For as long as stand-up comedy has been an independent performing art, comedians have been promoting their own stand-up comedy shows for stage time and profit.
And I will tell you that most comedians who attempt promote their own comedy shows really don’t have a clue about how to promote a show effectively or with any measure of success, even though…
It’s actually not that hard to do if you know what you are doing.
So in this article I am going to provide some basic information about show promotion that is worthy of consideration before you attempt to promote your first stand-up comedy show.
Promotional Elements of Comedy Shows
1. Identify your talent pool. The quality of any stand-up comedy show is directly related to the quality of performers you are able to hire for your show.
I should also mention that the sustainability of any regularly occurring stand-up comedy show is also directly related to the quality of show you produce.
One of the big problems I have seen is that the show promoter gives themselves 15-20 minutes of stage time before they have 15-20 minutes of solid material. They end up killing the show right from the beginning.
Or they will muster their open mic buddies who suck, but will work for free and somehow expect audiences to embrace mediocrity. Just remember this…
Bad karaoke is hilarious. Bad stand-up comedy is like fingernails running across a chalkboard.
Note: For those who are promoting a comedy show but are at open mic level with their performances, you need to have the discipline to limit your own stage time as to not ruin the entire show — particularly if you are struggling to get laughs. Otherwise, returning audiences to future shows can dwindle dramatically.
I would not hire ANY comedian for my own self-promoted comedy show who couldn’t sustain AT LEAST an average of 15 seconds of laughter per performing minute (PAR Score 25).
You have the ability by just using your smartphone and the common apps that are usually already installed to objectively determine just how funny any prospective comedian for your self-comedy show is based on the duration of audience laughter they can generate each minute:
2. Learn how much your talent pool costs. Fortunately for the show promoter (you), most of the stand-up comedy talent you will be hiring will come from the lower paying comedy club market, which means…
A headliner will usually cost $100-$200 per show. A feature act will usually cost $50-$100 per show.
But you need to know what this expense will be per show in order to calculate the audience attendance needed to just break even.
I should also mention that once you begin promoting shows successfully and the word gets out, comedians from all over will be contacting YOU for work.
3. Know the number of seats in the venue. You must know how many seats the venue has in order to calculate the viability (and profitability) of a comedy show there in the first place.
If your venue only holds 60 people and admission is $5, that’s just $300 income per show provided ALL seats are filled. By the time you pay the headliner and the feature act, there may be little no profit to be had.
4. Determine the price of admission. You have to know what you are going to charge per seat for your show.
Again, this will factor into your profit potential.
Hint: The quality of your show will influence the price of admission.
5. Have a basic marketing plan. This one is a bit tricky because as general rule, you won’t have much of a budget for conventional advertising for your comedy show to get people in the door.
There are ways to get butts in the seats without great monetary expense, but it usually involves a bit of knowledge, leg work and hustle.
This is one of the reasons that I am a fan of restaurant gigs that are set up properly — they have a built in traffic source that discount coupons or tickets can be distributed to weeks before a show. But you must know how to capitalize on this built in traffic, otherwise you won’t have an audience for your show.
Bottom line — without butts in the seats, you won’t have much of a comedy show.
6. Identify ALL your expenses in advance. You may need a PA system. You will need printed tickets or discount coupons. Is there rent involved to use the venue? What other potential expenses might there be?
Again, these things count against your bottom line and will eat away at your profit margin if you don’t actually know what you are doing when it comes to promoting a stand-up comedy show successfully.
While promoting a stand-up comedy show may not be rocket science, as you can see there are some important considerations that need to be addressed if you want to promote a comedy show successfully — for stage time and for profit.
Where most comedians drop the ball involves:
- Lack of a plan to obtain an adequate venue for a stand-up comedy show
- Lack of a plan to properly promote that show for maximum audience attendance.
- Lack of discretion when it comes to the quality of comedians who are invited to perform on the show.
I have seen many stand-up comedy shows that had no chance of any sort of longevity (or profitability) because of the issues I have just identified in this article.
If it is your intent to promote your own stand-up comedy show, let me say that victory loves planning and preparation. A haphazard approach will not get you very far at all.
It was really helpful when you said to know how many seats are in the venue. My brother was telling me last night about how he is planning on having a comedy event for his work in a couple of weeks, and he wants to make sure that he can plan everything right for it. I’ll make sure to pass these tips along to him once he finds a comedian to hire for the event.