How to Get Started In Columbus Comedy
Thinking of becoming a comedian, improv performer or sketch writer and you live right here in good old Columbus, OH? Awesome! We're always looking for new and fresh talent to join the scene.
Whether you want to try standup, write sketches, do improv or try your hand at something else, there's an abundance of opportunity in Columbus. Here are our best general tips for getting started.
1. Go to a Metric Sh!t-Ton of Shows
No, really. Go to a show or five (or ten). One of the best ways to get started in any type of comedy is to be a good comedy student...which in this case, means "audience member."
Check out a ton of different lineups, settings, hosts and themes. Notice the things that resonate with you. Notice how different material or genres play in different venues.
If you're feeling particularly outgoing, introduce yourself to a host or comedian or two and tell them how you appreciated their work. Pay attention to where you can follow different shows and performers on social networks.
In other words, take the time to get to know and understand the comedy community here. It's where you'll be honing your own skills, so it helps to know what you're getting into.
2. Hit up an Open Mic/Meet-up Group/Class
Every comedian or performer can tell you about the first time they got up to do their "thing." 99% of the time, that first time will have been at an open mic, some sort of informal open stage/meetup group or in a class.
There are typically no shortcuts here...if you want to perform in comedy, you gotta start at the beginning, and the beginning is usually an open mic/stage or class.
Before you perform at your first open mic, stage or meetup, see if you can attend as an audience member once or twice. Get a feel for the room and how the mic is run (every one is different). Ask the host if there is a certain way to perform or a time to sign up by. See how many minutes people do, or how the flow between one performance to the next goes.
Then...there's nothing to it but to do it. And do it a lot. Which leads us to...
3. Get Reps
Get up there. Bomb. Do it again. Do better. Do it again.
Even the most naturally talented comedians log hundreds of performance miles on stage before the laughs come consistently.
Re-write or throw out that joke you like that never seems to land with the audience. Practice with a scene partner until you feel comfortable and natural on stage. Write a bunch of stuff, try it out, re-work it, try it again. Record yourself, watch it, cringe, get back to work.
All of those hours on stage should pay off in the form of more stage time (if you do good work and you're easy to work with, you get booked more)...at the very least, you won't quake in your boots the next time you have to give a toast at a wedding.
4. Manage Your Expectations (e.g. go easy on yourself)
The first time you're on stage, you might crush it...orrr, you might forget everything you wrote, throw all those principles of improv you just learned in class out the door, or go into a blind panic.
Everyone (yes, everyone) bombs at some point or another. Failing at comedy on stage in front of a lot of people is simply a rite of passage, and it happens more frequently when you're a beginner. So don't let that first (or second, or third) not-so-great experience keep you from trying again.
If we call ourselves comedians in any genre, then we've all been there. We've forgotten punchlines, messed up blocking in a sketch or threw our scene partner under the bus. And we all got back up and tried it again. So you've got this. Welcome to the club of the initial suck.
5. Be Professional
Yeah, yeah, it's comedy. That means there will probably be at least one person performing in cargo shorts and flip flops at any given point during the year. So we're not talking about professionalism in the context of dress code or even specifically the content you produce. No one wants to censor you or limit your craft or expression.
Professionalism in comedy just means a few simple things that mostly fall under "golden rule" territory. Here are a few guidelines that are pretty easy to follow and will keep you well within the realm of comedy professionalism:
- Show up on time to your gig. This could be anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before show start. If you need special arrangements or get stuck at work, contact your booker/show runner (not your friend or someone else in the lineup) first. If they don't respond right away, contact someone else who you're sure can get them the message.
- Abide by the open mic/performance or venue rules. Don't do 8 minutes if you only have 5, don't go blue if it's a family-friendly show, etc. And never, ever be anything less than kind and appreciative of the wait staff or venue owners.
- Know your personal alcohol/substance intake limit. We've all seen it happen: the new guy's pre-show-jitters shot quickly turns into a sloppy-bender-and-no-one-is-happy drunk fest. Do what you gotta do to calm or enjoy yourself, but if you're booked that night, stay on the sober-ish side.
- Promote your show on your social networks. Your booker and venue will do their own promoting, but you will also be expected to do your fair share to get butts in seats. Some show runners will cancel or not re-book comedians who don't promote. Do your part...it's super easy and takes about five minutes. Plus, every show is better with a full house.
- Be respectful of your audience. They paid some money to see you, so give them a great show. If they like your stuff, cool. If they don't like your stuff...also cool. Both reactions are feedback you wouldn't get if you were at home practicing in front of the mirror. The audience is why we do this stuff, and every reaction is a gift (whether it feels like one or not).
Some individual shows may have their own additional set of rules (e.g. you might be required to wear a certain type of clothing, or use a specific format for your material), but in general, if you use the guidelines above as a starting point, you'll be fine.
You'll learn more as you go along, like what works for you, what works in certain venues, what works with Columbus audiences, and how individual bookers, hosts and groups like to run shows.
Stay tuned for genre-specific advice from the pros! In the meantime, we're looking forward to meeting you soon!