Monthly Archives: June 2016

5 Things Comics Want Bar Managers To Hear

One-nighters are a great way to profit in stand-up.  With more and more comedy clubs closing, the days of Wednesday through Sunday night at the same club are over in most cities (although not in St. Louis!).  So in your first few years, you may get a majority of your paid work doing one-nighters at places that aren’t comedy clubs.  Some pros–You get paid more for per show than you would at a club, and if you don’t do well, it’s only one gig.  Cons–These aren’t comedy clubs and bar managers often mistake their knowledge about running a comedy show with hosting a cover band.

I wrote this list to hopefully reach a lot of bars who host comedy nights.  I’ve been fortunate in the last few years to have some much better gigs than I did starting out.  I wish I could go back in time and relay this info to a handful of bars around the Midwest.  There are probably many others to add to this list (feel free to add them on the Facebook comments), but with our short attention spans here are the five I thought were worth sharing.  Hopefully it reaches someone who has booked you.

1. Lighting is extremely important–Rent a spotlight if you don’t have stage lighting (or a stage).  Audiences who are sitting in regular house lighting are self-aware, distracted, and less likely to laugh at the comics when they can see the whole room.  I don’t know all of the science behind this, but trust us on this.  Darken the room as much as possible and get a spotlight on the comic.  It makes a dramatic difference in the experience of watching live comedy.  (Surprisingly, most sound systems aren’t bad these days.)

2. Leave the MCing to the comics–You should have at least two comics in the show.  They both have experience MCing a comedy show, and it’s a skill that’s just as difficult as performing stand-up.  We know you’re familiar with all 45 patrons and therefore aren’t shy around them, but introductions phrased properly and a few solid minutes of material (not jokes you read and regurgitate from the internet) can set the tone for the entire show. Openers (features) are always happy to pass this duty off to the manager, but as part of paying their dues, they should take the challenging responsibility of breaking the ice.  Or, better yet, find a third comic to work for $50 or maybe $25 and a few drinks and they’ll take care of this for you.  If all else fails, maybe the bar’s DJ (if you have one) has some experience behind a mic.

3. No kids–It’s a bar, or some sort of adult venue.  People are drinking and us comics have grown-up stuff to say.  When there’s a kid in the room it cripples the crowd because they feel awkward knowing a kid is hearing everything whether it’s a big deal to the kid or not. Additionally, you have a responsibility with crowd control and hecklers (although I find most one-nighters are a lot more tame these last few years).

4. You take care of the promo–We most likely don’t know anyone in your town, so sharing it on our Facebook wall will reach no potential ticket buyers if its our first time in your town.  Your promo needs to extend beyond posting a flyer above the urinal in your own bar.  You need to invest in advertising outside of your venue.  Reach out to the comics well ahead of time and ask for a headshot and bio.  This can be taken care of in a simple email exchange.  (Comics, be sure to follow through promptly.)  Also, plan your event around your town’s other priorities.  Most of us aren’t famous enough to compete with your chili-fest.

5. Seat people in the front of the room–Rearrange your bar as best you can to put butts up front.  Put some “reserved” signs on the tables in the back until the front fills up.  Arrange tables and chairs so they’re all facing the stage or at least can be with a 90-degree turn.  I know your patrons are afraid they’ll be teased, but most great comics don’t go out of their way to be rude to the audience.  It’s not like what they’ve seen on television.  We’re just happy there’s an audience there to enjoy our show.

 

To learn more about how to make money in stand-up comedy, check out my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage which is available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc.

 

 

 


Are you hurting your open mic?

Bear with me on this analogy:  I golf.  I’m not great most days, but sometimes I have what I consider a really good round (+12 on 18 holes).  There are a lot of steps I could take to get better.  Lessons, cracking open the Golf Digest magazines my father throws in as a Christmas gift, or practicing more on my own.  Do I though?  Rarely.  Whenever someone does take the time to work with me on something, I usually get great results, at least temporarily.  Would I love to be a scratch golfer? Of course, who wouldn’t?  But I’m not going to put in the effort and work to do that because I’m okay with mediocrity.  I compete against my buddies here and there, sometimes I win, sometimes I lose.  It’s okay.  I’ve been pretty much the same golfer as far as skill goes since 2002.  I can golf well enough to not disrupt the flow of the course and cause backup at any particular hole.

I feel like this is the same way a lot of comics treat comedy.  They’ve been performing at open mics for some time.  Some nights they have what they consider a great set, sometimes they bomb.  Occasionally they get advice on a joke from a fellow comic, whether it be a tag line, a rewording or even a “never do that bit again” but for the most part, it’s like my golf game–it’s up to you and your self-motivation to get better.  You could go to comedy workshops, read a stupid book that might help, or really work your ass off at writing better material, but you’re content with the plateau you’ve hit, whether you’ll admit that to yourself or not.  The thing is, I don’t think most comics mean to be content, just as I don’t mean to be content with my golfing.  I envision some point in my life where I get much better.  I think most comics probably feel the same way, but much like golfing round after round every summer, going to open mics week after week isn’t going to help you dramatically improve.  You’ve got to do more.  But much like my golf game, there are other priorities in life: paying bills through another job, relationships, and other activities.  It would be wrong to say someone isn’t good enough to be at open mic.  What you have to figure out is this–are you actually hurting open mic?  It just takes one or two bad sets in a bar scene to walk what little audience the open mic has and make them never return in the future.  To continue the metaphor–don’t be that golfer who’s so bad he/she gets the whole course backed up.  If any open mic consistently puts on good comics who have great sets, it’s going to last for years instead of months.  The crowds will be bigger and you’ll get more useful stage time.

The point of this blog isn’t just, “Hey, don’t suck.”  I think there are some comics in every scene who are almost afraid to try and succeed.  (Good lord, here comes another metaphor)  When I was really young (sorry, I know), and my friends and I were approaching middle school, I was still terrified to talk to girls.  Instead of flirting with them like my friends started doing, I chose to just come off as the “weird boy who didn’t really try” because it felt safer and there was no way I could fail if I wasn’t genuinely trying.  This is the attitude I want to discourage at open mics.  These types of sets will hurt an already small open mic audience and that attitude will make sure you never progress anywhere.  So if you find yourself constantly performing jokes where the goal is anything other than making a majority of the audience laugh (blatantly offending, making abstract references that only your comic buddies get/playing to the back of the room, or just getting as dark as you possibly can because nobody “gets” you and it feels good), consider making changes for the sake of the rest of the comics who are there to gauge real audience laughter on their material.  It’s okay to try your best, even if it doesn’t work every time.  Your parents aren’t there to judge you anymore. They’re waiting at home for you to become successful enough to move out. (<–Completely unnecessary after suffering through all of my metaphors.)

 

For tips on how to progress through the business and eventually make money as a comic please check out my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc.