September 7th at midnite is the cut-off time for submissions to the Scruffy City Comedy Festival. We have determined we are taking at least 30 performers from other cities in addition to 10 locals. The Scruffy City Comedy Festival was born from the growth of the comedy scene in Knoxville, Tennessee and we are truly proud of the talent we have in our city.
Our festival is going to present multiple times on Friday and Saturday nights to get on stage. There will also be opportunities to take part in our themed shows as part of that stage time with shows including our Comedy Roasts and the Underwear Show. At the Scruffy City Comedy Festival, it’s about growing as comics and having the most fun our audiences can handle.
All you need is a bio and performance video to submit.
Note from Matt Ward: I recently spoke with JT Habersaat after seeing a tour he had booked in which he was on the road for over 30 straight shows without a day off. I was more than impressed with not only the booking prowess, but the routing involved. I asked him to write something about his do’s and don’ts for promoting a comedy tour. Here you go, enjoy!
By JT Habersaat
When it comes to promotion, the majority of comedians I’ve crossed paths with generally rank somewhere below classic rock cover band and slightly above regional bake sale. Rarely do they take a second to consider the minimal promotional building blocks of a decent independent show, which at times just makes me scratch my head and at others, if I’m directly involved in said performance, has me employing a hammer to do the scratching. So here are a few basic ‘musts’ for any comic looking to set up an independent one-nighter and not find themselves weeping in the corner as the bartender scowls.
- Thou Shalt Make Posters. As in, yourself. Never, ever, ever rely on a venue to create or ‘handle’ posters for your show. They won’t do it, or they will but the finished product will look like your aunt made it in a comic sans font and a ‘zany’ cartoon character holding a banana and a mic, or the details such as time / date / price will be disaster-level wrong, or your own goddamn name will be misspelled. Seriously, make a poster. Learn to use InDesign and the basics of Photoshop. Or find a friend / comic / fuck buddy that knows it, and have them do it. Make ‘em look good…you know, like an event. Bad comedy posters are the stuff of Facebook legend. Include credits if people do not know who you are (not made up credits either, you laugh grifter). Most importantly, print the posters and if at all possible HANG THEM YOURSELF. Often you are forced to mail posters for road shows, but send them to the venue as a LAST RESORT. Mail them to a comic on the show, or a pal you have in town, or the promoter, and have them go physically put them up. Venue staff deal with shows every night and are not paid to be your street team. And posters matter.
- Thou Shalt Do Promo Waaaaaaay In Advance. Like, months in advance. I always crack up when I talk to comics that casually mention “I’m gonna line up some road dates for September” and it’s the end of July. Um, no you are not. Or you are and they are going to be terrible gigs. If you are serious about road comedy, you should be booking yourself at a minimum of three months out. 4-5 months is better. Venues worth playing book this far out, so believe it. Part of the ‘ugh’ factor of being a comic is living your life 6 months in advance. Sad but true. Personally, I enjoy having the ducks in a row and knowing what’s on the horizon. But like anything else, it takes work. Mail your posters (you know, the ones you made yourself) about 4 weeks out from the show. Too early and they will lose impact. Too late and…well, too late. 4 weeks gives enough time for them to hang on the walls and act as a reminder to locals, but not fade and just become part of the scenery. Same goes for press – deadlines for content are usually at least two weeks ahead of time, so sending your info and saying ‘how about a story?’ the week before your show = fail.
- Thou Shalt Make A Press Kit. A good, basic press kit. Learn how to write a press release. You only really need one skeleton for this, so employ an English major buddy to do it if you have a tough time with writing stuff like that. Once you have the press release skeleton, you can fill in the when / where / what’s for literally years, as long as you update the dates. DO NOT send one of those monstrous folders with a heavy-ass cd and an epic stapled tome of hype. It will crash to the nearest trash bin before you can exhale your dreams. I used to get hundreds of those in the mail every week when I worked in radio. Trust me. Garbage bin. You want a one page release, complete with all the details: date of show, time of show, all ages? Adv tickets? Support comics, venue ADDRESS and most importantly, at the bottom, YOUR CONTACT INFO. Website / Facebook / cell phone / email. Send it 4 weeks before your show. Follow up after a week. Sometimes this will require you TO MAKE A PHONE CALL. Horrifying I know, and a true test of how much you want to lose coverage in the weekly events listing to Johnny Hotrod’s 3rd Annual Dipshit Classic Car Jamboree. Because the editors know Johnny, and it’s an easy thing to cover, and reporters have it tough enough. Include a high-resolution (300 DPI!) press photo on CDR. And ideally a poster (you know, the one you made) of the event for eye-catching purposes. If you have an MP3 dropcard of your material that is great. Again, avoid sending CDs. They are heavy and require insane effort on the part of the journalist, like opening them.
