Comedy Club managers answer 15 questions from aspiring comedians via Reddit

Rocky Kev is the former online manager for Helium Comedy Club in Philadelphia (club pictured above). A few weeks ago, Kev took to Reddit to solicit questions from comedians in that community that he’d pass along to comedy club managers across America with whom he’d planned conversations. After culling those into an FAQ, he came up with 15 common questions from aspiring comedians for actual club owners and managers.

These are his findings.

15 Answers Directly from Managers of Comedy Clubs

By Rocky Kev

Just Keep Grinding.

This statement is stupid to me.

Grind at what? Getting on stage? Being funny?

Passing out your business cards and praying an agent magically discovers you?

So many questions from novice comedians — all shooting from the hip, not knowing what to do or how to get there.

That’s fine. I’m here to help.

If you’ve Googled me, you might have noticed that I am NOT a comedian. In fact — I’m a marketer, who has worked in the comedy industry for half a decade. My job consists of performing website optimizations and conversions, advertising, developing leads, and attracting an audience.

tl;dr: I get BUTTS into SEATS.

What does a marketer in the comedy industry know about stand-up? To make sure this is valuable advice, I made a lot of phone calls.

That’s 40 phone calls with comedians for questions about the comedy industry. Then, a few requests online. Finally — I had 6 phone calls with the people behind the scenes to get answers. The result: nearly 45 pages of notes. (A couple dozen hours later, I edited it into this post of about 4,300 words.)

I’ve been called an idiot for not turning this into a book and selling it.

Yet, I’m sharing this for free. (So take that, GM who wanted me to sell this!) Information about the business of stand-up comedy is so sparse. I want to contribute and lend a hand.

You’ll notice that I don’t include manager names or which comedy club they operate. This is intentional. I reached out to current/former managers of major comedy clubs, representing both the East Coast and the West Coast, as well as a comedy club in the South. I tried to connect with smaller venues, but I had a hard time finalizing the calls.

Each manager I interviewed, I shared my intentions. They elected to keep their company out of this, so this article is more informative rather than an advertisement.

The goal is not endorse a few major comedy clubs and how they function, but for comedians to get maximum benefit regardless of the venue they approach.

Also, rather than provide information about each individual club’s method, I combined the similarities in their replies to give it broader reach.

Three things that you will discover in this super-long post

  • FIFTEEN answers (plus a bonus) directly from the people in charge, to get you some direction on your comedy journey. So grab a Red Bull and take notes.
  • These answers work if you take ACTION. Most comics will continue to grind it out. But the fact that you’re reading this means you’re willing to get out of your comfort zone.
  • Finally, there is a request at the bottom of this post. So do follow through to the very end.

Now, on with the 15 questions.

1) Is it going to be an uphill battle to approach clubs without representation?

If you’re aiming for the headline act: You need representation and credentials. There’s hundreds of thousands of comics who think they’re funny. If you’re pushing yourself, you’re less likely to be believed, since you’re the one pitching that you are funny.

If you’re a two-person team (one comic, and one agent), you need to be highly recommended: from comedy club owners and other people in the industry. You’re also more likely to get hired if you come from an agency with a good reputation, or if your agent has a portfolio of successful acts.

Looking to be a Feature/MC: It probably hurts you to be represented by a agent. You’re going to get paid less. It’s better to actually show in person and talk to us directly (usually during open mics when we’re not busy).

“What do you look for in a MC/Feature? I’ve worked here, here and here.”

Mention other venues and we’ll do our homework and ask for their experience working with you. So don’t lie.

2) My comic buddies and I brings our own comedy show. How do we approach clubs for dates?

Approach it like a business. Tell us how you can bring X amount of people and how you plan to market. Tell us your business strategy for attracting an audience. Tell us how this is a profitable venture and why we should risk putting your show in front of our audience. Show us PROOF.

In your pitch, give us some recognizable comics (comics that I may know personally, or in the business). Or, share the results of your show at other comedy clubs and venues. Any other major feat and accomplishments from third parties [newpaper clippings, reviews, website posts, blogs, being in festivals] is a bonus. We need proof that this show works.

Without something we [the managers] can relate to — it’ll be tough because we don’t have a relationship.

Will your show fill a 200+ seat venue? We need to know that answer. If not, find a bar, or a small theater to test your idea out. Then come to us when you have that validation.

Stage-time is precious. Your show has to outperform any one-off shows that we [the comedy clubs] can put on. We need evidence that this WILL be successful (not MAY BE successful).

