I have been proving my mettle in this business going on 10 years now. I have gone from shitty open mic-er to showcase comic, to guest spot comic, to Emcee, to feature and now headliner/closer. And I still have a long way to go. One of the most important yet often over looked things is KNOWING WHERE YOU ARE ON THE STAND UP PATH and MASTERING that place before jumping ahead. I still get called on quite often to emcee shows and I still take them. Fact is I'm one of the best damn emcees in the biz, I have mastered and over the years have developed enough strong solid material to ensure that when I'm the emcee for a week, I don't do the exact same show twice in that week. Given, I've got the material to pull from to pull that off, but that's an aside. Trust me on this... If you can cosistantly, solidly open a show... You are sincerely on your way to a much longer and stronger career. If you can master the emcee spot (The most difficult spot on the show) you can open doors for yourself that weaker comics can't. You can emcee concerts, festivals, all kinds of other shows as well as comedy. You don't have to concern yourself with who yu have to follow once you move up to feature or headliner spots either because you have gained the ability not only to re-open the show, but also to direct the audiance back to YOUR SHOW... Easily. Know where you are in your career. Master that and then move forward.
Shecky Magazine Tells It Like It Should Be To bad all these "Know-It-All" club owners don't get the message.
Here's what Shecky has to say about the business of standup.
Note especially what they say about Open Mikes.....
Avoiding the "Second Comedy Bust" Pt. 2
Which group is capable of doing the most damage to the business of live standup comedy?
The club owners?
We'd have to say the owners. For it is they who determine whether ornot the comedian ever gets onto the comedy club's stage. (Hold anyemails that argue that it is the club's booker or manager thatdetermines such things-- the booker or manager serves at the pleasureof the owner, so it all goes back to him/her.)
Please note that we say, "doing the most damage"-- for even though aclub owner has the ultimate say in who gets on his stage, the comediancan and does share some of the responsibility.
There is a general feeling in the land that this nation is facing hardeconomic times (although, judging from the dense traffic around theDeptford Mall this past Saturday, the misery has yet to hit SouthernNew Jersey!), and that comedy club proprietors will soon be forced totake stern measures to ensure their club's viability.
What's the first way to save big bucks? Cut back on the budget for talent!
(We've seen this tactic employed in prosperous times... what makes anyone think that some owners won't try it now?!)
Where's the most likely place to start saving money when it comes to talent?
If you answered "the emcee spot!" you are correct. (And you are probably an emcee!)
Where's the worst place to start saving money when it comes to talent?
If you answered "the emcee spot!" you are also correct. (And you areprobably a headliner who has just suffered through a weekend of showswith a horrendous emcee... or you are an audience member who endured ashow hosted by someone who should not even be allowed to park cars, letalone hop onto a weekend stage to host a professional show.)
How many times have we heard (before the show even starts), "Theopening act always sucks!"? This has become a truism among many acomedy fan. Of course, it's not true. But the public has "caught on" tothe set of ideas that the emcee is paid poorly, is the leastexperienced act on the bill and, therefore, is most often the person onthe bill who is least likely to actually make people laugh, keep theshow moving and avoid embarrassing moments.
The folks who book the emcees bear some of the responsibility for thepopularity of this concept. For although the emcee spot is one of themost important on the bill, it is quite often one of the most neglected.
So, when people start cutting corners, they follow this disastrousformula: Take an open-miker (who only has five minutes) and make him anemcee (which requires him to do fifteen minutes). Then take a comic whowas formerly an emcee (and might have twenty minutes if he's lucky) andbump him up to feature act and have him do thirty.
The result of such cost-cutting is that a paying, weekend crowd willsuffer through not one, but two acts who are in over their heads. Bythe time the headliner has hit the stage, they've sat through anexcruciating 45 minutes.
And all because, in an effort to keep expenses down, you've figured outa way to pay the emcees nothing and a way to pay the features what youformerly paid to the emcees.
Congratulations! You've hit upon a formula that will result incomplaints, cancellations, terrible word-of-mouth and, inevitably,empty seats.
At the same time, comics bear some of the responsibility for this trainwreck. Early on we all need to take certain risks and "move up to thenext level." But, we all need to be acutely aware of exactly what we'recapable of doing. We must be aware of, but certainly not slaves to, ourlimitations. If you've only ever done seven minutes, don't agree to do15. (How many times have we had an open-miker look us straight in theeyes and say, "I have two hours of material in my notebook."? No. You.Don't. You know who has two hours of material in his notebook? BrianRegan. The list pretty much ends there.)
Is there a solution to this standoff? There are a few. Not the least ofwhich is a more hands-on approach to the open mike night. (If the clubeven has one.)
If a club's manager or booker or owner even has to ask a local comic"How much time do you have?" then he is probably not paying sufficientattention to his local talent. (And he probably deserves to be lied to!)
The open mike, staged and used properly, is the lifeblood of any comedyclub when it comes to a constant supply of competent comics who canhost a show, get the intros right and not offend anyone. Clubs thatdon't even have an open mike night are going to have a rough timefinding talent for that important opening slot. And are probably goingto end up paying more for that position.
The person responsible for talent should pay close attention to theweekend shows as well. Too many club managers or owners don't evenwatch the shows. If you've got an emcee who is agitating for a featurespot, watching him over the course of two shows can pretty much tellyou all you need to know. If you really want to be certain of hisskills, have the emcee do two different shows one night. If he meltsdown and reverts back to safe mode, he's probably not ready.
It's quite the feat to book those first two spots on a show. If a clubowner thinks he can solve his problems by bumping an emcee up to thefeature spot and grab a random open miker to host the weekend, he's gotbig problems.
(And if you think that paying your headliner $10,000 will make theaudience forget those excruciating first 45 minutes, you are mistaken.