To all comedy's chancers

Promoter Peter Vincent on the open-micers begging him for gigs

A number of years back I coined the phrase ‘No chancers’ on the Chortle forums to dissuade acts who were mistaken about their level of progression as a comedian, applying for paid work at the gigs I run. It was meant as a bit of a joke, but I did want to make acts think about whether they were suitable, and at the required standard I was asking for. I thought it might free up my inbox and save time from checking acts’ credentials.

It made no difference whatsoever. The only change was acts started to claim they weren’t chancers and they made light-hearted references to it. It never bothered me, but I still amaze at some of the creative e- mails I get pitching for paid work from me. Here are a few examples:

One act applied to headline my Middlesbrough gig; I’d never heard of him and a quick online check showed he wasn’t down to close any established gigs. He invited me to see him at a gig 60 miles away explaining: ‘I had nothing to lose’ to which I declined. A four-hour round trip to see an act trying to blag a gig isn’t something I’m going to do on my night off. I explained to him that the gig he was applying for was a large gig and that I was looking for an established headline act to perform to 350+ people. He mixed up the figure and mistakenly refers to cash in his reply rather than audience numbers but here is the line that made me choke on my coffee.

‘I’ve noticed that sometimes the only difference between some gigs is that the amount paid to headline acts can be based on notoriety rather than ability. I’m betting that my £100 set at the **** would be worth the £350+ you pay at your gig.’

That would be notorious acts such as Rob Rouse, Ian Stone, Rob Deering or Reg Hunter, who had previously headlined the gig. He got a curt reply and he apologised for any offence caused.

I love the classic one-line emails I regularly get such as ‘Put me down for a spot next week’, or ‘Hi man, I’m after an open spot, let’s make it happen.’ No introduction, CV or manners. Way to get a gig.

I did receive an e mail that bucked this trend with 1,457 words. That’s 22 paragraphs, 111 lines and a PS. The only information he left out was his 25 metres swimming badge.

Personally I prefer email to text, especially when the text comes through on Christmas Day. ‘Happy Christmas Peter, have a good one and let me know when you’re booking up your gigs?’

My all time personal favourite has to be the guy whose pitch on email to me included ‘Regular Jongleurs weekender’. A little bit of checking revealed the act was a regular Jongleurs weekender; however it was as an audience member.

The ultimate chancer story I heard was from a promoter who advertised a £1,200 four-day run. He received an e mail from an act he’d never heard of applying for the run; thoughtfully he’d attached a clip of himself at King Gong, the Comedy Store’s open-to-all night...

On the flip side they’re some acts who sell themselves to me in unique ways. I’ve received requests for gigs in the form of Photoshopped pictures to comedy verse, light-hearted fun and they’re the kind of thing that will make them stand out.

I realise this may look like another article bashing open spots – but I hope newer acts can look at this as a ‘How not to’ guide to get gigs. So please don’t be disheartened if you’re a newer act looking for gigs. At Ten Feet Tall we do have a policy of encouraging new acts, with progression and we bill an open spot at our flagship gig at Arc in Stockton. Generally a sell out show, newer acts get to do ten minutes in front of 380 in a fantastic venue, so I’m not all that bad.

Finally, here are my tips for acts getting in touch for gigs with myself or any other promoter. Good luck!

  • Be polite; include a short CV with notable gigs and references.
  • Provide full contact details and full name, it’s difficult to tell ones name from
  • Don’t try to be wacky.
  • Do some research on the gig you’re applying to
  • Don’t pester promoters, an e mail once every couple of months is enough.
  • Don’t lie, you’ll get found out.
  • No chancers

Peter Vincent books and runs severals gigs in the North East. for further information.

Published: 6 Oct 2010

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