Setting up your own tour

Speaking of getting out of town, a reader wrote in asking for advice on getting road gigs. Aalap Patel, one of the co-producers of New Young Comedians, recently did a weeklong minitour in California so I asked him how it all happened. Here's Aalap on the tour:

I recently had the honor of going on my first comedy tour, performing about 7 shows over 5-6 days, in and around LA as part of the "Like These Guys Standup Comedy Tour". I have to give a hearty thanks to John Wells and Nick Rutherford, two comics who have roots in the west coast and were kind enough to invite me to tour with them. I also want to thank my close friend Matteson Perry, who completed our lineup and helped me tune my jokes up, night after night.

It was an amazing experience; we did a variety of shows, at famous venues like Mbar, at small theaters like The Empty Space Theatre in Bakersfield and at Moorpark College, and out of the way places like The Ranch in San Miguel (A honkey-tonk and steakhouse). We had audiences as large as 200 and each show felt like a new challenge. Even when staying for 2 shows at the same venue, like we did in Bakersfield, our later show had a very different audience than our early show.

It was one of the milestones of my young comedy career, and I was very sad to see it end. But one of the most valuable lessons I picked up from this tour is that we, as comics, can get out there and tour without having to go through the traditional gatekeepers (comedy club bookers, managers, NACA). I picked John's brain about how he set this tour up and in the end it sounded like a straightforward process.

Unless you have credits or connections with club bookers, it makes sense to target venues where you have inside connections (colleges, bars, etc.) or a bit of an installed fan base in the form of friends and family who will not only attend the show but might be of assistance in getting some seats filled. The first thing to do is create a press packet that features information about the tour, about each comedian, links to videos, and a flyer that can be used to promote each show. You want the venue to understand what you're offering and that it's of value. The artwork on the flyer and in the whole packet should be consistent and of a high quality, their decision is affected by your presentation as well as your comedy.

After booking your first few gigs, thinking geographically about where else you can go and what sort of venues are open to you and fill up a series of dates in the days leading up to your larger shows. Once the gigs and dates are set, you still have promotional work to do. Some venues handle this for you, others are only interested in getting money off the bar and rely on you to fill the place. You want to contact as many media sources as you can; newspapers, radio stations, websites, and blogs, and get as much free or cheap promotion as possible. We used facebook as a supplement for each show but as you can see from the links we got some interviews and ads into various local papers.

Just make sure you put on the best show you can, because you always want to have a chance to go back next year. Good luck.

Related: Aalap also wrote a post on how to get a crowd to come out to your comedy show a little while back.

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