If you watch open mic week after week, you’ll start to hear a lot of the same kinds of material.
I did the same thing because when I started at 22 I was single and poor…rather desperate even. Write what you know, right? The problem is that if you’re going to make the jump to performing in professional shows (which is what my book and this blog are for), you’re not going to connect with a majority of the audience.
Find something else to write jokes about if you want to be a part of bigger shows that pay.
I missed the Tinder generation of dating, but I imagine no one stresses how poor and lonely they are on there. “Lovable loser” has its comedy limits too. Most of your crowd at paying shows are going to be married couples who have careers and more ambition. Your material might be “cute,” but if you’re going for sympathy, that tends to trump funny.
I advise you to go through each joke in your set, and if there’s a hint of “this will gain sympathy” you should ask yourself whether it’s really worth keeping.
A successful vibe is going to attract more people. In the last few years of my career I’ve booked quite a few well-paying shows just from people in the crowd afterwards.
In that long open mic list, you have to find a way to make your material stand out.
(And if you’re looking to attract someone from stage, joking about how single you are isn’t the way to wow them either. I’ve knew a comic who would always lie and say that he had a girlfriend on stage because he said it attracted more women.)
For more tips on how to make money in stand-up comedy, check out my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage which is available on Amazon, Kindle, iTunes, etc.
Corporate gigs can be some of the must lucrative shows you’ll get. They’re most common in the month of December during Christmas party season. There’s a price though, as they often require a lot of experience just to get through. I once performed a half-hour set at noon in a break room with no microphone for $50. I asked for $200, they countered with less. I should’ve said no. I could’ve used these tips, but it was 2002 and I was dumb.
Here are some things to remember:
- Charge a lot–Usually it’s “nobody’s money” and they’re using a budget they were given. If a low-ball figure like $250 for a show is too much for them, that foreshadows what type of crap gig you’re doing. Think of it as a survivor fee. A lot of comics name a number they don’t think they’ll accept because they hate corporate gigs so much. If they do, at least it’s a nice payday.
- Find an opener–Pay someone a percentage of your earnings to break the ice for you. It might be the first comedy show for some of your audience, so they need to see how it works. $50 for 5-10 minutes should cover it.
- Be clean–Even if they tell you it’s okay to say “anything within reason,” start super clean and test them out. It’s not that they’re overly moral, it’s that they’re afraid to laugh around their coworkers about certain topics. Ask what’s taboo. You never know when a specific tragedy just hit a company, so find out what’s off limits. Discuss how clean you need to be on the phone while booking.
- Make sure you have a stage (space), lighting, and sound system. Also, agree on how long the show will be ahead of time. Sometimes they think these things are going to go for hours. Discuss all this over the phone beforehand.
- Get a contract or some sort of paperwork signed ahead of time. If they wrong you, at least you can warn others. They usually draw up the invoice.
- Do your research on the company. It can be hard to write fresh new jokes for something you don’t know much about, so if that’s the case, make your ignorance to their expertise funny. Get to these jokes early (but not first) in your set. Start into them after you’ve established some laughs with your usual opening jokes.
For more tips on how to make money and progress your career in stand-up comedy, read my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.