How to Run a Successful Independent Show

I’ve previously written a tip about how to start an independent show. But just as important is how to run one. Here are a few tips that can help turn your show into the hottest thing in your comedy scene.

The host should be one of the best comedians on the show. The host sets the tone for the evening – why would you lead off with the most inexperienced comic you have? Have someone confident with good energy that enjoys hosting, as hosting is a different skill than showcasing. The hosts’ vibe should be “welcome to a great night of comedy, here are some of the funniest people I know.”

Create an original concept. Named shows tend to do better than unnamed shows – but make yours original. If you see another concept you like, let it inspire you – but don’t say “how little can I change this and get away with it?” Even if you’re just presenting a great stand-up show with no variation, a cohesive brand helps.

Don’t put too many people on one show. It is better to have fewer comedians doing longer sets than giving everyone you know 5 minutes and exhausting the crowd. I stick to 90 minute shows and the “always leave them wanting more” philosophy of entertainment. I also have the show divvied up the same way every time so when spots are full, they’re full. As an example, I use a host, two ten-minute spots and three twenty minute spots. There is no “can you squeeze me in?” once I’m booked. Maybe next time around.

Don’t make the show too top heavy. Open strong, close stronger. Seems obvious, but put your best comic on last. Don’t try to wring the most out of a crowd by getting them to stay for “just a few more people!” End on a high note.

Let comedians know their spot time in advance. When possible, let people know when they’re going so they don’t get there 90 minutes before their spot and have to wait around. Be respectful of their time, and try to keep on schedule. Some may want to hang out the whole night – some may not.

Create an asshole free zone. For comics to put on their best performance, they need to feel comfortable at the venue. Part of that is who else is on the show. There’s always going to be beef in a particular scene, but if there’s someone who lives for drama, I don’t care how funny they are – they can do that elsewhere.