Some of you are seasoned professionals, and some of you may be brand new fresh off a local open mic. Regardless, this article will hopefully give a comedian some insight on the process of getting booked. Please note the information in this article does not guarantee you will get booked, but it can help you create an effective and professional method for reaching out to those who can book you. If you work hard, communicate, act professional and keep at it, you WILL get booked!
When you’re a stand-up comedian, you have many responsibilities and it all comes down to one thing: hustle. If you want to be successful, you have to treat stand-up like a full-time job (even if you have a 9-5) and one of the most important aspects of the game is performing. Whether it’s an open mic or a show, you have to get yourself out there in order to be noticed by fellow comics, bookers, producers or perhaps even an audience member looking for the perfect act for a party!
Tools For the Trade
Let’s start with your tool kit, which should consist of the following:
A recent, high quality video clip.
How much time you can do.
Your video clip should be uploaded to YouTube or Vimeo, so you can send a link and make it easy for the booker to see your set. It doesn’t have to be professionally recorded and edited (although that is always nice!) Pro-tip: Double, triple check that the link you send can be viewed! “This video is private” is a great way to not get a booking. Clips with bad audio, out of focus, shaky camera, etc. all make it difficult to see your talent. Don’t use a bad clip just because it’s from an established club or prominent festival. Pro Tip 2. Film as many of your sets as possible. You never know when you will deliver the perfect set – or the biggest dud. Check out this short video from our friends at the Milwaukee Comedy Festival on how NOT to film a clip. It’s good advice for festivals AND shows!
Your bio should be short, sweet and to the point about how great you are and all the prominent shows or festivals you’ve done. Don’t forget, it should be truthful. Do you have a clean set or are you more geared towards adults? Are your jokes story based or one-liners? Let them know why you’re unique and don’t forget…it should be truthful. Pro-tip! A general form letter makes it so much easier for you to send out your available dates or “avails” to various venues and bookers. It should include all 3 of your Tools of the Trade.
Do you have 5, 10, 15 or 45 minutes? Make sure you know how much quality stage time you can do. This does NOT mean taking every idea or unpolished bit you ever came up with to tell a booker you can go 45 minutes. It means how much solid material can you provide on stage, which of those bits have been worked on over and over, and what gets a laugh every time. It may take months or even years to get a quality 5-10 minutes you can perform in front of an audience. Never lie about how much time you can do. If you say you have a tight 20 minutes and you only barely have a hot 5, you won’t get booked again.
Making Contacts and Networking
When contacting a booker be sure to use their preferred contact method. Sometimes it’s through an individual or individuals, sometimes it’s through a Facebook group page, other times it’s an email or a website form. It’s important to have the correct information before you move forward. Whether it’s an independent room or traditional comedy club; bookers and show runners get a lot of requests, so contacting them via social media when they prefer email, etc. might mean you won’t be considered. What’s that you say? Your friend runs a show? Excellent!! But the rules still apply. They might reach out to you for a spot and that’s fantastic, but if they don’t, be proactive and inquire about a slot. Whether it’s a stranger, an acquaintance or good bud, always be professional and courteous. Never demand to be put on a show. Pro Tip! When contacting a booker or club owner who produces multiple events, try not to ask for a specific showcase slot. If you are not the right fit for the direct request, you may not get booked at all.
Another thing to keep in mind: a big part of comedy is networking. Going to mics & talking to comics you share lineups with is great, those are definitely avenues which can produce results, but you can take it step further: go to shows you’re not on & introduce yourself to the people running it. Taking time out of your busy night to see what they put on can be a big compliment to producers. Form those relationships and get to the point where if they know you’re stopping by, you might score a guest set or book a spot for a future show.
When it comes to festivals, the organizations producing the events make it pretty easy to apply. Use those tools in your kit and show them how great you are! Festivals are incredibly competitive and the bigger the fest, the more applications they receive, not to mention, the process isn’t free, so make the absolute most of your chance. When there are hundreds of submissions to for a festival producer to sift through, sending a bad video or a bio that’s just a poorly written joke might be the reason you don’t make it on a festival line-up. Put your best foot forward and remember you are trying to set yourself off from the other comics. Include credits for any regular gigs you do, other festivals you have performed in or famous comics you have worked with. Make sure you can be seen and heard in your clip and it is the best example of the talent you have.
Finally, a really important thing to always remember is don’t get down on yourself if you’re not getting booked. It’s easier said than done, but there are so many shows and so many comics, and only so many spots to go around. That doesn’t mean you should think less of your material or yourself. The more you believe in what you do, the more people will take notice. Success (however you define it) generally favors those who are persistent, humble and talented. Perseverance is rewarded. Now get out there and tell some jokes!