used the double booked excuse, and I NEVER  will.  If I screw up, I own it, I apologize, and I work like hell to  find something to replace it for you.  Very often, it is a private show  that comes along and you actually make more money, but it is very frustrating  for you, as it is for me, when I find out I am out of a gig because a  booker screwed up.  I used to think a rhesus monkey could do this but I  think it takes a higher primate.  As I said, I apologize in advance if  any of you fall victim.  So far, knock wood, only one this year. 
 
10) That leads me to another point.  I tend to book pretty far out so  always check back in with me a couple of months before your gig to make sure you  are, in fact, in my book.   Likewise, when I send out e-mails before  the shows, RESPOND so I know you are still on board.  Don’t make me  call you and chase you.
 
Thanks Connie!
 
For more advice order a copy of Don’t Wear Shorts 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

4 responses to “10 great tips from a comedy booker…

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