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!!
We picked the first weekend of November to do our festival for a number of reasons. First off, no other comedy festivals were scheduled during that weekend. Secondly, the University of Tennessee Football team did not have a game that weekend home OR away. Thirdly, this is in the peak of the color change in the mountains so travelers coming in for the fest are going to see East Tennessee in bright reds, oranges and yellows. Now, we just learned another awesome thing is taking place the very same weekend, The Fanboy Expo!!
We know a ton of comedians are into comic books and other fanboy related things, so we are super pumped that during the day when the festival is not going on, our festival goers are going to be able to take a short walk to the Knoxville Convention Center to enjoy this awesome event! After all, Fanboy Expo is the Ultimate Comic Con Fandom Experience!
The 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival will now be officially taking place at 5 venues in Downtown Knoxville, Tennssee including: Scruffy City Hall, The Pilot Light, Latitude 35, The Star of Knxoville Riverboat and now at The Jack Cellar.
The Jack Cellar is a basement whiskey bar located below Skybox Sports Bar on Gay Street in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. The venue is the perfect, NY-esque basement club style room. The room will be able to comfortably seat about 50-60 partons for shows during the Scruffy City Comedy Festival.
Orlando Indie Comedy Festival
Two new comedy festivals have been born out of strong emerging comedy scenes in the Southeast. Orlando’s Indie Comedy Scene is presenting the Orlando Indie Comedy Festival September 25th-28th at various venues around Orlando. They are currently taking submissions for just $15 (goes up soon so submit now). Click the button to the left to get to their submission page.
We have decided to help out this start-up festival because we ourselves are a start-up festival. In the world of comedy festivals competition is a notion that in the end leaves the comedians the real losers. If Orlando is closer for you than Knoxville, by all means do the smart thing and submit to the Orlando Indie Comedy Festival!
I got the chance to spend some time with some of the Orlando comics last fall on my Dork for Life Comedy Tour and they are super talented and very much a comedy family the city should be proud of. Click the image to submit now!
Submissions are now being accepted for the first annual Scruffy City Comedy Festival. Click the image above to find out more!
“I used to find woman constantly bitching for equality annoying. My train of thought has always been: ‘Don’t whine about it, get out there and DO it.’ I’ve worked as a stripper, a waitress, and a cook. And I have NEVER felt more discrimination based on my gender than in the comedy world…” -Lauryn Petrie
Hello, my name is Matt Ward. I am a male comic. I book shows, promote shows and run two comedy festivals. So it is safe to say, I get to see a fair amount of comedians. Since getting my start producing comedy shows over 6 years ago I couldn’t help but notice that their were significantly more male stand-ups out there than female. This really didn’t occur to me until a female comedian accused me of being sexist by not booking enough female comedians. I went down my list of the shows I had booked at that time and noticed only 20% of the comics I had booked were female. Then I tought for a while about this and came to the conclusion that I just didn’t have that many female comedians to choose from. I booked the funny people who were available, not dudes or ladies specifically. So I then began to think about it even more. Why weren’t there more females doing stand-up? There are plenty of female public speakers, singers and other similar occupations. Why not so many in comedy?
So why are there fewer female comedians?
I have no direct answer to this…. I can only assume that maybe it has to do with ego, maybe it has to do with sexism in the industry, maybe it just doesn’t seem like a very desirable occupation. Again, I can only venture to guess. So I asked some of my friends in comedy that also just happen to be ladies about this and did some other research on the topic.
Wait, ARE there fewer female comedians, really?
Yes, across the country there are fewer female comedians then male. Gil Greengross, a Ph.D Psychologist and Anthropologist at the University of Mexico believes that number to be around 10-15% (Read Article) and I would tend to agree with that figure. He also believes that women are traditionally less socially aggressive than men and as a comic I know this is an extremely important component of developing the desire to start doing stand-up comedy.
“I believe that there aren’t more women in comedy because as young girls, we are not encouraged and positively reinforced to be funny…. When you are a kid, fart and poop jokes are what is funny. Girls are not supposed to joke about these things. It’s improper. Women are supposed to be polite and cute. Boys are gross and goofy. They may get an eye roll from the teacher when making a fart noise in class, but they aren’t shamed for it.” -Nikki Glaser
Sexism in Comedy
Poor treatment and sexism in the comedy world is often cited as a possible reason there are not more women in comedy. Comedy is sexist but it does not have to be sexist. How is comedy sexist? Because people feel it is ok to sexually harass female comics. Patrons, wait staff, management and other comedians regularly dish out sexually inappropriate comments and
“Women are socialized to be quite, polite and cute.Comedy isn’t quiet, polite or cute. It’s awesome and messy and aggressive and even the comics who have a style that is dry or awkward are still being aggressive, because standing in front of a room of strangers demanding to be heard is an aggressive act.” -Danielle Radford
suggestions to female comics with no repercussion whatsoever. I know, I have witnessed it and then took action against it.
Why is this tolerated? “Oh, you gotta grow thick skin!” Some say, or “I get stuff said to me like that all the time, we are comics!” No, those are bullshit excuses for horrible behavior. Respect is the most important thing to any comedian. By making a fellow stand-up feel threatended under the guise of a joke you are creating a hostile creative environment. Yes, all comics have to be able to take a verbal lashing, but not from someone who should be on their side. They will get that on stage and they will gain the skills to deal with such heckling shitheads in time.
“..Stand-up is terrifying. Women are also not taking over as loggers, crab fishermen or spies. Maybe women are just smarter that way.” -Kristine Levine
Why should we care if there are more ladies in comedy?
Some of the most amazing painters, writers, sculptors and musicians are women. There are far more females in MOST other art forms. Just imagine what comedy would be like if their were even 15% more ladies doing it than there are now. That is the direction we are going, we just need to be willing to allow it to get there by enabling positive creative environments for comedy. Yeah, kumbaya my comedy lord, why don’t we all have a wheatgrass shake and hug out our feelings, right? No, be dedicated to making everything related to comedy better to foster a strong comedy community and you will see comedy grow and become a more sustainable career choice for those around you.
So what should I do about it??
Support funny comedians. Hosts, stop telling the crowd they are female before they go on stage. Why do you do this? Do they need to prepare themselves? It’s ridiculous and needs to stop. I am not the first comic to mention this, in fact on a Facebook post not long ago Jake Weissman posted a very in-depth critique on this practice on his page. Male comics, what else can you do? You can also stop with the sexual comments OR more commonly, stop others from making a female feel intimidated because others choose to objectify her once again ‘under the guise of comedy’. Support and praise the ladies that come out to do stand-up. The world treats them with a double standard where they are held to a certain ridiculous social expectation that affects not only their actions off stage but the type of material the audiences will allow them to perform as well. In a nutshell, dudes (especially white ones) it is harder for them, so treat them with some goddamn respect. Be good people, treat your female comedians like your sisters and let’s make this comedy family stronger every day.
A big shout out to all the ladies that contributed their quotes to this article.