What is corporate material?

November 17, 2014

Hi Dave – You talked last week about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. What is considered corporate material and what is not? – Johnny

Hey Johnny – You know what? I’ve never been asked that question in such a general way. Usually it’s more specific, such as a comedian or speaker asking if certain joke or material they’re planning to perform is appropriate for a corporate show.

Unpopular-OpinionI already know there will be a lot of different opinions about this topic, so maybe some of you will help me out…

Do you have any constructive thoughts or personal experiences about what is regarded as corporate material? Let me know and I’ll share them with everyone in a future FAQ and Answer.

But for right now – as a general answer to your general question – my experiences as both a booking agent and corporate speaker is to work clean. I’ve said that many times before, but I wouldn’t continue to say it if it wasn’t true.

Recently I’ve been following a debate on one of the popular social networks over whether or not the F-Bomb will soon be acceptable at corporate functions. If you ask me, the people spreading that opinion are a little more than F-Bombed themselves.

It’s not happening now and it won’t anytime soon.

Oh yeah, as always in showbiz there might be an isolated instance here or there for an “edgy” company (think MTV or Comedy Central) but if you want work regularly in the corporate market, then you work clean.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

That means no F-Bombs or any bits where F-Bomb is the focused activity. Got that?

Okay, so now that we know you must work clean in the corporate market, let’s get back to the real topic of your question. What type of material are they looking for?

A lot depends on the corporate function. It’s all about the theme

I’ve found through experience that stand-up comedians get booked more often for holiday parties and special events, like a retirement banquet or an awards ceremony. And yes, there are exceptions. But when I get calls from businesses looking for comedians those are the most often mentioned.

If you’re a comedian, it’s important to know the theme of the event. For instance, I’ve scheduled comedians to perform at corporate Christmas parties where the client wanted at least some mention of the holiday season. The comic can talk about his marriage, kids, sports, news events – whatever – for a lot of his act, then throw in some holiday jokes and the client is ecstatic. Other times the client might complain that he specifically wanted holiday jokes and doesn’t give an F-Bomb about the other material.

c2041ba3c8de11153581510940a96ad2

I don’t know Ray, but love his style!

I’ve also booked comedians for retirement banquets. The comics don’t even know the guy the company is retiring and feeding, but they know the audience wants laughs. The comics for this type of event are usually good at “roasting” and ad-libbing. But as usual, most companies will demand a clean show.

So it’s always good to know the theme and work that into the act. One way to do that is to talk with the client before the engagement to see what type of material they’re looking for. Again, for comedians it can be most anything because they’re considered entertainment. No business lessons, training or message is required. The job is to make the corporate audience laugh in a way that doesn’t embarrass the CEO or other head honchos (that means clean comedy).

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Humorous speakers are different. They already have a topic that fits into the corporate market. For instance, they may talk about stress relief, communications, networking, tech training, or even proper office attire. Believe me, there are a lot of different topics that can work within the themes of a lot of different corporate events.  Humorous speakers with a message can be hired to deliver keynotes, do break-out sessions, and half-day (or full-day) training seminars. With a humorous delivery they’re entertaining and delivering information (infotainment) at the same time. The material – the speaker’s topic – will be based on their expertise.

expertFor instance, if you’re an expert in communications – that’s what your material will consist of. If you’re an expert in technology, finance, marketing, selling – whatever – that’s what you will talk about.

That will determine what is corporate material for a humorous speaker. Get it?

Okay, like  I said earlier that was a pretty general question – but I hope my general answer helped. Now it’s up to you.

Any thoughts…?

—————————————————————————-

Comedy Workshops 

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s Fall 2014 Workshops at

The Chicago & Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs

SOLD-OUT!!

Winter 2015 dates TBA

Visit WEBSITE for more information

———————————————————-

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

 

Corporate comedian vs. humorous speaker

November 10, 2014

Hi Dave – I’m a comedian that has put his time in on the road. Roughly 15 years. I’ve been able to make ends meet with side jobs as a deejay radio personality. Why I’m writing you is because I’m getting too old to keep traveling for very little money and I’m very interested in getting into corporate shows and humorous speaking. I’m looking for help and according to you, networking is the best solution. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time – C.L.

Hey C.L. – I think at every stage of my career I’ve talked with comedians who were ready to get off the road. Some were sick of traveling and wanted a regular life, while others just wanted to pursue different career options that would include working in the corporate market as a comedian and/or speaker.

1349119737249.cached

You didn’t just say that – did you?

Others are true road warriors and have no intention of ever giving up traveling and performing – literally – around the world. Some enjoy living like rock stars (believe me, I’ve heard some wild stories that could make Mick Jagger blush), and others took advantage of what different cities could offer – such as art museums, sight seeing and shopping. I have a good (headliner) friend who tries to plans his winter road schedule around NBA games. He won’t play in a city unless the home team is in town and he can catch a game or two.

You mentioned pursuing a different career option to get off the road as a comedian. Doing corporate shows as a comedian or humorous speaker can be similar in many ways to working the road as a stand-up comedian, but also very different.

I’ve been told by too many comedians (and from personal experience) the corporate market pays more. You’re also not on the road as much. You can go to one location, do one show and then go home. On the comedy club circuit, you’re usually performing at one club for four or five nights in a row. If you’re “in demand” you’ll have a couple days off, then repeat the four or five day cycle.

Of course if you’re “in demand,” which also means earning good $$$’s you can take a few weeks off now and then. If you’re barely scraping by doing opening and feature spots, you might have to work as often as possible to pay for the house or apartment you’re rarely living in.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Maybe those are extreme examples, but you get my point. You can either love or hate working the road – the choice is yours.

I’ve talked a lot in past FAQs and Answers about breaking into the corporate market as a humorous speaker or comedian. And yeah, a lot of it is through networking. You have to let the buyers know you’re out there if you want the work. Some of this can be done through speakers bureaus (same as comedy booking agents only they don’t book clubs). But most of the work, especially when you’re starting out in the market, is done by YOU (add a drum rim shot just for the effect).

In a nutshell, here’s some quick advice:

1. You can be a corporate comedian and / or a humorous speaker. But you need to know that there’s a difference.

  • A corporate comedian is a comedian.
Z77mlKS

What’s so funny about that?

They can do their “act” – similar to what they do in a comedy club or personalize it for whatever company is hiring them – and entertain at corporate functions. These can be holiday parties, retirement banquets, award ceremonies, etc… Corporate comics can even be hired for corporate events to provide laughs and lighten-up the mood after all day business seminars.

