|Comics at An Open-Mic in Knoxville, TN|
Last week I talked about Why Help Build Your Local Comedy Scene for those of you that don’t live in an already thriving comedy community. This week I am going to go over some suggestions for comics looking to help build their local comedy scene.
Building your scene is easy and difficult at the same time. The actions you take can be simple and sometimes no-brainers, but the amount of time you end up spending doing them can seem daunting.
Start an open-mic
For someone that has never booked a show this might prove to be anything but easy. The best thing to do is to find a venue that has the type of audience that would appreciate live performance. It’s best to find one that already has stage, sound and lights and some type of seating to make the open-mic easier to set up and manage. If you happen to own a portable PA, your choices will be much greater for starting an open-mic. Just like the number one rule of booking a comedy tour, the number one rule of booking any venue is to make sure the owner of the spot is 150% on board with having live comedy in his/her venue. I suggest asking for a small fee and some type of tab for the folks that help you emcee the open-mic as well. I suggest off nights such as Sunday, Monday or Tuesday for open-mics because most venues don’t already have a regular draw on these days and you are helping them out by bringing in paying customers.
Start a Regular Showcase
Once your open-mic gets established you can start regularly showcasing some of the better local talent that exists in your town. Once a month is a good way to start. Once these shows start building a following you can start to bring in comedians from neighboring towns and gig swap with them. This helps you network your local scene with nearby comedy scenes.
Start a Local Comedy Blog
Blogger and WordPress both make blogging pretty effortless. They also have mobile versions that allow you to upload pictures and other content related to your local comedy scene. The great thing about a comedy scene related blog is that it is a low-cost way to get the word out about what’s happening in the local comedy scene to folks all over. Travelling comics will find out about your open-mics so they can come perform and locals will stumble on the fact that there is live comedy happening in their area. A great example of a popular local comedy scene blog is Nashvillestandup.com run by my friend Chad Riden and a group of local comedians staffers.
If you aren’t the one that starts the open-mic, be the one that helps promote the open mic. Support it by showing up every night and taking pictures and tagging folks in the pics you take on facebook. Use Google+, twitter, foursquare, yelp and facebook to check-in and encourage others to do the same.
Start a Writers Forum
Many comedy scenes have forums where comics can get together and go over jokes, sketch comedy ideas, and other comedy writing and help each other with tags and joke ideas. This is good for coffee shops or even an hour or so before your regular open-mic. This encourages the most important activity for a strong comedy scene, constant writing.
Don’t be a dick
Remember, just because you may put in a ton of work making your comedy scene stronger, never get a chip on your shoulder. Never get a big head because you kill at an open-mic or every local showcase. Remember, nobody likes a dickhead that has a falsely inflated ego. Accept it and move on when others don’t feel you are ready to jump on the bigger shows and go write and get better so that they ask you to do their show in the future. This advice is for ME just as much as it is for anyone. The Rage Against the Machine part of my brain often tells me I am better then I am in reality. Keep your humble sense of self-hatred and keep encouraging self-improvement in comedy and you will do the MOST good for your comedy scene!
Comedy Club Conflicts
If you have a local club that is the only game in town when it comes to stage time, approach them about starting another open-mic before you do. If the club thinks an open-mic outside of their venue is a bad idea, they likely don’t have your best interest in mind. Stage time is crucial to the improvement of the comedy in your scene. If a club discourages comics from getting on stage elsewhere they are also discouraging the improvement of their local (more affordable) talent pool. In doing so they are costing themselves free or at least much cheaper labor. Remember that comedy clubs are finicky. If you book a show, even a free one on a night they are not even open, you can find yourself black listed by the club. Ask yourself one question in this case. Does the comedy club even bring comedians that you wouldn’t consider hacks on a regular basis? No? Then fuck em. Start as much stage time as you want.
Matt Ward is a stand-up comedian living in Knoxville, Tennessee. He is the producer of The Cape Fear Comedy Festival, The Rocky Top Comedy Contest, Port City’s Top Comic and Laughing for Life. He is also the editor of KnoxComedy.com. He has been promoting live entertainment for 15 years.