- Thou Shalt Not Rely On Locals. Locals are great to have on shows. You should have locals on shows. But never, ever, ever (ever) rely on locals to bring the crowd, or even be a solid comic. Make sure YOU have your shit together, and you should be working with a feature you know and trust at a minimum. But the responsibility ultimately falls on your shoulders, “Mr. / Mrs. Out-of-town comic ballsy enough to book a gig”, and NOT on the super excited but green local. If a local does a great job, and puts asses in seats, throw them some $. Even if it’s just $10, it will matter. And even if a local is terrible and a hack supreme, try not to be a dick about it. Just log it in your brain and don’t work with them again. That’s it. Move on. Next city, next show. Skip the drama.
- Thou Shalt Keep Up On Social Media. Make your own Facebook events for EVERY SHOW. Make sure all of the details are correct and that the event image is YOUR poster. Then hit up the venue / promoter / opening comic and make them an admin of the page and kick them in the ass to invite people. You NEED them to invite people, since those are the locals that go to shows. But if you are relying on the venue to create the event and then invite YOU to be admin, you are lost at sea and surrounded by hammerheads. Be a control freak, because ultimately – most people are lazy, they do not have a stake in whether the show does well or eats shit, they are just going to work and do not owe you anything. Get locals to retweet your blasts close to the day of the gig. If you have a killer website (and you should) push the mailing list and USE IT. Not every week, because that shit is mad annoying and you will get a one-way express pass to their spam folder. But send out tour announcements when you have something legit to hype.
Ultimately, having a crowd to perform to almost matters more than even the strength of your material; cue the sound of one hand clapping while a tree falls in the forest and all that hippie jargon. So be your own best advocate and fan – it’s the only real way to build new ones. Now go tour.
JT Habersaat headlines the Altercation Punk Comedy Tour and www.TheRoadPodcast.com . His new album ‘Hostile Corporate Takeover’ is available now on Stand Up! Records, and you can see all of his national fall dates now at www.JTComedy.com
This blog is a repost from comedian Mike Cody originally posted on KnoxComedy.com in August of 2013. If you know someone (comedian or otherwise) suffering from depression, help them get real help. Professional assistance for depression is out there and often is free.
It has happened to me. I came off stage and didn’t want to shake anyone’s hand. I was sure of only one thing, I hated what I just did on stage and was embarrassed by it. Some comics and audience members sought me out to give me praise, but no matter what they had to say, I was sure they were simply being polite because they didn’t want it to be awkward. On the way home I listened to nothing. No music, just the road. I stared ahead and thought about hopeless things like “This is why you don’t get bigger gigs..” and “You are terrible, how can you quit without it affecting the young comics that enjoy what you do. After this specific show where later I learned I didn’t do nearly as poorly as I had envisioned that I did, I decided it was time to address the feelings of depression related to comedy performance. I had submissions from many comics, but the one that I want to share with you came from New York comic Mike Cody. It hit the nail on the head. Here it is.
The Home Depot Fantasy
by Mike Cody
Sometimes club sets just don’t click. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. My favorite thing to do after a horrible set is run back to the green room and pretend I know which of the 17 different remote controls turns on the TV. Or, if the green room doesn’t have a TV, I stare intently at the menu. No one knows I’m thinking about how much I temporarily hate comedy. They just assume I’m having a hard time choosing between Chicken Finger Nachos and The Dumpster Burger.
The reason why I head for the hills in those situations is because I hate saying goodbye to audiences as they leave a show they didn’t enjoy. Few experiences are more stressful than saying “Thank you for coming” to strangers, especially when I really mean “Please don’t hate comedy because of me.” The only thing that bothers me more than feeling apologetic after a bad set is when I have a great set and people walk past me anyway.
I’m no egomaniac. When I kill, I know that nobody owes me anything other than the laughs they already gave me. I’m happy when people smile at me after the show. I’m even happier when someone shakes my hand and says, “Good stuff.” But when I nail it… I mean, REALLY nail it… And 198 out of 200 people walk past without so much as acknowledging my existence… That’s when the shame cycle begins. “I made them laugh. But they didn’t like me. Why didn’t they like me? Did I smile too much? Sometimes I look effeminate when I smile. I wish I had cheekbones. Maybe I wasn’t mean enough? Were they hoping for a meaner show? I don’t want to be mean. Being mean isn’t funny. “Maybe they liked me but didn’t remember me. That’s even worse. Am I forgettable? How could they forget about me? I made them laugh really hard. The headliner had a great set but that doesn’t mean they should have forgotten about me by now. It hasn’t even been an hour. “Is it my look? Should I dress differently? Grow my beard back? I can’t do that. Too many people have beards now. Did they hate my shirt? No, if they hated my shirt they would remember my shirt and by extension remember me. I never liked these glasses. I need new ones. The only reason I got these stupid frames was because they were affordable. That’s no good. Audiences can smell affordability. “Was I too locked in? Robotic? I wanted them to have a good time. It’s inexcusable when people go up there and just jerk around for half an hour. I want to earn my money. I think I did. They liked it. But they didn’t love it or else they would have talked to me. Maybe they did love it but they’re shy.
