Hi Dave – I have a friend who thinks I’m funny and can make it big as a stand-up comedian. I’m going to take a comedy workshop and then she’s going to be my manager. Good idea. Right? – F.C.
Hey FC – Good idea? Maybe a fun idea, but that’s as far as I’ll go with an endorsement right now. And before you and your friend start calling me a party-pooper (or worse) here’s why…
Quite a few businesses start out as partnerships between friends and become successful. But usually both of the partners have experience in some aspect of the profession. If you open a restaurant, someone has to know how to cook and someone has to know about the business. If you run a car service, someone has to know how to drive and someone has to know about the business. If you want a career in stand-up comedy, someone has to be funny and…
In your case, it sounds like you’re the person bringing the funny to work with you. BUT to make that partnership work…
Someone has to know about the business.
Does your friend have experience in the entertainment industry or managing comedians? You both need to know what the job requirements are because a manager’s job is not simply picking up a phone, calling a talent booker and scheduling you for paying gigs. And it’s not just knowing about the business – it’s also who you know in the business that can make a difference.
That important aspect of the job only comes through experience.
Being a comedian and being a manager are two separate jobs. At the beginning of your career (you mentioned taking a comedy workshop to get started) both can and quite often are handled by the same person – the comedian. Since you’ll be working for essentially no money (starting salary at open-mics is zilch) your manager’s commission will come out of that.
Does she still want the job?
The only thing you should be concerned with at the beginning of your career is writing, performing, rewriting and continuing to perform and getting more experience on stage. Your material and delivery will need to be tried out on a live audiences to make sure it works. In the comedy biz that means it gets laughs, because that’s what you’re selling to talent bookers.
It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight.
Watch your favorite comedians on television and in clubs. It wasn’t easy for them to make it look so easy. I don’t know any successful comedians that didn’t work hard and paid real dues (going back to their start in open-mics) to be good at what they get paid for. If you’re shaking your head in disbelief over that statement ,you’re in the wrong business.
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When the performances are working and you truly feel it’s time to look for paying gigs, that’s when the business side of your career starts. This includes putting together and updating promotional material, websites and social network pages – and (just as important) WHO are the talent bookers for the clubs, contests, festivals and other venues. Then there are endless phone calls, emails, networking, schmoozing and scheduling auditions and showcases.
In the beginning, comedians can do all these jobs.
That’s why I wrote the book How To Be A Working Comic, to show what jobs needed to be done and how to do them to get work. There’s also a difference between a manager and an agent. In brief, an agent is the member of your team that will actually schedule paid gigs. In New York and California, agents are licensed to do this – and managers are not. There are more details about this in the book, so for right now let’s just continue with the idea of your friend doing all the behind the scenes work…
It’s all part of a gradual process and doesn’t happen all at once.
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You build the act, make connections and then promote. When you become part of the comedy scene, meaning out in the clubs and networking with other comedians, you learn who’s who, what’s what, where you can find time on stage and eventually, where you might be paid to do that time on stage.
If a manager is going to do all those tasks for you, then it’s a good idea the manager knows the who’s who, what’s what and where to find these career-advancing (and paying) gigs. A good manager is connected with people in the industry and has done as much (probably more) networking than the comedian.
I’m not saying your friends can’t help.
It’s always good to have an extra hand or support team in putting together promo and traveling with you to open-mics. And they can even call themselves your manager when you’re still in the open-mic stage of your career. But if they don’t progress along with you in their roll as a manager, then just keep them as a friend and not a business partner.
When it comes down to the business of booking you into the better clubs and more lucrative markets like corporate and college shows, you’ll need a manager or agent that will have her phone calls answered by the bookers, event planners and clients. And at the beginning of your professional (paid) career, the contacts you make just by being a part of your local comedy scene would give you a better chance of that happening than by relying on a manager with no experience and no contacts.
So… how will you know when you’re ready for a manager?
Don’t worry, they’ll find you. As explained by a manager in How To Be A Working Comic, a good manager knows the business, makes a point of knowing the clubs and who the comedians are performing in those clubs, networks and schmoozes with other managers, agents, talent bookers and comedians, and is always on the lookout for good talent.
It’s how they make their money.
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Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!
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