Working Comic: How to get booked. – by Shawn Carter.

How do I get booked there?  That’s a question I heard a lot last week.  So I’ll address it here.

Newer comics keep asking me how to get booked at one club or another and the truth is there’s basically two steps.  Be funny and be around.

Now that first part you may have already accomplished maybe you’ve got great material that works in any room.  But have you done the second part?  Have you hung around a club that you want to be “IN” at?  Maybe you have but have you been there enough that they know you and they know that you’re a comedian and that your goal is to play that club.  Do they know you well enough that they like you and want to give you a chance?

As an example I’ll talk about the process I went through to get booked at The Kowloon.  It’s not an easy club to get into.  The booker is particular about who she lets get on that stage.  The show is important to her.

About three years ago I thought “Hey, I’d like to work at the Kowloon”, my friend Will Noonan was working there as a host at the time and he said I should come by and meet the booker sometime.  I did.  Will vouched for me and the feature on the show also vouched for me.  Furthermore the booker called another person who also said nice things about me.  At the time I had already been doing comedy for years and had been a semi-finalist in the Boston Comedy Festival.  After three recommendations and a nice conversation I left.  Later that year I was offered a hosting gig  at the Kowloon.  I happily took it thinking, after I go there and have a great weekend I’ll be getting booked there all the time for sure.  And of course I thought I was gonna have a great weekend.  I was on a roll.  Everything was coming together.

The first time I got on stage at that club it was like starting all over again.  Jokes I KNEW worked everywhere, didn’t work there.  It was a combination of a crowd that was different than my normal Cambridge crowd and my own nerves making me uncomfortable and therefore less confident on stage.  That night I received valuable advice from James Goeff and Jim Lauletta, advice that I still keep in mind to this day.  But after the weekend I knew I wouldn’t be high on the list of potential hosts for the future.

I blew it, I wasn’t ready.  Even though I could host and even feature in other rooms I didn’t have the tools necessary to work that room.  I still wanted to work there though.  I wasn’t about to give up.  Part of the reason that I wanted to work there was because it was hard for me.  It showed me where my weaknesses were.  It broke me down so that I would have to build myself back up stronger than before.  And I don’t feel bad about pulling myself out of my comfort zone and breaking myself down.

So of course when I heard that the club was looking for someone to work the door I emailed the club to let them know I was interested.  Then I started working the door at the club, seating people and trying to help make sure there weren’t any audience members that got unruly during the show.  I worked there most Saturday nights, sometimes I had shows elsewhere but if I had the night free from any other comedy shows I would be working the door at the Kowloon.  I watched the headliners there and tried to learn from them.  I got to know the room, the other guys working the door and the booker.  After a while I was given another shot at performing there.  I did a guest spot and again it didn’t go as great as I would like but I kept working there.  After a while I got very busy with other shows.  I was traveling a lot and it seemed like I never had a Saturday free.  I had stopped working there but I always wanted to stay on good terms with the club and understood why they weren’t booking me to host.

A year after I stopped working at the club I finally felt like I could be a really good host at that club.  I wrote an email to the booker and she was open to the idea of booking me seeing as how she knew me and knew I had continued doing comedy and getting better at it over the past year.  At this point I’ve now even started headlining some shows but I still wanted to go back to host this club.  Since then I’ve been a regular host at the club and I’m always happy to be there.  I get to work with some great comedians and it’s always a blast to see the folks I used to work with every week while I was working the door.

So to recap:

Figure out which club or booker you want to work for the most and then focus your energy on that place.  The Kowloon was the place for me at that time but maybe you want to work at Nick’s Comedy Stop, or Giggles, or Dick’s Comedy Den, or Laugh Boston, or The Comedy Studio.  Once you determine which place you want to work you can figure out how to spend more time there and what you can do to help the club.  Even retweeting their weekend shows might help you.  Make sure they know who you are, be around the club, be funny.

Edit:  I haven’t worked at the Kowloon in years as I got too busy to be hosting there any longer but it was a good learning experience.

You can find me hosting stand up comedy at Maggy’s Lounge Quincy Mondays 8pm or The Pourhouse Boston Wednedays 8pm.

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