The Real Payoff from Comedy Festival Appearances
Is it the exposure to bookers and agents?
Is meeting agents and bookers the real payoff from a comedy festival appearance? Well, yes and no. It really depends on where you are with your comedy career. If you are truly ready for exposure to network executives and booking agents, they probably already know who you are. A comedy festival might be the perfect time to show them what you have while they are a captive audience.
Booking agents will be more likely to take you on once they see you are able to be sold to their clients. This typically means you have some credits that would make your name familiar to their clients. Also, if you can draw a crowd on your own based on the work you have put in on your fan base you will be more appealing to an agency to represent you. Often comics that submit to perform at comedy festivals aren’t quite at this level yet. Regardless it is still good to meet these industry folks for the first time to peak their interest in you, or even just to politely bend their ear to ask for career advice. So in summary, yes, this is the best part for some comedians. It is also still a valuable part for all comedians, maybe just not the most valuable in my opinion.
Is it the contest prize money?
No, after all, most festivals are not contests. Not to take anything away from those that are, but contests are contests and those that I promote are labeled as contests. There is no prize money at most festivals. Festivals cost money to attend, so you have to be prepared for this expense. In fact, money is likely the worst part about comedy festivals. If we could make comedy festivals free to submit to, we would. The truth is, beginning comedy festivals especially need the seed capital from submissions to put asses in the seats among other costs.
Is it the credits?
No, most certainly not. Even with other comedy festivals, your apperance at another comedy festival does little to sway them when it comes to selecting you to perform. What a comedy festival credit DOES show is that you are getting yourself out there. You are actively attempting to gain exposure with bookers, agents, other comedians and audiences. This is still important for sure, but not the real payoff of a comedy festival appearance.
It’s the friends you make
That’s right, the best thing about comedy festivals is the peers you meet. The comics performing and the ones that have come to show support from the local comedy community. These are the folks that are going to help you get to the point where you can present to the agents and industry that the bigger comedy festivals present. They will help you find gigs in their town, they will give you a place to crash and probably even give you a tour of their city. Comics you meet at comedy festivals are the life-blood in establishing a comedy career. We live in a time where competitive comics who don’t share their contacts with others is the minority.
Although “networking” seems to be the n-word to comedians, you can be relaxed, a real person and not always mining for career advancing information when in social situations with other comics. You want to become friends with a comic beyond comedy? Talk about things beyond comedy. Comics always talk comedy, but when they open up about other parts of their lives that is when the real connection occurs. Later on you can reconnect with that person when you come across something that they may be interested in. They are much more likely to return the favor if you connected, were sincere and not obviously out to gain something from a relationship with them. Fuck, think about that fact in your everyday interactions with people for that matter!
In summary, relationships with other in the comedy industry, not JUST comedians, is the real payoff from Comedy Festival Appearances. Get a good video together and begin applying for some comedy festivals today.