Personal example. I was hired last year to do my pop culture program at the end of a two day medical conference. I know nothing about medicine and my audience was nothing but doctors. But it didn’t matter. They wanted something different to unwind after two days of training seminars and that’s what I was there for.

  • Humorous speakers should be funny AND have a message.

For instance, you can talk about almost any topic – computer software, finance, communications, alcohol awareness, politics, medicine, whatever – and find conferences that are doing seminars on those topics. You as a humorous speaker is staying within the theme of the conference, but also providing the entertainment.

2. Write CLEAN material.

Don’t even think of going for R-rated or X-rated material. You won’t work – period. Even PG-13 is pushing it.

Imagine you’re hired for a corporate event. You’re either doing stand-up or have a humorous presentation with a message. Then imagine the head honcho – the CEO of the company – and her husband (or his wife) are sitting at the main table. And just to raise the stakes, they are straight-edge, nearing retirement age (you’d find their grandchildren in comedy clubs), and basking in the glory of providing a business event in a family-style atmosphere (they let their employees imagine they’re like family to them).

Since these events are all about business – improving their business – and usually maintaining some sort of professional atmosphere, how are they (the CEOs that will sign your check) going to feel if you start dropping F-bombs and sex jokes in front of their family… uh, employees?

They most likely won’t feel like signing your check – or recommending you (networking) for future corporate gigs.

—————————————————————————-

Dave Schwensen’s Comedy Workshops 

Workshop Marquee 150

Fall 2014 Workshops at

The Chicago & Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs

SOLD-OUT!!

Winter 2015 dates TBA

Visit WEBSITE for more information

———————————————————-

3. Networking is a great way to be found for corporate gigs.

This is marketing and to be honest, I cover this in detail in my book How To Be A Working Comic (add another rim shot for a “not see it coming” book plug!)

Marketing / networking tools include:

  • Website (sorry, but Facebook doesn’t cut it)
  • A great promotional video
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Emails / mailing list
  • Postcards
  • Business cards
  • Blogs and newsletters
  • Cold calling (at least to start out)
  • Doing free gigs (at least to start out)

The last one – doing free gigs – is the same as doing open-mics when you’re starting out as a comedian. Work out your material in front of corporate-type audiences (I covered this in a past FAQ and Answer) to find what works and what doesn’t. It’s also where you’ll start your marketing efforts for paid gigs.

business card swap

Who’s in your wallet?

If someone likes you enough to inquire about your availability for a future event, give them a professional looking business card with your contact info and ask for one of theirs. Believe me, business people have them – and so should you if you’re serious about the business.

Okay as I said, this is just some basic (in a nutshell) info about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. It’s a different career, but when starting out and putting together the marketing (networking) process, it’s not that different from finding work as a comedian.

And just in case you’ve read this far and are really interested in this topic, here’s another rim shot worthy “not see it coming” plug for my online course on becoming a working corporate comedian. There’s a seven day free trial if you want to check it out…

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include writing corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

 

Acting credits on a comedy resume?

November 3, 2014

Hi Dave – Last week you wrote about what credits can go on a comedy resume. I’m just getting into comedy and my resume is more for acting. Although acting is something I would love to do, comedy is my passion. I’m not sure how to make a comedy resume because I haven’t done anything worthwhile so far in comedy other than some shows I set up for my school and a few open mic nights. Can I take some of my acting credits and put it onto the comedic resume?” – Chris

b15796bd9edbe13808fe13bffdf1669aHey Chris – Of course comedy bookers are looking for comedy credits. School shows and open-mics count (at the beginning) because it shows you have stage time and are getting experience. Once you start doing “real clubs” those credits can be taken off and never mentioned again – ha!

BUT – and I expect some debate about this – I also believe acting credits have a place on comedy resumes.

Basically (as mentioned above) these credits show you have stage time and performing experience. These shouldn’t be at the top of your resume, unless it’s all you have at the moment, but can be listed following any comedy credits you might already have. Even after open-mics and school shows, which take preference over acting credits in a comedy resume.

An exception would be if you were starring or co-starring in a hit television show or movie. In that case you won’t even need a resume. What the heck – you don’t even need much comedy experience. Talent bookers will schedule a celebrity knowing the club will be in for at least one big $$$ weekend – even if he’s not funny. Audiences will pay at least once to see a celebrity. But once the word hits the street he’s not funny, a second time through the club circuit can be a difficult sell for the club owner.

—————————————————————————-

Only 2 spots still available!!

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance on Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

No repeat business and bad word of mouth is not good for business. 

But since you’re already concerned with building a comedy resume at this early stage of the game, I’ll assume you’ll have stage experience and a funny act by the time your acting credits land you on the cover of People Magazine.

I’ve had comedians send me resumes that include credits from doing soap operas, Off-Off-Waaaaaay Off-Off Broadway shows, television commercials, voice overs, community theater, and school talent shows. With a lack of comedy performing credits, it shows they are still involved in “showbiz” and have at least been on stage in front of an audience.

I mentioned this last week, but I’ll repeat myself…

mtv-beavis-butthead

Let me tell you something funny…

You would be surprised at the number of resumes – and videos – I used to receive as submissions for A&E’s An Evening at the Improv with NO real credits at all. I’m talking about nothing! There were videos were filmed in someone’s living room with NO audience and the “comic” was sitting in a chair talking into a camera…

I’ll repeat myself again. NO audience! That’s a great way to prove you have NO experience.

But they were still trying to get work as comedians.

I’m an active supporter in helping people achieve their goals, but I don’t know any comedy bookers that would hire someone without onstage (in front of an audience) experience. Unless, of course, you want to refer to my above thoughts about booking a celebrity for a big payday.

Listing your acting credits shows you have something going for you as far as showbiz experience. Based on resumes I’ve seen over the years from working comics, include them until you have enough real comedy credits to take their place.

There’s also more information about writing resumes and bios in my book How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy. I’m not trying to sell you a copy to make a big payday – I just wanted you to know. Your local library should have a copy or can find one for you.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Start collecting your performing credits

October 28, 2014

Hey Dave – I’m trying to put together a resume for my comedy stuff. I’ve only been doing comedy for a few months and just a lot of open mics. Should I bother with a resume at this point? – Bob

Hey Bob – In all reality, since you’ve been doing comedy for only a few months, it wouldn’t be a good idea to throw yourself into the competition as a “professional comedian looking for work.” So there really is no point in having a resume – yet.

