Producing a Show: Running The Show

runningCongratulations! You’ve got a venue, you’ve booked comics and there’s lots of people in the audience. Now the real headache begins! One hundred things can and will go wrong every time you run a show.

Before getting into any specifics, if you remember nothing else about running a show, remember to:

Be flexible and don’t freak out!

With that said, here is a pretty standard to do (or have someone else to do) list when you’re running a show. (Some of these steps aren’t necessary depending on the venue.)

  • Set up and test the equipment, rearrange furniture if needed
  • Work the box office selling tickets (if you’re charging cover)
  • Seat people (towards the front when possible)
  • Make announcements before the show starts (turn off pagers, any drink minimums, etc)
  • Introduce and bring up the MC (or if you’re MCing, have someone bring you up)
  • Decide the order of comics and how much time each comic is doing
  • Keep track of how much time each comic is doing
  • Light the comic when they have one minute remaining
  • Let the waitresses know when to drop the checks (if applicable)
  • Make an announcement to clear the room after the show ends (if applicable)
  • Put the room back how you found it

Here’s some common problems and possible solutions, add your own experiences in the comments

The line up needs to be changed

You should have a line up in advance that states the order of the comics and how long each comic is doing. However, unless you’re producing a MC – Feature – Headliner format, the line up almost always changes at the last minute. Look at your original line up as a starting hypothesis and not like the ten commandments. When making line up changes the most important thing to keep in mind is if there’s a hard stopping time that the show must be over by. If so, always work backwards from there. And don’t forget to add 30 to 60 seconds between comics for the MC to have time to bring up the next comedian.

The show has to end earlier than scheduled

All your comics are on time and don’t run the light, but suddenly management decides you only have 70 minutes instead of 100. The most important thing to do, is not get pissy at management. Asking them if they can do anything about giving the show more time is okay, just don’t get into a yelling match with them or anything. When this happens, be ready to cut everyone’s time. Most comics will be understanding about this. If this happens, a better move than cutting into everyone else’s time is to take yourself off of the show (assuming you’re not the MC). When producing and running a show, your first responsibility is making it a good show, giving yourself stage time is just a bonus.

Comics go longer than you want

Comics run the light way too often. If you’re a comic reading this, you’ve probably run the light a few times yourself. If the show is running tight, make sure to remind comics not to run the light. If you stress how tight the show is, they’re less likely to do it (although it’s not guaranteed). Be ready to keep waving a light until they come off stage.

You run out of change

If you’re charging a cover, you’ll need to break change. It’s best to have at least one person helping you run the show so that you can send them on errands like this one, while you stay and run the rest of the show. If you can’t get help, either ask them to hang out until someone else can give you change or if they’re waiting for more than a few minutes, comp their cover.

A comic doesn’t show up or cancels at the last minute

This is a bigger deal if you have 3 or 4 comics on a show and two of them have already gone up. There’s a minimum amount of time most places will want a show to run, and you don’t want to give someone more time than they can handle doing, especially if they’re already on stage. One way to solve this is to have comics check in by a certain time, and if they’re not there, take them off the show so you can split the remaining time fairly from the beginning. Another solution is to always book one comic that you know can do a lot of time if needed, and don’t put that comic on until the other comics have shown up.

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? I teach a Comedy Class in New York City. I also do private one-on-one comedy coaching (in-person or via Zoom).

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