3) Is there a range we should approach clubs for about payment?

We have a set payment for hosts/features. Take it or leave it. It’s not about greed. We have to keep the lights on. Pay for staff. Pay for inventory. Pay for marketing shows.

When you’re a host/feature — bite the bullet on the travel cost. It’s a saturated market; people desire these gigs. There’s a hundred people who are willing to do the show. If we need a comedian tomorrow to fill a vacant spot, we can fill it within 4 hours.

Until you’re a headliner, you’re not going to make much at all. If you travel with a headliner, they may pay you out of their paycheck.

4) How would they find talent in small cities that don’t have a big comedy scene? Is it up to the individual to come to a city with a bigger comedy scene and be discovered?

We [the managers] are working 6 days a week. We’re busy people, you come to us. When we do look for talent, we rather go to big festivals so we can see the best of the best.

If you’re in a small market, expand. Comics should always go to where the scene is. Immerse yourselves in it. You don’t want to be the funniest person in a small town.

In a small market, you’ll never be that funny. You need to be around stronger comics to grow. Any major city with a huge diverse audience type will help you develop as a comic.

[One manager’s point of view]

I never recommend going to NYC/LA. If there’s a city nearby you, go there.

Many comics go to NYC, and perform at a terrible bar show with 9 other comics but no real audience. They get delusional, think they’re funny, but their only audience is comedians. They lose sight to what an actual audience is like.

In other major cities, you can do both. Be in front of comics, and be in front of a live audience. In these major cities, you’re more likely to getting booked at other clubs. You’re working with headliners, making connections. When you go to New York, you’ll already have the experience, the network, and the cash-flow from headlining.

[One booker’s point of view]

When you think you’re ready to headline, wait 6 months and work the smaller scenes. Then come back to me.

5) I’m a road comic. How do I get a gig (or guest spot)?

For headliner shows, the headliner decides if guest spots are available. They run a tight program. Many headliners want to control that time down to the minute. Others may want their own friends to guest spot. If you don’t have a relationship with the headliner (or the management team to give you a good word), it’ll be impossible to get on.

Without any recommendations, it’ll be harder to get your foot in the door.

If we had to choose between our own local comics, or some out-of-towners, we rather choose our locals to give stage-time.

As managers, we weigh the following: Do I let one of my own comics develop a stronger set, or let a road comic with no relationship get on stage? Convince us why we should take a paycheck away from someone in our scene and give it to you.

So overall, it’s not a win-win situation. You get on stage and get paid, while we [the club owners/managers] are left with all the risk.

We’re also not struggling to find new talent. No reason to take a chance with untested road comics.

If you don’t have anyone in the industry to vouch for you (bookers, professional headliners, or other clubs), then go to the open mic. If you’re really good, we’ll give you a guest spot. After that, we’re more likely to give you work in the future — and will happily recommend you to other clubs.

6) What do they look for in a tape from an out-of-towner that doesn’t have any real credits?

When people email us out of the blue, we only watch the videos when we’re bored or something in their email catches us. (Like recommendations, previous work experience, reviews).

Also, it’s luck that we even bother to open it. We have a club to manage, and a hundred other emails to sort through.

In other words, your video will likely to get you nothing.

The email on the other hand:
If you happen to email us on a slow day (like a open mic day), and we’re not busy, we’ll take a look. But when we get hundreds a week, we’re very trigger happy to press the delete button.

In that email, we’re looking for a down-to-earth conversation. A nice email, a recommendation, and a way to see more of your work. If you send us a poster/ad that looks like you’re hyping yourself up — we’ll toss it.

What we look for in the video, we’re looking for something original. Nothing hacky like “Hey where are the ladies at?” Something new. Some type of angle we’ve never seen before. Quality doesn’t matter. But we have to hear the audio.

If you’re polite, willing to learn (rather than demanding a gig) and perform at our open mic where we can see your material — THEN we’ll see about actual work.

[One manager’s perspective]

The truth of the matter, why are we doing a stranger a favor? What have you done for us? This is a business. I’m not going to take the chance on a stranger — and we get nothing in return. There is already a local scene that we can get comics.

If you can’t create a benefit for the club to use you, then there’s no equal exchange. A benefit being, say you had a huge twitter following. Or you have connections to newspapers, blogs, websites, etc. Or you had success in getting x number of people to your last 10 shows. Something that says you have something to offer me.

Otherwise, it’s more work for us, with little pay off.

