Below is a question from someone looking into the NY sketch comedy scene. I thought this would be a fun blog entry. Enjoy .
I recently graduated from Emerson where I was in a funded comedy group that I founded. I would like to continue with my group and pursue the comedy festivals and little theaters/clubs.
I have been doing various research and saw you on a few web pages including one of the sketch fest pages. I was wondering if I could pick your brains.
How do you get booked? Do you start with open mikes'? Where do you find your venues? How do you manage to maintain the cost of travel? Do you perform at colleges? Do troops make money? How regularly do you manage to perform? And how can you tell which sketch festivals are good vs. not so good. Basically, how have you managed to become so successful.
I am in LA an d want to move to NYC (JErsey native) because I beleive there are more outlets for comedy tehre. Am I right to believe this? I tried to look for comedy venues for sketch in NY but found very little. Any places that you know of. I want to gather as much information as possible before I make this move.
We appreciate your help.
Chocolate Cake City
Dear Rob. I think I can answer some of your questions for you . . .
First, warm up your mouth, buddy, there's a lot of dong-sucking to do.
Just kidding, (I shouldn't assume everyone should get their start like Fearsome did. Plus Katherine and I love the word "dong.")
My real answer is below. Here we go . . .
First of all, there is a very large comedy community here that when compared to my friends who do comedy in LA is unmatchable. However, because of the amount of stuff constantly going on here, it is harder to make any money at it. There are venues where you can make some money off your shows, The PIT (People's Improv Theatre) is one that if you have more than, I think it's 23 people in the audience or so, you get to keep the rest of the door. There are also many venues that if you have the money to put into renting the space, you can make your money back off the door. But most of the time, just getting to perform in a particular venue is your reward. Benefits for your group help too. But it's very hard to make a financially stable career out of it.
Open mics are not always the best way to get noticed and build that community. I would recommend checking out the various downtown variety rooms like Variety Underground (www.varietyunderground.com) The Shark Show (www.thesharkshow.com), Ash Wednesday (Wednesdays at Parkside Lounge) and shows at the PIT (www.thepit-nyc.com) and meeting the people who perform and run them. That would be a first step. Also, I know the PIT holds auditions for groups that want to perform there and then they'll assign you a slot for a month or so. But you have to be careful because if you can't fill it with audience, you end up having to pay. UCB is a much harder and more incestuous place to get to perform. You can send them a tape of your group, but they won't always watch it until they've heard of you.
Another great resource is the Improv Resource Center website (you may already know about it) www.improvresourcecenter.com where most comedians spend their time during their day jobs networking and promoting themselves. You get booked at the variety shows by friends and people who have seen you and hear about you. So that is a great place to start.
Fearsome has only gone out of town to Chicago Sketchfest. We'd like to do more out of town stuff, colleges etc, but it is very hard to maintain a continuous performance schedule for six people while spending travel money and planning those kinds of things. They are definitely a great way to meet other groups and see what's going on out there. But if you are looking to forward your group's career in New York, then just playing out as much as you can around town is a better strategy.
It has taken Fearsome a long time and a lot of work to really start to make a big impression here. No one knew a thing about us until we started networking more, having other groups open for us, entering comedy competitions, promoting on the IRC and stuff like that. Also, our work has developed over the years and really tightened to cater for our audiences, each group should have a pretty unique brand that makes people talk about them. There is just so much stuff going on that you have to find a way to make a differential mark in this town. The great thing about New York is that when you have successes they feel so much more like successes. The hard part is that failures suck reall really bad because you're putting so much into it (time, money, hard work in a pretty unforgiving city.) That's what I love about it here. Although that kind of lifestyle is not for everybody.
Basically I just want you to know that there is a huge web of talent and people who want to help each other out here. The only thing that will push you through the struggle of it is good, strong work that gets noticed so that people will want to perform with you and talk about you. Your work has to mean something to you more than anything, though.
Fearsome decided a long time ago to do what we think is funny and stop worrying if anyone else will think it is. Easy to say, harder to do, but it's what we try for and it keeps our artistic sensibilities in check. You have to love what you do, because it may take a hell of a long time for anyone else to. Does any of this make sense? I hope I've helped at all. Please feel free to contact me anytime with more questions. And if you decide to move here I would be more than happy to check you guys out and introduce you around.
Shayna of Fearsome