For more tips on making money in comedy, read Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage. Also available on ebook.
Most one-nighter gigs, which almost always pay more than a club show, aren’t places you can just email and say, “Hey, I want to do your next show there.” They’re commonly booked by comics who also book multiple one-nighter rooms. You usually get your comedy legs doing these if you live in the Midwest. The important thing to remember is this: The comic who booked you for this room, 9 times out of 10, books more rooms just like it, all within a four-hour drive.
So how do you ensure to get more work? Usually that booker/comic is not at the gig with you, so he or she will rely heavily on the bar’s manager/owner. Other than being funny on stage, here are ways you can get on their good side to ensure they rave about you:
- Send your promo stuff to them right away. The day you get booked you should email your bio and headshot to whoever it needs to go to.
- Usually you’ll get management’s contact info. Text them the day before or morning of the gig. Their biggest nightmare is pouring all this money and effort into putting a show together and then the comic not showing up. They don’t trust that we need to work and get paid, so they’re very worrisome. (Maybe bands skip out sometimes Arrive early for the same reason as #2. If they ask you to be there an hour early, do so, or at least text that you’re near.
- Ease into the dirtier stuff. If you’re opening for a headliner, people aren’t ready to hear blue comedy after a drink or two. A lot of your audience isn’t used to hearing certain words over a speaker, so go as clean as you can for as long as you can.
- Enjoy their hospitality, but don’t take advantage of it. Declining food altogether could hurt feelings (“No one’s ever turned down Ma’s wings!”), but don’t go for the steak and single batch.
- Go local–Drive a lap around their little town and write a crack or two about it. Comics get a ton of praise after shows for doing that. It’s a good way to get them on your side early as well.
- Be careful with politics. Somebody had to vote for him. Didn’t you see the bumper stickers in the lot? It makes the owner nervous too.
- Stick around after you get paid. Don’t get blitzed out of your mind for the drive home, but stay for that extra handshake and thank you. I get several well-paying private gigs a year from audience members who talk to me after shows.
- Decline the hotel ahead of time. Sometimes the booker can offer you $50 more and it’s a lot less of a hassle. Anything within 4 hours shouldn’t require a hotel, so save everyone the trouble unless you’re on your way to another one.
Back in 2003ish I MC-ed for Nick Di Paolo in a club in Dayton named Jokers. One of the things I loved about that club is that the headliner had to talk to me because the green room was the width of a love seat (which had a collapsed cushion on one side). There wasn’t anywhere else to go. But I was baffled when Nick said, “I’ve never had to call a club to get work.” And he didn’t mean email either. They were reaching out to him. 16 years later that’s how I’m getting a bulk of my work, and I’m nowhere near famous or special.
If you’re interested in making money doing stand-up comedy, check out my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage which is available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc.