The Reason You Don’t See Your New Favorite Comedian Perform As Much

I get lots of messages asking me when I’ll be back in a city here or there. When will I be the headliner? So on. Here’s the business math behind it all.

Unknown to the Bone

Before we start, we have to acknowledge that I’m an unknown headliner. “But I know you!” Yes and thank you.

Here’s what makes a headliner known:
Seen on multiple hit movies and hit TV shows – Known as a muh’fucka!
Can sell out an arena – Known to the Bone!!
Seen on multiple movies and TV shows – Stopped on the street for a quick picture known.
Huge Social Media following – Niche known.
Multiple Late Night Show stand up appearances – Known comedian.
Multiple other TV “talk show” appearances – A niche known comedian.
Big commercial personality – “That guy does comedy?” known comedian.
Been on TV at least twice – “Someone probably knows he’s done comedy but still refers to his material as funny skits” comedian.

Most headliners have more than one of these under their belts. It’s like when you rack up those random PS4 trophies as you’re just playing a game. I’ve only racked up the “Been on TV at least twice” comedian.

Basically, a famous comedian has over 1,000 “willing to buy a ticket” fans in each city he performs in. That is actually a lot harder to get to than you’d expect.

Now, more business math.

An average comedy club seats 250 people. An average comedy club headlines a comedian for 5 shows a weekend. That’s 1,250 seats to try to fill. An unknown comedian can convince anywhere from 35 – 100 people to actually come see him on a weekend. That leaves 1,150 seats that need to be filled by people who have no clue who the guy is that’s performing.

Ok… so that was a little bit of depressing math. Lets break down another set of numbers.

There are only 52 weeks in a year. Even when years feel like they never end, still only 52 weeks. So you might think, “Okay then you can be one of the 52 comics that come by?” Wait!!

For the sake of not getting too complicated, slash that number in half, since most clubs book a headliner every 6 months. Now we are at 26 spots. “Okay well you’re definitely in the top 26 of my comedians list.” It isn’t that simple.

Lets divide those 26 spots properly. Half of those are comedians the club regularly works. 13 spots left.

4 of those spots are “special events”, huge names in the business that are touring again. 9 spots left.

3 of those spots are newly famous personalities that have decided to do stand up. 6 spots left.

4 of those are “Holiday Special Events” where the club either has a guaranteed “sold out every show” comic or a “not expensive to book” comic.

2 spots is what is usually open for the growing list of unknown headliners.

Now how do the unknown headliners get into those spots? By being an ultimate workhorse. Knocking every show out of the park, promoting on our own as much as possible (especially since local radio stations really only want to interview the big guys), and just spreading the word.

What can you do to help get your favorite comics booked? Just keep supporting and telling friends. That’s all you can do.

The plus side to being a fan from the beginning: You get to be part of the same victories we have. Most unknown comics absolutely appreciate every fan. We get taken aback by people showing support. All we can try to do is keep it going. Sometimes we have our “off nights” when the show isn’t as good as it could be. Sometimes we have our “bad days” that can leak itself onstage with us. But do know that we fully appreciate you for supporting us. Thank you. Hopefully I’ll see you sometime soon.

Also thank you to every club that takes a chance on this unknown comedian.

ADDED EDIT: The “I’m touring my damn self” comic. It takes a lot of work to find a venue, talk to a venue’s owners, possibly rent a venue, print up marketing materials, possibly pay for concession, find other artists, possibly pay for those artists and such to throw your “self produced” comedy tour. This can be done but any comedian still need paying fans. That comic also has to have a conversation with themselves that sounds like this, “I’m not getting work in the club (or ‘I don’t like working in clubs’) so am I ready to just say screw it and head out on my own? Am I ready to take as much time needed in a career that guarantees no pay-off? Do I really have enough people out there that will support a show that might happen on a weekday in a city I’ve only been to a couple of times as a club comic?” It’s hard work and it takes you away from the “comedy scene”. The industry only recognizes these tours after they have proven themselves successful. It’s a BIG decision for not only a comedian but for any human being that travels and performs for work.

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