"He got booked on it the right way." That's what Mark said about a friend of ours getting a spot on a hot show which typically has a tight booking policy.
What he meant by it: This comic performed at another show with one of the producers of the hot show. He had a great set and the producer offered him a spot a few weeks later. That's the "right" way to get booked — someone sees you do well and invites you to perform.
The annoying thing about that: It relies a lot on luck. A certain person needs to be in a certain room at a certain time. So you can wind up waiting months or even years to get on a show.
So what's the wrong way? To hassle the producer(s) of a show you want to do. To keep bugging them via email. To see 'em out and say, "Why haven't you booked me yet?" To keep showing up at the show and expecting that to mean you'll get booked. To assume that if you book 'em on your show, they'll automatically book you on theirs. Etc.
That's not to say you can't ever do any of those "wrong way" things. I think it's just the expectation thing. Don't be upset if it doesn't happen. Like sometimes I'll send an email expressing interest in doing a show. That's a bit "wrong way." But I'll send one and then that's it. I feel like that's ok. Just expressing interest and getting my name in the mix. But I'm not upset if it doesn't happen.
OK, I'm a little upset. But I realize that sometimes these things take time. In the meanwhile, I'll just keep getting better. Then when I do get it, I'll be even more ready to kick ass on that show.
Sure, it can be frustrating when you're not getting the stage time ya want. But when ya start to feel like people owe you something or you get offended when stuff doesn't happen, it's a bad path.
Sandpaper Suit is NYC standup comic Matt Ruby's (now defunct) comedy blog. Keep in touch: Sign up for Matt's weekly Rubesletter. Email email@example.com.
The "right" way to get booked
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I think you're absolutely right - once you start thinking you are owed spots and get offended when they are not forthcoming, you are on a slippery slope to Bitter Town.
The very best thing you can do to market yourself and get those spots is be as funny as hell every time you get up. People will notice. And if you're professional offstage, too, spots will come that much faster.
Or you could be a hot chick. Either way.
My least favorite is "so you still haven't booked me on your show..." Oh...Now that you make me uncomfortable every time I see you, I would love for you to come by and annoy me another night.
I think humility goes a long way too. Why would you want to book someone who has a sense of entitlement?
Since comedy is so much about self-awareness, if you don't realize you're not that great, you're probably a shitty comic.
I know that people will book me when the time is right, and I don't feel any sense of entitlement. The one time things can be strange is that I do like to attend the most popular shows around town, and it can seem as though I'm attending those shows simply so that producers will see me there and feel they need to book me, when in actuality, I'm just trying to support the scene, and I enjoy watching quality comedy shows.
I wish I could somehow just wear a badge that says "I'm attending this strictly as a comedy fan and not in order to convince you to book me."
I think it's fine to put in a request to be on someone's show, as long as you do it just once and never ask again (or at least wait a very long period of time, such as a full year). There are some people we'd be interested in featuring, so if they happen to contact us first, then we're happy to know the interest is mutual.
Sense of entitlement bad, agreed. Especially in NYC when there are so many great comics who are probably equally if not more entitled than whoever you are.
I will say this though--sending an email expressing interest in being booked is not bad. Often, that's the way they do business. Some bookers are happy to receive interest from people that they might not have thought about, or known existed even.
Sometimes bookers will even communicate with you about what they might need before booking you (seeing you live, for example), and if that's the case, you can direct your energy towards accomplishing such things.
So I think it's misleading to label being in the right place at the right time as "the right way," when there's nothing wrong with making a respectful inquiry and being reasonable when speaking with people.
@sandpapersuit: "Like sometimes I'll send an email expressing interest in doing a show. That's a bit 'wrong way.'"
No, it is not. To imply that sending an e-mail expressing interest is in any way wrong is completely ridiculous and detrimental to the less experienced comics reading this blog.
Obviously, the inquiry should be polite, brief, and contain the right information, but there is nothing offensive or "wrong" about e-mailing a booker for a show you think you are the right fit for. (That last part is key - if you've only done one show in your life and you're asking to be on a professional, high-level show, then your e-mail is probably out of line.)
