by Rik Roberts (www.SchoolOfLaughs.com)
Are you in the middle of nowhere? Are you miles from a city with a comedy night, let alone a comedy club? Do you want to start putting shows together to get some stage time?
You are not alone, even though you may feel isolated.
Joshua, a podcast listener from Iowa, emailed me last week. He recently booked a show, but had to buy a PA system in order to pull it off. Now he has the gear and one of his comedy goals is to book two weekends a month in small towns around where he lives. He asks, “If you have any ideas on how to book small town gigs, I’d appreciate that.”
With that in mind, here is one way to:
How To Start Your Own Comedy Show.
GIVE – DON’T TAKE (initially anyway)
My suggestion is to find a local group or charity that could use a “no-risk” fund raising event to bring in some donations. Schools are also a great option. Every one of them could use some more cash for their sports teams, libraries, band, etc., A local volunteer fire department is also a great candidate for these shows.
Make contact with the person in charge of fund raising. Ask them if they would be interested in having a comedy show where 100% of the proceeds will benefit their cause. Tell them it is “risk free” and won’t cost them anything if the event doesn’t make any money.
Explain to them that you can put together a great show. All they have to do is secure the location (school, community center, church) and help promote it through their normal channels (newspaper, email list, social media, radio ads, snail mail list, etc.,).
Decide on a ticket price (I’d suggest at least $10). Discuss that for every ticket THEY sell, they make 100% of the money paid. And for every ticket YOU sell, you get 50%. This gives them an incentive to promote it in order to receive the bigger percentage.
Sure, they may sell ALL of the tickets, taking 100% of the funds. Meanwhile, you get valuable stage time, in front of many decision makers in the community. In the beginning when you are still developing your act, this is a fair trade off.
ACQUIRE EMAIL ADDRESSES
As people arrive to the event, pass out connection cards and collect email addresses and phone numbers from them. Tell the audience members you are going to do a drawing at the end of the show for a prize (free CD’s, or an item you can have donated by someone in the local community). Put the cards in a fish bowl and make sure to walk around the room among the crowd making sure everyone has dropped their info in the bowl to create curiosity and increase interest.
It goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway … make sure you put on an incredible show. Understand the expectations of the charity as far as the content of your show. No reason to go dirty and blue and blow the chance to get future stage time.
Be sure to have someone photgraphing the comics onstage, and run a video camera if at all possible
After the headliner wraps up their set, take the fish bowl onstage and get ready to do the drawing. Allow a few minutes for those that arrived late to still fill out a card and participate. While you are on the microphone and waiting for those last cards, make sure to give out YOUR contact info, web site, etc., so people know how to contact you. Let them know you are willing to do this type of fund raising event for anyone. Anywhere. Any time.
Do the drawing. Have someone take a picture of you and the winner(s).
ON THE WAY OUT
As people leave the venue, make sure you have your business cards, merchandise (if you have some), and contact info at the busiest exit. Take the time to talk to everyone who wants to share feedback and praise for the show. Have someone taking pictures and video of this interaction.
AFTER THE CROWD LEAVES
As the venue empties out, be sure to thank the contact person from the charity – and the venue. Ask if they would give you a quick video testimonial. Roll the video camera and let them give an honest appraisal of the evening. After they say their piece, ask if they could look into the camera and say, “If you want a great “no-risk” comedy show, Joshua and his comics are the way to go!”
WHAT DID YOU GET OUT OF ALL THIS WORK?
You now have one show under your belt. And even if you didn’t pocket a penny, you should walk away with:
- A contact at the venue. You can connect with this person for future events (where you may promote a show as a non fund raiser and take 100% of the proceeds).
- Email addresses and phone numbers of outgoing, generous people from that town who are now exposed to comedy. Invite these people to your next event in the area.
- Pictures and video of the comics on stage you can post on your web site (and send to the charity so they can post on theirs) to let people know about your fund raising comedy operation.
- Pictures and video of the winners of the drawing you can post online and send in to the local newspaper.
- Written quotes you will transcribe from the video testimonials. You can use these in printed materials you will send to other charities in the area to promote your comedy nights.
- Contact names from the TV, Radio or Newspaper interviews you did that were set up by the charity. You can use these in-roads to promote future events.
- The satisfaction of knowing you created value, as well as raised funds and awareness for needs in a nearby community.
So, you see that armed with a PA System and some jokes you can really create stage time just about anywhere.
You can certainly use this same “no-risk” template to put on a show at a bar or restaurant solely as a moneymaker for you (not a charity) and have similar success. In that instance, you would work out a deal where you earned all (or a percentage) of the ticket sales. The venue would make money from the food and beverage sales.
When you develop the promotional skills to match your comedic skills, you could then begin asking for a guaranteed amount for each show. There are limitless ways you can structure those deals. It’s always a good idea to have an agreement in writing. Check out this podcast on “Contracts”.
Hopefully, this article gives Joshua and everyone else out there a few ideas for creating your own stage opportunities. As always, I’d love to hear your feedback and ideas on how to start your own comedy show. Shoot me an email and let me now what you think. Better yet, “Share” this post with anyone who you think cold benefit from the information.
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I’m looking to put on a comedy show/competition as a fund raiser at my church. I don’t have the comedians who will compete. How do I solicit comedians that are funny but tell “clean” jokes? Where do I advertise? I’m open to any suggestions. Thanks
A good resource is ChristianComedyAssociation.com. From there I would view some videos and then contact them through social. I could post in one of our forums for you if you like. I would just need to know the city and date(s) in consideration.
I found it really interesting that you should try and film the whole show whenever you put on a show. My wife and I have been thinking of going to a comedy show for her birthday. If we go, I will be sure to keep an eye out for any cameras that might be filming the show!
Early on it is really important to film, review and correct bad habits before they take root. Once you get going, though, you can film a little less. But you cannot improve what you do not review. Good luck!
That’s a good idea to give the person in charge of fundraising a part of the income from the tickets. I feel like you could give them a bigger chunk if they could get you a stage and some equipment and stuff. I have to ask about that if I decide to have someone help me set up a comedy show.
There are many ways to go about it for sure. 50-50 split or give them everything. Each case is different and you can experiment until you find the right balance.