As important as it is to get as much stage time as you can at comedy clubs and other performance venues, it’s just as important to spend time hanging out in these places when you’re not performing.
Here’s a couple reasons why it’s a good idea to try to spend some time just hanging out at your local comedy scene and some suggestions of what you can get from the time you spend off stage…
You Will Learn From What You See
When you’re not on stage, pay attention to the people that are on stage because you can learn a lot from them. Whether the comedians you’re watching are good or bad, there’s plenty of lessons to be learned about what they’re doing and why it’s working (or not working). Plus, when you watch a lot of comedy in a live venue, you will also start to learn more about what audiences expect, how they react, and how different types of crowds respond to different types of materials.
But watching the action on stage and studying audience reactions is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can learn from hanging out in comedy venues. You should also try to notice what goes on from a business perspective in the venue – how they manage the crowd, how they promote their shows, how they make their money, how they treat other comedians, what comedians they seem to favor (and why), and more. This can be especially helpful if you start to regularly hang out in multiple different venues, because it will allow you to compare and contrast the way different shows are run.
It’s Great For Networking
Like it or not, most opportunities for career advancement in comedy are tied to networking and who you know. And the hubs of comedy networking are the clubs and venues where comedians (and industry) hang out.
Most comedians think they’re going to be “discovered” performing on stage, but they don’t realize that they’re just as likely (maybe more) to make a valuable connection when they’re hanging out off stage. The more you hang out, the more comedians, bookers, managers, agents, and other industry types you’ll wind up meeting. And those casual meetings can eventually help your career in a lot of ways.
First, the more people you meet, the more connections you’ll have to people who can eventually help you by providing you opportunities to perform, connecting you to people who can help you out, etc. But beyond that, it also starts to get your name out there and you will start to become a known entity in your local comedy scene. This will usually lead to people paying more attention to you when you perform, which is obviously a good thing.
By viewing your off-stage time as an opportunity to learn as much as you do when you’re on stage, you’ll wind up learning some valuable lessons that will help you take both your performance and your career to the next level.
And One More Thing About Hanging Out…
Here’s one more thing I’ll mention that’s somewhat relevant to this topic. In addition to hanging out at comedy clubs in wherever your local comedy scene is, I would highly recommend that if you don’t live in Los Angeles or New York, you plan to visit those cities some time and spend a few days hanging out at comedy venues there.
If you’re going to have a career in comedy, the chances are you’re going to have to move to one of those cities at some point and I think it’s really important to see what they’re about well before you’re actually ready to make the move. Spending some time hanging out in comedy venues in LA or NY will likely be an eye-opening experience for you because you’ll see they are a completely different world from the comedy scene in just about any other city in the country.
Besides having the opportunity to see and connect with an incredible collection of talented comedians, you’ll gain a new perspective of your own standing in the comedy universe and recognize how far you’ll need to go in order to “make it.” But a visit to comedy’s meccas will likely inspire you to further commit to making your career work.