When should a comic start to promote himself?

A reader question:

I've done 41 mics so far. I'm over the initial hump but that's just the first foothill at the base of the mountain. Topic idea: when should a comic start to promote himself? Do you often see guys promoting themselves too soon? Or posting clips online they shouldn't be posting? Do some comics not promote enough?

My .02: Get a solid tape and put a clip up online. Use that to get shows. Keep hitting mics too. Whenever you get stage time, destroy. Hope people notice. It will take a while though.

Once you get a funnier clip down the road, use that one instead (and delete the old one if it's something you no longer want others to see). Have a website that people who like you can check out, just a simple one is fine. Start an email list and/or a Facebook page so you can keep in touch with people who like you. Also good: Start a show and promote that. In fact, that may be the best way to get attention at an early stage. Have a kick-ass show and fill the seats. This is a good way to get other comics to know about ya too.

If someone comes up to you after a show and says they dug your set, ask them for their email or give 'em a biz card with your contact info so it's not a one-time only thing. I wouldn't worry too much about promo photos or anything else that's gonna cost ya a lot of money. Not worth it at this stage.

Also, recognize that people will judge you by your first impression. If you're not bringing A game yet, you might want to hold off on approaching industry or producers of top shows. They may write you off and then not be tuned in if/when ya do get better. Right now you're like a band with its first demo tape. Get better before you turn on the "full court press" of promotion.


Abbi Crutchfield said...

Also bring signed headshots to shows.

Oh, when you make that "solid tape", please edit out your intro from the clip, your asking how the audience is doing, and any unfunny/unintelligible ruminations before you tell your actual joke. It wastes my precious time, as your potential fan, not to mention the time of any booker evaluating your work for potential hire.

Abbi Crutchfield said...

At vistaprint.com you can order free or inexpensive personalized business cards.

soce said...

Yeah, there's nothing like having a business card. I always carry a big ol' stack of cards and sometimes even stickers in my pocket. You can get cheap, simple, nice ones at staples or any other office supply store.

The ones I use are full-color uv-laminated and only cost $100 for 5,000 (I go through a lot of them!), and I got them here:


Please tell 'em soce sent ya!

But yeah agreed that you do not want to be putting up standup sets online that are less than amazing, unless you're just showing them to your friends to be all "look how bad I was lol!" and not as actual "pls book me I deserve it".

Eric said...

As someone who is purely a fan. If you go the booking and promoting your own show route, do not over-promote your show.
One email, one facebook update status (not a facebook email) only and keep it simple.
Just like you can chase off industry people by over-promoting and doing it too early, you can do the same with comedy fans.

d said...

In regards to a set online: if possible I think it's best to tape every set you do so that when you get that one where you're feeling just right and you murder, you can put it up. And like Matt said, only have one set up at a time. Unless you split up a set into different topics, which I have seen done as well.

Here's the idea with only one set up: I get asked sometimes to recommend comics for shows. When I recommend you I have to show why you are worth booking, so obviously you want your best foot forward. So when I google your name or search in Youtube, only your best should come up. You can't make an excuses like "well the crowd sucked there" or "that clip's four months old." You've got to show your best.

myq said...

What is the definition of "promoting oneself"?

I've seen people start selling T-shirts before they had 20 minutes of material.
That seems premature.

I'd say start promoting yourself when you have something that's worth promoting. Use your own judgment plus the judgment of others that you respect.

If you have a good five minutes, and you put up a clip of it, and then you invite everyone who's enjoyed your good five minutes to another show where you're doing that same five minutes, maybe that's too soon.

Definitely, get business cards, put a good clip up, alert people about your shows on Facebook and such; but again, don't sell yourself too much before you've got something worth selling as much as you want to be selling it.

And everyone, let's spread the word about this posting... I think it's ready.

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