“Why do I keep doing this to myself? I know what triggers my sadness and yet I keep putting myself in situations like this. Do I belong on the stage? Do I belong anywhere? “Why didn’t they care about me as much as I cared about them?” After shows like that, I fantasize about changing my name, growing a mustache, and moving to North Dakota. I’ll get a job sweeping the floors at Home Depot and never, ever make anyone laugh again. “Hey, Fancy Joe,” my co-worker Larry will say to me at the end of our shift at The Deep. “They’re having a comedy show at the VFW tonight. You wanna go?” “You go on without me,” I reply. “I don’t care much for jokes.” “You’re an odd one, Fancy Joe.” Just to clarify: This is an actual fantasy that I have at least once a month.
The best solution I’ve found for countering comedic experiences that leave me questioning my own self worth is to spend time with people who love me unconditionally. Usually that means my family or my closest non-comedian friends. I never tell them about my feelings of inadequacy, or my worries that even though certain people think I’m very funny, I’ll never be able to do the sort of things I want to do with my career. In fact, I try not to mention comedy at all. Comedy can be both exhilarating and torturous, occasionally during the same show. No matter how successful or unsuccessful they are, the comedians I feel truly sorry for are the ones who say the only people they enjoy hanging out with are other comedians. I love being part of the “brotherhood” but my non-comedian friends are the ones who make me feel human. When I’m low, I reach out to people who don’t care about whether or not my look is marketable. I turn to the friends who thought I was funny before anyone else did. Their laughter is the dragon I’ve been chasing all along. I’m lucky to share my life with people who would never walk past me. They’re the ones who give me the strength to carry on. If that doesn’t work for you, might I suggest an imaginary career at Home Depot? The benefits aren’t great but their aprons are pretty snazzy!
Mike Cody is a comedian of 9 years from Cincinnati now living in New York City. His debut CD on Rooftop Comedy Records “I Don’t Want To Take a Nap” can be purchased HERE>>. Follow him on twitter @mikecomedy
One of the things I have struggled with when it comes to comedy festivals charging a submission fee is where exactly the money goes. Sure it costs a lot to produce a comedy festival. Sure we would get a ton of shitty submissions from open-mic comics not yet ready to perform at a real festival if there WERE’NT a submission fee. However, I still felt like comics that didn’t get in should get SOMETHING more than just a rejection email and maybe some feedback on how they might get in next time.
Over the course of the last few years I have met a LOT of great comics booking shows and become aware of more and more shows being booked all over the country. This information proved to be more and more valuable as each time I would share some of it with other comics they were forever grateful. So what I decided to do to was make a database that was better than any other comedy gig/venue database out there. I am proud to say after months of working on it we have finally launched it and are beginning to compile gigs/venues all over the country right here on ScruffyCityComedy.com. All you have to do to gain access to the database is submit to the festival by becoming a member of this site.
So go ahead, even if you cannot make the festival, submit today to gain access to the fastest growing most comprehensive comedy venue database in the country.
The Scruffy City Comedy Festival is excited to announce two character roasts to be part of our 2014 event. Our festival lines up with the Fanboy Expo which brings thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, comic book and various fans to town that same weekend. This being the case we felt it extremely appropriate to do a Roast each night featuring some figures from that world.
History of Knoxville Character Roasts
The Knoxville Comedy Scene began doing Roasts of characters in November of 2012 with the Roast of Adolf Hitler. This was when we still didn’t have a solid venue for shows so we did the roast in the Morningside Community Center just East of Downtown Knoxville. After that our next roast was the Roast of Santa Claus (Video) in December 2012 at The Pilot Light. This become our home for the roasts. The shows became quite popular so we have now done roasts of Batman, Darth Vadar, Harry Potter, Hulk Hogan, and Axl Rose (September 2014).
Now for our Scruffy City Comedy Festival we have decided to do two roasts, one on Friday and one on Saturday. We are going to Roast Tim Burton and Superman. Superman was an obvious choice with the fury surrounding the Batman vs. Superman film that is coming to theaters soon. Tim Burton was a great choice because he opens us up to great films from the 80′s/90′s like Edward Scissorhands, Pee-Wee’s Big adventure and many more.