Do you think the highest level comics don't still make calls or e-mail for spots? Louis C.K. can probably walk in wherever he wants (and deserves to be able to!) but I'm sure he calls or e-mails ahead to the Cellar (at least as a courtesy). To imply that a standard business practice is wrong is, well, just wrong, dude.
More importantly, your calling it the "wrong way" is indicative of a snooy, snobby attitude I've noticed more and more with some of the comics in the "alt. community." If people adopt this kind of attitude you're advocating, people who do e-mail for spots will be looked down on - and that's crazy! The idea that working on your career in addition to working on your art somehow dilutes you as an artist is something I think hurts comics in the end. If a comic wants to eat, he/she has to think about the career end, too - making it seem "wrong way" just reflects a general obliviousness to reality.
Anonymous, you'll noticed I used quotation marks around both "right" and "wrong" in this post. I did that to indicate that I don't necessarily believe either of those things is in fact 100% right or wrong. Also, as mentioned, I do email people for spots on occasion so clearly I don't think it's THAT wrong.
But I do know people who think it's wrong to ever ask for a spot. They want to get booked without ever having to pester anyone. Is that being snobby? Nah, I think it's just a view they have that you should get asked to do shows instead of asking.
Thanks for raising and writing on such an interesting topic, Matt.
First: I agree with Myq's 2:41pm post 98%. The only variation I would submit is that some people do dislike getting those emails politely expressing interest, so while there ideally should not be a downside to such expressions, there can be. Caveat requestor.
Second, I think that the 'right way/wrong way" framework only captures a fraction of what goes into booking and getting booked for spots. Most any given show that has multiple spots on it will have specific comics getting booked on those spots for a whole host of reasons. But short of doing something illegal or pissing someone off, whether a comic got on the show for the "right" reason or the "wrong" reason does. Not. Matter. That comic has that spot, and that comic has all of the opportunities for improvement/exposure/compensation that come with it. If you get a spot the "wrong" way, but without hurting any people or relationships, and you do the right things with it, it doesn't matter at all.
Plus, there are a huge number of comedy shows out there, and there's a spectrum from shows that book all or almost all of their spots 'the right way,' to shows that book none or almost none of their spots 'the right way.' [the most prominent example of the latter being bringers]. Those "wrong way" spots aren't going away, and if your goal is to improve by performing as much as possible, then closing yourself off to those spots will limit your ability to achieve that.
Plus, there a lot of shows where getting on the show 'the right way' is simply not enough. There is an almost limitless demand for doing spots, and there is a much more limited supply of spots. If two comedians kill equally on the same show, and a booker likes both of them but only has one spot to offer, the comedian who has something to offer besides straight performance (whether they produce a show, have connections, bring some diversity of performance or background, or have some other edge) will probably get that future spot. A person who would get booked for the right reason AND the wrong reason will beat out someone who would get booked for just the right reason.
Long story short: if you are not yet amazing, but are trying to get there, and you are trying to get spots just based on performance, you are going to get substantially fewer spots than your colleagues of similar skill level who are pursuing spots by both performance and non-performance means. Further, that gap is likely to compound over time.
ThIrd: The NYC downtown scene has at least a 50% overlap between comics and comedy show producers. Pretty much everyone who's seriously pursuing comedy has had or will have in the future spots to offer other comics. Plus, since comics offer such a highly personal product, it can be difficult to remove emotion from the process. There's a huge amount of potential for awkwardness and hurt feeling in that environment, which is a shame.
People who are trying to pursue comedy professionally should recognize the potential for this, and try whenever possible to take their feelings out of it regardless of whether they are wearing the comic hat or the producer hat. The less we make situations awkward, the less worried other people will be about the potential for awkwardness.
To add to Jay's thoughts, I don't think the options are either 1) email for a spot or 2) do nothing. I think the other option is to go to shows a lot and to perform as much as possible and to get seen killing as frequently as you can in as many places as you can and then also to be friendly and cordial with other comics/producers so they keep ya in mind for a spot. Those are the things that are more "right" way than "wrong" way. (Again, please note the quotes.)
"I do email people for spots on occasion so clearly I don't think it's THAT wrong."
The fact that you think it's wrong AT ALL is wrong. What is wrong about it? It all goes back to my point about the snobby attitude, that somehow asking for a spot instead of being asked is somehow a "lesser" way of getting booked.
