Depending on fame, experience, contracts, etc. either a headliner or the club manager determines the amount of time a headliner’s set will be. Typically it’s 45-60 minutes. The best shows at a comedy club are often first show Friday or Saturday. If the headliner has established that they’ll do a longer set, the other acts’ times are reduced so that the show doesn’t go too long. Personally, I don’t care when my time is cut all that much–especially on multi-show nights. It allows me to condense my set into only the best material. So yes, the headliner has paid his/her dues and deserves the right to name the time.
When a headliner does more time than what he/she established with the club, it has a negative effect on others.
1. In every comedy club, servers are told when the headliner is supposed to come off stage. They then calculate when last call and the check drop will be. When the headliner goes over, the servers can’t re-open tabs and print up new checks. Instead, it makes them look like bad servers and can hurt their tips.
2. When a crowd gets tired and their buzz starts to wear off, they’re less likely to buy merch on the way out. This can hurt the headliner if they’re selling, but definitely the feature act who seems like a distant memory and needs that supplemental income. A lot of people “crash” after drinking and a lot of times they don’t even make eye contact on their way out.
3. Back to the staff–They have other jobs most of the time. Maybe a kid at home, maybe a shift next morning. Keeping them at work an extra 20-30 minutes is ignorantly cruel. Do they need to suffer? The fact that you’ve “paid your comedy dues” has nothing to do with them. Can you imagine that desk job you gave up making you stay an extra 20-30 minutes because of someone’s ego? Also, on multi-show nights, the people waiting to get in for the next show may not get their drinks on time because the whole club is playing catch-up. Again, less tipping.
So here’s the deal headliners…If you
need want to do more time, just let the manager know ahead of time. This way the servers can squeeze in that extra round of drinks. The MC can do 8 minutes instead of 15. The feature can do 20 instead of 25-30. Even though it’s your show, it’s not all about you. If you need to do well over an hour, you’re good enough to book theaters.
For tips on how to how to make money in stand-up comedy. Check out my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage. Also available on Kindle, iTunes, Nook, etc.