Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Dangerous Question

Mary Runkle
“Why aren’t I getting booked?” is a question countless open mic comics have asked. It can be really challenging when you’re funny, having good sets, but haven’t turned the corner into showcasing yet. As a predominantly open mic comic, I want to share the things I say to myself when those hateful words run through my brain or even worse, eke out of my mouth!

1. No One Owes You Anything.
Producers book whomever they want, whatever their reasons. No one is entitled to a spot, even from their friends. The vast majority of shows have a specific focus and want to be the best they can be. Whether or not you’re invited has to do with how funny you are and if you’re right for the room, nothing else. Rejection can be a bitter pill to swallow, but remember, you don’t owe anyone anything, either.

2. Everyone Progresses At Their Own Pace. 
I’ve seen comics get shows after 4 months on the mics. I also know comics that have been around for more than 2 years who rarely (if ever) get booked. There’s no shame in being an open mic comic. It’s a necessary step. There is no formula for moving forward and there are no benchmarks that we should pressure ourselves to hit (I struggle with this, like, a lot). We’re all striving for, essentially, the same goal and I’d like to get there if/when I’m ready, which isn't necessarily quickly.

3. His/Her Success Is Not My Failure. 
We’re all working hard. We’re all tired and poor. When someone you know starts having the success you crave, it’s not a slight to you. And if you think you’re funnier than they are, check your ego! When your friends are starting to be successful, support them! Doing shows when you’re a newer comic is nerve-racking and it’s really nice to know your people are there to give you laughs and love. I’ve been on both sides of this and everyone wins when we stick together.

4. Improve. 
The comics I look up to elicit a specific response from the audience: earnest laughter. The reason we go to mics and shows is to gain education and experience. Pay attention to the comics you admire. Support as many rooms as you can. Write often. Record and play back your sets. Be critical of your jokes. Constantly focus on improving.

5. Get Your Name Out There. 
Find ways to be visible and showcase your talent other than just standup. Intern on a show. That’s a great way to get an education, be seen in a good room, and get occasional stage time. Create art, posters, or comics. Make funny videos. Think of your own funny shit to do and do it.

6. Focus On What You Love About Standup.
I decided to try standup because I thought I could do it. Whether or not I was right is still up in the air, but in the meantime, I've joined this amazing community of funny, talented, interesting, diverse people. I've gotten to experience so many weird and wonderful shows! Have you been to Seven Minutes in Purgatory and Late Late Breakfast? They're pretty fuckin' rad.

So if you're like me and occasionally ask “Why aren’t I getting booked?”, try not to let it get you down. A more appropriate question to ask yourself is “What can I do to be more qualified?” We've accepted a challenge by endeavoring to be standup comics and there's no substitute for time and hard work. Also good jokes are helpful. And a car, I hear that'll shoot you to the top.

If all else fails, there's always improv! ;)

Contributing Writer: Mary Runkle
Mary is a writer, comedian and producer. You can catch her working hard at mics all over town.