"Nah, I think it's just a view they have that you should get asked to do shows instead of asking."
That's fine if they have that point of view, but that's a point of view that reflects a complete obliviousness to reality. It is simply not realistic.
But more to the point: "They want to get booked without ever having to pester anyone."
So you're saying that e-mailing someone (even if done sparingly and politely) is someone how tantamount to pestering? That's ridiculous. Creating an environment where that is the case (that any e-mailing is seen as pestering) creates the snobby attitude I was describing - I think you should be aware of that.
What if people read your blog and agree with you? Then the next time they see an e-mail, they're going to dismiss it as pestering? Or see that comic as desperate? That seems like a shitty point of view to be trying to persuade others to have.
Booking is clearly a topic that touches some wires! I will say that now that I book a show myself, it helps demystify some of the process and makes it clear how hard it can be to get put on a show. Even if there are certain comedians I really like, it may be a few months before I finally offer them a spot, due to a wide variety of reasons.
In fact, it's hard to determine the method from madness.. I may create a list of all the people I'm interested in but then end up inviting people who aren't even on that list.
And I may start inviting back people who have already performed on my show a few months ago instead of giving priority to people who haven't yet performed.
If you do the math, then even for a weekly show that has 5 to 6 spots, that's only around 20 to 30 spots per month, and with hundreds of talented performers, that means that most will be left out.
In terms of asking for spots, it really depends on who you are. If Louis CK were to ask if he could perform on my show, I think I would be okay with that and put him on pretty quickly. Whereas when someone I've never heard of asks, I'm still friendly and polite, but there's less of a chance that I'm put them on any time soon. And of course most people fall somewhere in between.
Anonymous, I personally think emailing someone once for a show is fine. And like I said, I do it.
But others feel differently. Do they have ''a complete obliviousness to reality"? Well, the guys I'm thinking of do get booked without ever emailing for spots. So it is actually possible.
Didn't read the post, but if any bookers are on this thread, please consider me for your show. I'd love to do it!
For more information visit www.davidangelo.info
Ain't nuthin' wrong with a bi-annual (that's 2x a year, right?) polite email to kindly throw yer hat in the ring, especially if there are links to new videos or any new crucial credits to offer, too.
In my mind, getting more booked shows comes from being undeniably funny. If I'm not satisfied with how many I'm doing, then I should be working even harder to write new material and to make my existing material tighter, etc. Also, this mentality means every booked spot becomes an opportunity for the right-place/right-time method, if not for new shows then, at the very least, for getting asked back to do whichever show we're hypothetically talking about here (Comedy Dungeon!).
In any event, it's not healthy to blame the producers of any given show for not having me on it. If I'm strong, then they'll have me when they're ready to have me. If they don't have me, then it's their loss, but surely I'm not gonna harbor any bad blood about it.
Nobody's saying it's not possible to get booked without emailing. Of course that happens for some people.
But the issue of contention is, is it right or wrong to email a booker to inquire about getting a spot?
For most of what we're talking about, it certainly isn't wrong. Obviously there needs to be some awareness of what level you're at, an appreciation of how things work (like, you don't email your avails to the Cellar if you're just starting out and haven't ever been there, met anyone, gotten recommended, auditioned, etc.), so certainly there are some emails you could send that would be ineffective. And yes, certainly there are bookers who might not like receiving unsolicited solicitations more than others, because they just get too many and have their plates full, but it's doubtful that that would be held against someone.
But no matter how good or big you are, there will still be emails sent to inquire about booking you, maybe not everywhere (Chris Rock or Seinfeld can walk into the Cellar, but they'll have someone email bookers to work things out in other clubs on the road, or to perform in theaters, obviously).
And when you're in your first couple years doing standup in NYC, obviously it would be wrong on some level to email a theater where Seinfeld is performing and ask "who books that, can I get on?"
But almost no one is doing everything by word of mouth and receiving invitations only, at any level.
(Maybe Galifianakis? He seems like a guy who might just be hanging out on his farm these days until someone calls and invites him somewhere.)
But other than Zach, requesting bookings is definitely a part of the game. And not a wrong part of it.
