If you are in the comedy industry, then you know how important credits are. They can be the difference between hosting, featuring, or getting the chance to headline a club. Credits are a huge driving force to a lot of things comedians do nowadays and I think I will try my best to explain why they suck. I will also do an article on why they don’t suck, which you will be able to find here. So without further ado…
Credits don’t show skill: Just because you were a finalist of such and such competition, or you were on whatever late night show, doesn’t tell anyone looking at your credits anything. It may tell the lay person something, but all it says is that you have about five minutes of great material. What does that matter if you are sending promo packages to clubs asking to headline? I’ve seen comedians that have credits for being a writer for some website, but that didn’t translate to being good on stage.
Credits are a lazy way to promote: It is harder than ever to get people out to your shows, so credits are supposed to be there to let people know that you are worth spending money on. The problem is some bookers and club owners will assume that slapping an NBC logo on a poster is all they need to get the seats filled. Having a credit is not the top way to get people in the door. It isn’t even in the top five in my opinion. There are tried and true ways to get the word out that the comedian you have coming in is funny.
No one reads about your credits: So a comedian says he was on last comic standing, it is probably a good idea to know what they mean when they say that. Were they a finalist or were they in a commercial for a half a second? I was on the TV show Z-Nation that is on SYFY. I was shot within two minutes of being on and you will not know that was me unless you know me. That credit does nothing to show I am worth the price of admission.
Most Credits are Meaningless: What is so weird about this is that almost everyone knows it, but we still do it. Why? Some agent told a group of comedians that credits will land you all over the place, and we ran with it. What soon happened was people started exploiting this fact from top to bottom. Comedians know that most credits are meaningless so they stack them up just to overwhelm anyone looking at them. That is why so many comedy festivals have popped up. You can have a ton of comedians come out and get that credit, which they need to get considered more, and if you are lucky you get to run a festival and hopefully make a little money. The average person has never heard of “small metro city comedy festival”, but it helps pad the credits. Bookers and agents know they are meaningless, so they ask their comedians to go out and do more stuff. Ever noticed how almost every comedian has a podcast? Even if no one listens to the thing, you will at least have something for the host to tell the audience about. Club owners know they are meaningless, but still depend on them so they can pull in people that may recognize the name. That is why clubs all across the country will have “late night sketch show” star headline for a weekend. They bring in people! So, clubs that can’t afford that will try to bring in a guy with a ton of credits as well, but just not the name recognition so you will see logos for things you are familiar (NBC, FOX, Pandora) with and just assume that means a quality act.
Comedy is a tough business and with credits, it was thought that this would be a great way to balance everything out. Get the credits and then move up the comedy ladder. Comedians are resourceful if anything else and have learned how to turn this system into something damn near ridiculous. Check out why they can actually be a good thing here!