There are many ways to succeed as a comedian, and we get to define on our own terms what success means. There are no bosses in standup comedy. There’s no HR department, (thank God) and there’s no degree or college program. We kind of have to make it up as we go. But for most, we know we want to make a living doing what we love. There are many paths we can take to achieve this goal.
One route, involves moving to one of the coasts. For us, getting consistent roadwork isn’t enough. It’s an integral part, but we want more. We want an adventure. We want to move to LA or New York. But are we ready for the move? How can we be sure? Luckily, I have devised a checklist to help you determine if you’re ready to move, and at the very least give some advice and goals to set for yourself.
1: Do you have a super solid 10 minute showcase set? If you’re reading this, you probably already think you have a super solid showcase set. I know you think this, because you are a comedian, and the only way to succeed in this business is to think you’re awesome. So how can you know for sure? Luckily I have devised a plan to help test this. If you haven’t done so already, use your showcase set to apply for some comedy festivals. I recommend The Boston Comedy festival, Bridgetown, Laughing Skull, Big Sky, among others. If you can get into a festival, this shows you’re not just funny, but you stand out. If you don’t get in, it’s not the end of the world, festivals can be very selective and biased, but it’s a good sign if you get into them! Also they’re a fucking blast and you will meet a lot of cool comedians.
2: Is your showcase set viewable online? You can’t just “have” one. It has to be documented, with good lighting and good audio quality. You need this to submit to the festivals as explained above, but I’ve found it will come in handy when trying to get onto the cool shows in LA and New York. You may also need it to send to potential agents and comedy clubs. And of course you need the showcase set for your website.
3: Do you have a website? It doesn’t need to be fancy. Just something with your video, bio, contact info, and head shots. I’ve gotten gigs, and fans from my website, and it’s a sign that you take your comedy seriously.
4: Do you have business cards? They’re quite practical. You’ll need them to hand out to fans, fellow comedians, and potential bookers. My business cards have a unicorn wearing a top hat on them, with just my web address. They’re blank on the back so I can write out my phone number if need be.
5: Do you have comedian friends with awesome credits? Some of the most annoying comedians in the world are the ones who try to suck up to headliners just to get them to help them. THAT is not what I’m talking about. What I’m saying, is that if you’ve been doing comedy long enough to make the move to LA or New York, you’d have a bunch of connections to back it up. If you have friends who are successful at comedy, and who would vouch for you, that’s a GREAT sign. Friendships and connections come from doing lots of comedy shows at clubs and rooms on the road and in your home town. But it’s not just about getting lots of gigs. Anybody can get gigs by being mediocre and diligent. It’s about being funny and personable enough to gain the respect of the comedians you look up to. So make a list of the comedians who you think might be able to get you some decent stage time in LA or New york. Do you have a few names? Do these people have TV credits? That’s a good sign. Did they give you their cell phone number? That’s an even better sign. But seriously and I cannot stress this enough. Don’t be annoying. Don’t use people. Be funny and nice enough that other comedians want to help you. Trust me, it’s going to make it a lot less frustrating to have some people on your side.
6: Are you able to headline? You should have at least 45 minutes of solid material. Although you don’t need 45 minutes to get a TV credit or a writing gig, it’s important to be able to headline, and to have headlined at least 10 times. If you’re already an established headliner, you probably have a family and are too old to consider moving. You also wouldn’t be reading a blog to get answers to this question. That’s also why I can tease you. Ya drunk bastards. Get a real job! lol jk.
7: Do you have a TV credit? Why didn’t you mention that sooner! You can skip all the info above and move immediately. Heck, it doesn’t even matter if you’re funny. You’re good to go. Just drive your limousine up to the bookers house, show them your trophy, and make room on your key ring for a hilariously oversized key to the club.
8: Are you really really ridiculously good looking? Then you should note that you only need 7 solidish minutes. 6 minutes if you’re also a woman or non-white. Remember to bring a nice tank top and a friend to spritz water onto your arms during the summer time.
Which brings us to the next item.
9: Do you have a joke about dinosaurs? If you can’t answer yes to this question you’re completely screwed. And not just when it comes to moving to LA or New York, but as a comedian and human being in general. Dinosaurs are freaking hilarious. DUH.
10. Have lots of money saved up. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Yeah right… But no. For real. If you have access to money, might as well bring it along, you’re going to need it.
All joking aside, my point is it’s not enough to just be funny. Lots of people are funny. Drunk people are funny. Zebra’s wearing plaid shorts are funny. But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to move to LA or New York. And you might not even need to move! But if you want to, these guidelines are for you. And they’re just that. They’re guidelines, that you can choose to completely ignore. But this is the checklist I used which gave me more confidence in my decision. I’m glad I didn’t make the move sooner. But I’m also glad I didn’t wait any longer. If you know what I mean.
There’s a lot of luck in this field when it comes to “making it big” or “getting a big break,” but you can do a lot of things to drastically increase your odds of getting that coveted “TV credit” or agent, or writing gig. I’m still working at it. I’m not even a success story really, but people often ask my advice, and I love giving it. I love talking. I love being nice. I love making friends, and I love candy and unicorns.
UPDATE: As of Dec 2016 I have gotten 3 TV credits and now have a manager and a college agent. Since this is my blog I’m going to just say that this is evidence that my guidelines work, and heck, let’s just say they’re fail proof.
If any of this was helpful, please let me know!
If you disagree with any of my advice, write your own blog and find somebody who cares. If you’re offended by anything I’ve said then you’re probably not ready to move to LA.
Lots of love,