Comedy festivals have been popping up all over the country in the past several years. They are great ways to get a lot of comics in one area, and they are great for business savvy people who can make it turn a profit (or at the least not lose money from them). Let’s talk about how they have changed comedy, for better or worse (you can be the judge of that).
Comedy festivals are great for comics in that if you can get into one you can use that as a bullet point in your bio to attract more gigs, but I think more important than that is the amount of working comics you are able to network with. Remember, comedy is like any other industry, if you get to know the right people you will get more work. Especially if you are not an ass hole. This reason alone is the biggest reason to try to get into as many festivals as you can. The time spent being face to face with comics that may have that one booker to help you fill out dates is worth the price of admission. Here is my tip though: Don’t try to sell yourself to other comics, they hate that. Just be a normal person and not a billboard. They will get that you are funny or you have done stuff, let your sets do the selling.
Comedy festivals can be great for a booker or promoter to make a little extra money on the side. Don’t get me wrong, they work for whatever they get to take home, but if ran right, it can lead to extra income. Now, just telling people to hand you 30 dollars and you MIGHT get back to them isn’t how the nice festivals in the country are ran. They have more than just a couple of bars in which to perform. You can tell that the organizers have thought about the festival as a whole. I am no expert in how these things are put together, but from just eyeballing it, it seems as though the money is spent on ads and feature performers. Not everyone can get Bill Burr to their festival, so you may have to pony up some dough. This is why many festivals don’t make huge profits, but I think it is worth it.
Now, let’s talk about the bad. On the comics side, I feel as though some may see festivals as their “get famous quick” plan. It doesn’t work like that. All the other things that make comics better still apply. Getting out and working the stage, and writing, are still preferable then just applying to festivals thinking you will get noticed. On the festival organizers side, there is still a lot of uncertainty about whether or not they are put together unbiasedly. What I mean is, are the people putting the line ups together looking for great talent or just getting their friends trips to their city off the backs of people wanting to be in a festival? I am always suspicious when I see repeat comics on the festival bill year after year, but I am a paranoid guy.
My thoughts and ideas on festivals have changed, and I think that is because I have seen what they can do for comics that are great, but just needed more eyes on them. I also like the ones that are well ran, like the ones we have here in the Northwest. If you are planning on submitting to a festival remember that you should have a great video and a professional headshot. Let them see that you mean business.