Network error

Comic Matt Price finds it hard to sell himself

My palms are sweating and my heart is pounding. I'm pacing up and down. I look in the mirror for the fourth time in as many minutes and tell myself, ‘You've done this before Price. Come on. You can do it.’ The voice in my head tells me that I can't. Now I get angry with myself.

I flashback to the weekend, where I compered a gig and slaughtered it. All three acts said I was a great MC and the 300 people in the audience had a blast. The show manager told me what a great job I did and said: ‘You'll definitely get another weekend in here.’

I'm actually feeling nauseous. I'm even angrier at myself now. One night I did an entire set sat in the audience. Another night, I got a woman to go crowd surfing at the end of my Edinburgh show. I've told jokes in total silence to the criminally insane at Broadmoor.

So why do I feel such abject terror at the thought of making a simple phone call to ask for a gig?

Sometimes, I joke with my friends about the ‘off-stage game’, but the truth is that a lot of comics really struggle when it comes to self-promotion. I mean, how do you do it without sounding crass or pushy? Does the sound of me, me, me not annoy fellow comics and promoters?

I even struggle sending emails to people I know, yet I book acts for the gig that I compere in Cardiff and have seen many comedy CV's over the years. I really can see both perspectives.

I have seen how many ‘rising stars’ there are on the circuit and although I work hard, can I also really claim to be one of ‘the hardest working acts in the UK?’ I have business cards and give them out if asked but then get tongue tied when it comes to selling myself. It's a shame that I can't ask for gigs from stage.

I really don't think I could set up my own fan page on Facebook or constantly write a status that says how great last night's gig was. Good luck to those who can. I started to write in first person on my website, but it made me cringe. I've tried networking and frankly, it's beyond me.

I have utmost admiration for those who are blessed with the zen like understanding of, ‘networking without actually networking darling’. When I try it, I'm more nervous than I could ever be on stage. It's like an out-of-body experience, the voice in my head telling me how fake I am.

Several years ago I did a gig for less money than I would have liked. The deal was that I would prove myself as a worthy resident MC. By the time I'd played that room three times, I felt that I knew the audience and them me. We had rapport and I was doing a consistently good job.

At the end of one gig, one of the acts barged their way in front of me and said to the promoter: ‘If ever you want a GOOD compere, then let me know.’ I admire and even envy their confidence, even though their hackneyed set had a lukewarm reception at best. I could never behave in that way.

An open spot left our Cardiff gig, thanked me for the spot and on the way out said: ‘The next time I do this room. You WILL pay me.’ If I spoke to anyone like that, I wouldn't be able to sleep for a week. I now ignore his emails begging to be rebooked.

I spoke to a promoter recently who told me of an act who said the he would open for him, but that he was better than the usual standard of openers and therefore deserved more money. This particular promoter is a friend of mine and due to personal circumstances had to pull a gig. I couldn't even bring myself to write on the Chortle forums that I was free on that date and wouldn't dream of phoning him to ask for more work, knowing his personal circumstances.

So what is the solution to my problem?

There isn't one answer, but I need to force myself to deal with life off stage. It's so easy to be over looked if you're not reminding people that you're out there. I've forgotten about people who I really rate and it has taken a chance conversation to be reminded. Self-promotion is such an important part of being a comic and just like the art form that we all love, I believe it can take a long time to get it right.

The chances are that I may never be a great networker. When I started in comedy, people used to tell me that I was brave to stand on stage. I had no idea that marketing would be the true measure of my bravery. I used to hate having my photo taken and now after months of trying, I have found the right shots. My comedy CV is an accurate reflection of where I have been and what I've done.

I intend to conduct myself as I always have. I refuse to stab anyone in the back or to be pushy. My website looks good. I must also admit that I smile at the fact that if you go to youtube and type ‘Steve Day Comedian’ that it shows a clip of me doing a routine at a University gig. This was an honest mistake, I promise.

A few days ago, I made another promise. Namely, that I would steel myself, rehearse and start making phone calls. I'm going to psyche myself up and I hope that I storm them all. I can do it. I really can. When I stop feeling sick...

  • Matt Price is too modest to say that his website is at

Published: 28 May 2010

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