Yeah, I know there are exceptions. For instance, you might have the “right contacts” after a couple months to score a gig hosting your frat brother’s bachelor party or have a friend of a friend ask you to do a few minutes at a local benefit show. But since you’re still in the very early stages of developing both your writing and performing style, you probably shouldn’t charge a fee for that. Be thankful for the on stage experience. If they want to be generous and throw you a few bucks, consider it a donation toward your career goal rather than a paycheck.

Funny-Jimi-Hendrix-PictureDon’t get me wrong because these gigs still count as valuable experience, which is what you need to get ahead in this business. But these very early performances don’t exactly grant you admission into the ranks of professional comedians.

Am I being a too blunt, cold-hearted or closed minded about this – classifying you as a “non-professional” without even seeing you perform? Not really.

Every talent booker that wants to keep his job knows experience counts. You’ve only been in this for a few months. The comedians you see in the legit comedy clubs, on the college circuit, and doing corporate gigs have a LOT of experience and have paid a LOT of dues to get there. In fact, I doubt any of them would disagree when I say they’ve put in YEARS of work dealing with rejection, bad nights, bad breaks, hard knocks, hack jokes, idiot hecklers, and shows that make them feel (as George Wallace described in my book Comedy FAQs And Answers) like they want to drive off a bridge after the gig because they’ve bombed so bad.

But now that I’ve said all that and (hopefully not) deflated your ego or crushed your comedy dreams, there’s no reason why you can’t start building a resume NOW. In fact, I think it’s a pretty good idea.

You have to start somewhere when your goal is to score paid bookings. No booker is going to hire a comedian with no experience. As I also say in Comedy FAQs And Answers and have often repeated in these articles:

They may call it amateur night, but nobody’s looking to hire an amateur.

—————————————————————————-

Only 3 spots still available!!

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance on Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Bookers know the deal about working your way up the comedy ladder. You have to start somewhere and it’s NEVER at the top, which would be headlining in a legitimate comedy club. Yeah, I’ve known a few “acts” (term used loosely in this case) that had rich, famous, or connected parents and thought they could buy their way into the exclusive professional comedians club. In one case I saw firsthand, the act had daddy schmooze or practically buy the club to get his wanna’be famous son on stage. But it didn’t work. Junior may have had a joke writer, director and daddy’s agent, but he hadn’t paid his dues to become an experienced comic. He hadn’t developed his comedy voice – including timing, delivery and an ability to work with and off of an audience.

He was an actor acting like a comedian. Once the novelty of booking an act with a famous parent wore off, there were more experienced comics that talent bookers knew were better at entertaining – and therefore, better in the long run for business.

Waiting-in-Line-Outside-N-007

How to stay in business…

A club’s reputation depends on providing great shows. To stay in business it must be profitable (paying customers). Inexperience doesn’t sell unless it’s billed as “amateur night” or “open-mic night.” And even then many clubs can only make those nights work (profitable) by making them “bringer shows.”

Wow, isn’t it amazing how I can go off on a tangent by just trying to answer a simple question? If you’ve stayed with me so far, let me get back on track…

YES – if you want to become a professional working comic, now is a good time to start putting together your resume. And in case you’re not sure what goes into a comedy resume, it’s a list of your performing credits as a comedian.

In the beginning of your career it can include:

A list of your comedy performances and the venues. If you haven’t played any true comedy clubs, list open-mics. Talent bookers from out of the area may not have heard of any of them, but that doesn’t matter. This list shows you have at least some stage experience.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

When you’re starting out in the business you’re only looking for a showcase (audition) or a gig as an opening act in a comedy club. You don’t need to have headlined or even featured (middle act) at The Improv or other known clubs to be considered as an opening act. You need to be funny AND show the talent booker you have enough stage experience so you won’t suffer a meltdown when you walk on stage in front of a live audience. If you’re funny and show enough stage presence to pass the audition, but all you have are open-mic credits – then that’s what you’ll list on  your resume as experience.

List them under the header Clubs or Open-mics.

If you have plenty of open-mics and have also done shows outside of these clubs – list them under separate headers. You can have one titled Benefit Shows or Special Events.

You can also add any comedy workshops or seminars you’ve attended. If it includes a comedy club performance, put that on your resume. But be honest! Add the disclaimer that it was a workshop or seminar performance. It still shows experience – and in this case, “guided” experience from a coach. That can be more influential to a talent booker than flying blind through a string of late night, unheard of open-mics.

You can list these under Workshops and/or Training.

8-rings

“A guy rides into a bar…”

Do you have special talents you use on stage? This could be anything that helps you get laughs from an audience including singing, doing accents, playing guitar, balancing stuff, juggling stuff, riding a unicycle, setting yourself on fire – whatever. If it’s in your act it’s a Special Talent or Special Skill and can be on your resume.

This will also give bookers a better idea of what you do on stage.

Now here’s the deal. This is how you start and build a comedy resume. BUT you want to keep replacing lesser credits with “known” credits. For instance, it’s great to have Johnny’s Yuk-A-Torium and five or six other open-mics on your resume to show experience. But do your best to eventually replace them with credits from legitimate comedy clubs, (The Improv, Zanies, Funny Bone, Comedy Zone, etc.). But until you get on those stages, use whatever you have, open-mics, benefit shows, frat parties, to show you have experience and have not just been doing stand-up in your living room in front of a video camera.

And yeah – someone once sent me an audition tape for A&E’s An Evening At The Improv direct from his living room. Did he get the show? Nope. It was obvious to me he had no on stage experience.

Here’s a good rule to remember – don’t try to move up the ladder too fast.

You’ll need a lot more than a few months to become an experienced act and ready for the best stages. But you can start keeping track of your performing credits now and have a decent list when you’re ready to start showcasing. The experience you get while putting together a decent list of comedy clubs for your resume will eventually help you break out of open-mics and into the world of paying gigs.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Showcases can be a ticking time bomb

October 21, 2014

Last week’s FAQ and Answer was about staying within – sticking to – the amount of time you’ve been given to perform on stage. If you missed it, the article is still posted through the link below. One question that wasn’t sent in, but I’ve been asked quite a bit is about showcase times. To be more specific, why are showcase performances usually so short?

time-is-running-outYou don’t have enough time to prove how good you really are – right?

