What’s up with comedy cliques?

A lot of the hostility about various clubs and various comics has to do with the cliques that are formed.  Comics learn to hate other comics, club managers, and even give up on a club itself because they believe they’re excluded from some sort of clique.  The word clique sounds like some gang…only involved in the arts (really intimidating, huh?).  But yes, there are people at the comedy club who are in a circle of friends.  This is true at every club in America I imagine.  It can benefit them professionally, but it doesn’t mean that if you’re not in the clique you have no chance of ever working that club or becoming friends with the people in it.  This entry will break down the hopeless feel of being outside a clique and let you know how you can still work at a room that you may have given up on.

The reason there is  a clique is because it’s a circle of friends who have endured a lot of comedy together.  That means they’ve shared some late nights, some fights, maybe road trips to bad gigs, and a few other deeper experiences.  They entertain each other with ball busting, interesting stories, and more ball busting.

So why don’t they want to include you in a conversation like you’re the new kid at the lunch table at the happiest middle school in America?  Maybe it’s not always them.

1.  Age difference.  A lot of times a newer, younger comic might only be in his early to mid twenties.  Perhaps the clique is mid-30s and 40s.  Do you normally connect with someone that much older or younger than you?

2.  Your stories suck.  Road comics have the best stories of anyone in the world.  The bar is set very high because not only have they done some interesting things, they’re usually great storytellers to begin with.  Your story is long and boring and everyone is going to make fun of it once you walk away…or to your face if you’re making any progress with said clique.  Stop talking, shut up and listen, and enjoy the free entertainment.  If you have something to weigh in on, it better be interesting and/or funny…but keep it brief.  There is nothing worse than a long and boring story.  These are basic social skills, and are newer comics known for being great at social skills?  No, of course not.  It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, they just shouldn’t bore everyone with stories.  And I’ll admit, I haven’t told an interesting story (maybe ever).  I can weigh in on sports and a few road experiences, but for the most part I should sit back and listen to others.

3.  You’re drinking too much.  #2 tends to become even worse when you’re drinking.  Drinkers become socially unaware of reading people.  Their stories go on and on and the conversation skills disappear completely.

4.  You tout…It’s pretty easy to build a reputation as someone who’s always saying how great they are.  Again, be self-aware of what you’re saying.  If you’re having a conversation and the other person is only speaking in 10% of it, you’re doing it wrong.

5.  They don’t respect your act.  Maybe it gets laughs, but a comic’s act says a lot about him or her.  It’s hard to like or respect someone who’s really hacky, etc.

So how can you break into this clique?  Or better yet, not sell your soul, but at least be accepted enough to know they don’t all hate you and make you feel like you’re blacklisted…

No one’s going to invite you into it.  Just sit there at the bar and listen.  Don’t say much at all.  Let people get to know you over time.  Yes, you’ll probably be a whipping boy at some point, but at least you’re being acknowledged.  Learn the inside jokes.  Learn what’s off limits.  Listen and learn what others are doing wrong.  Yes, cliques are going to badmouth other people behind their backs (that’s showbiz life, get over it).  It’s a comedy club not a church group.  Build some trust at least and don’t go blabbing your mouth.  If your club doesn’t have a bar then just hang out with “the group” after the show.  Have a drink and briefly ask the manager, “Can I hang out and finish this?”  If you have a clean record/reputation and haven’t already annoyed the hell out of everyone, they’ll allow it.  You don’t have to be a meek little child, just be polite.  Club managers want new blood.  A club manager is probably tired of everyone’s act in that whole clique.  New people are good on and off stage.  Think of yourself like that character who comes in season two of a good show.

It’s really not that hard to be a socially normal person.  You don’t have to be a card-carrying member of any clique to make it in comedy (I’ve never been in one and I do fine).  Look at some of the people who are in cliques.  They’re often terribly annoying and they’re still tolerated.  That just goes to show it’s not impossible.

I understand that there will be many readers who say, “F comedy club cliques!  I’m not playing that game!”  That’s fine.  Some people just don’t get along.  Just keep your thoughts to yourself if you want booked at that club.  If you can’t hide your feelings towards others it will limit a lot of your money-making opportunities…and according to the subtitle of this blog, making money is the main purpose you’re reading this.

The bottom line is this:  Be a respectful person and even if you feel left out of a group, you’ll still be liked enough to be booked.  As my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage mentions…You need to be respected by the crowds, other comics, and club managers to make it in this business.

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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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