Not getting the recognition, as a stand up comedian, that you think you deserve? Are you only hosting shows but think you should have a shot of featuring or even headlining? Or maybe, you’ve only had an opportunity to perform at open mic’s but think you should be given an opportunity at hosting a professional show? Let’s face it, we’ve all felt like this at one point or another. In 8 years, I’ve learned that when you think you’re ready to host and emcee a show, you’re really not. When you think you’re ready to feature, you’re really only ready to be an opener. When you think you’re ready to headline, you’re probably only scratching the surface at featuring. What a business, huh? How in the world can you ever know that you’re ready for anything? What can you do to get the attention of bookers or club owners? Well, I hope this blog will help shed some light on that.
I believe that the best judge on the matter lies squarely with the person that booked you or the club owner that has given you an opportunity on their stage. Look at them as the judge and the audience as the jury. The jury may render it’s verdict, but the judge has the last word on what happens from there. I have known a lot of comics who have not been patient enough to let a club owner or booker decide when they are ready to allow for the next step to be taken. Often times, the comic will jump ship and look for opportunities elsewhere, however, the process is then repeated at a new club or venue. As for me, I’ve decided to never take for granted any stage that has been offered to me. I have been told things like, “I don’t think you’re strong enough to bump one of our regular features”, or “I’m not ready to put my name out on the line for you just yet”, or “You can open here, but not feature.” Tough things to hear, but these words didn’t just come from people who didn’t know what they were doing. These were club owners who have a business to run. These are business owners that put their reputation on the line every time they bring a comic to town to work their stage. They’ve been in the business longer than I have. I was angry each and every time I heard these type of things said to me and many of these words were uttered to me as recently as this year! But guess what? I’m still getting the bookings. I’m still getting on these stages. And more importantly, I am still making fans along the way.
Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to feature at the club I started at, The Comedy Spot in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not only did I have friends and family come out and support me, I had some new fans who saw my videos on YouTube, drive over 80 miles to attend the show! Both of my sets, one for an early show and one for a late show, went amazingly well. It seemed like I was getting applause breaks during every bit! The laughs were through the roof! At the end of the night, the owner presented me with an opportunity to headline a “One Night Only” event in October. I have featured at this club for the past 3 years and am now getting an opportunity to take my career a step further. Three years ago, I was featuring at this same club for 3 nights. Then, because my self promotion was not bringing out my supporters often enough, I was cut back to 2 nights and finally to only 1 night. I didn’t complain, (at least not out loud). I know that it is my responsibility to promote my appearances and bring people out to see me. If I can’t do that, how am I ever going to create a fan base? And, why would a club owner or booker want to book me on their shows? I’m not a household name. I’ve got no Tv or movie credits. I’ve never appeared on a Comedy Central show. So, why would I expect to get those type of premium bookings? I was lucky enough to hold on to at least 1 night! Since I was cut back to 1 night, I continued to post videos on YouTube, I continued to write new material and I continued to plug along despite feeling that I deserved more.
I’ve said this many times, “It’s going to take years.” I’m not talking about 2 or 3 or even 10 years. I’m talking about 12 to 15 years or more, before you can have a stand up comedy career worth talking about! I don’t live in L.A. or New York, where the comedy scene is booming, and although the local comedy scene in my hometown is a small one, it at least guarantees me 3 to 5 open mic opportunities on a weekly basis. In addition, I have a regular hosting gig at the El Paso Comic Strip, which is the only comedy club in town. It may take me longer than 12 to 15 years to get my career to where I am a “working comic”, (A full time stand up comedian), but I’m willing to hang around as long as it takes, even if my material goes from talking about raising kids to talking about the size of my prostate.
To all my fellow comics out there, hang in there and keep plugging along. Even if we don’t make it one day, we can all say that there was a time when we “Had them laughing.”
Anyone can be a comic, but it takes years to be a comedian.