7) What do they think is the best way to contact the owner/GM about doing spots? Networking? Sending a tape? Doing mics?

Saying hello in person.

It’s that simple. Find a open mic, politely introduce yourself, then let your actions speak louder than your words.

To continue that relationship and let us notice you, there are two things we look for.

1 — Consistency.

We look for people serious about comedy. We want people who see comedy as their bread and butter, not their hobby. If you’re performing less than 5 times a month, you’re treating it like a hobby.

Be ferocious in signing up for the open mic (ours and other places). Go to bed a little later — it can pay off in the long run. The comics we hire are active in the local scene, and go to many open mics around the city. If you’re active and doing comedy, someone is going to see you and recommend you to us.

If we notice you’re frequent to our open mics, and many comics (and our employees) recommend you, we’ll invite you to perform.

2 — We look for recommendations.

Make friends with those in the scene. Look for comics who are where you want to be, and connect with them. A call from a headliner to us will get you in the door immediately.

Network with as many traveling comics. When you do travel, you have a way in to get recommended or get on shows.

Something comics miss — be nice to the staff! If our staff is talking about you, then we need to know why. In one year, a staff member may have seen at least 200+ shows. So their recommendation means a lot to us.

Overall, we’re going to remember people who are part of the scene. We’re not going to remember you (guy over the phone or cold email us).

Comics are always looking for a short cut. It’s show up, be funny and someone will vouch for you. There’s no secret.

8) If your local club (the only club) wants nothing to do with you, what do you do?

Wait it out.

Or travel to neighboring towns/cities.

Those comedy clubs will come around. If you’re funny, they’ll definitely come around.

Focus on being a great comic, rather than trying to work with that club.

[one manager’s perspective]

We had a comic banned because of the previous owner. When I took over, he was in tip-top shape to become a feature comic.

[another manager’s perspective]

A group of comics was upset at the lack of opportunity at my club. They made their own shows in bars/theaters and came back as stronger comics. We were happy to put them on our stage.

There could be a lot of reasons why a club doesn’t want to work with you. Sometimes, it’s a personal thing — you’re arrogant, you’re hard to work with, etc. But most of the time, you’re not ready.

If you think you’re ready, talk to someone with a decade of comedy experience and ask them for feedback. If you don’t have someone to talk to, then you are 100% ABSOLUTELY not ready.

Our staff goes out to watch shows in other venues. Just because the club doesn’t like you doesn’t mean the staff feels the same. Develop a good relationship with the staff. How the staff thinks feel you will trickle up. If you’re a dick to them, that’s a quick way to make the comedy scene distance themselves from you. Nobody wants to associate themselves with the comic who hates the staff.

The last thing you shouldn’t do is talk shit about the club. If you talk shit, there’s nothing to gain from it. Absolutely nothing.

[one manager’s perspective]

One of our local comics had a bad night and let off steam on Facebook. I asked him to take it down, but he refused. So he was banned from our club for the next 3 years. 3 years — gone! For one stupid mistake! Now he works with us, and he regrets running his mouth.

Bite the bullet, and remember that there’s many paths to success to stand-up comedy.

9) What does your comedy club look for in a host?

We look for comics who have some type of personality. Be clean. Someone who can get the crowd going. Someone neutral (non-offensive). Doesn’t do crowd work. Easy to work with. We want comics to be reliable, that they will be there in a pinch. Comics that are willing to listen. And willing to be a team player.

We don’t want our hosts alienating the whole crowd in the beginning of the show.

Hosts need to be working and writing new material. Aim for 12 minutes. There may be times when you have to do more, so 20 minutes makes us comfortable. We use hosts a lot for repeat work. If you’re doing the same 10–15 minutes for a few months, we’ll get tired of you.

You’re a warm-up act. You work for the headliner and for club. Anything the headline requests, deal with it. If the headliner says no impressions, no jokes about mothers, no blue material- accept it. You serve the show on a whole.

10) How do I get people to attend my shows? (Shows that I set up in a bar/theater/etc.)? I want your advice as a comedy club.

Our comics are excited to talk about the shows they’ll be on to people they meet. They post it. ReTweet it. Spread the word. They’re always marketing themselves. (in a non-douchey way)

They ask to post up posters and postcards in their favorite local businesses.

They’re also actively going out to expand their own exposure. They’re writing articles for newspapers and websites, they’re creating podcasts and getting on the radio.

Headliners sometimes buy advertisements online with their own money.

