There are tons of comedy competitions across the country, with tons of comedians all competing, with most thinking the same thing: “This is my chance to make it big!” The problem is that, for the most part, it isn’t true. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most likely you will get whatever the prize is and nothing more…hell, you may not get the prize money!
Now, we are not talking about the local comedy competitions that happen in almost every city with more than 20 comedians. We are talking about the big comedy competitions, like the one in Seattle, San Francisco, and even Last Comic Standing. All of these competitions have a prize of thousands of dollars and some like the World Series of Comedy even promise 50 weeks of paid work. So, for the comedian with dreams of leaving their boring day job, this sounds like a sure fire way of doing it. But, just like pancakes, or threesomes, it’s not as simple as it seems.
The first hurdle you have to make is of course getting into the competition. Most of these competitions have a fee to enter which isn’t really a lot of money. Last Comic Standing doesn’t have a fee (that I know of), but you do pay in standing in line for hours waiting to get seen, while people in sombreros and chicken suits do the same (I’d rather pay the entry fee). These competitions are not just looking for the best entries, they are looking to create a great show. So, if you are just a plain white dude talking about being single, you may not have as much of a chance as the large hispanic woman with the two nose rings. Yes, it is a competition, but these organizers also have to put on a show that people want to see. If the entire show is just white guys, that doesn’t seem like a unique show.
Ok, so you won the entire comedy competition! Now what? Are you gonna get on the phone and contact these comedy clubs and get your ass working or are you going to sit there and wait to be called? Because if you are waiting to be called to fill that calendar of yours then you are truly mistaken. These bookers are not scanning the internet for people that have won comedy competitions. They have a slew of comedians that are begging to get in. You have to get up off your ass and make it happen. So why did you do the competition? Simple. Credits. Clubs today are looking for comics that they can easily sell to their audience. If the audience sees that you won a big competition, it validates you. Other people have found you funny, so it is safe for them to pay $12 bucks to see you.
You should not look at comedy competitions as a way of making it big. If anything, you can look at it as an efficient way of making contacts. I was in the Seattle and San Francisco competitions, I only made it to the semis in both of those, but the most valuable thing was making friends with comedians all over North America. Now, I have connections all over the US and Canada. That was worth the money I paid to get in the contest. Comedy is about hard work and dedication and just preparing yourself for the opportunities that arise. There are no “get big quick” schemes in comedy. This is not to say that winning a competition won’t be that doorway to bigger things. It can! It’s just not going to do the work for you. You have to write the jokes, and perfect your act, and be consistent, AND if you win be able to take advantage of your chance. If you get into a competition this fall, get to know all the comedians and have fun!