To clarify for anyone just getting into the comedy or speaking biz, showcase is another word for audition. A successful showcase can lead to work (auditioning for talent bookers, event planners, etc.) or representation (auditioning for a talent agent or manager).

Why use the word showcase? I dunno… maybe it sounds more professional or less stressful, but it means exactly the same as audition.

I’ve been involved in a lot of showcases for comedy clubs, television shows, corporate events and college gigs. And here’s a behind-the-scenes truth about this business. The industry people – talent bookers, agents and managers – looking to hire or represent performers want to make the most of their on the job time. In other words, they don’t want to spend every night of the week going to a club and only seeing one performer showcasing each night. It makes much more sense (time management) to see a number of performances during one show.

They also don’t want to sit through ten, twenty or thirty minute sets when it’s obvious within the first three minutes the showcasing performer is not what they are looking to hire.

This is why industry showcases include numerous performers doing short sets. For instance…

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

When I was auditioning comedians for the television show A&E’s An Evening At The Improv, I would schedule showcases for Monday evenings at The Improv on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. I’d block out about 35 minutes to see ten comics do three minutes each. The extra five minutes would be a buffer for MC introductions and time for the acts to get on and off the stage. If everyone kept to their time – and it was more than just expected they would – then Mission Showcase would be accomplished.

Within that short period of time ten comedians would have an opportunity to book a television show.

And it wasn’t just me in the audience on Monday nights watching the showcase. There were talent bookers for The Tonight Show, HBO, MTV and other shows and networks checking out the new comics. They knew this was happening on Monday evenings and everyone could all get a lot of work done in a little over half an hour.

But it was never a surprise when some of the comics complained that three minutes was not enough time to showcase their talent. But you know what?

They were wrong.

images

No sweat!

Three minutes is PLENTY of time for an experienced talent booker to know whether or not they want to hire the showcasing performer. In my case, if you couldn’t prove you were ready to perform on A&E’s An Evening at the Improv within three minutes (to be honest it was more like within 30 seconds) then you weren’t right for that particular show. This was also true for the other talent bookers watching these showcases.

If a comedian couldn’t demonstrate what he can do on stage within the first three minutes, there was NO WAY a talent booker will hire him to do those same three minutes on a television show. Even if the comic suddenly became hysterically funny at the end of this showcase – the first three minutes will have lost viewers channel surfing for better entertainment.

It’s similar to auditioning for American Idol, The Voice or So You Think You Can Dance. Before anyone makes it to the televised episodes, thousands of hopefuls showcase in front of one, two or maybe three judges off-camera for (trust me on this because I’ve been there) much less than three minutes. If performers can’t impress the judges within that time frame – they can forget about moving on in the competition.

Lesson? If you think you have what it takes to get on any of those shows, don’t waste any time during your showcase. Bring your A Game and go for it asap.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

It’s also important to realize this is your opportunity as a performer or humorous speaker to make a good first impression with the industry people. It shows you’re professional by knowing the importance of sticking to a schedule – their schedule. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read last week’s article.

Another reason to stick to your showcasing time is consideration for your fellow comedians or speakers.

It doesn’t matter if your showcase is done in front of a large audience, like we did at the Hollywood Improv, or just a few judges similar to Last Comic Standing, The Voice and American Idol. Anyone watching a lot of performers doing short performances will get burned-out faster than if they were watching one great performer during the same time frame.

For example, Jerry Seinfeld can do an hour set and leave the audience wanting more. He’s a seasoned professional entertainer. No one can argue that. But newcomers won’t have the experience or material to hold an audience that long. It takes time – stage time – and talent to reach that status. And if you’re already there – like Seinfeld – then you wouldn’t be showcasing anyway.

And no one can argue that either…

So one way to make these talent showcases fair (there’s a word you don’t often hear in showbiz) is to keep the talent bookers and audience from being burned-out for the later performers. It’s not fair to the performers at the end of the showcase. Here’s another example…

During my comedy workshops ten aspiring comedians perform five minute sets during our evening graduation show. That’s 50 minutes – not including an MC warming up the crowd for ten minutes to kick things off and doing short introductions for each comic. That brings our show to over an hour, which is getting into Seinfeld territory on stage.

The audience is fresh and excited in the beginning. And by keeping each comedian’s set short and funny, chances are the audience will not get burned-out by the end. There may be performers they don’t care as much for, but the next one will be on stage within a few minutes. The audience interest level can be held.

time is up concept clockAt one workshop performance a few years ago, the FIRST comic in our show – for whatever reason – never took his eyes off the first few rows of tables. He kept his head down and never looked at the people seated in the back. He had been told to watch for my signal from the sound booth (back of the room) telling him his five minutes were almost up and to finish his performance.

Except he NEVER looked up. He kept his head down and didn’t stop talking.

He had a good five minutes – which is what he had created during our workshop. He had been prepared and did a good job. But when he finished his five minutes, he just kept rambling on. He didn’t stop talking.

Suddenly, it wasn’t funny. In fact – it was the complete opposite. The audience lost interest. You could see them breaking up into small discussion groups at their tables, looking at the menus and trying to order drinks to ease their pain.

When he ran out of things to say, he finally left the stage. The audience had already checked out mentally and the comedian who was unfortunate enough to have the next spot had to work TWICE as hard to get the audience back (get them to pay attention). It was not an easy night for either comic – or even the next few that had to follow this showcase killing disaster.

The comic that went long found me at the back of the room. He had lost track of time and had no idea how many minutes he’d been on stage. So when he asked me how he did, I had to give him an honest answer:

“You did ten freaking minutes!” I said.

Okay, I hope I didn’t sound as angry as that looks. But I was being honest. I took time to explain how what he had done affected the show. It really wasn’t fair to anyone that night – including him, especially since the first five minutes of his set was great. The additional time he did onstage (unprepared in advance) left an impression with the audience that he wasn’t very good after all.

As far as I know he’s still doing comedy and since talent bookers are hiring him, I know the lesson was learned.

So whether you’re showcasing or doing a paid gig, remember the importance of time. It’s a ticking time bomb – and we all know how comedians and speakers HATE to bomb!!

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Stick to your time on stage

October 13, 2014

Hey Dave – Without revealing my secret identity, I heard you talking not too long ago and know you were pretty upset with a comedian who went over his time and was on stage too long. It’s probably safe to say he overstayed his welcome. Care to elaborate? – G.