If a comic is helping to promote their show that they’re on — we are more likely to put them on our shows. If we know you can market, that’s a huge one-up for you. Attracting a audience is a much more valuable skill to us than just being funny.

[As a professional marketer, my tips are below. It’s not Facebook strategies or optimizing ads, which changes every day. This is evergreen marketing, meaning it’ll help you all through your life. — RockyK]

The first step is getting people to know you, like you and trust you. I recommend ‘Influence’ by Robert Cialdini.

The next step is about build your own audience. I recommend ‘Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World’ by Michael Hyatt, or ‘Engagement From Scratch’ by Danny Iny. You can get the full book ‘Engagement from Scratch’ for free here:

These books will get you started. Get the audio book if you’re too lazy to read. Skip a Joe Rogan Podcast episode, and replace it with one of these audio books. It’ll be the best $20 investment you’ll ever make. And you’ll learn 2 years of Business school in a few hours.

11) Should I use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram video, etc.?

Social media absolutely matters, but it’s not a game changer. If you’re funny and friendly, it’s not a make-or-break decision.

We love social media just like you. (If you don’t, fuck off.) We go there to relax. If your update makes us laugh, congrats! You’re now on our radar and are more likely to get on our stage.

Social media is a opportunity to get more exposure to your work. It does affect us because we’re on social media too. We’re more aware of you. We’re thinking about you. We’re seeing you work out your material. It’s not immediate, it’s subconscious. But it’ll put you in our mind when we’re booking.

Social media is also useful when you’re promoting shows that you are on. Promote the shows you’ll be on days and weeks in advance. (It pisses us off if you’re promoting a show an hour before you get on). This is not just our shows — it’s all of your shows. It tells us that you’re not afraid to market yourself, and as a added bonus, showing us that you’re actively working the scene.

Do it for the sake of cultivating their own fans and following. You never know what is going to be the big thing that makes you famous.

If your Facebook post brought 30 people into your show, that’s something you can brag about to us.

13) Rather than being reactive and getting “discovered”, what are some proactive steps one can take to start getting spots at a club? How do I get noticed by you?

You want to be the guy who the staff is repeating your jokes the day after. So make friends with them. Call everybody by name. Tip well. The club will be more likely to remember you. If your name keeps floating around with my team, we’ll be more willing to check you out personally.

You don’t want to be the guy who’s funny and walked out on the tab or didn’t tip the bartender.

Introduce yourself to us, the management team. Do it during open mic. Don’t pop in on a Friday night while we’re busy, pitching shows. That rubs us the wrong way. Pick a time when we’re hanging out, introduce yourself and keep it short and simple. If someone introduce themselves — we’re that more likely to take a look at them. You have to keep in mind that we are STILL WORKING.

Introduce yourself before you’re even in the position. We’re not booking someone we’ve never seen. So make that connection early.

There’s also recommendations.

Show up for open mic and make a great impression. Or be highly recommended by other comics/clubs/bookers. A headliner’s manager recommended a comic to us — we immediately get him on stage to see him.

Recommendation from other comics is important as well. If comics on our payroll recommend you, we’re pretty likely to give you a opportunity. It may not be easy to have that recommendation, which is why it’s important to connect with the local scene.

Material wise, we’re looking for well thought-out jokes. We want comics who come to open mic consistently. They’re taking comedy seriously. Come every week. We want to see new content, new writing. We want to see you working on your craft, not mindlessly repeating your jokes over and over again.

If we like you, we’ll put you on some showcases in front of different audiences. If you work well, we’ll offer you a job.

14) I’m new to comedy, where do I start?

We wouldn’t suggest you start at comedy clubs. Try starting at bars. Low key places. Anywhere that lets you talk. Stuff that’s easier to get your foot in the door, and less pressure to perform.

Go up as much as possible. Be open minded. Introduce yourself to the scene, who will introduce you to more open mics.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Your skills will not either. In stand-up comedy, it’s a grind. Find your voice. get your feet wet and understand what works for you on stage.

You shouldn’t be afraid to bomb. We would rather see someone take a risk than someone doing the same 3–5 minutes every single week. If we put you on stage half a dozen times and you’re doing the same material, we’ll remember that when we’re planning out our calendar.

But if you’re constantly working on your craft, tweaking it and making it better — we’ll notice. Even if it doesn’t go well, we want to see comics try something new. Test yourselves. Your set will fail and comics shouldn’t be afraid of that.

