“How did you get that?” is probably one of the most commonly asked questions in the comedy community. In the last year I’ve gotten booked way more than last year and it's no coincidence that this last year is also when I started asking about the shows I wanted to be on instead of waiting for them to notice me. I know asking isn’t always a popular thing to do because when I was starting out a lot of comics told me not to ask for stuff, which part of me understands. When you’re new and untested, it takes a certain level of hubris to demand to be booked before you’ve shown that you have the skills to back it up. But I also was confused by it because in my experience, asking for what I want professionally has always yielded more better results than not.
Before I did comedy I worked in the music industry interviewing bands and reviewing albums. Before I worked in the music industry I was a person that wanted to work in the music industry but wasn’t sure how to break in. I started by writing an email to a local radio station that played the kind of music I wanted to write about and asked if they would consider me for an internship. I was 15. There wasn’t an actual internship that I was applying for, but I knew that I wanted to be part of what they were doing at 98.3FM so I politely explained what I wanted to do, why I thought I would be great at it and when I was available to begin doing it. I got lucky and the right person read my email and over the next several years I worked my way from intern to full-time host. Once I had honed my industry skills a little, I knew I wanted to interview bigger bands and review major release albums. When I was 19 I started a blog that next to nobody read but I just kept writing. Eventually that blog became the portfolio of writing I submitted to major publications and by 21 I was freelancing for publications that were big enough to grant me access to the major names I wanted to sit down with. I’ve approached comedy pretty similarly: I decided I wanted to do it, I found ways to practice and once I felt confident, I started asking the people that could afford me opportunities if they thought I would be a good fit for what they do. As silly and fun as comedy is, if your goal is to do it at any level beyond open mics, you have to treat it like a job and it is pretty rare to get a job that you don’t apply for.
If you have been doing the work and consistently developing your act at open mics, but haven’t gotten booked on a show, more than half of the time it is probably less because you’re not funny enough and more because they person running it just hasn’t thought about you yet. Even in the smallest comedy scene, there are a lot of faces that cycle in and out. It is ridiculous to expect anyone to pay attention to the trajectory of your growth so much that they know when you’re ready for a show. It is important to be social, and visit the rooms you want to work in because how can you know you want to do a show if you’ve never seen it before? Going to shows even when you’re not booked is not only good manners but it will probably benefit you. In my experience the people that books rooms are much more likely to consider you if they’ve seen you watch the show before. Sometimes comedy is a give and take in that way but it is important to remember that attending a show is in no way a bargaining chip. You don’t get to say, “Well came to your show so now you have to put me on.” but you do get to say, “I think your show is great and I would love to be part of it. What can do to be considered?”. Try striking up a non-booking related conversation with the person running the room and then send a polite message expressing your interest. There is a huge difference between putting a showrunner on the spot and asking, “When are you going to book me?” and submitting your work for their consideration.
Final recap: Be present and pleasant. If you're actively trying, are funny and cool to work with, you're going to get booked- eventually. It's always nice to be invited to do a show but if you sit around waiting for people to discover you, you’ll be doing a lot more sitting than stand-up.