A typical show at a comedy club has a host, a feature and a headliner. Sometimes a guest spot is added. This is an extra spot at the discretion of the club.
It may be given as a courtesy to a headlining comic to work on new material; a chance for an experienced comic to showcase for the club; or an opportunity for a newer comic to get in front of a weekend crowd.
Typically, guest spots are 5-10 minutes, and they are coming off the time already slated for the show. So the host or feature may do less time.
There are many reasons clubs and comics are leery of guest spots:
- Shows are on a set schedule, especially early shows when the tables have to be turned over. Adding another comic jeopardizes that.
- Your style of comedy may not be a fit for the headliner, especially if they work clean.
- A savvy club owner knows some headlining comics go long and don’t want to make shows even longer.
- They don’t know you and don’t want to risk someone going on stage and spewing a bunch of nonsense.
If you want to show club owners or bookers your comedic genius, the last thing you want to do is go about it in a way that ruffles feathers and gets you banned.
Here is what not to do if you want to request a guest spot. These are general rules. If you have a relationship with a comic or club owner, you may have more leeway:
- Don’t ask the headliner. This puts the headliner in an awkward position, and it’s ultimately the club’s decision to make.
- Don’t go back and ask a comic on the show for a guest spot if the club says no.
- Don’t reach out to the club and say you know the headliner and they’d be fine with you doing a guest spot if you haven’t even contacted the headliner about it.
- Don’t tell the club that you asked the headliner and they said yes, when you didn’t ask or they responded with a vague statment like, “That’s up to the club.” The headliner and club owner will compare notes.
- Definitely don’t try to convince the club owner that they will need you because the comics on the show aren’t up to it.
- Don’t go over your time.
- Don’t expect to be paid.
Here is what you should do:
- Ask the club owner, manager, stage manager or booker for the guest spot.
- Be happy if offered a Thursday show or late show.
- Hang out at the club and talk to the club staff or headliner in person. They may need someone that night or just like you. But don’t just badger them for stage time.
- If you get a spot, stick to your time, watch the rest of the show and thank the comics and club for the opportunity.