What to do when you’re hosting and the headliner bails early…

This is a rare situation as headliners are often known for doing more than enough time, but occasionally one will abandon his or her set early.  It’s very rare at a one-nighter because it’s likely that the owner of the bar will greet them with, “Get your ass back up there or I’m not paying you.”  At a comedy club it can lead to a major problem…the checks haven’t been collected yet.

Granted, headliners should be able to look around the room and see when the servers are handling the checks, but sometimes they still bail.  It can even be on purpose because they’re not getting along with the club.  If there are 200 people at a show and a dozen checks are still out while the show ends, that sends the staff into a panic. So what should the MC do?

After giving everyone another round of applause, announce that you’re still aware that some of the checks are still out and the server will be right with you.  Do ALL of the announcements over from tipping to upcoming acts–really expand on the plugs.  If you didn’t cover birthdays or other celebrations earlier, get to those.  If you did cover them earlier and you’re out of announcements, do some crowd work with those people.  You pretty much have to take one for the team.  The manager won’t care how you’re doing up there, as long as the servers have time to collect everyone’s tab.  They’ll give you a light when that happens and then you can finally end the show.

Hosts normally don’t like to listen to the headliner every minute of every show.  If you’re sitting out at the bar waiting for the 45-minute mark, here are some clues that the headliner might bail early…

1.  It’s the first or last show of the week.

2.  They went way over their time in a previous show.

3.  They don’t get along with the club.

4.  They’re a big name known for something else other than stand-up comedy and haven’t paid their dues on the road.

5.  They’ve been bombing all week.

6.  They’re drunk.

For more tips on how to become a working comic, try reading Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage in paperback or ebook format (Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc.).

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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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