Most bookers know that the crowd plays a factor. One set won’t make or break it.

We always give second opportunities. We would never judge someone on one set — so don’t be afraid to bomb. In fact, how you react if you fail also plays a part in your next opportunity with us.

15) As a new comic, what is the best way to get on your good side? What practices are useful for a comedian trying to get work a local club?

Showing up and being a polite nice person. Be humble, be funny.

Don’t get in trouble. Be responsible. Be respectful of time and staff. Don’t be hammered on stage. Don’t be loud in the back of the room. Don’t always play to the back of the room (you’re playing to the audience, not to the back, where the comics hang out.) You’re there for the benefit of the paying audience.

Also, NEVER EVER go over time. (You ruin the timing of the show and completely disrespecting your peers.)

When you work with us, you’re representing the club. That includes on Social Media.

If you’re funny, do well on stage, and you’re respectful, we’ll be more likely work with you. If you’re arrogant (like you’re the greatest thing since slice bread), demanding, and expecting special treatment — we’ll overlook you when we’re filling up our calendar.

If we constantly hear that you don’t tip, or you’re a dick, or said something rude to the staff — we don’t care how funny you are. We don’t want to use you.

[One manager’s perspective]

They should stop telling me that they ‘crush it’. I hate that word. “I crushed the room.” No you didn’t. I was there. If anything, you’re just delirious.

Bonus) Any other suggestions that might make it easier for us to get our foot in the door?

Nothing else outside of all the stuff from before.

Show up and network. Be out with the scene. Be around consistently and say hello. Make yourself known without being a nuisance. If the staff likes somebody, they’ll say something. Get recommended by someone. If the employee starts telling your jokes, you win.

There’s no real shortcut to this.

We’ll never know who’s going to be the next Judd Apatow. From where we stand, we don’t want to break relationships with ‘the next big comic’ and have a bad taste in my mouth because we were jerks.

We want to give opportunities to younger comics. The show and comics are such a huge priority.

But comics have to keep in mind that we’re also running a bar, a restaurant, a box office, staff, etc. We’re a business first. If we can’t keep the lights on, then you don’t have a stage to perform on.


15 questions, answered by the puppet masters in the industry.

When you boil this advice down to a bunch of short notes, these answers may seem obvious.

But here’s the thing-


So here’s my request.

What is ONE action that you plan to do immediately?

Leave it below in the comments. Your comment will inspire another comedian to take action too. (And heck, you’ll at least start networking!)

If you like this post, do me a favor and share it with your peers. I don’t care about being viral or getting fame. I want to help comedians.

Rocky Kev’s essay originally appeared on medium, and is republished here with his permission.

Does this advice jibe with what you know from your own experiences, either as manager or owner of a comedy club in 2015, or as a comedian working in the clubs? What would you tell comedians today? Other than, “Get out of the business! There’s too many comedians already!”

Please let me know what you think in the comments. Thanks, Rocky, for passing this along!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

45 thoughts on “Comedy Club managers answer 15 questions from aspiring comedians via Reddit

  1. This is great. I’m always happy when I see some of the gatekeepers taking the time to help create a win-win for those of us in the community.
    My favorite thing in this whole article is the reliance on actual face to face networking and interaction. As much as we all think that we can post and share and like and whatnot, it really always comes down to personal connections, and personal meetings.

    1. That’s always cool, especially when they can get you a paying gig. Getting good gigs is like Mike Tyson career. Now there isn’t one.

  2. #12 is missing

    The urging to avoid NYC appears likely to be from someone who has no idea how many more quality shows–not just “terrible bar shows”–there are in NYC than whatever “major city” that source lives in. More name comics appear in Manhattan on a Tuesday night than anywhere else on a Saturday except LA. Yes, the competition is brutal, but with so many stage slots, there is a lot of opportunity.

    1. But he did say to go to NYC or LA… just AFTER you’ve worked in a smaller city and gotten better. It seems like good advice. Actually, if you listen to Comedian’s Comedian podcast, the Ross Noble or Russell Howard ones, they both got good in small cities and then turned up in London with years of experience and huge stores of polished material because of how small/ recurring the audiences are in smaller cities.

  3. This is a must read for every new comic.Wish I read this article before attempting to do comedy.#100%accurate

  4. Really interesting to hear the perspective on “tapes”. I’m a comic of almost two years and I started in a smaller Canadian scene, moved to a bigger Canadian scene where the local comics welcomed me.

