I have tackled a lot of myths comedians believe, on this blog. The one that even I upheld, however is the myth that shows during the summer have a bad turnout. I want to challenge this myth.
With almost every myth there is a grain or two of truth to it. I think this one has as well. You can actually measure the attendance of shows from season to season and see that there are differences in the number of people. The problem with this is that you can not assume that because of A, B happens. It’s just not logical to say that because it is summer people don’t go to comedy shows.
The prevailing argument has always been that it is because people will be out barbecuing and canoeing, instead of staying inside to see comedy. That would make sense if not for the fact that summer time is a big time for movies. It seems that movies have no problem getting people to put down the pulled pork and head to a darken theater for a few hours. You may be saying, “Well, that is different!” It is…but movies come out year round just like comedy is had year round, so saying that comedy suffers because of the summer months doesn’t hold much water.
Then there is the fact that this summer alone, the local club has had many sold out nights, even when the sun is still in the sky, something that older comedians always said was a killer of shows during the summer. As if audiences were like a flock of gulls waiting for the sun to descend the horizon before raiding garbage cans. This club has had numerous sold out nights when most comedy in the area would have packed it in until September.
Ok, after all of that set up here is my argument: There is no summer slowdown, but a promotion problem. People still want to come out to shows…if you tell them about it! The weather does have a slight affect on attendance, but not more than say, a monster truck rally happening on the same date as your show.
Here is the thing about the summer time, there are a lot of things going on at once! There are car shows and festivals and parades and cool movies with robots all going on in roughly the same time. So the same amount of promotion that would have gotten out to your audience in say, April, will have to fight through more noise in July. Comedians are like water, in that we like to take the path of least resistance. If putting up a flyer on Facebook gets a great turnout, we will attempt the same thing over and over. The problem occurs when the weather gets warmer and people’s attention is pulled in not just two or three directions, but ten! Remember, your audience only has so much time and money so they will have to make a hard choice. Go to the movie that is only going to be in theaters for a couple of weeks, or go to the comedy show that will probably happen again.
Comedians are under the assumption that the audience that they had in the winter has rejected them for the lakes and rivers that are no longer freezing cold. I don’t think it is in such huge numbers as we assumed. Yes, people will be out tubing and fishing and hiking, but after a day of that, they want to turn in and be entertained just like anyone else, and this is where we go back to failure to gain these people’s attention. Just putting a flyer up at the bar you will be performing isn’t enough during the summer months because those people are out at the lake and may not see it until it is too late.
Another assumption is that people will not have the money to attend a show so they don’t go during the summer. Why would that be any different than say, the fall, when kids are going back to school, and there are sporting events happening every weekend, or the winter, during the holidays, when people have to save for presents? There isn’t a difference. If anything, there should be more money because kids are not in school and there are no holidays for gifts!
So, this whole argument that people don’t want to sit down and watch comedy during the summer months is not about the summer, but about grabbing the attention of a person that may have kids and limited time and resources and may not be able to devote their time to sitting in a bar where their kids may not be able to come. You may be thinking at this point, “Well, how do we fix it?”. Good thing you asked because I have answers! Good promotion goes a long way! It also doesn’t help if you have a big name comedian on the bill. You have to go at promoting your show knowing that you have to fight with all the other activities that a person could be doing, most of them for free. If you know a place that has a budget go to them and use that budget during the summer months! That way you may be able to bring in a bigger comic or have a show that is free to attend. The establishment may make it’s money back in sales (food and beverage) and you didn’t have to deal with the money issue that a person has when deciding what to do. You could promote the show to make it a huge deal. Most times when a comedy show is promoted, there are just pictures of the comedians with information about time and place. Well, you have to promote like this is a once in a lifetime show. Record a video, and use all forms of social media to reach out to people to make it seem as though it is a BIG deal to get to this show.
When Uncle D’s was open, he would close for the summer under this belief, but he would still put on shows once a month during the summer months. With a moth of promoting the show and making it seem special, the turnouts were really good. A couple of years ago he tried it and didn’t get the word out and the turnout was about what you would expect for an 8pm show in the summer with no notice that it was happening. There are shows going on all over the country that are packed because the promoters know that they are not just competing with the normal weekend activities like movies and sports, but also things that are free like sitting in the backyard getting drunk. I think what happened was the lazier comedians, trying to justify the low turnout, blamed the tilt of the earth’s axis for their problems when the show just wasn’t promoted well enough.
And yes, I know my photoshop skills are lacking!!