It has been around one year since I brought back live shows, following the worst days of the pandemic.
One of the most striking changes is that generations of performers disappeared and a whole new cast has cropped up. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say 80% of the faces I knew from 2019 have not returned to performing comedy.
Since Spring of this year, the number of emails I get asking for stage time, began to match pre-pandemic numbers.
As a result, I am adding a weekly show next month, and likely a new venue next year. I am offering longer spots and possibly bringing back some of the wild formatted shows.
On one hand, it’s tremendous to see so much new blood, talent and enthusiasm emerge.
On the other hand, that’s a lot of acts operating at a relatively similar level of experience… and no matter the work ethic, there is only so much that can be achieved in 12 months.
The scene has suffered from the loss of acts who had years of experience. Such performers raised the laughter rate on pretty much any bill that they performed.
The newbies have been unwittingly robbed by the crumbling of the experienced hierarchy.
It was perfectly usual for a more seasoned act to advise and support a newer act. There was a common willingness for some of the wise old dogs to give pointers on all thing’s comedy to the enthusiastic and energised young pups of stand-up. To be examples of what “3 years in” and “5 years in” might look like…
The scene is currently flooded with acts who have about 50 or 100 gigs. In their minds, they have been working hard. And I am sure that is true. Through no fault of their own, they simply have not had the opportunity to work hard for a long time.
This level of experience means that they are far beyond the hyper nerves of a first gig, will have made some friends in the scene and learned a few initial lessons on how to get better at stand-up. Nonetheless, they are still a long way from rocking solid 10s and being able to legitimately ask for open spots at pro shows.
The potential of the comedians coming through is very heartening. However, the quality of the off-stage conduct can be underwhelming.
So much so, that I have had to come up with a way to combat a degree of entitlement, apathy and poor organisational skills. All of which uses up my time, wastes stage opportunities and damages the very acts themselves. I have introduced the “Do-er” gig.
Here is the text that now goes out to anyone who asks me for a spot. Fuller context follows.
“As we get set for the new season, my focus is to make these gigs even better, even busier. Create more stage time for you. To keep expanding the opportunities that I can offer comedians at all levels.
And I am happy to announce that from October, we will scale up to three shows a week with gigs on Tuesdays, Wednesdays AND Thursdays. A new venue is on the cards for early 2023.
NOW, I NEED YOU TO DO SOMETHING FOR ME
The We Are Funny Project has never run a “Bringer” gig. This makes life easier for every single act that performs with me.
However, I AM asking for you to demonstrate your support and enthusiasm for the We Are Funny Project community when you book in for a gig. Instead of a bringer, think of it as a DO-er
HERE ARE EXAMPLES OF WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
Subscribe, and watch a Playlist from the We Are Funny Project YouTube channel. Perhaps add a couple of positive/honest comments along the way. There’s quality content there for comedians like you, I promise
Leave an honest review on Google or Facebook. Please, only after you have performed at one of my shows
Bolster your comedy chops by attending a live workshop
Indulge yourself with an info-packed online course
Share 1 or 2 of the info-packed blogs on your socials. Maybe add a supportive comment if you feel it is merited
Become a Patreon for as little as £3 per month
Simply “Like” and “Share” a few appropriate postings on the We Are Funny Project Facebook Page
Take up some 1-to-1 comedy coaching and tap into some personalised help with your stand-up
If there is anything else helpful you can think of, let me hear it. Come to the show early and flyer for 30 mins? Etc.
A small minority of comedians make a habit of bashing promoters, and no doubt I will get some stick for this. But I don't mind. It comes with the territory. The upside is, we will all benefit.
More reasonable comedians, like you, know how hard I work at this, and why I'm asking for your help now.
WHAT I DO FOR YOU
Some open-mic nights struggle to get even the basics right. Not the We Are Funny Project.
I strive to provide professional quality in a largely amateur world. I have loved producing shows and nourishing grass roots comedy, most of the time, for over 10 years.
WHEN YOU BOOK STAGE TIME WITH ME, YOU KNOW YOU'LL GET:
A warm reception upon signing in
A good room in which to perform
Provision of MCs that know how to MC
A system of Progression for open mic acts
Properly marketed shows that typically have a decent audience
Shows that run to schedule and are not overly long
Regular blogs and online content to help comedians improve
Plans to (re)introduce fun and creative formats for audience delight and the development of comedians
Hell, an actual stage to perform on. You know, elevated above your audience (I'm still amazed by how many gigs get this wrong)
IT'S YOUR HELP I NEED NOW
I know how hectic life gets, especially when you are working in the day and gigging in the evening. I can understand if you look at my request for help and think I'll do it later. Or possibly even I'll leave it to someone else for the time being.
