Over on the Connected Comedy Facebook page this morning I asked readers which of several topics they’d like me to write about next. Predictably, most people requested that I write about “The Dirty Secret Of Comedy Clubs,” so that’s exactly what I’m about to do.
But first, I’d also just like to point out a quick reminder about the importance of headlines in promoting your content. I believe that The Dirty Secret Of Comedy Clubs was requested almost unanimously because it was the “sexiest” headline of the potential topics I offered (others included “How To Teach Yourself To Be Successful,” “Why You Should Think Like A Comedy Club,” and “The Golden Rule Of Social Media.”)
Sure, there may have been interest in my thoughts on those other topics, but the most teasing headline was the one that really captured people’s attention. The same will apply to your videos and blog posts – the better the headline, the more clicks you’ll get.
Anyway, here’s what I think is the dirty secret of comedy clubs: They don’t really care if you’re funny.
Now, before my email inbox gets flooded with hate mail from comedy club owners, let me explain what I mean.
As I look at the comedy club business from the perspective of an outsider (I don’t own a club and I’m not a comedian, even though obviously I work in the industry), I see a major disconnect between what club owners and bookers value most and what most comedians think they value most.
Club owners are most interested in selling tickets to shows, because getting people in those seats to buy their booze and food is how they make their money. Sure, they’d like you to be funny because they understand that a good show is more likely to lead to repeat business than a bad show, but they also know that they’d take a moderately funny guy who can sell out their venue (with little work on the club’s part) in a heartbeat over a hilarious guy who isn’t able to sell any tickets (without significant marketing money spent by the club).
Comedians, on the other hand, tend to believe that the key to them getting more work is to improve their act and to be “funnier.” Of course this is a great goal and will have an impact on your career, but it’s not ultimately what club bookers are looking for. Trust me, if the room is packed every time you perform in a club you will get asked to headline a lot quicker than if you kill in front of a handful of people.
Now the reason I refer to this misunderstanding as the dirty secret of comedy clubs is because they don’t ever seem to explain this to up and coming (or established for that matter) comedians. Sure, maybe they tell their booking agents (who are equally at fault for not teaching clients how to grow their fanbases), but you rarely hear a club owner tell a comedian to work on his/her ability to draw a crowd.
Ironically, club owners are quick to offer artistic advice on a comedian’s act which creates the illusion that if you just get a little funnier, then headlining gigs will flood your way. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that.
For comedians, I’m always curious to find out how much time you spend working on your act compared to working on growing a fanbase that will show up and support you? In most cases, there’s a ton of time spent on the act and just about no time spent on the “business.” That’s fine if that’s your prerogative, but it’s also the reason that the vast majority of talented comedians wind up so frustrated as they watch people that are less talented than them progress further in their career.
Even though I think this is the biggest dirty secret of comedy clubs, I’m sure lots of you have some of your own thoughts about comedy club secrets. I’d love to hear what you think so please leave a comment with your opinion…