How To Get Work As A Comedian

From time to time, a random wanna-be comedian (or just curious bystander) will ask me what it takes to be a working, touring, stand-up comedian. Recentlly, after several requests, I sat down and made a list of the typical routine involved with dealing with every comedian’s best friend: The Booking Agent.

What follows is a simple, step-by-step guide of what to expect when seeking work in this wonderfully crazy thing called “Show Business”.

1. Find out who books a certain venue/club.

2. Do quick research to find out how booker likes to be contacted, whether via email, phone or (can’t believe it’s 2013) fax machine or “snail mail”.

3. Booker will likely ask you to contact him a different way, no matter what you’ve been told in advance.

4. Send email to booker introducing yourself, with links to your website, bio, and (if you have them) online clips of your work. Thank booker in advance for speaking with you/reading your email. Send all of this via “Snail Mail”, as well. Include any references and be polite. Patiently wait.

5. Several weeks/months later, re-send email, asking booker if he got your first email. Be polite and patiently wait.

6. Call the booker. When told he is in a meeting, be polite and leave a message. Do not sit by the phone.

7. Several weeks/months later, re-send email, asking booker if he got your last email. be polite and patiently wait.

8. Call the booker. When told he is on another line with a comedy club or venue, be polite and leave a message. Do not sit by the phone.

9. Send a postcard to the booker. “Thinking of you”.

10. Send an email with your avails. If you’re a headliner, offer to work for less money. Or offer to feature. If you’re a feature, try to find a headliner already working for booker and ask him to take you as his feature. Be polite and patiently wait.

11. Call the booker. When told he is out of town on business, be polite and leave a message. Do not sit by the phone.

12. Work for everyone else you possibly can in the meantime.

13. Email the booker with your avails and mention any recent success you might have had.

14. Accept the booker’s “Friend Request” on myspace or facebook or twitter. Respond with “LOL” whenever he posts anything. Anything. Be certain to send him messages on his birthday, and respond to almost anything he posts.

15. Read and subscribe to the booker’s Blog. No matter what, resist the urge to point out that booker has never watched your demo, returned a phone call, showed up at your showcase, or checked a reference, but somehow maintains a daily blog.

16. Compliment the photos of his cat.

17. Call the booker when whomever answers the phone is on vacation/gone for the day/taking a shit. When he finally takes your phone call, listen to his stories about how swamped he has been, how much his life has sucked lately, and how much he really needs his upcoming vacation to The Virgin Islands. Be polite and patient. Put down your Ramen noodles and tell him that you are “Living the Dream, Baby”. Accept his offer to get back in touch when he’s back from vacation. Do not sit by the phone.

18. Make comment on booker’s facebook or myspace page while you sit in the airport in Enid, Oklahoma, on a 7 hour layover. “Wish you were here, LOL!” Look at photos he has posted of himself on beach, right next to photos of long-dead comedians that are still somehow booked more than you are.

19. Work for everyone else as much as possible in the meantime.

20. Have friend who is working that weekend at booker’s club drop your name.

21. The following TUESDAY, call booker. When told he is in a meeting, call back a few hours later. Leave a message. Do not sit by the phone.

22. Send booker a gift for his birthday.

23. Send booker an email with your avails. Include your recent successes. Be polite and patiently wait.

24. Book a show at rival comedy club in town.

25. Answer email from booker which tells you that, now that you have decided to work for rival club in town, you will have to wait at least 6 to 8 months before working his club. Sorry. That’s the business. And you’re expected to act professionally at all times.

26. Look online to see that comedian you thought died years ago is booked at club as “Special Event”, despite having not been on TV or even seen in public in 30 years.

27. Several months later, call the booker. Offer to open for long-dead comedian who is somehow still getting booked more than you on one of the four weeks per year he’s already working at the booker’s comedy club. Offer to drive corpse of comedian to morning radio, lunch, to/from club.

28. When comedy club fails due to never-changing rotation of same 20 comedians, send booker an email that he was “one of the good ones”.

29. When new club opens in same location, find out who the booker for the new club is and how he conducts his booking.

30. Send booker an email. Be polite and patiently wait. Do not sit by the phone.

Living the dream, baby!

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4 comments

  1. 20 years of comedy and I would have never thought of complimenting photos of the booker’s cat. Wow, you do learn something new everyday, no wonder I’m not yet working for The Funny Bone.

  2. Dear Ward,
    LOL! Thanks for the info. I’m contacting you by email because I was told that was the best way to reach you. Don’t know if you talked to my friend Bobby at the club this weekend but he said my name came up in conversation.,BTW, love your cat pictures! I currently work as an open-miker, but I would love to host for you. Oh, did you get my FB friend request? I thought you would enjoy that. Hey, get back with me when you have more time. I won’t be waiting by the phone. Fortunately, mine is mobile, and fits right in my pocket. Give me a ring when you have a chance. Bobby said he gave you the number.

    Sincerely,
    Tim Skaggs

    ps. I hope sincerely is spelled right. I will look it up, and fix it in my next email if it is not. Goodbye for now.

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