Monday August 12th, 2013 – Chicago, IL
Tonight I hosted the ‘Rising Star Showcase’ at Zanies Comedy Club in Chicago as I have been doing frequently for several years. They’re held the first two Mondays of every month, and it’s a chance for up and coming comedians from all over to get a five minute audition for a booking.
Nights like this used to be much more common in comedy clubs around the country, and I have myself driven anywhere from long to downright insane distances countless times for five minute chances to sell myself to a booker. It’s not the most economical way to do business, but it works.
It boils down to one gambling on one’s own performing abilities with hope that the investment up front of driving time, gas, food and lodging will pay off on the back side with years of getting paid work. In theory, it’s always better to do a live set for a booker than to send a video. It’s easy for the booker to get distracted or not even watch a video. A live audition increases one’s odds.
Still, there’s no guarantee of success. More than once I’ve driven across multiple states only to find out the booker that swore on two bibles he or she would be there had “something come up” and then leak out at the last minute. It’s maddening, but it goes with the territory. It’s a gamble.
If I had to guess, I’d say in all the times I’ve driven somewhere to audition for work I’ve gotten hired about 90-95% of the time. If I didn’t get actual work, at least I was able to make enough of a favorable impression on a booker to be considered for future work. I only went when I thought I was ready, and it has paid off handsomely. Unfortunately, times have changed significantly.
There was a very solid lineup of talent on the bill this evening, and as always I gave each one a stellar introduction and made sure the audience was paying attention. How many times has some bumbling emcee or worse yet drunken radio goof brought me up with a lousy intro? Too many.
I go out of my way to respect the effort these people made to take their shot, as I’ve been there myself. Not all of them are ready, but that’s on them. From my standpoint everyone gets the star treatment with their intro so at least they’ll have a fair shot to prove themselves if they’re ready.
Tonight’s lineup was absolutely ready. The audience was red hot as well. I’ve seen it line up in every combination from bad audience and good acts, good audience and bad acts to bad audience and bad acts. Tonight was good on all fronts, and when that happens it’s a pleasure to participate.
I cheer for these comics to have solid sets, as I can so relate to what they’ve done to get there. I give Bert Haas at Zanies credit for coming out on a night off to not only watch new talents but to give them feedback as well. It takes time out of his already busy schedule, and I wish there were more bookers that did it. It’s an extreme courtesy to the comedians whether they know it or not.
Back when I was starting, having a solid set in front of a booker would almost guarantee work at some point – even if it was a couple of years down the road. Now, it means nothing. There are just too many acts for the amount of available work, and most acts tonight won’t get a booking.
Does it mean they weren’t funny? Not at all. A few were a little green, but they still had a lot of potential. Will they be ready in six months or a year? Maybe, but if they’re not getting paid work on a regular basis somewhere, it makes it tougher to hang in there and keep getting the stage time it takes to get better. How does anyone get seen and ‘make it’? I wish I knew. It’s all a crap shoot.