My last post was an article on what to do to get the basics of being a good standup comedian right. I got a lot of great feedback from you guys and thought I’d write it from the other side. I’ve been a promoter, in fact that’s how I started out in comedy, and up until recently I’ve been running some great comedy gigs. They take a lot of work and I’ve had to stop running regular stuff because I’ve focused purely on standup, that and the kids.
(Plus why would I waste this backstage?)
However having been a promoter I’ve seen what great gigs look like and what it takes to run them so here is ten things a great promoter should do.
1. Promote the night properly – Everyone has facebook sure but really how often do you click yes on the button next to the event invitation then go to the event in question, probably never. You click the button so the other person doesn’t hate you but really you’re never going to go. The same applies to comedy nights. You need to use methods outside of the internet as well as social media. Get the papers involved, run a radio competition, go flyering in all your local businesses, do a publicity stunt where you have people telling jokes in the street. Do everything you can to make sure as many people as possible know about it.
(Free replacement eardrums with every two tickets sold!!)
2. Layout the room properly – Don’t have tables. Seriously you may think it adds a bit of class to the proceedings but unless you’re hosting a charity gala with Jack Dee as the main speaker those tables are going to turn each group into an ambient hecklefest. Make sure everyone can see the comedians don’t expect them to have Superman like xray vision and position chairs behind posts. I would say the best type of seating is in rows facing the stage with adequate room for people to get out quietly for toilet breaks, this way everyone sees the show and the bar sells more drinks (people drink more when they can’t put their glasses down).
3. Book your lineups carefully – There is an art to creating a lineup. You need to start with some high energy stuff to get the room going, keep it up until the first break then take it down a notch afterwards. The headliner then gets to bask in the glory of a comfortably warm room that’s been exposed to different types of comedy. Putting a one liner comic on first who only speaks in a monotone will make it harder for the rest of the comics.
4. Be nice to the acts – Yeah sure you’re paying these guys to be funny but your night is their workplace and if you’re going to be a serious promoter it’s yours too! Don’t ignore them when they arrive then grunt them onto the stage, stare at them mirthlessly with arms crossed as they perform then pay them £10 less than you promised because you fancy a curry on the way home. You want to have a good reputation with performers as much as they do with you, if people are saying you’re fantastic and run a great night you’ll get a much higher level of comedian applying.
5. Pay your acts – A lot of shows have open spots in the middle trying out for the bigger paid stuff I suggest giving them something towards their travel even if they are there specifically to show off to you. It’s just a thank you for helping the night go smoothly and it’ll be good if they can afford a motorway burger on the 3 hour trip back to wherever they drove from. Again you never know who’ll become the next Lee Evans so it’s a nice idea to be on good terms with everyone. Free beer is a lovely idea but if the act drives it’s like offering children cigarettes.
(Addiction is an ugly sight)
6. Co-operate with other local comedy nights – Any entertainment show is going to be in direct competition with all the others in the area but it’s in yours and their best interests if you work together. Make sure you’ve not all got the same acts on the same weeks to avoid people having to choose one show over the other. Instead work with other promoters, if you’re not on the same nights you can promote each other’s shows or even help at the gig!
7. Make sure the venue is invested – So many promoters have the problem that they love comedy but the pub they have their night in just wants people in drinking their booze and playing slot machines until their probation officer finds them. They’ll replace your beloved comedy night with a rock and roll bingo if they think it will put more bums on seats so get them invested in the night. Book comics you know they’ll like, get them doing the promoting by giving them posters for their venue and make sure they meet the performers on the night.
(Your night’s been cancelled, Alcoholics Anonymous wanted the room)
8.Make ticket sales easy – Put your own mobile number on the flyers and website for the show so people can call in and reserve their seats. When they call in take their email and phone number then drop them a confirmation email after the call. The day of the show give them a courtesy call just to remind them of their reservation. Get a local business involved so they can sell tickets on the high street. Sell tickets online. The easier it is to buy tickets the more people will come.
9. Allocate seating – Not something most clubs do but where it’s done it’s the best thing for the night. People automatically avoid the front rows, if they’re guided to specific seats they’re stuck wherever you’ve put them AND they feel like they’ve had a personal touch to the evening. It’s a no brainer.
(Great seat choice honey. Now we won’t get picked on and we can laugh at the woman who does!)
10. ENJOY IT – You’ve put a lot of hard work into making the night run smoothly, enjoy it! Watch the comedians and laugh, talk to the audience members during the breaks and just have a great time playing host. There are clubs around the country where the main reason people come back is because of the lovely host making them feel welcome.
And there you have it. My top ten tips for New Promoters to make their new night great. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I have writing it and I hope you enjoy running your night as much as I enjoy performing at it.
(It’s going to be off the hook!)
- How to comedy (dailypurch.wordpress.com)
- Lee Evans: “It’s got to hurt. You’ve got to cry out in pain.” (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jacamo’s Top 10: Southern Funny Men (jacamoblog.co.uk)