And if a booker doesn't like receiving a request from you, that's part of it too, but as long as you're being realistic and aware of your level and what's reasonable or reasonably ambitious of you to be aiming for, the rest isn't on you, I'd say.
So certainly, anyone who wants to ONLY wait to be invited to do a show is welcome to do that, and it will work to whatever degree it does for different folks, but making reasonable inquiries is fine, too. (Says a guy who doesn't book any shows.)
PS Of course it goes without saying (or with saying, however many times it's been said) that you should get on all the stages you can, do all the writing you can, ignore jealousy when possible, and just become the best that you can be with the circumstances that are within your control.
PPS David Angelo, can I have any spots you get from your inquiry? Thanks!
It simply feels better to be asked to do a show than to be the one who does the asking. And the better you get, the more you'll get asked without having to ask. I think what most people don't want to admit to themselves is that that it takes years to get good, and you just might not be ready to do certain shows. Sure there's a good chance you can do well on anything, but sometimes you have to go with batting averages and trust that a guy who kills a lot will also kill on your show instead of giving a chance to someone who might kill.
And if you don't get booked enough, don't blame anyone but yourself. Even if you think other people are responsible for your lack of success tuck that under your bed with your deluxe DVD box set of the Red Shoe Diaries. It won't help you at all. Say to yourself "I'm not funny enough yet" and work. No one will write you off completely, they might just write you off for now. The positive thing is there is no shortage of stage time in this city. If you get up enough times a week, set realistic goals for yourself, try to be professional, and put effort into your act writing (and more importantly rewriting) it will pay off. It aint the easy answer, but in my mind, its the best one.
Don't ever say "Why aren't they booking me". Say "Why aren't I getting booked". And if you aren't putting in the hard work, then really, what do you deserve?
Not sure why I feel compelled to respond seriously...even though I know it diminishes the hilariousness of my previous post.
Emailing is fine. Just be polite. The better lesson here, Matt, is to give instructions on basic manners - I think comics could use that more than booking advice.
Secondly, if you think it's "nice" to wait to get asked, you're being foolish. When I lived in Chicago, there were people who weren't going to move to the coasts until someone gave them a reason. Result? No one ever gave them a reason. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU. No one is thinking about you. If you get booked without asking for a spot, chances are the booker and someone else were talking shit about you and then told themselves "but he's pretty funny" to try and absolve themselves from guilt. That seed, planted in their minds, most likely sprouted into your booking.
ERGO, it's better to be an asshole so you're "top of mind" than it is to be aloof and hope you get what you rightly deserve. Because you won't. Life isnt fair.
People get booked without asking when the booker wants to brownnose, exchange show spots, or because they are friends. End. Of. Story.
So yes, you can hold out to be asked. Otherwise, do what you have to do. Whatever that is. God will judge you in the end - until then, 150+ twenty somethings who never held a real job but complain about how hard life is on stage WILL
There's a great Easter egg post if you click on "Post a Comment". It's from David Angelo. Not sure why it's hidden.
"People get booked without asking when the booker wants to brownnose, exchange show spots, or because they are friends. End. Of. Story."
I wouldn't say that's necessarily true. My personal story is that I have attended comedy shows for many years, and I keep track of performers I really truly enjoy, and I invite them to perform on my show.
All I'm looking from them is for them to do an incredible job on my show. I'm not expecting anything else from them. Especially right now in my career where I'm spending most of my time working on projects in the studio, I'm not really looking for additional spots.
I certainly appreciate if they hook me up with spots or whatever, but hopefully they would do it because they are fans of me as a performer, and they feel I would have something positive to bring to their show; not out of any feeling of responsibility toward me.
I will happily book the same person hundreds of times if he's a great fit for my show, and I don't expect him to return the favor ever.
Booking your friends and trading spots in a very common practice in the NYC scene. If you don't believe me just look at all the FB requests, see who books that show, then see how many of the comics are buddies with the booker and/or have a show of there own. I got an invite for a show 3 weeks ago with 6 comics on it, EVERY comic ran their own show.
Personally I was told by a comic/booker that I could get booked on a show if I traded spots because that how her show was run. This comic also told a friend of mine how asked to get booked that she books her friends and spot traders only.
