Tips For Sucessfully Submitting To Festivals And Competitions

I get asked a lot how to properly submit to festivals and competitions.  Like most anti-social individuals, I am often learning this the long way because I am afraid of just asking someone.  So I have compiled a list of what is MORE LIKELY to work.  There is nothing that is for sure gonna work unless you know the people putting on the festival or competition.

Great head shots are a must!  Even in this day and age, I see people with headshot from their friend’s iphone or a compact camera and I just get sad inside.  Not because they didn’t come to me, but because it shows!  The people that put on festivals and competitions look at hundreds of head shots and they can tell which ones came from a person knowing how to do head shots and from someone that was too cheap to get someone to do it for them properly.  It gives off the impression that you are not serious about it, and if you are not taking it seriously, then why should they.  Depending on where you live, it can be expensive, but if you are serious about comedy, you need them done and done right.

Rewrite your bio.  You know that bio that you sent to that one booker?  Well, if you are submitting to a festival or competition I suggest you either write another, or you just truncate the one you currently have. Just get it to the point.  They are usually looking for the cool stuff you have done, so throw that on there.  You placed in a competition somewhere?  Great!  Throw it on there!  You opened for Elvis during Christmas…ok…throw it on there!  If you are like me, and your bio isn’t as flowery as others, it can be a little hard to get people to want to give up a prime spot just to you, but if you wow em with what you did, that may help over come that.

Submit sooner rather than later.  Now, I don’t have numbers, so this is just my opinion, but I feel the sooner you submit, the greater your chances of getting selected.  This may be because of several reasons, maybe the later the submission timeframe the more they think you don’t want to do it.  Maybe just because of human nature, but the majority of the submissions are coming in so they ignore most of the later ones.  Or, I could just be wrong, but with my own examples (again not meant to be seen as absolute), when I submitted early I got in and when I waited until the last couple of weeks I didn’t.

Have a good video.  Make sure the video is one in which you can be heard more than the wait staff.  Make sure that you are not blown out.  A great video makes it look as though you know what you are doing.  Like I said earlier, you have to look like you are a comic and not just some weirdo wasting everyone’s time.  Make sure the link works before you send it.  Put it up on YouTube, you can have it unlisted if you just want to submit it and not have other’s watching it, and then just copy the link and paste it into the submission form.

Here is a very important thing to understand about festivals and competitions.  They by themselves will not make or break your career.  If you are depending on a competition to get you all the work you need then you are thinking about it all wrong.  If you submit and send in your stuff and you didn’t get selected, don’t get mad at the organizers, look within.  Did you send everything they asked for?  Did you not have your video link right? Did you forget to pay the submission fee? Did you not submit at all and just thought they should know you wanted to do it? If all of that was done, then it could just mean that they had everyone they needed or that your submission wasn’t as strong as the others that submitted. This doesn’t mean you are a terrible comic or anything, it just means that you will have to try again next year.


My Time At Idaho Laughfest 2016

I just got back from Idaho laughfest 2016.  I never really know what to make of festivals.  I am alway weary when someone ask me to pay to perform, but at the same time, it is a great place to meet comedians and get connections you normally wouldn’t.  I can only tell you about the shows in which I performed and saw at Liquid Laughs.  I didn’t really go to any of the other shows that were taking place in other venues.

My first show was at 7pm, and when I got there it was packed with people.  Liquid Lounge, where the comedy club is located, is in a nice busy section of downtown Boise.  It was great to see a packed house on a Thursday at 7pm!  I was a couple spots from the bottom so I just settled in and waited my turn.  I noticed that I looked like someone that didn’t want to be talked to (which is not why I came there) and so I put the iPad away and tried to look less scary.  When I got up I had a pretty good set.  The crowd was feeling it and, just like in 2009, I felt as though Boise was a pretty hip comedy town.  I felt like the other comics each brought something cool to the table.  I honestly felt like a fraud because I don’t think I put that much time into the wording of my jokes like I feel a lot of other comedians do.