Comics Accepted to the 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival will get the chance to portray characters in each roast. We feel these shows are some of the funnest we do and are excited to add comics from all over the country to the Dais each night during the festival!
The number one thing I see in the world of comedy is comics uncertain what to do next in their comedy ‘career’. In this blog we will address two of the most common questions I hear from young comics just starting out in comedy. I spoke to Eric Yoder from Funny Business Agency about these questions. For some time I could not get work from Funny Business. In fact, I tried for a few years to no avail. Why didn’t I get booked? Simple, they hadn’t seen me kick ass live in person. I submitted a half-ass video in 2011 and they politely told me it wasn’t really a good representation of my stuff. They were right. It was shit. I was performing poorly rehearsed material to a crowd of 21 in some tiny theatre with shitty lighting and average sound. I remedied this and have put in a lot of work to improve since then and now I have worked for Funny Business on multiple occasions.
Eric was nice enough to provide us some direct answers to the two main questions I often hear young comics ask.
Question 1: How do I know when I’m ready to go from open mic to the next step and beyond?
Eric: Almost every comic thinks they are ready to move up before they actually are. I think being realistic about where you are at with your act and ability is one of the toughest and most important parts of being a comedian. Listen to feedback, ask for feedback from other comedians and club owners. You will be getting signs and feedback that support the fact you should be working at the next level.
Moving from open mic to hosting or a paid performer is probably one of the tougher steps. The dynamic changes, you are getting judged more heavily and are expected to be performing as a professional, which means don’t treat it like an open mic.
When we (Funny Business Agency) have an act move up (from host to feature, feature to headliner, etc.) it’s typically us hearing and getting feedback from clubs and other comedians consistently for a number of varied gigs before we are going to look at taking that step.
Many comedians will sabotage themselves trying to move up before they are ready – and getting less than desirable feedback, leaving them in a limbo where they don’t want to go back to the previous position, but aren’t getting the consistent high-caliber feedback in the position they are wanting to work, to get booked over other options for acts at that level. (Matt Ward: Don’t force it or expect anything, sometimes you kick ass on stage for a year and people will notice and move you up the chain, sometimes it’s many years before this happens. There is not definite deadline to when you should be moving up, sometimes it happens quicker for some than others)
Question 2: How does a comic get in with a booker at first?
Eric: Every booker wants something different in regards to submissions. Typically having very quality , varied length, non “montage” video and a number of solid, reputable references will get you on the list of people to check out. If you know comedians that work consistently and regularly for that club/booker, ask them to put in a word, worst that can happen is they ignore them. But this will get your name in front of them again to stay on their radar.
Check your references before you use them. Ask the booker/club specifically what you need to send them and what format in order to be considered for work. If you are blind emailing every booker and club with a copy/pasted message or mass email, will likely go to junk or deleted. Take a few minutes and research the booker or club, email them a personalized email, don’t be a spamming, pushy asshole, and follow-up if you don’t get replies. Our agency alone gets around 30-40 submissions a week, usually we are able to review 5-10 MAX a week with everything else we are doing, so be patient.
Here are some ‘Don’ts’ related to getting booked for the first time.
- Don’t blindly send your avails to someone who has not asked for them. It is a quick way to go to the spam folder.
- Don’t assume you should be asked to do a show. You have to express to the booker you are interested in working with them before they will consider you for work.
- Don’t over contact a booker. Never call them unless that is what they prefer and certainly don’t ever expect them to e-mail you back within some imaginary time period. Bookers are busy, if they don’t get back to you, schedule a follow-up some time later and move on. (This echoes back to what Eric says above)
Here are some ‘Do’s’ related to getting booked for the first time
- Get a high-quality video of a good performance in front of an audience that is laughing at your jokes. Make it at least 20 minutes if you are looking to begin feature or host work.
- Get headshots done. This one is huge. If you don’t have headshots or a good video it’s like showing up to a job interview in flip-flops and shorts for a job selling to people who wear suits and ties.
- Get out of your city as much as possible to do comedy. The more people booking shows you get in front of the better. Be logical about it and don’t break the bank traveling. Take other comics that are also looking to move up in comedy and get booked and have the talent to do so.
There you have it, some inside info about how to move from the Open-Mic level to featuring for an agency, club or other booker.
Our good friend Holly Lynnea let us in on this little secret via facebook. The Accidental Comedy Festival in Cleveland is accepting submissions today on the 4th of July only for just $4. Now they are accepting submissions after today as well but they will be much more ($30). The festival itself is September 15th-22nd in Cleveland. Submit Now, what’s not, it’s just $4!!