Hey there. Before we get started, let me clarify the title of this post. This is not how to produce a cool comedy show as in, your show will be the new cool popular indie show that comedians are desperate to get on because they think a spot on the show means they “made it” then once they do it they later realize nothing is everything.
I have no idea how to make a show “cool” in that sense, I am talking about how you, the producer, the person in charge can just be cool, as in being a chill good person that takes care of comedians and audiences alike. If being “cool” in that way doesn’t interest then you can stop reading right now and go back to being a douche.
Yay! You’re not a douche! You’re already half way to being a cool comedy show producer.
Now onto the lesson. Why am I writing this, you may ask. Well, I care about you. No really, I do. I care about comedians and audiences; I assume you belong to either one or both of those groups. In the all the years I’ve been performing and producing comedy I have seen the same shit over and over again that just makes either comedians or audiences annoyed– simple things that are easy to fix and can make everyone’s comedy experience better.
If you’re a comic, you should especially adhere to these tips because, you’re one of us! Treat others the way you’d want to be treated! And yes, I am absolutely guilty of making some of these errors and not being cool. See! We are all flawed, even ME! Alrighty, let’s get cool.
1. Check credits: You are producing a show. Great! You make a cool flyer by Photoshopping a pic of Mr. T rolling down a hill because your show is called Hilari-T. Awesome! You add the line-up of comics and their credits (TV appearances, shows they wrote for, etc…) Nice! You list super old, incorrect, misleading or shitty credits. Not cool! Don’t just list what you think a comic did once. Do your research. Don’t put “SNL” next to Joe Jokes’ name when he was an extra on SNL in 2003 and now currently a writer on The Daily Show. I’ve had people incorrectly/oddly credit me as “Star of Girl Code” (I was never on Girl Code, I was a contributing writer for Girl Code), Jimmy Kimmel Live (I was on the show for 30 seconds in a sketch over 10 years ago and have since been on many other TV shows where I actually spoke), and Upright Citizens Brigade (yes, I do shows there but so has nearly every comic ever so how is this a credit?)
In addition to incorrect credits the other weird thing that some people do is they have a line-up of six comics, five of which have TV credits and one does not… so to be cute they list that non-TV-credit-having comic as “really nice guy.” Um, that’s weird, and really makes that comic stick out, and can’t you think of anything genuine? Maybe that “really nice guy” has a credit you don’t know about or maybe he has something he’d like you to promote. So, if you aren’t sure of a comedian’s most current or best credit, ask them!
2. Learn how to spell. Please, spell people’s names right. A simple Google search can most likely answer any spelling questions you may have. And if not, do what I said in the first step and ask the comic! It’s especially uncool when a person butchers a comedian’s name (Jerry Michaels) on a Facebook invite then tags that comedian (Geri Mikals) on Facebook, IT’S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU! FIX IT! I can understand a typo, but a blatant disregard for someone’s identity is just shitty and it makes it seem like you don’t care. These comics are nice enough to do your show, you should be nice enough to advertise who they really are. (Also, I am not Julia Rossi!!!)
3. Pick good photos. If you’re using photos of the comedians on your show flyer or invite, please use current and flattering photos. There’s nothing wrong with doing a Google image search for a comedian’s pic. The only problem is Google image search may bring up a photo of that person from 20 years ago or worse. It may bring up a photo of the wrong person. Snagging a person’s current Facebook or Twitter profile photo is usually a safe bet for a recent pic. Or most comics have websites; take an extra minute to go to their site and pull a promo photo from there. Or, once again, ask the comic which photo to use! Give them the opportunity to send you a photo so that they can pick one that they actually like. Why should Sally HaHa go through all that trouble getting laser on her facial just so you can use a photo of her from back in her bearded days on all your flyers? And please, please, please if your show gets a write up and they ask for photos, credit your photographer. Crediting other artists for their art is super cool.
4. Be kind, remind. Yes, it is 100 percent a comedian’s responsibility to write your show on their calendar. However, as a courtesy, send out a reminder email the day of or day before the show. I know many of us think tagging people on Twitter is reminder enough but not everyone is attached to social media, not everyone gets tag alerts, so if you have time, send a quick note; it’s just a nice thing to do. And when you send that reminder out, be sure to include the time the show actually starts not just what time you listed it as starting. It really sucks to show up to a show at 8 pm because the flyer says 8 pm and have the host say, “oh we never start until 9:30 pm” as if we were supposed to know that. Be cool, let us know what time you need us there.
5. Don’t remind constantly. When I say remind performers about the show, I mean one email, maybe two. Do not email comedians every day pushing them to promote your show. It’s your show, it’s your responsibility to promote. Most comedians are already promoting dozens of things they are working on so they aren’t going to give your show all their social media airtime.
Most likely someone you book on your show will RT your Tweet about the show, they will put it on their calendar, they may post in on Facebook or include it in a larger mailer along with other shows they’re doing, but it is not their job to do your job. Comedians want the room filled just as much as the person running the show does. Trust that we will do our best to help bring in a crowd, but don’t nag us with endless PR street plans for your event.
6. Invite with integrity. If you run a show and have never booked someone on it and have never replied to their email asking to do your show, take them off your fucking Facebook invite and off your fucking mailing list. Of course you can’t book every comedian ever.
Of course you don’t like every comedian’s comedy. Of course some people don’t like me (gasp! I know, hard to believe). It’s totally cool for you not to book someone on your show, it’s not cool to keep inviting them to that show every damn week. Also, it’s not cool to keep inviting people to your show in Portland when they live in New York.
7. Police your show. If people are talking during your show, tell them to be quiet. If people are heckling the comics during your show, kick them out. I’ve been to so many shows where there is a group of people chatting loudly during the show (or worse, a group of comedians chatting loudly during the show) and the producer, staff, whomever isn’t doing anything about it. If the person in charge doesn’t take charge, usually a comedian ends up having to say something which isn’t cool. Do everyone — the performers and the audience members that actually want to see a show — a favor and control your room. And if you can’t control the room because you’re doing an ambush show in the middle of a very rowdy pub with no separate showroom and no actual audience members, find a new venue. Comedy can be hard enough when people are actually listening, setting comics up for failure, frustration and a possible fistfight by hosting a show where it’s not welcomed is torture.
That’s it! I hope you found this helpful and not hateful. I love comedy. I love good shows. And I love you for reading this and making your show super cool for everyone involved.
If you have other cool tips that can help make producing comedy cooler, please leave them in the comments. I look forward to being on your cool show!
Top photo: Maryanne Ventrice
Photos 2, 3: Mindy Tucker, Ray Kump
This post was originally published here. Reprinted with permission.