3 Tips To Planning A Successful Comedy Show

Thinking of planning a comedy show as your next event? Here’s some tips to ensure it’s a success.

1) Decide what’s most important: the location, the date or the featured comedian.

Unless you’re extremely lucky, the chances are you won’t get your first choice for all three of these. Of course, the further in advance you plan, the better your chances for getting all three. If you plan 6-12 months in advance, your odds of getting exactly what you want are much better than if you plan 6-12 weeks in advance.

  • If there’s a specific comedian you want, contact them or their representation and arrange a date that they’re free.
  • If your event has to be on a specific night, start with that, and then contact comedians, but create a list of the five comedians that would fit your event, so that you’re not stuck if your first choice is not available that night.
  • If you have to have the event in a specific location, see if there’s a few dates they’ll put on hold for you for a week while you contact your favorite comedian to see if they’re available on any of those dates.

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2) When choosing the entertainment, decide whether to go through a booking agency or deal directly with a comedian.

Booking Agency Pros:

  • If one comedian can’t make it, they can find a replacement more seamlessly.
  • They may have a marketing person that can help with flyers for your event.
  • “One stop shopping” for when you’re not sure what comedian you want. An agency can make recommendations after listening to your requirements and help you narrow the choices.
  • There’s almost always a contract, and the agency knows how to write them.

Booking Agency Cons:

  • Depending on the agency, they can charge inflated prices and only give a small fraction of that to the performer.
  • An agency may send a different comedian at the last minute, sometimes without even warning you.
  • You may not have a chance to talk to the comedian ahead of time. Or some pertinent information (it’s a clean show, specific dress code, etc.) may never get communicated to the comedian before they show up.

Comedian Direct Pros:

  • You get the exact performer you want.
  • You can talk to the comedian in advance and tell them your specific requirements.
  • You can get a better deal, and all the money goes directly to the performer.

Comedian Direct Cons:

  • Your event may require a complicated contract, that the performer doesn’t understand as well as a booking agent.
  • If the comedian gets sick or cancels at the last minute, you may have to rebook the event yourself. (Although most comedians will offer you suggestions for suitable replacements.)

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3) Specify Rules and Agreements Well In Advance

  • Specify whether there are any content or language restrictions when setting up the booking, not when the comedian shows up the night of the show.
  • Specify how long of a show you want. Comedy shows can range from thirty minutes to two hours. I find that audience attention spans tend to fade after an hour and a half. It’s usually best to leave them wanting more. When in doubt, make it a shorter show.
  • Decide on how many acts you’ll have. Most comedians like to bring someone along to warm up the room. So ask if they have an opener in mind. Or if you like a few comedians, see if your budget can afford more than one act.
  • Negotiate a payment and stick to it. Flat fees are common for most performers. Depending on the show size, the travel required and the comedian’s level of fame, flat fees can run anywhere from $100 to over $10,000 for a forty five minute performance. Less common but still used, is the door deal. Where the comedian gets the cut of the door (cover charge) for each audience member that shows up.

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