Hi Dave – I’m fairly new to this newsletter, so I don’t know if you’ve addressed this topic but I think it could be a good one. How to prepare yourself in the event of a car breakdown and what to do when it does. I was driving home from a gig last night and it happened…at 2 AM…with not a town in sight. I drove the car onto an exit, not realizing it was a merge ramp for a state highway. Ended up following the ramp around and saw a 24 hour gas station in the distance. It just so happened that a couple cops pulled in a little later. I told them what was going on, they paged another cop who’s a grease monkey, and he fixed it up. I have no idea what I would have done otherwise! – J.N.
Hey J.N. – Nope, we haven’t talked about this topic, so thanks for asking. I don’t have any solutions about what to do in your particular automotive case, so I’m glad to hear you have a grease monkey for a fairy godfather. As long as you made it TO the gig, what happens AFTER is all potential comedy material.
But I will comment on the importance of getting TO gigs…
Unless you’re near death, someone near and dear to you is near death, or you have this important stipulation – “due to an act of God” – written into your contract (and you should!) you never miss a paid performance. What the heck – I’ll say it – you also don’t want to miss an un-paid performance if you’ve promised a booker, club owner or event organizer you’ll be there, they’re planning on having you perform, AND it has the potential of leading to paid performances.
It’s your career and it’s a job.
Make sure your car has gas and is tuned-up, the flight’s not over-booked (if so, arrive early so you’re not the passenger getting bumped) or have an updated public transportation schedule. Unless you can show a photo of you in a hospital or standing next to your totaled doublewide house trailer after a tornado, you’d better show up and be ready to perform. If not, don’t expect a second chance re-booking from the same person.
Case in point…
When I was the talent coordinator at The Los Angeles Improv, one of my favorite NYC comedians was flying out for a television audition. She’ll remain nameless because she’s quite famous and I consider her to be a true friend in this business and would never write anything to make you think less of her. She called me and I told her to come to The Improv on Melrose Avenue and I’ll get her a few sets. Then I mentioned this to a higher-up (also nameless because he’s still my personal comedy hero) and he said no way. He liked her, but she had stood him up a few years earlier by canceling a benefit performance at the last minute. And without a near death photo or evidence of a destroyed doublewide, she had committed the worse sin in the business. So instead of watching my friend on stage at The Melrose Improv, we met for lunch at a deli next to The Laugh Factory.
Being a no-show is worse than ignoring the light while on stage and going over your performance time. Remember that.
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In my experience, you don’t miss gigs – period. It’s a business and you need to treat it like a business. I’ll tell’ya right now, all talent bookers want to work with professionals. If you don’t handle your career like a professional – then don’t bother contacting professional talent bookers.
Another case in point. In fact, here are a couple…
A few years ago I was booking a club about an hour outside Cleveland. There was a girl who came through my comedy workshop who really had promise – decent material and good stage presence. She really just needed stage time to get better. I had given her a few MC gigs, she did well – and since this club was only running a two person show, it was a good chance for her to do a longer set.
So even though she didn’t have a lot of experience, I told the owner she would be great and we booked her for the paying gig. It wasn’t so great when he called me about 15 minutes after show was supposed to start and asked when she would arrive. I called the phone number I had for her – and never heard back. I worried that she was stuck on the highway, got lost or suffered a near death (or worse) experience.
The show went on with only one comedian, but I lost a chunk of my fee for booking it since half the talent never got there.
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The next day she called and said she had gotten my message. She couldn’t call back because she had taken a WAITRESS job and had to work the night of the show! No warning and no, “can you find someone else?” She just never showed up. BUT (if you can believe this) she then asked if I could re-schedule her for the gig when she had a day off.
That was the last time I spoke with her.
Another example? Okay… This one is about getting lost.
I had a comedian I was representing in the college market. He had showcased through NACA (National Association for Campus Activities) and I scheduled him for a number of good paying gigs. One was a Friday night at a campus in Pennsylvania. Not long before the show was scheduled to start, this idiot called me to say he was hopelessly lost.
I would think – and maybe this is just me (I say sarcastically) but if I were supposed to drive to a good paying gig, a GPS, MapQuest printout, or even a road map would be a good business items to invest in. He told me he THOUGHT he knew ABOUT where the college was – so just headed in that direction hoping to see signs to help him find it.
He missed the show – and again, I missed a booking fee. Do you think I ever booked him again? Yeah, I’m laughing (sarcastically) that you would even consider that one…
So this week’s message is simple. Don’t miss a gig if you plan to work for that talent booker again in the future. And if you do, just hope he sees you on the television news explaining how the tornado interrupted your rendezvous with the aliens who’ve been visiting the trailer park – and who were supposed to give you a lift to your comedy gig. If you’re lucky, he might buy that excuse – or find it entertaining enough to give you a rare second chance.
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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 2014 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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