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.
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…
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…
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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…
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.
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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.
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!
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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
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