Hey G – What are you? A secret agent with a secret identity listening to my not-so-private conversations? Oh well, I guess it could be worse. Instead of a sleazy private eye snooping on me, you could be a self-centered comedian – or humorous speaker – who goes over his allotted time on stage.

images-7Want to kill a potentially great relationship with a comedy club or make sure you’re never invited back for a return gig at a college or corporate event? When you’re given the light (the signal) to end your set and leave the stage – ignore it. Go ahead and do another 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour… or two… Everyone will surely love and worship your amazing and boundless talent that you’re compelled to share so unselfishly for however long your ego needs to be stroked on stage.

And in case you don’t recognize sarcasm in the written word, insert a capitalized “NOT!” after that last sentence. In a creative profession that thrives on having ”no rules” (being original and unique is a big plus) going over your time on stage breaks a big business rule – and is a big minus.

As always there are exceptions that depend on your status within the industry and everyone starting out in the business needs to realize that. There are fundraising efforts – that are planned in advance – to set records for time on stage. I’m pretty sure the current one is still held by comedian Bob Marley who did forty hours of stand-up a few years ago and raised $12,000 for the Portland Maine Barbara Bush Hospital.

That’s truly awesome, but not what we’re talking about today.

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Another exception is having your own hit television show or enough name recognition to sell out theaters and arenas. That’s like being the favorite child or grandchild. You get special privileges.

For instance, a major star like Dave Chappelle can go for a (then) world record on stage, as he did in 2007 at LA’s Laugh Factory, (over 6 hours). He broke the record set not long before that by Dane Cook (almost 4 hours) who – as you know – is another major star.

Stars of their magnitude can stay on stage as long as they like – when it’s their headlining show in a theater, arena or (sometimes) a club. That’s the power of star power. It’s like seeing Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, or U2 perform three hour concerts. Their fans are into it, paid big money to see that particular artist, and these acts have the material to entertain for that length of time.

pointing at watchBut until you’re working within that stratosphere of popularity, stick to your time on stage.

Reasons why? As always, I’m glad you asked…

It’s a business – which is a fact I emphasize in many of these FAQ’s and Answers. Some club owners are in the entertainment biz because they enjoy it and like to nurture and promote new talent. Others are only in it to make money. But the bottom line for both is if they don’t make money – and yes, this includes the nurturing types – they go out of business. When a club goes out of business, comedians have one less place to work.

Clubs earn money selling tickets, selling food and drinks – and keeping expenses (rent, utilities, inventory, payroll, etc…) under control. The comedian you reminded me of in this week’s FAQ – and I won’t mention his name – actually told club management after the show that he was doing them a favor by going more than an HOUR over his scheduled time on stage. He pretty much wanted a “thank you” for giving the serving, kitchen and bar staff more time to sell food and drinks.

That consideration for the club deserves a bigger laugh than any he received on stage. After all, Dumb and Dumber was a popular movie and now this comic is the live version. Good thinking! (Again – this is written sarcasm so please add a big “NOT!”).

You know why? Because the business doesn’t work that way…

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Shows at this particular club (a world famous comedy club) are timed. Staff arrives at a certain time, the doors open at a certain time, the show starts at a certain time and the comedians – opening act, feature act and headlining act – are given set times. The headliners, of course, are the privileged members of the family, but most know how the business works. As Steve Martin said in The Jerk:

“I get it… It’s a profit deal!”

The behind the scenes business – kitchen crew, servers, food-runners, bars, box office, security, management – revolve around the show schedule. For instance, the box office closes when the headliner goes on so customers won’t complain about getting ripped-off when buying a ticket after the show has started. So that profit opportunity for the club is ended when the headliner walks on stage.

Are you following me so far? Good, because I’m not done yet…

images-9A sad fact about the nightclub biz is that some people like to skip out on their checks. In other words – if they can sneak out without paying they’re getting a free night out. The truth is that in most cases the servers – the waiters and waitresses – are stuck with these checks and have to pay for these uncollected profits out of their own pockets. They foot the bill and end up paying for these jerks (and I’m not referring again to Steve Martin) to have a fun night out.

Not fair – is it?

This is why comedy clubs have “check spots.” Experienced comedians know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s when the checks are put on the tables to be paid by the customers. The show doesn’t (or shouldn’t) end until all the checks are paid – by the customers. That makes it difficult for deadbeat customers to blend in and sneak out with the customers that have already paid. It’s a sad truth about the nightclub business.

So based on the time allotted for the show, last call (for ordering drinks and food) is given when there is still enough time during the headlining comedian’s set to give customers their checks – check spot - and collect the money. No more drinks or food are served after last call because the checks are paid-up and closed. When the show ends and the final comedian has walked off the stage, customers can head to the bar or another club if they want to continue drinking and eating.

This means the final two profit opportunities for the club – food and drinks – has ended.

But what about keeping expenses under control? When the staff has finished serving and collecting paid-up checks, they have to hang around and wait for the show to end and the customers to leave. And while they’re hanging around waiting, they’ve also lost any opportunity to earn additional tips because the checks are closed and they can’t start new ones for thirsty customers because no one knows when the show will end.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

In the case of the comedian referred to above, that meant the staff waited around for an hour – on the clock and getting paid by the club owner – before they could finish their shifts, shut down the club and leave.

Doesn’t make great business sense for a good business plan – does it?

I’m sure you can imagine the chaos this can cause for clubs that have two or three shows on a weekend night. If the first show runs even 10 or 15 minutes late because a comic goes over his time, the audiences coming in for the later shows don’t know this. They’re on time and lined-up to enter the showroom, while the earlier audience is still inside. When they’re leaving the new audience is trying to get in… Well, I’ll refer to another Steve Martin quote that also works from the management point of view when it comes to crowd control…

MI0000162145Comedy is not pretty.

I don’t need to tell you what the management and staff are saying behind the back of the comedian that went long. I’ll just let you know it is not pretty.

The same holds true for corporate and college performers.

These business people and students are usually on a schedule. It could be a class, dinner, cocktail hour / social time – whatever. The contracts I’ve seen for these types of gigs are very strict in their performance times. Go short (leave the stage before completing the time you’re contracted for) and the clients won’t want to pay you. Go long and they won’t even think of booking you for a return engagement since you’ve disrupted the event schedule.

Of course there are other reasons why you must stick to your time on stage. The No. 1 reason for beginning comics and speakers is to prove to talent bookers and club management you understand how important this is and won’t cause a potential nightmare in the future. But in an effort not to take longer than expected when you started reading, I’ll stick to my time and sign off. I think you get the idea.

