Yesterday on the Connected Comedy Facebook page I asked readers what their biggest frustration was with the comedy business and the majority of the answers related in some way to stage time and the various ways that clubs, promoters, and bookers determine who gets to perform on their stages.
That didn’t shock me, but what’s interesting to me is how confused many comedians seem to be about the process of getting stage time. Here’s a few common misconceptions I’ve noticed many comedians have about stage time…
1. You Think You’re Entitled To Stage Time
I hate to burst your bubble, but just because you decide to be a comedian it doesn’t mean anybody has to give you any stage time. Too many comedians think clubs and comedy venues exist solely to provide them with a place to get up and tell jokes – that couldn’t be further from the truth.
A promoter or venue’s clientele isn’t comedians – it’s the audience. The audience is where their revenue comes from and therefore the audience is who the venue is trying to please. Most bookers, promoters, or venues could care less about your needs as a comedian when it comes to getting stage time because that’s not the business they’re in.
It’s amazing how many comedians think it’s their right to perform as much as they want at their local comedy venues and then get personally offended when the venues don’t agree. If you’re comedian, you need to understand you’re providing a service to the venues and that they don’t owe you the right to practice your craft on their stage.
If you were a plumber, would you think a homeowner owed it to you to let you come work on their plumbing?
2. You Think You Need Somebody Else To Give You Stage Time
I’ve said it a million times before – stop waiting for somebody to give you permission to have a career. If you aren’t able to get as much stage time as you’d like from your local venues, then go produce your own show.
Yes, it will take some more work to produce and promote a show, but the rewards can be huge – including the opportunity to get as much stage time as you feel you need. Also, once you start producing your own show you’ll quickly find a new perspective on stage time as a whole. Suddenly, you’ll better understand the position of the venues you previously criticized because you too will be more focused on providing a good show to your audience as opposed to making sure every comedian that wants stage time has the opportunity to get up on your stage.
3. You Think Every Stage Is A Place For You To Practice
I understand stage time is important and that you need it to work out new material and practice your act. However, most shows are not designed to give you a place to work on your act.
It’s one thing to work out new material at open mics or smaller workshop shows, but larger venues and “real” shows are designed to entertain an audience. Usually, material you’re just trying out isn’t going to be that entertaining and doesn’t belong on those stages. You need to recognize that not all stage time is created equal and plan accordingly.
Also, the quickest way for you to lose future stage time is when you’re booked on a real show to opt to spend most of your set working out new material instead of going with your best stuff. Remember to pick your practice spots wisely.
4. You Think The Stage Is The Only Outlet For Your Comedy
Like I’ve said before, it’s important to think of yourself as more than just a stand up comedian. Just because you may not be able to get as much stage time as you’d like, it doesn’t mean you can’t still be working on your comedy.
Embrace tools like YouTube, podcasting, and blogging to regularly create comedic content and share it with the world. Stage time is just one outlet for your comedy career and it’s by no means the only one.
Too many comedians spend their weeks waiting around for those 5-minute bursts of stage time they get, thinking that’s the only way they can work on their comedy but that’s just not true.
You’ve got the opportunity to create all kinds of different things at virtually no cost and reach the world with your creations through the Internet – you just have to make an effort to do so. If you limit yourself to thinking the only way you can progress is by getting on stage, you’ll find you’re only spending a small fraction of the time you could be spending on honing your skills and growing your career.