Booking A Comedy Venue
When you are looking into booking a comedy venue to do a show there are a few things you should think about.
If I am touring the country my approach to finding a venue is slightly different than if I am trying to start an open mic in my hometown. But always keep in mind it is not about the one-time transaction; all these bookings should be putting in the effort to build true relationships with the team to bring you back or have a great monthly, weekly, or yearly show.
If you are looking to start a local show, ask yourself these questions.
Is it weekly or monthly?
This might change the size of the venue do to weekly maybe you can wrangle in 30 people but for a monthly show, you get closer to 70.
Open mic or booked show?
An open mic should be held at a place you care less about burning a bridge with, due to the fact anyone – I repeat ANYONE – can sign up at an open mic and say some of the worst things you ever heard. This might cause an issue with the manager or owner real quick. I always suggest starting open mics at places you normally don’t hang at or have never been to before. If you start it at a place you are friendly with they might feel more inclined to say “Can you tell the comics to not do that” and that’s a can of worms that can become stressful for you and the comics.
Plus, comedians love being told not to do something.
A booked show can be at a place you love or go to often. You are deciding who is on the show and the overall vibe. I am sure you have a name picked out and a special edge to your show versus the other shows already happening. This is exciting but it will be your job to bring the crowd and market this event.
You might get lucky that the venue has a built-in following but also maybe that built-in following doesn’t like live comedy.
No matter if this is a road gig or a show in your hometown ask yourself these questions.
Why my show?
Honestly, why should comics perform on your show versus all the other shows? Is it just stage time or is it something really bringing value to the local comedy scene. Maybe you just pick high-quality comedians and your show actually pays. Those two things can be enough. Comedians will notice if they do your show to a packed crowd and get handed money at the end. You could also be offering them stage time somewhere that no one else could be. Or simply giving them a great space to be recording their sets.
Why should people come to watch your show?
I feel this is something comedians really forget about. They could have a killer show, killer venue, killer sound, and totally miss the mark on pulling in a crowd. It could be as easy as the flyer design is not pleasing or maybe the name of the show isn’t catchy enough or is too inside baseball. Really take a step back and see if how you are promoting it is working. We all know to post it on our Facebook and Instagram but that might not be enough.
Recently I created a show called Zen Comedy. It is in a place called Reiki Academy. It’s a spiritual place, think yoga studio. Great seating, great sound system, and awesome parking. I knew the venue choice was different and that might pique interest itself. The name Zen Comedy is super easy to remember. I feel like it all is on brand and you understand the show. It got some local interest on Eventbrite because of the vibe. Happy to say, the first one sold out.
How do I add 10% more to the show?
This is something I have been really pushing with my monthly show Zen Comedy. How can I make it better than anything else I have done? How do I make it better than just a normal show?
A few things I have done is having a snack table. I have tons of quick snacks available and sodas in a cooler. The venue does not have a kitchen or really have any other events like mine. So I added the snacks and drinks myself and I made a flyer that has prices and my Venmo to pay. I mention it at the beginning of the show and I trust people will pay for what they take. I also have a merch table and tell the comedians they can bring their stickers or any other merch to sell at that table. I also mention that at the top. Now I am working on gift bags for the comedians. When they perform in Zen Comedy I want them to know how much I appreciate their talents. All this is possible because I have a cool venue that trusts me fully to put on a great show and clean up after myself.
Spend time online with Yelp or Google and just look up venues in a place you want to perform. I often use yelp for touring because you can easily search dive bars with live music. To me, that’s a great starting point a bar that already has a microphone and if I can bring a crowd things will be good. Sometimes that is the start of something wonderful. As I mentioned earlier I run a show in a different kind of place, so I bought a sound system and this opens up where else I could pop up! In my early years of comedy, I constantly had a PA system in my trunk and was always trying to convince places to let me set up one night. I say this to let you know it is a possible route. Comedy is hard and I could tell you a million stories about bringing a PA system and spending too much time and money on a show that had no one show up to it. So do not forget to have fun and remember why you do it.