——————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Editing your promo video

October 6, 2014

Hi Dave – What is considered acceptable when editing your demo reel? I filmed a set last week that’s pretty good, but there are a couple spots where I didn’t get the audience reaction I had hoped for. I also messed up a joke and really don’t want it on the tape. Is honesty the best policy and should I send the whole set unedited? Thanks – D.

Hey D. – Honesty is always the best policy, but sometimes being too honest is too much. If you normally have great sets, then you honestly want that represented on your video / DVD / demo reel. But if great sets are few and far between, then sending out an edited video making you look like the next coming of Jerry Seinfeld is not going to help you in the long run.

images

Gimme another chance!

In fact, if a booker hires you or gives you a showcase off a great video and it’s obvious during your performance you can’t back it up, chances are you’re not going to get a second chance.

And by the way, it’s easier for me to refer to your demo reel as a “video” since that’s the term comedians, speakers and bookers have been using since Dave Chappelle was an open-mic comic. He was 14 when he started, so we’re going back a way in comedy history. But as I mentioned in an earlier FAQ and Answer, video tape is considered an antique and promotional videos now are either online or on DVD.

Now if you really want to get technical, a sizzle reel is what producers and show-runners (sometimes the same?) use to promote ideas for sitcoms, reality shows and other television projects to potential sponsors (advertisers). But I’m never one to get too technical. Just thought I’d mention that…

Ideally, you want to present an unedited video.

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

That’s seamless gold – but sometimes seemingly impossible. There’s always going to be something going on in a club that you can’t control like people arriving late, talking in the back, ordering drinks, spilling drinks and yadda-yadda-yadda. There might also be tech problems with the sound system – or even a joke that always kills, but for some reason doesn’t work the night you’re taping. It happens.

Film_editing

My good side has to be on here somewhere!

So when it happens – something in your set that’s not truly representative of what you do on stage – then yeah, edit it out. Almost everyone does. I can’t remember the last time I watched an unedited video submission. But even though I know it and the comedian knows it – the best videos don’t make it so obvious.

Good edits make it look seamless. (Sorry, I feel your pain and will stop with the wordplay).

That’s also difficult to do unless you pay big bucks to a professional editor or have editing equipment and know how to use it. And yeah, I know there are some more youthful computer wizards right now shaking their heads in disbelief. I have a teenage son and he can film, edit and post a music video on YouTube in less time than it takes me to write these ramblings. If you can do that, pocket your big bucks and get to work. But if you’re old school (a term I’ve heard often from my youthful kids)…

There are a lot of editing programs for computers and tablets available and most of them are not even that expensive. In the long run, it would be worth the learning time and investment to do your own editing because your video should always be current and representative of your act or presentation. It doesn’t do you any good sending out a year-old video you’ve paid a professional editor big bucks to fix if you’re not even doing that material any more.

You should also be a better comic or speaker than you were a year ago and need to show that.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

I won’t get into specifics on editing, though I am pretty good at it (if I do say so myself). But here’s a good rule to follow:

Don’t make a LOT of edits and don’t make your video look like it has a LOT of edits.

images-4

The best policy

Make sense? It’s okay to cut out a few flaws here and there, but if it’s a jumpy looking set because one moment you’re standing on one side of the stage and the next you’re on the other side – or if you’re wearing different clothes for each joke (a telltale sign it wasn’t all taped the same show) then no booker will take you seriously. Instead of thinking you’re a great comic or speaker, they’ll be wondering what you’re trying to hide with so many edits. They might also think you did a half hour set just to get seven minutes of presentable material and would not be willing to hire (pay for) the other 23 minutes they’ll assume didn’t work.

So my advice is to make edits – we all do – when truly necessary. In other words, when the parts cut out are honestly not representative of your typical performance. But too many obvious edits will look too suspicious to bookers. The key to remember is when someone is hiring you to perform, they want to know what they’re paying for. Your goal as a comedian or humorous speaker is to show them. Honestly.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

More advice about corporate holiday gigs

September 29, 2014

The past two FAQs And Answers have been about booking holiday parties. Specifically, the higher paying corporate events. I’m always looking for feedback and happy to pass along experienced advice that can be helpful for other comedians and humorous speakers. So if you ever want to join in on the conversation, just send an email to dave@thecomedybook.com.

Comedian Dave Glardon did that and (with his permission) I’ve designated him this week’s “guest columnist.” I’m sure you’ll find his experiences in the corporate holiday market helpful. And when you finish reading, check out his website at www.daveglardon.com.

Thanks for sharing Dave!

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Hi Dave,

One thing I’d add. I’ve learned over the years never to believe the party coordinator when they say “give us your club show” because all it takes is one semi-prude in the room and things can spiral down really fast. That happened on my first corp gig, a retirement party. They asked me to keep it semi-clean, but in two separate emails reminded me that there would be no kids there and “please don’t baby us – we’re all adults“.

funny-ugly-mature-senior-woman-shock-surprise-book-24014412

He said WHAT?!!

Yeah. The first time I said “ass” the room went dead silent, and stayed that way for the remainder of my set.

I learned pretty quickly that in a corporate gig you have one person to please, and that’s the boss or the guest of honor. If they’re not laughing, nobody’s laughing. And if the company prude is getting visibly upset, the boss tends to stop laughing pretty fast.

So add one more to the “must please” list.

A few years ago I did two holiday shows in the same weekend – one for a group of women from various trucking companies, and another for a construction company. Both told me to just do my normal set. I was most concerned about the women, so I started off easy and tested the waters a bit. Every time I went a little dirty, they howled. So I ended up giving them my best club set and they treated me like a comedy god.

The next night for the construction company, I started off doing the same set. Before my set I sensed a lot of tension in the room, and I noticed as the owner moved around, nobody except his son and girlfriend approached him. During the show, they were seated at the front with their backs to the room. The boss chuckled at most of my jokes, but not enough that anyone could tell. Nobody else laughed at anything except when I picked on one of their competitors.

Massimo-DAlema

Expecting snowflakes & glitter

Found out later they’d just had a big lay-off and the VP thought a comedian would relieve some tension and improve morale. Thanks!

Anyway, I’ve learned to turn down the ones that tell me they want adult humor, or at least talk them out of it, because the odds of bombing are about five times greater.

If you want me for a frat party, we’ll get down and dirty.

Company Christmas party? It’s snowflakes and glitter.

