The gripes of a comic – and of a promoter

Russ Powell wears two hats

I am a stand-up comedian. I’ve been gigging on the open mic circuit of London and the surrounds for about nine months. I am also a promoter. I organise and run my own monthly open-mic night in Reading.

These two elements of my being are struggling to co-exist. They need each other. Lord how they need each other. But they are slowly starting to resent the other’s existence.

The Comic knows that he needs the open-mic Promoter. Without him he can’t get on stage and do what he loves. He can’t pursue his hobby and keep questing for that ‘big break’. But after the umpteenth unanswered email and voicemail and the plethora of vague automatically generated responses returned that says, ‘Thanks for your interest, I’ll let you know when I’ve got some slots’ the head feels like its firmly being banged against a brick wall and the patience in pursuing the gigs is beginning to wane.

The Promoter knows that he needs the open-mic Comic. Without him he can’t run his night… people don’t like paying to watch a mic in its stand for an hour and a half. But after the latest batch of no-shows and the constant stream of ignorant and rude emails of the like ‘give me ten minutes at your night, yeah?’ the desire to keep the night going is lacking.

But what can each side do to help the other? There is a way people, there is a way… It still early days, but important lessons have already been gleaned by the Comic and the Promoter.

The Comic is now going to follow three simple tenets:

Be professional: The Comic is going to put together a couple of polite concise sentences about his experience and a link to a YouTube video. It takes under a minute to do, makes him look more professional and may even result in more gigs.

Keep a diary: When he books a gig, the comic will stick it in a diary and actually turn up. And if he can’t, he’ll let the Promoter know. If he doesn’t he could be robbing someone else of the chance to perform or even leaving a night completely in the lurch.

Say thank you: He doesn’t want to come across as a patronising twat or anything, but a simple thank you to the Promoter at the end of a night paints the Comic in a good light and makes all the hard work of putting that night together a little easier for the promoter next time.

The Promoter is going to start doing some stuff differently too:

Reply properly: The Promoter fits in the organising of his night around a ‘proper’ job, so may not always get the time to reply straight away to emails. But when he does he’ll let you know if he’s got any slots coming up and book you in. If he hasn’t he’ll let the Comic know when you should contact him again to book in. If he told you he was going to keep your name on ‘the list’ and let you know when he’s got slots coming up, that would be a lie.

Send a reminder: The Promoter knows that sometimes something slips through the net and the Comic may need a nudge to come and perform. He’ll send out a reminder email about a week before the gig just to make sure everyone knows they’re meant to be there. This combined with the Comic’s diary should prove a foolproof solution to no-shows…should.

Be there on the night: The Promoter knows who’s booked in, how many acts there are and the time slot they’ve been given. It’s handy if the Promoter’s there on the night to help things run smoothly as Chinese whispers to an MC sometimes fail… purple monkey dishwasher.

Maybe it’s all too much to expect? Maybe real comics and proper promoters like pissing each other off? Maybe, but I’d like to hope not.

  • Russ Powell runs the monthly Punchlines club at Déjà vu bar, Reading. More info at

Published: 24 Aug 2010

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