Making Dreams Come True for Comics and Speakers since 1984
  Judy Carter's Comedy Workshops  

How to Get Paying Gigs

I was coaching a comic whose goal was to get from open mic to paying gigs. I started by asking a basic marketing question:

"Who's your audience?"

She didn't have a clue. After listening to her material, I noticed that a lot of her jokes appealed to women, and her material was mostly free of body part references. She was surprised when I told her that there's a circuit out there for clean housewife comics where they make $1,500 to $5,000 per gig. Why put up with obnoxious club drunks, when there's a much better (and better paying) fit?

Most comics are crappy at marketing themselves. It's no wonder that every time I hear someone say, "OMG, I saw this comic last night who was hilarious!"

I'll ask, "Who was it?"

They'll enviably say, "I don't know... SOME COMIC, but he was really funny!"

Like I say... crappy marketing.

Speakers, on the other hand, might not be funny, but they sure know how to get jobs and make money. Comics can learn a lot about making money from the speaking business.

Every speaker knows their message, their brand, and their audience. After all, why develop a speech if there is no place to give it. Comics, on the other hand, will have a machine gun approach about what they joke about, hitting a lot of different topics. But joking about EVERYTHING and trying to appeal to EVERYBODY, can not only dilute your humor, but also limit your paying gig opportunities. Being the, "Funny real estate comic," will get you a hell of a lot more work than being the "Funny comic I saw last night."

Here are some smart speaker marketing moves that comics can use.   (These will also be featured in my upcoming book, "The Message of You" St. Martin's Press, Jan 2013)

1. Find your tribe
It's not enough to be funny; you need to find the people that think you're funny.  Many of my former students are finding paying gigs by focusing on specific audiences, i.e. Jewish events, Christian, techies, health care associations, women's organizations, and others.  (Matter of fact, one of my speaking clients is creating a very funny speech strictly for the US Beef industry.  Vegetarian jokes? Of course.)  

Why bother spending a lot of time perfecting a routine that may never find an audience?  You know who gets you - so go out and get them!     

2. Work clean  
By eliminating the 7 dirty words, you'll find a hell of a lot more opportunities for paying gigs.  Save the f-bomb for open mics.
3. Form a mastermind group  
Form a tight group of 3 other comics or speakers who are as good as you are, have ambition, and are in it for the long run.

Have weekly meetings where you research opportunities and potential gigs, and recommend each other to clients after a successful gig. Go to to find comics or speakers to hook up with.
Final Note: The jobs are out there.  I've just booked former students Kira Soltanovich, Frances Dilorinzo, Vicki Barbolak, Cindy Burns, and Shannon Gettins for full-fee women's gigs. 

The biggest problem my clients have after booking me, is finding someone to follow me for their next event.  It's a huge win-win when I can recommend my former students to my clients.  If you are interested in being referred by me, please make sure you have your demo at

So -- what are YOU going to do about finding YOUR audience?  Please post your comments.


Bel Baca said...

Greatest nugged of advice - To find a tight group of 3 others (in my case comedy writers) who are as good as I am, have ambition, and are in it for the long run.

Johnny Murillo said...

Good stuff! Now where is my Tribe? Hmmm? Can I have two tribes?

Mr. Ed The person not the horse said...

If I am driving a nail with a hammer and miss, hitting my thumb, which I often do, I will use one or more of my 40 dirty words, over and over, usually the one that begins with an F and ends with a K, and it isn't fork. When I am on stage I am clean. I don't think you have to use dirty words just for the sake of using them. If you have something to say, say it don't use forken filler words!

Dick Bruso said...

Terrific counsel! Having branded hundreds of speakers for close to two decades, I agree with you 100% when it comes to determining one's audience early on. Key questions to consider are: "Who needs and wants what you have to offer?" And, "Who do you want to hang around with for the rest of your life?"

RIchard Keats said...

I totally agree! It's all about branding & separation from the herd!