Am I ready? This is probably the question I get asked the most from comedians just starting out. There are many reasons for that. They could be anxious to get to a place where they can make money doing what they love. They may NEED it to start making money with the amount of time they are putting into it. Or, they may just be looking at everyone else and assume that since others are getting paid to do comedy that they should as well. I will tell you, the reader, the same thing I tell them, the comedian: I can’t decide that. I can make an opinion, but it is just my opinion. So, I decided to make it the topic for this week’s article. Are you ready? Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself. That is hard to do, but I promise that being honest with yourself is better than having a booker or audience be honest with you instead.
The Time: People are always so worried about the time. How long they have been doing it, How much time they have, etc. The problem is this fluctuates depending on the person and type of comic you are. If you are a one-liner type comic, or a comic that adheres to their material religiously, just having 30 minutes worth of time may not be enough. What happens if a series of jokes falls flat, or you are in a town where you can’t joke about bear attacks because just the other day a bear ate 3 kids? Whatever time you have you have to have an overflow. That means if you are trying to be a host and you think you have a solid 15, think of it as a solid 10. Solid 25? 20. This has been evident in every aspect of my comedy career. When I started, I thought I had 30 minutes. I tapped out at 18 and just blabbed for the next 10 minutes. Just timing yourself isn’t enough either because you may be in a favorable situation. Time yourself in multiple locations and see how you fare.
You also can’t think that because you put x amount of time into it that it is time to get paid. Not everyone develops the same. I wrote a lot of jokes and liked to wing it on stage. Not everyone is me, so not everyone will be able to do that comfortably. Some people have been doing it for 3-4 years and haven’t gotten paid to do it. That is because they don’t have quality time.
The Basics: I have discussed this in other articles, but it bears repeating. You need to have certain things before you can just start getting work. You need a headshot! I am not just saying that because I charge great rates to get yours done by me (wink, wink). People need to know your face. You can’t just have a flyer with your name and think people will just flock to that. You also need a professional headshot. When I say professional I am not speaking about $1,000 headshots. I am talking about photos of yourself free from grain that comes when someone is snapping your photo with a smartphone or a compact camera. There is a reason that after all these years, cameras and lenses are still so big. It is because you can’t substitute light! And that does two things for you. A great headshot lets bookers and promoters know that you are serious, and it ensures the audience that you are a “real” comedian.
You also need things like a bio. That give bookers a little bit about yourself and you need a great video. Now, I have done articles on all of this so please read those for more detail on what you should be doing. These things are what serious comedians have.
The Confidence: You can have all the jokes and the best looking headshot, and you can have your bio written up by JK Rowling herself, and it won’t do a lick of good if you are not confident enough to look people in the eyes and let them know that you are worth something. I had trouble with this. I loved comedy so much that I felt like it was stealing to ask for money. The thing is, bookers know this! They know that a lot of people like the attention of standing on stage and a lot of comedians are hungry so they want stage time. You have to be confident in knowing that what you are doing is worth paying for. This is not just for comics, but all artistic professions where people tend to undervalue it. No matter if it is a drawing or a half hour worth of comedy, if you think it is worth something, then have people pay for it!
This is just three things I think you have to be honest with yourself about. If you feel like you have all of this down then get going. Start trying to host at your local comedy club, or set up a show in a bar. If you think you are ready to get paid work, then you have to test the theory out. Best of luck to you, and if you get that bar going give me a call.