The second night I had a midnight show.  I was a little worried about the turnout.  I have never done a midnight show, but it doesn’t sound like a show with standing room only.  I was right.  By the time the show was underway there were about 20-30 people there.  I was the next to last person to go on and by that time the number had dwindled considerably.  This doesn’t bother me.  I have performed for way less people.  I went up and did a couple of jokes that bounce around in my head, but I never do.  They worked really well! Now, I don’t know if that is because they got the references or if they were actually funny, but they dug it and I will count it.  I was a little disheartened, by my set though.  I felt as though I went to my comedic crutch of talking about balls and cursing, which is something I have made an effort to shy away from.

The last night of the show, I had a spot on the last show if the festival.  It was so freaking packed when I got there, and I hoped that it would be the same for the shows we did.  It was!  Packed house and I am third from last.  I didn’t know what I was going to do material wise, so I just went with what I usually do in a situation like that.  I go with the jokes I like at the moment and mix it in with a couple of newer jokes.  It was my best set of the festival I felt.  I felt good coming off the stage and I think people seemed to enjoy themselves.

The best part about the whole thing is that I was able to connect with a lot of comics and got a lot of potential work out of it.  That was my goal and I am glad I was able to accomplish that.  I also got to perform at Liquid Laughs which I hope will lead to work there as well.  I got to met a lot of cool comedians and make a lot of new friends.  My opinion on comedy festivals has been steadily changing over the years and I think if you have the ability, you should at least try to get on a festival.  It could help put some work on your schedule.


How Festivals Have Changed Comedy

Comedy festivals have been popping up all over the country in the past several years.  They are great ways to get a lot of comics in one area, and they are great for business savvy people who can make it turn a profit (or at the least not lose money from them).  Let’s talk about how they have changed comedy, for better or worse (you can be the judge of that).

Comedy festivals are great for comics in that if you can get into one you can use that as a bullet point in your bio to attract more gigs, but I think more important than that is the amount of working comics you are able to network with.  Remember, comedy is like any other industry, if you get to know the right people you will get more work.  Especially if you are not an ass hole.  This reason alone is the biggest reason to try to get into as many festivals as you can.  The time spent being face to face with comics that may have that one booker to help you fill out dates is worth the price of admission.  Here is my tip though:  Don’t try to sell yourself to other comics, they hate that.  Just be a normal person and not a billboard.  They will get that you are funny or you have done stuff, let your sets do the selling.

Comedy festivals can be great for a booker or promoter to make a little extra money on the side.  Don’t get me wrong, they work for whatever they get to take home, but if ran right, it can lead to extra income.  Now, just telling people to hand you 30 dollars and you MIGHT get back to them isn’t how the nice festivals in the country are ran.  They have more than just a couple of bars in which to perform. You can tell that the organizers have thought about the festival as a whole.  I am no expert in how these things are put together, but from just eyeballing it, it seems as though the money is spent on ads and feature performers. Not everyone can get Bill Burr to their festival, so you may have to pony up some dough.  This is why many festivals don’t make huge profits, but I think it is worth it.

Now, let’s talk about the bad.  On the comics side, I feel as though some may see festivals as their “get famous quick” plan.  It doesn’t work like that.  All the other things that make comics better still apply. Getting out and working the stage, and writing, are still preferable then just applying to festivals thinking you will get noticed.  On the festival organizers side, there is still a lot of uncertainty about whether or not they are put together unbiasedly.  What I mean is, are the people putting the line ups together looking for great talent or just getting their friends trips to their city off the backs of people wanting to be in a festival? I am always suspicious when I see repeat comics on the festival bill year after year, but I am a paranoid guy.

My thoughts and ideas on festivals have changed, and I think that is because I have seen what they can do for comics that are great, but just needed more eyes on them.  I also like the ones that are well ran, like the ones we have here in the Northwest.  If you are planning on submitting to a festival remember that you should have a great video and a professional headshot. Let them see that you mean business.