But here's my experience:
Following each gig, I email every act and ask them to spare 2 minutes and “leave an honest review” on Google or Facebook.
Only 7% of acts do so.
93% ignore that simple request.
Yet 100% (and more every month) of people ask for more stage time the next time I open bookings.
I know who is in the 7% and I really value the support you bring.
And I know who is in the 93%. And I need those guys to step up.
So help me, to help you… we will all benefit. More audience, more shows, longer available sets, more laughs… to me, it’s a no-brainer.
Which is to say when you email me to request a spot, in a sentence or two, please let me know what it is you have DONE to help.
I will then book the shows accordingly.”
With a couple of exceptions, most people who promote an open mic are comedians themselves. They have wisely realised that running a gig is one of the best ways to ensure they get plenty of stage time, can swap gigs with other promoters and elevate their status on the scene.
I am not a comedian. I do not have those incentives. I do this to nurture grass roots comedy and use my hard-earned insights and production experience to put on quality shows. To create opportunities and talent spot. To raise the amount of laughter in my world, and the world in general.
There have long been issues with acts failing to confirm spots, cancelling spots, worse still, cancelling on the day. Problems with acts turning up late, over-running on their set, leaving as soon as they have performed etc. It’s a pain, but old news.
One example of worsening behaviour in the recent period. I was messaged by an act, on the day of the show, to say she was ill and could not make it. It happens. I took some time and filled the spot. No stage time was wasted.
The next day I saw a Facebook posting showing her performing at a night run by a friend. I contacted my friend and asked when she was booked. It was more than 2 weeks earlier, and after she had booked for my gig. Why apply for a spot when you already have something in the diary? Why leave it until the last minute to tell me? Why lie?
This kind of nonsense does not endear acts to promoters, and many of us talk to one another. That act has now burned herself with at least 2 of us.
This is just one troubling example, from many, that I just did not ever have to deal with pre-pandemic. The new generation are unfortunately missing direction that would traditionally come from talking to more seasoned acts… like how to build bridges, not burn them.
I do not run Bringer gigs. Never have. However, I have absolutely no issue with them. If a promoter is willing to put in a huge amount of time and energy securing a venue and running a show, then they are free to run it in any way they so wish. Whichever way you cut it, those promoters are still serving the comedy community and delivering invaluable stage time.
I am tired of acts going online and whining about Bringer gigs when in almost every such case, said acts would do much better writing new jokes and improving the standard of their stand-up. It’s this simple. If you don’t like Bringer gigs, don’t do them.
Several months ago, I wrote a blog entitled “The Worst Audiences and How to Avoid Them”. This was inspired by the new deficiencies I was witnessing and being affected by.
I have widely shared that blog with pretty much every new member of the Facebook group, to explain and instil “best practises” that serve not just me, the promoter, but also the acts themselves.
It had literally no effect on “the numbers”.
7% remained the key figure.
Pretty much every person who wants a spot with We Are Funny Project joins the Facebook group. We average something like 100 new members each month. That’s around 100 people asking, on top of the people that have asked before. When it comes to bookings, the truth is, I can pretty much pick and choose.
It’s worth pointing out again, that those who are helpful, the wonderful 7%, are prioritised.
Frustration with the described behaviour got me thinking. Since I run some of the best shows in town, am about to expand the nights and opportunities, don’t add any hassle of being a Bringer and am struggling to shake off the Lockdown Blues, well… maybe it’s time for a change?
My previous model was to make it as easy as possible for the act. Put them on the best show possible. Then ask the act if they can do something to help me to help them… ever mindful that show quality is limited when there is no real audience.
Now I ask the acts to do something for me, which they can detail, at the time they come and ask me for something. Namely, stage time.
This represents the new and ongoing policy for booking a spot with We Are Funny Project.
The ultimate message is, help me to help you… from now on, the comedians “do something” first.
We all benefit from performing in a busy room. The lockdowns have been brutal on live events, I believe, comedy in particular.
These are the times I’d like to think the community will come together to try and get things back on their feet. The performances are solo, the community is just that, a community. I hope we can work together to raise the scene, the opportunities and the laughs.
Welcome to “Do-er” gigs.
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