How to Get in Comedy Festivals

How to Get in Comedy Festivals

Submissions are now open for the 2016 Scruffy City Comedy Festival.  Here is how you can improve your chances to get into, not only the Scruffy City Comedy Festival, but other festivals all across the country.

As many of you know, I (Matt Ward) also help run the Cape Fear Comedy Festival.  This year was our 7th Cape Fear Fest. Since the inception of the festival I have watched hundreds and hundreds of submission videos myself.  In addition, I have spoken with others who run comedy festivals and discussed with them the things that they look for when it comes to selecting comics to perform in their festival from submissions.  The following is a summary of the most important things.

1.) Be Funny

Yeah, No shit.  Be funny is kinda like a Realtor saying “location, location, location”.  Sounds great and of course it is true, but what the fuck does it mean?  Well, a few things actually.  First off, be funny in your submission video. We know what WE find funny, but an audience laughing at your jokes is pretty helpful to influence how funny we feel a bit is.

2.) Be Original

Are your premises and/or punchlines unique, ones we haven’t heard others do, and genuine?  There is nothing less funny to the seasoned eye/ear than someone who is getting laughs in a room with jokes we have heard elsewhere or by using topics that are tired, common and played out or simply approached in a lazy manner. This isn’t about censorship, this is about hard work showing through in your writing.

3.) Make a GREAT Submission Video

What is a GREAT Submission Video?  One that is high quality, easy to see you on stage, easy to hear you speaking and hear the audience laughing and showcases a chunk of your better material.   Make sure your video is the length requested by the festival you are submitting to. Cut out the host. No one needs to hear them introduce you. Cut it to the moment you touch the mic. Below is a list of common mistakes I see all the time when reviewing submission videos.

*Bad Lighting

*The video is private or requires a password

*The video has a fucking ad in front of it. Seriously??

*Bad Sound Quality

*Host doing three minutes before actual performer who submitted the video is onscreen

*Doing recording at a poorly attended show or open mic

*Recording video horizontal on a smartphone.

*Having your laughing buddy/spouse hold the camera, making them the only laugh heard on the recording.

*Making your video clip private on Youtube so it can’t be viewed by anyone but you.

*Recording a ‘Bringer’ show.  Yes, we can tell, mostly because the audience is laughing at ‘non’ jokes and stuff that isn’t as funny as they are making it out to be.

4.) Have a web site

If you are submitting to comedy festivals, you should have a web site. You can have one for free, doesn’t have to be fancy, but it allows promoters to refer someone to a single space that YOU control to view more about you.  Don’t understand computer boxes?  Get one of your computer savvy friends to make one for you that you have all the passwords to.  HAVE. A. WEB. SITE.  Don’t have  a web site, it doesn’t count you out, but it does make a difference to ME more-so than to other comedy festivals. Your web site can link back to us, and that is important for SEO and for other promotional reasons.

5.) Have a head shot

If you are submitting to comedy festivals, you have to understand that these festivals WANT to promote an image of you.  Why not take a few minutes one day to have someone capture who you are as a comic or person.  You don’t even need a microphone in the picture, it’s cool, we know comedians use microphones, you ARE submitting to a COMEDY Festival after all.  Did you know that an Iphone or a Samsung S6 or above can capture an acceptable HIGH RESOLUTION head shot? Toy around with it and watch this youtube video to learn how to do this yourself.

6.) Don’t WAIT until the last day to submit

We all collectively as festivals view all of the submissions we receive.  However, if you submit earlier, we can take the time to view your submission with fresh eyes and ears.

That’s really all there is to it.  So if you don’t have a good submission video already, plan in the next month or so to film a few different shows to make a reel that is representative of what you do.


Matt Ward

Andy Sandford added to 2015 Scruffy City Comedy Festival Line-up!

We are very excited to announce Andy Sandford will be headlining Friday night November 13th at the 2nd Annual Scruffy City Comedy Festival. Ben Kronberg was forced to cancel his appearance due to circumstances beyond his control but was kind enough to refer us to the amazingly funny Brooklyn by way of Atlanta comedian Andy Sandford!


Andy Sandford is a comedian who got funny in Atlanta, GA and is now based out of New York City. His standup can be seen on CONAN, as well as heard on his album, Me the Whole Time; which made several “best of” lists, including Splitsider’s “9 Best Standup Specials & Albums of 2014.“ Andy also plays an animated version of himself on Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Brooklyn Magazine named Andy one of “Brooklyn’s Funniest People,” and bestowed him the Silver Nail Award, given to the “top 8 up-and-coming comedians in the country.” Andy is also a decent cook and a pretty nice guy.