When I started out in comedy, I did some barking. Being that I can be a nerd at times, I actually tried to google “comedy barking tips” and received no useful results (stupid dogs and barking tips). So as a service to all aspiring comedians who have to bark for stage time, here are some tips to achieve better results:
- Remember it’s a numbers game and don’t be fazed by rejection.
- You have 3-5 seconds for someone to hear you as they walk past you so state the offer as succinctly as possible.
- Personalize the offer. I let people know that I was performing and earning stage time by standing outside. I feel this gives people a better reason to consider going to the show instead of if I was just trying to sell them something.
- Make a joke. And try to have fun. Most people want to ignore you, so try to make people laugh, even if they don’t end up going to the show. If nothing else, this helps build your improv skills and your crowd work skills. For example, when really young looking pedestrians pass by, I mention that “most forms of fake ID are accepted.” When older women walk by, I’ll say “Look at me! I’m adorable… AND hysterical.”
- If they make eye contact and laugh, walk with them a few feet and start talking to them. This works best if you make a little excuse like “it’s cold, I need some exercise” so they don’t think you’re gonna follow them for ten blocks (and you shouldn’t — if you can’t get them to stop to talk to you by the next crosswalk, let them go — no need to harass people)
- Anchor the price by saying what the regular price is first and then tell them the discounted price that your flier provides.
- Be nice and friendly, even if they aren’t gonna come to the show.
- Try to walk them to the club so they don’t get distracted with some other activity.
- Sometimes, if you just keep talking and talking and talking, they’ll decide to go.
As examples, here are some of the things I’ve been saying lately that tend to get laughs and conversations, even from the meanest looking people.
- “Live comedy. I’m performing. If nobody shows up, I get beaten very badly.”
- “Standup comedy. I’m performing. Last time nobody came, I was hit with a shovel.”
- “I’m performing comedy. If you don’t go, I get water boarded.”
- “Live comedy. I’m performing. Look how cute I am.”
- “It’s lonely here, I need a hug.”
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