With the Comedy shows in San Francisco more popular than ever, an audience is hungry to spend their time and money on high-quality stand-ups. Whether that’s sell-out arena tours with household names, smaller venues showcasing the latest underground talent, or even virtual stand-up comedy events, there’s more opportunity than ever to shine in the comedy scene.
So, if you’re thinking of taking a slice of that comedy pie but are new to promoting or simply want some new ideas, we’ve produced this guide on how to put on a comedy night.
Finding a Comedy Venue
When finding the perfect venue, you will be limited to some extent by budget and availability, but there are venues out there for all types and sizes of comedy shows – you just have to find them! The first step is knowing what to look for.
Ensure that the venue is central and supported by good transport links. Even the most breathtaking building won’t sell tickets if it’s a mission to get there.
As long as the venue facilitates entertainment shows, then anything goes. Having said that, there are some specific things you should think about when booking a comedy show venue. The room should be set up so that sound reverberates around the room; in particular, look for venues with low ceilings and brick walls. This means that the sound of laughter and applause is emphasized, making your audience feel less self-conscious and more likely to throw themselves into the show.
If you book comedians just starting out on the circuit or more established underground talent, then your venue should reflect this. Try looking for something a little out of the ordinary to get your audience talking.
It’s essential to match the venue’s capacity to the type of events in San Francisco you are putting on. Remember, it’s better to have a packed audience rather than empty seats, so take note of our budgeting section later.
Most importantly, your venue should have a dedicated performance space, anything from a theatre to a function room in a pub. Try and find a platform with a Green Room so that the comedians have a space to prepare. Whatever the popularity of your acts, they probably won’t appreciate sitting out front with their audience.
Discuss whether the hiring fee is based on a straight booking fee or profit share when booking a venue. Some venues charge a fee to hire the room and make up their money from food and drink sales. Other platforms prefer a profit split where they take a percentage of ticket sales. You should understand this from the start to avoid any surprise fees later.
Picking the Right Comedy topic
You must have some genuinely hilarious comedians to have a successful comedy event. The success of your show depends on the quality of the guests you choose to include. Work the circuit and witness as many acts as possible — open mic evenings can be a terrific way to uncover developing talent. It’s always nice to connect a face with a name, so if you enjoy a particular comedian, introduce yourself to them after the event.
Keep it exciting and book a combination of acts. One-liners and observational jokes, for example, can be combined with other forms of comedy to keep things interesting. Still, care must be taken to maintain a consistently high-quality standard.
Be mindful of the day of the week when discussing possible rates for your acts. Thursday to Saturday nights are prime times and consequently more expensive, whereas Sunday to Tuesday nights are cheaper, and comedians are more likely to be available and searching for a gig.
Prices might range from very low to relatively high, depending on how well-known your act is. Newcomer comedians should expect to make very little money in the industry. On the other hand, seasoned comics can make thousands of pounds for a single corporate gig or stand-up performance.
Purple Cactus Productions is a booking agency that can help you find a comedian for any budget, from £500 to £20,000 and beyond. Always remember that you might be able to negotiate a considerably lesser cost with a comedian or their agent if you approach them directly.