There is so much to learn in this business and, after 11 years and about 1000 shows, what I’ve learned is that I still have an awful lot to learn. I just appreciate the fact that you do what you can to give the newer folks constructive and honest advice, while discouraging things that only serve to pollute the pool for the rest of us.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

I avoid most corporate and holiday gigs right now because I’m a club comic. Last year I rocked the house at the Stardome six nights in a row, but that was a well-honed club set that took me years to develop. When it comes to the private events, I normally pass along the name of someone better suited.

Last year a company contacted me about their holiday show. The year before they had a comedic magician, and he was already booked. That set off all kinds of red flags with me, and I told them they’d probably be better suited with someone else.

The woman insisted she’d heard I was really funny, and this is an adult party, so I should be fine.

o-SHOCKED-WOMAN-facebook

THAT’S an innuendo?!

I sent her a link to my full feature set from the Stardome. She emailed the next day to say that probably was a little rough for their party. I put her in touch with a couple of other guys. One was a comedic magician.

And Dave, the thing is, I’m not really dirty. Most bookers describe me as PG to mild R, depending on which jokes I use and which ones I leave out. I use a few words here and there that I can cut out with no problem, but my material still deals with adult topics with a lot of innuendo. I’d say 90% of my set could be done on network TV without giving censors a heart attack.

But to the point you made very clearly, adult audiences don’t always enjoy adult humor, especially in a more dignified setting. Sometimes all they want is Santa Claus and the little drummer boy.

Anyway, I’m glad you tackled this topic. It needed to be said.

And my web URL … oddly enough, it’s www.daveglardon.com. Imagine that! :-)

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Part 2 – Time to start booking holiday parties

September 22, 2014

Hey Dave – Last week you wrote about booking gigs for holiday parties. Good tips, like planning your promo, networking, and working clean. But you left us hanging about the money and how comics can charge more for holiday gigs. You said you’d cover that subject this week. So what’s the pay-off, you handsome devil? – Dave

Hey Handsome Devil Wannabe…

Okay, I’ll stop the BS. In case you haven’t figured it out, I wrote the above question. I could’ve just continued from where we left off last week by announcing “Part 2″ in bold, italicized CAPS, but what good is it to call these articles FAQs and Answers if there’s no Q kicking it off?

Guess I’m a stickler for sticking with the format. So with that said…

PART 2:

Most experienced comedians will raise their corporate performing fees for holiday parties. Notice I said experienced. Rookie, open-mic comics (though I love you guys!) should not get into the private party (holiday gigs) market until you have an act that is audience-proven and worth the money businesses will pay for entertainment.

Satisfaction guaranteedIn other words – like a good business – you want satisfied customers. Word gets out that you were an asset (business term) to the party, it could lead to more work. If you do a crash and burn, take the money and run (hack comic term) performance, that word could also get out – and your next holiday gig might be working for the caterer.

Know what I mean?

Yes, there are (as always) exceptions. For example, your aunt’s boyfriend offers you 20 bucks to say something funny at his retirement roast. If you don’t live up to the (headline) billing your loving aunt was probably using to influence this decision, you might just get a few dirty looks from the boyfriend and the other witnesses. Do the same (bomb) at a big-money corporate holiday event and you might have a hard time getting paid.

As a booker I’ve felt the wrath of clients who thought a comic was so bad that they refused to pay – or have demanded a refund. Do you think I’d work with that comic again? No way. I’ve also known a few contacts in the business world that have actually picked up the phone and called me – and other booking agents – and warned us not to use a certain comic for ANYTHING.

Believe me, bad reviews seem to travel a lot faster in his biz than good reviews.

So – let’s put it this way. If you’re just starting out as a comic and working your way through the open-mic circuit, chances are you’re not going to be headlining The Improv next weekend for big bucks. Use this same business sense when it comes to booking holiday parties. This is also true for humorous speakers still doing free gigs (your open-mic circuit) to put your presentation together.

Yes, there are very small parties with very small budgets that experienced comedians wouldn’t even consider doing. Let’s say in the $200 or less range. If you’ve had success doing 20 CLEAN (G-rated) minutes and can throw in a few holiday references, then partner with another comic who can do the same. Offer the potential client a 30-40 minute two-comic holiday comedy show and split the money with your new partner.

Seriously. It will give you experience, corporate credits for your resume – and gas money.

Do you really want to break into the market?

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CLEVELAND Improv

Starts Saturday – October 18, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Improv

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Be smart about it. Don’t go in thinking you can stretch out your current 15 minutes of material by working the crowd for 40 minutes and get away with it. That’s why experienced headliners and strong features can clean up doing holiday parties. They already have the material and the stage experience.

Which brings us back to the beginning? You remember, right after that handsome devil reference…

Most experienced comedians will raise their performing fees for corporate holiday parties.

The holiday season is a short time of year to make a lot of money. Think about it. You may have to start promoting months in advance, but the season only lasts a few weeks in December. Parties can (and do) happen every night of the week, probably starting close to December 1st and going until Christmas Eve. But you have to realize there are only a few Friday and Saturday nights in those weeks when most of the parties take place.

Happy CEO

The Boss – and we’re not talking Springsteen…

The boss (the client that hires you) will be spending big bucks on the party room, (restaurant, hotel, conference center – wherever), and also on the food and booze. If he’s got half a heart and seasonal cheer, he might also be springing for bonus checks and even possibly gifts for all his employees.

So relying on what we know about today’s economy and that odds aren’t good Donald Trump is funding this holiday bash, a good guess is if the boss is hiring a comedian – chances are he won’t also be hiring a band, deejay, hypnotist, balloon artist, or Carrot Top. For a lot of companies, it’s not in the annual holiday party budget anymore.

So if the boss goes with hiring a comedian instead of another option – that comedian is the main entertainment attraction for the annual holiday party. This is the party everyone in the company will be talking about until next year’s annual holiday party.

If the comedian goes down in flames, the party would be a major bust and the boss would have to live with that reputation for an entire year. No one will remember what finger sandwiches were served. But if they had to sit in a room and listen to a comic not make them laugh for almost an hour… well, that’s memorable.

Therefore, the boss needs to hire a good, experienced comic. And if the comedian has the experience to make the party a huge success, then he deserves to be paid well for the effort (and should know it).