Another friend of mine sent an email to a comic/booker asking for a spot. He replied to that he gives spots to "people I love, my friends and people who can trade spots" Fast forward a few months and my friend starts a room. This comic/booker emails my friend and says "I know I was kinda a d!ck in my reply to you, but ...." he then tells my friend that he can give them a spot if they are willing to put him on their show.
When I ran an urban room in BK I got spot other places all the time, when I stop running that room the spots that were so readily available to me before in BK dried up. I have another friend who ran a room in Queens for over a year. When he booked that he got spots too. When that show ended, a person who he regularly booked and barked with told him that they could not book him on their show because he did not have TV credits!!!
The bottom line is trading spots and booking friends is rampant in NYC, which is fine. You run your show the way you want to, it's your show. But my thing is why are people so embarrassed about doing it?
I will email someone to do their show and send them a clip. There are lots of times I dont know this person and either someone had given me a referral or I just heard about their show from other comics or facebook, etc... I have been booked on shows like that a lot and had I never asked I wouldnt have been on the show. It is hard to network in every clique esp when you are working full-time its just impossible.
With that said, there is also a huge amount of guys who are booking just their friends. Its their shows thats their business. Being funny isnt just enough. Sometimes it is but its not always the primary criteria for getting booked on a show.
I have had people tell me that they only book shows where they can trade spots, and it seems dicky but at least they are honest. They never at any point said to me I book comics who I think are funny. That was not even mentioned.
As a woman, I think it is harder to get stagetime. Almost any show you go to usually has only one woman on it at any given anytime or if their is a black guy on the show guess what, then there is no woman at all. You can have either one or the other, we are very interchangeable. Not every show is like this, but most shows with more than one woman or black person tend to be all women or all black shows.
Forgot to add that recently I had someone book me on a show, who sent me an email and said He didnt care if I booked a show and had spots to trade or or whether or not I could do anything for him. He said he books his show primarly on the fact that he thinks you are funny. So everything is not absolute and sometimes being funny is enough.
I had to address this post by anonymous.
So you're telling us (anonymously of course) that someone booked you and in the email they said "You're booked and I don't care if you can trade spots with me or if you don't run a show. I book my show based on people being funny. I'm telling you all this because I believe in full disclosure. I live my life in the same way that Chunk from the Goonies does. I feel I must confess everything for no reason. In the 3rd grade I cheated on my history exam. but the worst thing I ever did was I filled a bag with fake puke and went to a movie theater......."
I find that hilarious.
I do know Luke Thayer books his shows strictly on who he thinks is funny. I'm not saying ALL shows are booked on the friends/trade spots basis but many are.
Josh, I posted the anonymous comment. I realized after that I forgot to put my name. But this is a real guy who booked me but what I was saying was that it was rare but does happen even though its not the norm.
I book a show based on who I think is funny and who I think will work in my room. If someone offers me a spot and it is clearly because they expect to get booked on my show, and I know I would never book this person, I will not take the gig. Several of my best comedy friends have not (and most likely will not) get booked on my show.
I have had strangers politely email me and I always check out their videos. If I think they're funny AND right for my crowd, I will book them. I have also had people email me INCESSANTLY about getting a spot, in which case I do eventually ignore their emails. I think it is about how you do it.
I do believe that there are some people out there (like myself) who still believe in putting on a quality show and do not play into the "what's in it for me" mentality.
Hi Matt, long-time liar, first time commenter.
Great insights all around!
I remember not knowing anyone when I moved to NYC and writing Holly at Invite Them Up on a monthly basis until she finally stopped replying. Mike Birbiglia and John Mulaney were always great about answering my questions about getting stage time, and John even had me perform on Invite Them Up at Rififi (note my use of names and shows now that the shows no longer exist). Oh, how I bombed.
Josh, I don't publicize "trading spots" as my booking policy because I employ other methods (darts, psychics). It DO be happening on occasion, e.g. I've just been on someone's show and their act / uniqueness are fresh in my mind and a good fit for my show. But because of my haphazard Top-of-Mind approach, I don't uniquely book the shows I run; I alternate responsibilities or just occasionally provide insight into the process.