    I found a lot of stage time by getting a part-time job at the local comedy club operating lighting and doing the mic intro. Visiting comics would often let me do guest spots and even if I bombed they were were super encouraging about it.

    Visited London for a couple weeks and gigged around there. Now I live in Dubai and am performing 2-3 times a week doing longer sets and hoping to make the lineup for 1st annual Dubai Comedy Festival!

    Thanks for writing this, I will keep a lot of the tips ready for when I’m looking to be represented and gig around the UK in about a year or two.


  5. Great article. I need to start talking to more headliners. It’s not that I don’t have the opportunity, I just don’t want to be annoying or treat them like they’re a rung on my success ladder.

  6. Did the GODS UP ABOVE MAKE THIS AVILIABLE? I WISH THEY MADE CHILD SUPPORT PAYMENTS THIS ACCESIABLE. I really need to hear this especially about the part about have a reel and send it to them. I’ve been trying to put together a reel for 2 years almost so I could submit one. Thank you so much.

  7. You champ!! Great insight, and validation of how I always deal with club managers. My takeaway part of your article was to constantly work on your craft and know the local comics… Through these connections a break or two can lead to more if you are committed!

    Nice work buddy!

    Ps it’s the same deal with club managers here in Australia too… 🙂

  8. I am in the process of moving from my small(ish) town/scene to a bigger scene where I intend to sign up for every open-mic, continue to be nice to comedy club staff, and introduce myself to managers without being a nuisance. This just confirmed many of my suspicions I had about how this stuff works; good to know I’ve been working in the right direction.

  9. One thing that has helped me out is working for comedy clubs. One of my duties is to drive the headliners to media. I basically hang out with the headliner for 5 hours while they promote their shows on the radio and on TV. Not only do I get to know professional and famous comedians on a first name basis, I get to know all the radio DJs and TV personalities. I don’t know if that position is available to just anyone, but if you are lucky enough to get it – I think its more helpful than anything I have ever done in comedy aside from just being on stage. I also work for a comedy club doing the marketing (calling people who fill out comment cards and offering free tickets). Doing that has also helped me fill up my calendar. It doesn’t pay much per hour, but when you combine that with gig pay, you can make a pretty decent paycheck.

    Also, I know this sounds awful and really has nothing to do with actually getting into a club, but selling merch after shows is huge if you’re trying to make a living. At the very least it will cover your gas. Every little bit helps. Good luck to all!

  10. I’m going to definitely work on getting to more open mics and other random shows. I want to learn what jokes I can deliver well. I’m constantly changing my routine to try out new material, but I always feel I need more practice. I’m really going to start being friendlier to club and bar staff. I usually am anyways, but I never thought of them as being boons to my labor.

    And as for networking. I recently started a YouTube page that all my routines are going on. So check me out.

  11. Couple of add-ons from a 28 year pro comic and 20 year booker/club owner. The hardest part for young comics to understand seems to be this…there’s only 52 weeks in the year. Many clubs shut down Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. so 50 weeks. There are soooo many vastly more experienced comics out there than you could know. Comics tried, tested and reliable. They don’t fuck the waitstaff, don’t trash the condo, do a great job and are easy to work with. They’ve been in the end zone before. The clubs have their stable of comics who draw, make life easy and these are the guys and girls that are set. In stone. Unless one of them dies, quits, or somehow leaves the scene, there is no reason for a club to take a chance on someone new. If you’re a club with just 150 comics in your stable, that means they’ll only come back once every 3 YEARS! Most clubs don’t operate that way, but for the sake of the math…you get the point. Unfortunately, most young comics 1)think FILLING the time means they’ve actually got the time, which they don’t, 2)become king of the open mic, which means nothing. I abhor open mic. It’s just too painful to watch to sift through looking for talent. For young comics that are serious about comedy, not hobbyists, you got to edit edit edit, tighten up your act by removing the rambling, get to the goddamn point of your joke as fast as you can and be funny. Labeling what you do as “long form” is bullshit. The artists that you seek to emulate that you consider to be “long form” have a laugh every few seconds in their “long form,” they don’t just ramble endlessly then finally throw out a “punchline.” Stop trying to “shock” the crowd to impress your buddies and other open micers. This is a business and you want to be part of it. People have discretionary income to spend on entertainment, and they have lots of options to choose with their dollars. If they choose comedy, they want to have fun, not hear fucking babies in the eye jokes, not to have their partners shocked and offended. This is for serious comics. Hey if you want to be an open micer forever, shock away, use the c-word, piss off women, do what you want, I don’t care. But realize that Doug Stanhope didn’t just go on stage and yell “cunt” at the crowd and was an instant success and neither will you. He spent YEARS and YEARS developing his following, and frankly, there are still plenty of clubs that won’t book him. Like it or not, your alt-comedy will never make you a living. If you want to be a successful comic, making money, ditch the alt-comedy and start making the people that PAY MONEY to be entertained laugh. THEY PAY YOUR PAYCHECK. When you hop on stage, piss off the crowd. high five your friends and go home, it’s the club that has to pick up the pieces, try to get the crowds back and try to SURVIVE your brilliant abortion jokes so they can open up again the following day.
    Finally, you have to get out on the road. Get a solid 25, get a functioning car, call the Tribbles of the world and start getting one nighter road work. The VAST majority of you will not get famous, but you can make some money. Find out who’s booking the one nighters in your part of the country, get on stage in unfriendly environments and learn how to deal with it. You’ll be amazed how fast you grow, how much you learn, not just from the experience but from dealing with your headliners, and work work work on your act. After some years of that, you’ll realize just how “unready” you are right now, your disdain for open mic comics begin to grow and then, maybe then, you can start hitting the clubs. THE ABSOLUTE WORST MISTAKE A COMIC CAN MAKE IS BEING SEEN TOO SOON! Club owners NEVER forget. And good luck out there.

