by Rik Roberts | www.SchoolOfLaughs.com
You spend a lot of time working on your act, networking, and beefing up your web presence. Have you spent any time thinking about what you wear onstage?
It is easy to forget that part of the equation. Don’t believe me? Attend any comedy show and most likely you’ll see one or more comics whose clothing choices are getting in the way.
Although I don’t think you should be consumed by your appearance, you should spend a little time evaluating your look every now and then.
Here are a few things to consider when you pick you clothes to wear on stage.
- Don’t wear clothes that are louder than you
Big floral prints and bright polka dots are perfect – when you are at a luau or at bingo night. On stage, they simply are too distracting. Why wear something that is competing with your material for the crowd’s attention? Yes, the shirt may have cost you $100 but it’s the wrong choice. You look like a clown. Leave it behind, or better yet, bury it!
- Dress one level above your audience
When someone is paying to come see your show, they expect that they are going to watch a professional. Dressing one level above the audience is an easy way to convey that professionalism and command a little respect. At a comedy club where everyone is wearing jeans, wear business casual. If they are in business casual, bump it up to a suit. If they are in shorts and flip flops, you booked the wrong gig.
But what do you do if you are unsure of what the audience will be wearing?
- Bring a back up
There have been times where the name of the venue misled me and I showed up totally overdressed. I had a gig booked at a “Social Club” in Florida once. I threw on a nice dress shirt and some khaki pants. When I pulled into the muddy parking lot I realized the “social club” was a biker bar, complete with chicken wire around the stage. Yikes!
Luckily, I had a pair of faded jeans and a Rolling Stones t-shirt in the truck. I made a quick change in the front seat and was ready to go. That crowd was one of the best I ever had, but they would have eaten me alive in the clothes I arrived in.
- Bring a back up (part two)
I should mention that having a couple of options is good in another way. Bring a dark and light color shirt with you to the gig. Why? If you are wearing all black and you show up to a dimly lit stage with a black backdrop, you nearly disappear. Having a lighter shirt will help the crowd focus a little better on you. Likewise, if you show up and the background is light, white or bright – a darker shirt will bring the focus to you as well.
- Ditch the trends – timeless is best
It’s amazing how fast a trend can come and go. In the 80’s all the comics had on a blazer with the sleeves rolled up. Underneath was a t-shirt with their favorite cartoon character. Or, they had on a dress shirt with that horrible skinny tie. Remember the ones with piano keys? Even Billy Joel stopped wearing that one.
In the day and setting it wasn’t that big of a deal. Unfortunately, those videos and pictures never die. Eddie Murphy in a bright red leather suit looks ridiculous now.
When in doubt, go timeless with jeans and a sharp shirt.
- Recording video? Here are a few tips.
When you are recording a set (or a series of shows) to make a video, think ahead. Small checkers or bright colors will confuse the camera. Long stripes in either direction also make your video look weird. Go with solids, simple and clean.
- Dress for the audience you want to have
This might sound contradictory to the advice of dressing one level above your audience. Whenever you are onstage, you should project the image you want to be associated with. In other words, if your goal is to perform on a late night TV show, dress like you are appearing on a late night TV show. Especially when recording your set. The more confortable you are in those clothes the easier that set will be. If your goal is to get in front of corporate groups, dress sharp so they can envision you in their setting.
- Be the best-dressed version of yourself
Lastly, ignore everything above and be as authentic as you can onstage. And be the sharpest version of that persona. You obviously don’t want to dress in a suit if your character or is that of a slacker. But dressing like you are homeless won’t benefit you either. Look like you deserve to be heard, paid and respected.
You spend time on all the other aspects of comedy; take a second to evaluate your look.
I hope it helps. If you found this post useful you may also enjoy the podcast below where we go into more details about the “little things” that count when performing comedy.
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