I think I remember Brandy Barber and Sara Jo Allocco of The Kissing Booth announcing "If you're not friends with us and you don't hang out at our show don't bother writing us," which was refreshingly honest.
To Adrienne's point, you don't see more than one woman per show because women aren't funny. Unless they're black. They have to be at least half black.
@ Dave Angelo: "When I lived in Chicago, there were people who weren't going to move to the coasts until someone gave them a reason. Result? No one ever gave them a reason. NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOU."
LOL! I used to dance in the aisles of my grocery store and hope someone from Broadway (in Indiana?!) would notice and cast me. That memory brings me back down to Earth.
But the movie Precious makes me reach for the stars!
FYI some people have been asking me if I wrote the "Anonymous" post of 3/3/10 10:10 AM. I did not. However I fully agree with it! Although I may still take a gig someone offers me, even if I don't see myself booking them. Gifts are not enforceable!
BTW back in 2003, I used to feel like I was participating in all of this mutual back-rubbing way too much, and it made me hate myself, so I wrote this song about it called SD. Enjoy.
its a bit after the fact but I'm procrastinating at work so I want to weigh in.
The bottom line is this. Its Comedy, its showbiz, and there are no concrete rules for anything. I think its fine to ask, but within reason of what you know you're qualified for. It's funny because when I first moved here many of the comics who I heard say "don't ask for spots" have since asked me for spots on stuff I've produced.
This doesn't upset me though because I operate under the belief that if you want to be a great comic you need to perform constantly. It's so funny to me how some people look down on those that want to perform comedy and ask for spots, that's why were here people! Thats why a lot of us spend countless time, energy, and money at dive bars and alternative venues across NY, because we want to fulfill the need to perform comedy.I try my best to give as many people spots that I can because I know how hard they are to come by. Piggybacking off what Angelo said, if you listen to interviews with headliners like Todd Barry many of them say how they were totally relentless and really pushed hard to get to where they got because as Angelo said, no one gives a flying fuck about you till you give them a reason too.
The only "right" thing to do is do your best on the spots that you get, my pet peeve is people who ask for spots and don't bring there A game/phone it in when they get one. If you study most of the people who have done higher status shows in the city, they're often doing their A material and even if they don't kill they still gave it their all. What's great about producing is you gain an invaluable understanding as to how hard it is to get audience to come to a show and when you book someone who doesn't even try its really maddening.
ok I'm done.
I only book Jews. Sorry dweebs...maybe next lifetime.
This is a great thread. Lots of good topics here.
I will post it on facebook for South Florida comics to read. We're seeing a BUNCH of new comics here.
This was great. Very entertaining. I'll book everyone of you. Except for David Angelo.
Wow. what a huge response. I think chesley hit it on the head, ask once or twice a year, and then let it be. Don't follow up your email by showing up at the show and asking to get on (unless walk-ons are a common occurrence at that show) It's mind numbingly simple.
And here's another piece of advice, don't mention it to the producer when you see them around, even if you think you're doing it in a funny way. Because it's not funny or comfortable, at all.
Also if you're a producer who doesn't like getting emails asking for spots, then go hang yourself. It is a ridiculous position to take. If you are going to Facebook bomb everyone with invites then you have to be able to deal with comics who are interested in performing. That is part of the job of producing. I don't like deflecting emails from my peers either but do it courteously and move on.
I must say that if everyone tried to book their show based on what would be the best show, then it would be a favor to all of us. People would have a higher regard for indie comedy shows, and attendance would go way up because people would come back. One of the best things about the show i used to produce was that my friends and relatives came back month after month, and they would say things like "I saw that guy from your show on letterman!" or "this was better than the expensive show we saw at carolines". It wasn't my amazing comedy that kept bringing them back, it was the quality of the show.
I could easily book a small room, promote for 3 months and then do hour in front of a good sized audience. But I know that I can't entertain them for an hour. I care about the audience. and every comic and producer should try to as well. Your development as a comic should not come at the expense of the audience's time. This is what open mics are for. Give them a good show and if you can't do that well enough yet don't be angry that people won't put you up.
I should stop now but great comments by most everyone.
Reveal yourself Anon!
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