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Here’s another way to look at this. A hypothetical conversation – from the comedian’s point of view:

My fee for your secretary’s retirement banquet is $500. I’m really not busy that evening anyway and it beats sitting home waiting for the phone to ring. BUT if you want me to perform at your Christmas party, it’ll cost you $750. Why? (As the client is coughing and choking). Because four other businesses I’ve contacted are also having their parties that same night and I’m going with the best offer.

With a good business plan, luck, ability to schmooze, and geographically desirable locations, three or four of those holiday business parties can be booked for the same night at staggered times. That’s $750, (or whatever fee you charge), times four… equals… well, the total is staggering compared to what you might earn for two shows that same night in a comedy club – which is why comedians love holiday parties.

But once again, a major word of warning…

Not happy customers

Know your audience

This may all sound like easy money and temp you to jump into the holiday party pool headfirst (with no sunblock – a reference to last week’s Part 1 if you’ve paid attention). But keep in mind what I said earlier. The entertainment, (comedian or humorous speaker), can make the party a success or a bust. You need experience and a proven act – and some holiday references and jokes wouldn’t hurt. And the material must be CLEAN. No X-rated or R-rated stuff for all the reasons mentioned in Part 1 of this article. The only exception would be if this was a request from the client and worked out in advance with his approval.

Also never forget – experience counts. Just like there are no short cuts from playing an open-mic one weekend to headlining at The Improv the next. It doesn’t happen unless your aunt’s boyfriend runs the club and is pretty secure in his job.

If a client is willing to pay big bucks, you have to be willing to put in the work first. If you have the stage experience and proven material, then go for it. If not, start writing now and getting on stage as often as possible with an eye on next year. As mentioned last week in Part 1, the promotion process for performers starts right about now. You know, while we’re still thinking more about sunblock than Santa Claus…

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Time to start booking holiday parties

September 16, 2014

Hey Dave – What’s the deal with doing Christmas parties? I know some comics who booked a few last year and made good money. – T.R.

Christmas Party Invite

Time to spread the cheer…

Hey T.R. – Christmas / holiday parties are big business in the comedy biz. Corporate and humorous speakers (sometimes one in the same) can also score big during the festive season, but I don’t consider their bookings as seasonal as comedians in this market.

Why? Because comedians are considered entertainment and holiday parties usually want entertainment. Speakers with a message – whether informative, entertaining or both – can often find gigs at meetings and conferences year-round. For instance, I just spoke at a conference last week. With keynotes being delivered during breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings, and various workshops running concurrently over two days at this huge resort, there had to be at least 50 speakers involved.

I didn’t see any comedians…

Who's the boss?

Who’s the boss?

So with that personal observation in mind, we’ll focus this FAQ and Answer on comedians and entertainers looking to book holiday parties. But I’m also pretty sure humorous speakers will be interested in some of this stuff.

The time to get in on this action is now.

We’re hitting the end of summer and a lot of these holiday bashes are already in the planning stages. In fact, I’ve already gotten my first call for this holiday season, so the clock is ticking…

Most of these holiday parties are planned way in advance because the bosses (employers) have to rent party rooms or restaurants in advance for this once a year company-paid blow-out. They also know somewhere in the back of their minds the approximate date when they have to cough up holiday bonus checks for their employees – so that also goes into factoring when these parties will occur.

Once the party date has been confirmed, it’s circled on every employee’s calendar and they’re expecting the boss to show them a good time. Of course the smart employees won’t have too much of a good time, but for those who cut loose a little too much…

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CLEVELAND Improv

Starts Saturday – October 18, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Improv

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Dave with the great Phyllis Diller

Dave with the great
Phyllis Diller

As the great Phyllis Diller once said:

I hate Christmas parties. You always have to wake up the next day and start looking for a new job.

Booking holiday parties is similar to working in the corporate market. You may imagine employees overindulging in the eggnog and walking around wearing Santa hats with mistletoe pinned to the white fluffy ball at the top, but the boss is still in charge of the toy factory. With lawsuits about sexual harassment, discrimination, mental anguish, and whatever other reasons and insults that could cause the company to continue paying a future former employee for not working at the company anymore (and their lawyer fees) the boss is not gonna take any chances. The only exceptions I can think of might be if they’re a strip club or a construction crew – and then they’ll most likely wind up having their parties together.

Okay, okay… I know!! Sometimes I think I’m funny when (maybe) I’m not…

Your audience

Your audience

What I’m trying to say is that except for the rare exception, company holiday parties have turned into family style events.

There may or may not be kids involved, but there’s usually an office prude or uptight spouse keeping an eye on everything. And the best way to avoid hassles is to stay politically correct. If you want to be offended by a comedian, go to a comedy club. If you want holiday laughs where no one has to wake up the next day and look for another job, hire a comedian that works clean.

Speaking of clean, a lot of the comedians who are cleaning-up dollar-wise with holiday parties start their booking efforts in late summer and early fall. Seriously. I can go into my files as a booking agent and see contract signing dates in August and September for Christmas parties. The performances were signed, sealed and deposits were paid while I was still trying to get my kids to put on sun block before they’d go outside.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

The process of promoting yourself for these shows is the same as I’ve written about for the corporate market. Only now you want to aim it for the Christmas / Holiday season. Put it right on your emails and postcards, and mention it if you’re calling businesses:

You are available for office holiday parties – and work clean.

Your promotions can start in late August (past that) or early September (right now). Do a mailing or emailing to your regular contact list, (you should have one if you’ve been reading these articles) and then follow up with phone calls. If you don’t have the proper contact person, ask who is in charge of the company party. That person is probably looking just as hard for entertainment as you are for gigs. With the right promotion and networking skills, (again – business techniques you should already have if you’re been reading these articles), you can make their life easier by hiring you as the entertainment. This will give them more time to choose the table ornaments and who should not be seated next to each other to avoid company in-fighting.

Goin' for broke!

Personal friends with The Man In Red

Again, it’s all about finding leads, networking and promoting – which are business techniques I talk about in my book How To Be A Working Comic and these newsletters.

I know comedians and speakers who have promo photos taken wearing Santa suits or with other holiday themes. Their websites and online networking are advertising their skills at entertaining for holiday parties. In the entertainment biz, the holiday season has already started.

But there’s more to this than just getting the gigs – it’s also about getting paid. And yes, the rumors are true. Entertainers can charge more during the holiday season than any other time of the year. But I’m going to ask you to hold that important thought for awhile. We’ll get to the part we’re all interested in – the money – next week. See’ya then!

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,047 other followers