Comedy Show Etiquette for the Performing Comedian

If you were to take a survey of stand-up comedians you would find out that the draw to the stage is only about 45 percent because they want to share their thoughts with the world and about 55 percent the need to be a centre of attention.

Being the centre of attention is necessarily a bad thing as this drives a comedian to hold the stage and almost command the rooms undying attention. Where it does become a problem though is when it comes to how the comedian acts when he or she arrives at the venue and what they do after their set.

Here’s some etiquette that shouldn’t have to be told, but sadly needs to be.

Treat it like a job
While it’s not a “normal” job, if you want to be a top tier professional comic than you should respect one of the words in the sentence: “professional.” No one wants to work with a prima donna, unless you work in the opera, and they will especially not want to work with one that makes demands, is unreliable, and unprofessional.

Treat the venue owner, the booker, and the other comedians with professionalism. Confirm your booking the week before and the day before a show. Get to the venue earlier than call, make yourself known to the booker, the owner, and the MC. Say “Hi” to the other comedians and the venue staff. You don’t have to like everyone but you need to be professional.

A bonus tip, always thank the booker and owner after the show, NOT after your set, but after the show for giving you the spot. It’s not kiss ass, it’s polite and lets them know you appreciate them.

If you have a pre-set ritual that includes looking at your phone, listening to loud music, pacing, jumping, or vocal warmups; do it outside! To do that near the stage or worse in the audience is distracting to the comedian on stage, the crowd, and makes you look unprofessional. Do not heckle a fellow comedian, unless you organised it with them before as a bit, and don’t sit in the audience with other comedians and critique what’s happening on stage. Worry about your set and let others do their thing.

Your set
Even if the MC does a hatchet job of your name or intro, shake their hand. They have a lot to think about with orders from the venue, the booker, and the other comedians, so cut them some slack. Plus, if they stink, the booker already knows it and doesn’t need you making a “thing” about it on stage. This is your time to shine, but you MUST keep to time. Sure, you could be killing, but it’s better to end on a high note than eat into another comedian’s time. It’s just professional. If the booker or owner gives you a signal to keep going, then by all means, but if you are given the “wrap it up” then you better do so.

Also, if you brought a drink or props on stage with you. Take them with you when you go. Keep the stage as you found it.

Much like the pre-set tips, don’t sit in the audience and talk loudly now that “your part” is done. You are part of the show, and the show is still going. Watch the show, enjoy it, or if you have to go to another gig, thank the booker and make your exit as quietly as possible.

If you are bringing your “own crowd” otherwise known as a rent-a-crowd, don’t tell them that they can leave after your set or let them loudly shower you with praise afterwards. There is still a show going.

A good rule of thumb is to act like the audience member that you would want while you’re on stage. Don’t look at your phone, don’t heckle, and just watch the show.

If you follow these tips it doesn’t mean you are “uncool” or an “ass kiss” it just means you are a professional and will get booked again. While these are just tips that I have accumulated from working stages all over the world, it comes down to one very simple bit of advice.

If you were a booker, would you book you? Think about it honestly, and you’ll come up with the things that you might need to improve on. Oh yeah and be funny. That should be a given.


Scott Black

"I am a comedian and screenwriter with over 20 years of stage, screen, digital, print, and broadcast experience. I love to work with fun and creative people."

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