    Just sayin’ your honor.

    1. Thank you so much for this comment. I love hearing from veterans especially when they dont sugar coat shit. I’ve been a stand up since 2008. I started in L.A. then moved to Texas. I took about 2 years off to deal with a personal situation and I regret it. I missed it every day. I am committed to doing anything I have to. My over all ambition is to provide for the ones I love doing what I love. I dont consider myself an open micer but it feels like I’m starting all over . Most of the people who could vouch for me have moved upwards and onwards. As a seasoned veteran would you say I need to start from scratch or can I pick up where I left off? I am willing to do WHATEVER is needed. I have experienced a bit of life on the road abd I want to get back there. Thanks again for your input on this post. It was great.

  12. This was a great read! Thank you so much for making it reliably available and free!!!

    I am going to start a mic in my area, I’ve been putting it off, but after reading this post, I really see the value and how it can assist me in becoming a better and “bookable” comic!!!

    Thanks again!!!

  13. NO mention of the handicapped on stage. Most have stairs to the washroom or on stage.

  14. Loved it! I’ve gotten so much advice from this! Ive actually been paid for quite a few of my gigs.. But im not getting any phone calls.. Now I know what the “grind” is.. I ask other comics advice, and they just tell me to “put yourself out there”.. Now i know what that actually means.. So now i will be doing open mics, and just introducing myself! I have the polite, and friendly down. Thanks so much!!

  15. This is fantastic advice! From my experience, I’ve found the less in-your-face I am with networking, and the more I focus on making a good impression with hosts/bookers/comics, the more I am remembered.

    Being a genuine human being can’t be stressed enough!

    Another book (in the same vein), that also has some solid advice:

    How to be a Working Comic
    (by Dave Schwensen)

    Look for the newest edition, as it’s been revamped.

  16. Great article. Great tips. I wich I’d found it sooner.

    I’m preparing to take a little field trip up to NYC and then the Boston.
    I will definitely be putting on my Networking Pants and trying as hard as a I can to say hello and introduce myself to as many people as I can. It’s such an obvious thing to do, but I struggle with it.

    I’m also going to setup more posts for promoting my upcoming shows.

  17. I’m a high school teacher but have always talked about wanting to try my hand at stand up. So much admiration for the guys that put themselves out there. With summer coming, I’m going to try and get on stage in my local spots at least 5 times!
    Thank you for taking the time to write this post.

    See you down the road!

  18. Thank you so much for writing this article. My take away is that I need to start booking more open mics and making more of a point to network when I’m at shows.

  19. This is such great advice! But I see that it’s mostly for comics trying to get in as a feature or guest spot. What if you’re a Headliner trying to get into clubs in new markets? Would the same advice apply? Should they still go do open mics to be introduced to the clubs?


  20. I’m going to start a conversation with the bartenders at the open mic I’m going to tonight! I’m excited; they seem like cool people to talk to, and I appreciate the point that they’re also important on top of mingling with other comics in the scene.

  21. Not be so fixed on my routine; be more natural and less rehearsed. Have multiple tricks in my bag….so when they aren’t laughing decide how to hit a different backhand or forehand.

