Hey Dave – I just went to a (big) audition in LA but didn’t get in because there were too many people. Like you advised, I gave one of the judges my promo package though. I’m not living in LA and it was a long way to travel for this. Do you think it could be useful for me to send my promo materials directly to comedy agents in LA? Thanks – D.
Hey D. – Bad news that you didn’t get in for the audition. I know the one you’re referring to and since it involved television, it was guaranteed to attract a lot of comedians. In showbiz terms, it was a cattle call. Everyone in the entertainment biz knows what I’m talking about. You line up early with a ba-zillion others and hope you’re seen before they cut-off the audition.
This process makes everyone feel more like a number, rather than a talent. I remember a comic from one of my workshops traveled a long way to audition for Last Comedy Standing. They were only seeing the first 100 people in line and I’m pretty sure he was around #110.
He wasn’t seen either. He called me while standing in line and told me how some comedians were being given preferential treatment and were escorted to the front of the line and seen for the audition without having to wait at all.
What was up with that? Okay, I’ll tell you…
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It’s what happens when the powers that be are already familiar with a comedian. They already know what he can do and because of that, they already think there’s a good chance the comedian could be a good choice for that particular show.
So based on that past experience they will guarantee the comic will be seen during the audition. And in most cases, they will schedule a prearranged time.
It’s a lot easier for them to bring in a comedian they’re already familiar with and already know has the experience, rather than auditioning a long line-up of comics they know nothing about. I’m not saying these types of auditions don’t work. If they didn’t, no one would do them anymore. But talent bookers know that just because someone lined up early enough to be seen during a cattle call, it doesn’t mean they have the talent or experience they’re looking for.
It might only mean they have a working alarm clock.
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That’s pretty much how it works with talent agents in the big-time showbiz centers of LA (and NYC as long as we’re on the topic). To earn a living talent agents have to spend a LOT of time and effort getting their clients work. And for them to do this you can bet they’ll need to know exactly what the talent (comedians) can do.
The best way to do that? See them perform in person.
And not just once, but over and over in front of different audiences and in different venues. They really want to know the talent is worth their time and effort. And they need to know this firsthand.
Can a talent agent commit to doing this based on a mailed promo package or website? Not very often. But it can be a start (a good introduction) or a good reminder following an audition. That’s why I advised you to take a promotional package with you to the audition. If you don’t get in, there’s always a chance it could serve as name-face recognition (a reminder) down the road. It’s a long shot of course, but you never know.
As far as sending blind (not requested) promo packages to LA agents your best hope is that it serves as an introduction. To be honest – I don’t think they watch that much from comics who are not based in LA. Even if they do, they’ll still want to see you live. And not just once, but over and over. They’ll need to know firsthand that you can be relied on to give a great show and that you have the experience and talent worthy of their time and effort to get you work.
The best thing you can do if your goal is to eventually land an LA agent is to get REALLY good before you approach them about being seen.
For two great examples of what I’m talking about, read the interviews with Drew Carey and Jeff Foxworthy in How To Be A Working Comic. Each had the goal of appearing on The Tonight Show, but they couldn’t get seen by only sending promotional packages. It didn’t happen for either one until they were seen on stage by the producers in LA.
I know there are always exceptions. And some LA comics will disagree with this statement, but agents frequent the clubs actively looking for new talent. That’s how they earn their money.
If you’re truly interested in LA, make a trip to check out the comedy scene. Go to the clubs and the open-mics. Do you have any contacts who can help you get a showcase at one of the major clubs? Try to schedule one or two in advance, then use your promo material as a promotion for these shows.
It’s how public relations – advertising – works.
Think about whatever big-budget movie is opening this weekend. You’ve seen the commercials and read the print ads for weeks (promo packages) and now it’s time for the film to be seen. If the publicists have done their job by building up interest, there should be an audience.
That’s how you should work your promo material.
Talent agents may not specifically come out to see you. But your promotion might serve as name-face recognition if you’re in the right place at the right time – which would be on stage in a club where they’re looking for new faces.
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Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!
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.
Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing.
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