Here’s a question I received about breaking into stand-up comedy:
I want to break into the comedy business. I want to send clips of my act to talent agencies. How many clips should I have to send to a talent agency?
This is actually a very good question that I suspect a good number of people who want take a shot at stand-up comedy would ask.
So in this article I’m going to provide an overview of what’s involved with “breaking into” stand-up comedy and engaging talent agencies when the time is right.
Let’s start with this first sentence leading up to the question:
I want to break into the comedy business.
That tells me immediately that this prospective comedian has most likely never performed at an open mic, much less for an audience outside the open mic arena.
I say that because if they had, they would have already networked with other comedians, both new and experience and would have gotten some insight on what’s involved with becoming a comedian – particularly one who is looking to ultimately perform professionally for pay.
Now, let’s take a look at the things a comedian would need to have lined up before contacting a talent agency.
The second sentence leading up to the question was:
I want to send clips of my act to talent agencies.
First let me say that any video clips sent to any talent agency would need to be sent with these attributes in place:
1. The comedian needs to be armed with a MINIMUM of 30 solid performing minutes (45 minutes is preferred) of proven, powerful and consistently funny stand-up comedy material that has been “battle tested” in front of live audiences.
2. The comedian needs to have a G-PG 13 stand-up comedy act (or cleaner) as most talent agencies service business or corporate clients.
Note: There are some exceptions to this if the comedian can only deliver an “adult” act, but those type of “agency” representations are made available to only the most experienced comedians who have already developed a substantial following in the comedy club arena.
3. The comedian would need to have a pro website (electronic press kit or EPK) with the comedian’s resume, bio, testimonials, video clips, etc.
4. The video clips would need to be filmed performing for a live audience. Bigger is better unless the comedian is really killing in the clip.
Note: The very best objective overall indicator of any comedian’s performance can be obtained by simply using their smartphone and the apps that are usually already installed:
5. Initial promo video clips should only be 60-90 seconds long and unedited. The first one should be of the very beginning of a comedian’s act (including their intro).
6. The comedian should be prepared to provide an additional unedited 30-45 performance video if asked once the promo clips have been reviewed.
Provide the criteria above has been met, this question can be answered:
How many clips should I have to send to a talent agency?
The answer would be 1-3 short, but powerful initial performance clips and be prepared if asked to provide an unedited 30-45 minute video performance.
It should go without saying that any video clips that will be used for talent agencies or other paid work should be professionally produced and at the highest quality possible.
It should be obvious that there is a bit more involved when it comes to “breaking into” stand-up comedy than many funny people understand.
One need only suffer though any comedy open mic night anywhere on the planet to see that most people, regardless of how funny or talented they may be offstage can’t really generate much laughter (if any) when they get onstage.
But it’s not because they couldn’t rock a room – they simply don’t know how to take the comedy talent that they use in everyday life and make it ready for the stand-up comedy stage.
Some people are under the impression that they can make a video at home of a comedy act – with the need for an audience or audience response and that some talent professional will be able to see that they do have talent and want to usher them into show business.
Becoming a professional comedian simply doesn’t work that way. It is a challenging performing art that DEMANDS the acquisition of experience, demonstrated skill and ability along with a growing reputation of being able to “deliver the goods” for virtually any audience the step in front of.
Like I said, just suffer through any comedy open mic anywhere on the planet to truly understand what I have presented in this article.
But let me end with this:
Every comedian is either the victim or the benefactor of the process that they use to create, develop, refine, hone and deliver the stand-up comedy act that they choose to share with audiences.
And it will be that process that determines how fast or how slow they are able to generate the big and frequent laughs needed to move forward as a comedian.
Again, the question asked at the beginning was a great one as it has allowed me to respond to possible misconceptions about what’s really involved with becoming a comedian and interacting with talent agencies along the way.