  22. I’m a straight shooter. Been in the “biz” for 28+ years. Book road dogs and celebrity acts every week for multiple venues. I grow as the industry changes. Happy to offer advice.

  23. Great advice. Your advice is very practical, pragmatic and direct. I will put your advice into practice and go to as many mics as possible!

  24. I’m definitely going to take the “just show up approach”. It’s worked before, I figure it will work again as I finally take the leap and start getting out on the road next month. Thanks for the post.

  25. I’m going to open mic for the first time in my city, and state Hartford,CT. I also post funny videos on my Instagram page daily @shaquishashesocrazy. I’m just here to learn so I can get better.

    Good luck to you all!

  26. Fantastic article Rocky! Thank you for writing and sharing this. My action is to research, find, lock in spots, network, and introduce myself to management; whenever I travel. Now, I’m hooked up with spots, when I travel to Atlanta, GA, Washington, DC, and NYC!

  27. I’m not a young comic, which can be challenging. I plan to write more sets. It is easy to stay in your comfort zone, but I need to break out. I will try to perform at open mics more. I live 2 hours away, so it takes dedication. Being nice and courteous come easy for me. Good luck y’all.

  28. Milton Berle said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Best thing I did to get experience was to open my own room. Find a bar that has music on the weekends, with a decent stage, sound setup, lighting. Convince the owner to let you put on a comedy show on whatever night is dead there.

    Now you have a place to do longer sets – 10, 15 minutes. You can book the best local comics, and have them owe you favors.

    Now promote the heck out of that room. Put up posters in the bathrooms so the regulars know about the Wednesday or Sunday or whatever night show. Is there a condo complex nearby? See if you can run an announcement in their newsletter. Find community groups on facebook and post there. Tell your comics that brining even two or three people makes them much more likely to be booked again. Etc.

    You’ll learn a lot about how to promote, to network, and to tame rowdy bar people who aren’t there to see a comedy show. It’s great experience, I did a monthly for three years and learned a lot.

  29. I need to move to a place with a larger market so I can get more stage time. Currently I drive between 2-6 hours for spots in this state (MT) and I know I need much more time to work out material.

    I appreciate this article for articulating these points, reinforcing some that I knew and bringing to light some I did not consider. Thanknyou for compiling this.

  30. Great Advice. I have been doing my time in a NW PA small city called Erie. But we have a fantastic club here caled JRs Last Laugh I love to hang out at and talk to everyone. Being as I am getting my chops going …its hard to go to NY or Chicago on a regular… and I need all the encouragement locally I can… thanks for a great article and perspective.

  31. So much great advice here. I’ve been a professional entertainer in the corporate market mostly for over 25 years, and in the last 5 years or so have added comedy clubs to the mix. I enjoy it immensely but it is quite the change of pace. Not as much money but I love how fresh it all makes me. Being an established entertainer and trying to make the sideways shift into the comedy club scene has been quite interesting indeed. I’ve been seeing some good success but still all of the advice is great and helpful. While the internet provides great tools, there really is no shortcut to success in all of this. I’ve booked more gigs by showing up and meeting the owners than anything; showing them I’m going the extra mile and I want to be there and help them. If I book a corporate event in their city, I stay an extra day or two and hit the clubs. If I can get a five minute spot I’ll do it for free just to give them a taste. Always worth it. Thanks so much for sharing the “real work” behind the business. So few ever do this.

  32. Great advice. I have been performing stand up for five years, as a hobby. I decided to take it on full time. The one thing that I will do is to show up and hang in the room. Whether I get stage time or not, I see it as an opportunity to meet other comedians and learn from them. I also promote shows at my favorite clubs even if I am not performing. A couple of times I attended the shows with a group of my friends and was asked to perform. It really is about networking and showing you are a person of good character. Thank you for all the tips.

  33. It makes sense that if you’re pitching yourself, you aren’t going to be believed as much. You need another person pitching that you’re funny. I graduated high school a few years ago and I’m trying to find a career that fits. I’ll have to look into getting hired as a comedian to do some small work so I can have that on my resume.

  34. You made a great point about how you can pitch by giving some recognizable comics. My husband and I are looking for a Monique Marvez comedy album that we can watch to build our own humor. We will keep these tips in mind as we search for a professional that can help us best.

  35. I am trying to break into the scene, great article… I’m great at SEO campaigns, marketing and getting numbers if any club managers are interested.

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