Producing Your Own Show: The Venue

I’m not an expert at producing shows, but I’ve put together four of my own and have helped out with a bunch of other shows. Producing a show is one of the best ways to get stage time before you’re “passed” at a club or booking consistent road work. When you produce your own show you need to be able to manage four equally important parts: the venue, the comics, the attendance and the actual show. This post focuses on the venue.

The venue is the first step. If you don’t have a venue, a date and a time, you can’t do much else. When choosing a type of venue you usually have a four main options:

A Comedy Club

Description: Many comedy clubs have nights or scheduled times where anyone can “rent” their room to produce a show. Most clubs keep all the drink money (the business model of a comedy club is to sell drinks), while you get to keep the cover charge (or a percentage of the cover).

Pros: You get to perform at a comedy club. This gets added to your “performed at” credits and it’s usually easier to get someone to come to “The Comedy Club” instead of “Moe’s Diner.” (Big exception: When you want Moe to show up.)

Cons: Until the owner or manager gets to know you, or until you have a consistent reputation for drawing a good sized crowd, most clubs will not give you a prime time spot which makes it harder to draw people.  (Prime time spots are usually considered to be Fridays and Saturdays and anything that starts between 7:30 and 10PM .) You also don’t have time to build up a following for the show. If your first show has 3 audience members, you likely won’t be allowed to produce another one at the same club for a long while.

A Bar or Restaurant

Description: Many bars have slow nights (Sunday to Thursday) and/or slow hours (after the happy hour but before the party crowd) and would be happy to get someone else to bring people into the bar.

Pros: It’s easier to have a weekly show while slowly building a following. There are times when the bar is completely empty and many mangers would prefer 3 patrons to no patrons.

Cons: Bars can get loud. Not everyone that’s at the bar is there for the comedy show, and they’re paying customers too so you can’t tell them to shut up. Also, if you’re trying to make money on charging at the door, this might be harder as bars won’t want to turn away other patrons. However, you can try to negotiate a cut of the drink sales.

A College (or other classroom like venue)

Description: You can rent or reserve a lecture hall or classroom at a college.

Pros: Lots of people that live in a small geographical area that are young and looking for entertainment.  There’s usually no alcohol allowed.

Cons: If you don’t have an “in” with a college, it’s hard to reserve a room “off the street”. If you’re going to charge money, many students are broke. And there’s usually no alcohol allowed.

Conference Rooms, Hotels, etc

Description: Any room with chairs can be turned into a comedy show. A hotel conference room, an office or your parents basement.

Pros: Depending on the specifics, you have full control of how to run the event.

Cons: Lack of credibility. It’s harder to convince someone to come to “12 Dark Alley Street” than to “The Comedy Club” or “Moe’s Diner.” This applies not just to audience members but to comics who will perform too.

Other thoughts to keep in mind:

  • Will you need your own mic, amplifier and/or mic stand?
  • Is there a stage? Can you bring one?
  • Does the manager or owner treat you with respect? Are they fans of comedy?
  • Is the venue easily accessible?
  • How much parking is there? Is it free? (You can ignore this if you’re in NYC)

Up Next: How to Select Comedians

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? Consider taking my NYC Comedy Class or booking a private one-on-one comedy coaching session (in person or via Zoom)

More Stand-Up Comedy Tips:

4 Replies to “Producing Your Own Show: The Venue”

  1. Ben:

    You are so correct on this, and I can’t thank you enough for making the world aware of this. Any comic looking to further their career should take note. I decided a while ago that I needed to create my own venues if I wanted more leverage and stage time. So far ‘WayneMan Comedy’ has two rooms within one month:

    – Comedy x 10 (Recessions @ 1823 L Street NW Washington DC 20038)

    – BellyLaughs in Bethesda (Caddies on Cordell @ 4922 Cordell Ave Bethesda MD 20814) Debuts on Feb. 2nd.

    We’re also working on a third room in VA.

    It’s also important for comics to meet other comics at every show they can. I never leave a comedy event without meeting at least 5 people. Attendees, comics, bar owners..it’s about marketing yourself and making an impression.

    Building brand awareness is key! I started with one room, did a ton of marketing (on a very thin dime) – and it paid off. The 2nd room booked me ‘sight unseen’. It didn’t hurt that I has a list of comics I opened for, and bios/profiles of my local comic buds as a part of the presentation pitch.

    Looking forward to reading more of your stuff (as always)!


  2. Hey Wayne,

    I definitely agree that you want to make a good impression and to build a positive reputation but I try not to set a “meet 5 new people at every show” type goal as I’d rather have one or two amazing conversations than five so so ones. Everyone works differently though.

    Keep up the good work in DC.


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