How did you get
The never-ending pursuit of getting booked on shows.
Published in April 2021 | Free Standup NYC
Article by: Andrew Bayroff
It happens every time. A comic goes to show they have yet to be booked, find a comedy friend and ask, "How did you get this spot?" There's no harm or shame in asking. With comedy opening up, spots are—again—at a premium. But no matter before or after covid, comics will always look for a new venue. A new audience. That new spot.
Comics are getting creative, taking advantage of spaces not tapped before Thanos snapped his fingers. Rooftops, restaurant parking structures, parks, and more. If you’re one of the lucky ones and your calendar is filled before the first of the month, kudos my friend. You’ve done well. Still, there will always be that one spot, that one venue that alludes you, or, never knew about. But when you find that new stage and have yet to be contacted, like a guard rail on a bridge, here are some helpful hints to get on the producer’s radar.
Rules of engaging producers
Unless your last name is Burr or Glaser, yes, there are rules when engaging a producer. Before I contact the producer/booker, I like to visit the show, sit, and enjoy.
When appropriate, introduce yourself to the producer/booker
If it’s a bar show, the producer is usually running around making sure the show is going smoothly. You can say hello, shake hands (fist bump), but don’t engage with the sole reason to ask for a spot while the show is active. Bad form. That will surely not get you on the list for a future show.
Wait a day or so and message the person, remind them how you met (or if someone introduced you), and ask, “...Let me know about your booking process.” And you’re done. Move on.
Follow up in a few months
There is more gatekeeping at clubs, so, tread lightly. There are two different types of shows at clubs: House and produced. House shows are exactly that, produced by the house, the club. Produced shows are when someone outside the club produces the show. Private gigs are also in the mix.
Sit, stay, talk. Get to know the other comics, the bartender, the waitstaff, the owner, and have someone point out the booker; house, or produced.
Keep coming back to the club, let the staff and comics see you, you’ll become “one of the regulars”.
If the booker is available and can talk, introduce yourself, and if they are open to it, talk shop. Get their info and go from there. Ask how do auditions work and follow those directions. Some clubs are backed up for auditions, so, be patient.
If you’re able to score an audition for a club, you’ve done well Padawan. Arrive before the time they give you, relax, and have a good set. Don’t run the light, and don’t cause any problems.
The best way to get a spot is to produce your own show. You control everything from the location, time, and comics. Then comics can ask about your spot, and how someone got it. For more info on producing your own show, see my article, To Produce or not to produce
You can now use your show to trade with other comics for spots on their shows. Remember, some shows are more coveted than others. A show in the back of a bar may not be as “high-end” as a club show. Then again, I’ve seen quite the opposite. Every situation, and show is different. Also, remember—and this may burn a few people—just because someone runs a show doesn’t automatically mean they are a good comic. You may do well on a trade spot, but that other comic may suck the air out of your room. Get to know people first then make the best decision.
There are tons of opportunities to perform on the road. (If you’re a comic in NYC, I’m serious, there are many clubs and stages outside of the island. Trust me on this. And, you actually get paid. Shhh, don’t tell everyone.)
Get a referral if you can
Contact the club 1-2 months before you plan on being in that city so they can adjust or update the schedule.
Arrive early, and always, don’t be a dick
I’m generally very anal-retentive with contacting shows and clubs, which is why I keep a running list of everything. Bar show, club show, whom I contacted, date, and, hopefully, if there was a response. Trust me, once you dig in, it helps, especially if you start doing road gigs. Please read my article on the comedy credits and the math of comedy in NYC.
I’ll leave you with this…
Every comic wants to get up as much as possible, but you can’t be everywhere all the time. Instead of the shotgun effect and trying to get on every single bar show, hone in on specific shows and clubs, and concentrate your energy there. Doesn’t work, move on. I’m not saying don’t try to seek as much stage time as possible, but be smart about your time, money, and energy.
Mark Anthony Ramirez
"Unless your last name is Burr or Glaser, yes, there are rules when engaging a producer."