If show producers told the truth, it'd sound like this...

What if show producers were upfront and told the truth to comics they don't want to book? Mark and I were talking about it and came up with this...

Thanks for asking about the show. I'll keep you in mind. Please note that if I do book you, it might not be right away. No need to keep following up. You're on the radar.

I'd like to be honest with you though. I'm extremely picky and I turn down the majority of people who ask to be on the show. If you wind up not getting booked, here's the most likely reason: It's not clear to me that you're funny enough. I know that makes me sound like a dick, but I take pride in putting on a top notch show. If someone comes out and deflates the room, it's a real blow to the show. So unless I know that you consistently kill, I probably won't put you up.

I get why this is annoying. I'm a comic too. I also hustle for spots on other shows and know what a hassle it is to get stage time. In fact, there are plenty of shows that I want to do but can't get booked on. The way I take it: I just need to get better so I reach a point where someone feels silly for not booking me.

A good show producer's priority isn't making other comics happy, it's putting on a great show. Part of that is saying no. The best shows are great because they have tough booking policies. There's a reason why it's hard for people to get a spot on, say, Whiplash — the producer won't put up people who might jeopardize the show. It's also why you have to be "passed" at the best comedy clubs — it's on the club if you fuck up. It can be annoying for comics, but it's usually a very good thing for audiences.

At this point, maybe you're saying one of these:

"I'm funnier than ______ and you had them on the show."
That's your opinion. I might disagree. And if I do agree, maybe it was a mistake. It happens. But I always try to book the best mix of people at each show that we can. Also, I might have reasons for putting someone up that aren't clear to you but make sense to me.

"I booked you on my show so you should have me on yours."
I don't believe in spot swapping. I'm really happy you had me on your show but I don't do straight up trades for spots. I know other people do this but it's just not how I run my show. Sorry.

"But I'm your friend, come on!"
Some of my closest comedy pals are people I haven't booked on the show yet. It's not a popularity or friendship thing. So please understand and still be friendly. I'll do the same. I'm just trying to put on a good show, not piss you off.

"I come to the show all the time though."
Thank you, I love ya for that. But like the spot swapping thing, I'm also not into giving spots out to people just because they show up.

Just to say it again: I really appreciate your friendship, booking me on your show, and/or coming to the show. It's totally not a personal thing. PLEASE continue being my friend, booking me, and coming to the show. (Unless you really hate me. Then do what ya like.)

But I hope you at least appreciate where I'm coming from and the honesty of this response. I know other show producers who either 1) never respond to emails at all or 2) hide out from other comics in order to avoid confrontation. I don't want to be like that so that's where this is all coming from. Cool? I hope so.

And keep in mind this isn't a forever no. It's a right now no. The best way to change my mind: Start killing. All the time. If you're not at that level yet, then keep working harder. Write all the time. Do mics all the time. Become so funny that other people start talking about you.

If you're consistently hilarious and everyone knows it, booking you becomes a no-brainer. (Realize that might take months or years of hard work though.) When you get to that level of funniness, I'll definitely reconsider. Thanks for understanding and good luck.

If you're a show producer and you want to use this text or any part of it, feel free. (If you do repost any part of it online, please link back to Sandpaper Suit.)


mark said...

Oh boy...

Aalap said...

Good one.
The funny part is that most comedians should know all these things already. There are so common sense.

This is a wonderful catch all. It all the major points, and kudos for clarifying the producer's role, i don't think enough producers follow that rule.

Have you actually used this? I would consider linking to this post in my reply email.

Kent said...

Can I add another bit?

You can't get mad at someone for not booking you on their show if you've never expressed interest. Even if you're friends. There is no shame in asking.

Matt Ruby said...

Have you actually used this? I would consider linking to this post in my reply email.Haven't used it yet at all. My only fear about using it is that comics then get pissed off at ya. But maybe that just comes with the territory? Maybe it works out better if you explain "we have a rule that anyone who asks for a spot gets sent a link to this post." That way no one feels singled out.

Dan Fontaine said...

This is one reason that I like having two shows. I like having a stage where I can get someone up that I don't know or not feel that the show is slighted because people are testing out jokes. I think that integral to our developement. But I also want to have a show where I book who I want. Hopefully it covers everyone.

Chris Conway said...

So when can I get on the show?

Aalap said...

Where have gone Chris O-Con-o-way? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you. woo woo woo.

Mike Drucker said...

That Mark is a dick.

Mo Diggs said...

So I'm NOT a douche for saying that my monthly show which I book every other month at Ochi's is booked until 2010. Great post Matt.

You can post the above in your e-mails too guys.

RG Daniels said...

I only book Jews.

myq said...

Matt, will you give me a spot because I read your blog? And comment on it a lot?

I don't even know what show you book now, but I want it.

Also, RG, I'm a Jew. And Mo, can I be on your show in 2010? And Drucker, who books the "Mark is a dick" show? And Kent, I'm mad at you for not booking me on your show if you have one. Can we be friends?

And Aalap, a serious response--while many comedians SHOULD know these things already, not every comedian DOES know these things, or subscribe to them... specifically spot-swapping, there are loads of comics out there who definitely have a quid pro quo mentality that I've seen them explicitly communicate or complain about.

Anyway, Matt, please comment on my blog. You are way behind, and I comment here ALL the time.

Seriously, RG, Jew here.

PS Nice post, Matt.
Am I passed?

Abbi Crutchfield said...

To Dan's point, someone out there has to be the person who helps comedians grow. That was the Living Room's effort in the beginning. We still give spots (sometimes shorter sets) to people who are getting better, but also craft a lineup that will keep audience coming back. It really depends on what you want your show to be. We'll never charge admission and we'll never make money off of it, so it's always going to be a workout room for established comics, a great opportunity for up-and-comers, and the best place to get a decent picture of yourself online.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

And now, for the follow-up letter.

soce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
soce said...

Excellent post! I will always ask people to put me on their shows, but I don't get offended if they say no. For some shows, I may be a great fit, and for others, I might not!

Also there's a wide variety of paths to success.. I also shoot comedy videos and interview performers like crazy as alternative ways to network and get out there-- Others do photography etc etc

Abbi Crutchfield said...

@ Soce: Good point, about being a good fit. Some people are consistently hilarious and just don't work for a certain room. No hard feelings.

Re: networking through other ventures, I say only do it if it's your strength (which judging from your work on The Apiary, it seems to be), because you don't want to spread yourself too thin. Or worse, you don't want to get all this buzz about yourself and have nothing to show for it, since you sacrificed time you could have spent getting better.

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