What I've learned as a promoter

By Salvatori Sorisi

After nearly 25 years of marriage, my wife ran off with a taxi driver. Well she didn’t run off, she got a lift.

That was the joke that started me off on the comedy life, a few years ago, at the wrong side of 50. That simple start pushed me forward to becoming a promoter.

I was born in Corleone, Sicily, and have been here since I was three. My father had to escape to this country from the mafia. I had no idea where I was going with my comedy when I started; I did it to shut out the pain of a second failed marriage.

I tried to play the gangster-on-the-run idea as a character act – a notion I got having chatted to the lovely Sol Bernstein, who similarly performs as the character of an elderly Jewish entertainer. But in order to find a platform for myself, I ended up resident MC of a Tuesday night show in Bristol.

I had no idea of the scale of the task I was undertaking, doing a show with only open spots once a week. I very soon realised you needed, at the very least, to have a paid headliner – so started dipping into my own pocket from my daytime job as a hairdresser

I managed to keep the gig going for about six months weekly but as the recession started to bite, had to switch to monthly I was thrilled with whole world of new friends that I was able to help up the ladder; and this is where I realised my place.

I got such a kick from putting on the show that I stared looking for more venues, and had up to eight regular venues at one time. I made money on three, which subsidised the rest. After the first year I just about broke even.

I was offered more and more opportunities by pubs and clubs desperate to get some punters in, and the lessons learned about what you need to make a night a success starts with support from the landlords: many expect you to conjure up an audience out your ass.

The first question I now ask of them is: ‘Are you a comedy fan, and will you be coming to the shows ?’

If they make excuses, that venue is not going to work

The thing I hate most is not having an audience for my acts. I am inundated with requests for stage time and am sad that I can’t help everyone. It sometimes feels like I am playing God by picking and choosing who I give spots to.

The venues I seem to get are where the comedy is secondary – dinner with comedy or dancing with comedy, for example – so I have to have safe acts with non --offensive material.

It has become an addiction to find enough venues to showcase the acts I have, and when a gig fails it hurts like a bitch

I doubt if I will ever make a huge amount in this game but I keep going. My latest idea is to have two hours comedy then salsa or jive dancing afterwards, in bigger venues: 100 to 200 seaters.

I have met some wonderful people in this game and I owe a debt of gratitude to many acts who help me out by not demanding fees that are prohibitive and enabling me to ensure I don’t go broke.

I always thought the best thing about winning the lottery would be that you could help all the loyal people around and the few assholes who have crossed your path would feel gutted that they weren’t invited on the adventure.

Well if I ever make it big as a promoter, watch this space…

Published: 30 Mar 2012

We see you are using AdBlocker software. Chortle relies on advertisers to fund this website so it’s free for you, so we would ask that you disable it for this site. Our ads are non-intrusive and relevant. Help keep Chortle viable.