Breaking Into The Comedy Club Scene

Here is the truth about most (80% I would say) comedy clubs.  It is hard to get into their rotation.  Think about it like this, club owners are like most people in that they like stable and they like what works.  So, if they have a solid lineup of comics that come in and do their thing, then they have no need to add new people.  What a lot of comics forget is that these guys are running a business and so if they can get someone they know will come in and give a decent performance and keep people buying stuff, then they will go with that.  Comedy club owners are not in the business of making YOUR career.  They sell drinks and chicken strips.  There are ways to break into these comedy clubs if you are willing to do it.

One of the tried and true methods for getting into a comedy club is going with someone that is already established.  The club runner already knows that guy and if you can come in for a guest or better yet a feature, you can maybe parlay that into more work in that room later.  This works great if you are a feature act because most clubs will cull local talent instead of bringing in outside features.  It’s just economics.  It cost less to get a local comic that doesn’t need a hotel room, and (probably) will take less money.

If you don’t know any headliners that you can go with, you can always get a recommendation from a comic that has worked there before.  Now, this is always weird because there are comics are out there that won’t want to put their name behind you.  So that is why you have to ask someone that thinks you are a good comic! Don’t ask the comic that came through town last week and you added them on facebook just to ask them to vouch for you.  If you have been doing it long enough to think you are ready to work comedy clubs across the country, then you should know enough people in comedy that are comfortable enough with telling the club runner or booker that you are a good fit for the club.

This is the long route, but I think it is a good one if you just started out.  If you live near a comedy club, then you should be in there getting face time.  That means hitting their open mics and trying to get guest sets.  This is much harder to do in large cities, so if you live in New York or something, don’t think you can just show up and get a guest set at The Cellar.  By doing their open mics you are less likely to see the club runner because they may not be there every week, but the club staff will notice you and your name can build.  Getting guest sets increases your chance of getting seen by the club owner, so get that if you can.  This can also bite you in the ass because if you bomb, they will remember that as well. To go with this, just keep in contact with these guys, and maybe if they have a fall out in the schedule you can snap it up.  This is random so you can’t depend on it (you maybe number 97 on the list), but if you have tried everything else it is worth a shot.

I have been doing comedy for more than 10 years now and I have done a handful of full time comedy clubs. They are great because you don’t have to drive all over the place everyday.  You can make more money though in other areas of comedy if you are willing to take the risk.  If you have a good promotional head about you, then you should not be thinking about comedy clubs and instead try to get into small theaters and the like.  There is a possibility of making more money, which means not having to work as hard to get as much as someone that is only doing comedy clubs.

There are clubs in Seattle and Portland that I have been trying to break into for about 6 years now.  It is a little harder for someone that lives so far away because you are not getting that face time that can lead to work in these clubs and there is that stigma that Spokane has on it.  I don’t worry about all that, and you shouldn’t either.  Just make you material tack sharp and keep what I said above in mind.  If you can get super famous as well that would be great.

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