I get a lot of comics asking me to bring them on the road. I thought this would be a good place to discuss the reasons for why I choose who I do to come with me.
- Let me begin by mentioning I get to bring my opening act less than 50% of the time. Very few places am I a draw, so I don’t have that type of power. Also, since I do my fair share of one-nighters, I sometimes need to combine 2 or 3 different booking agents’ rooms to make the week work financially. I might have the go-ahead to bring my opening act from one booker, but not the other, so when that happens I just let the agents put whoever they think will work best with me.
- Now, the first thing I’m looking for is proximity. I want to work with someone who lives close to me so they can split the gas money. I will drive, since I usually have a better vehicle. I have had a couple acts who have traveled with me bitch about paying more in gas than I did, because it ended up we had an odd number of fill-ups. Stupid move on their part. I am the one who brought you in the first place. You are working because I chose you. I am putting all the miles on the car, so you are saving a 1000-2000 on your car for the trip. It’s a good deal for you, dumbass. Oh and my car is quite frankly too nice to be a road car (long story) and it has satellite radio, so it is way more comfortable than your 10 year old Corolla.
- I want to find someone who is fun to spend time with. It’s a long drive and don’t want to be in a car with a dick. I consider myself a good conversationalist, but I have a contrarian streak, which can create conflict with some people. I’m fun, but I can be a a little too opinionated for some. It is good to work with someone who is easy-going, but willing to give back without coming off like it’s defensive. I know, it’s sounds like I’m asking a lot, but I’ve found a few different travel-partners that groove well with this.
- I will be driving. With few exceptions, most of my opening acts don’t have families, so I don’t think they have as much responsiblity to others that I do, which makes it hard for me to trust them to value their life as much as I value mine. Before I had kids, I was a less careful driver. Not saying you are less of a human than me because you don’t have a family, just that I don’t want to put my life in someone else’s hands. (Yes, I know this sounds nutty.)
- Don’t expect me to party with you after the show. You might want to go out and drink with some people afterwards. That is cool, but I’m not going to drive you. I’ve been in this biz for almost 2 decades and I value my license to much to spend a lot of it drunk driving. I’m not perfect on this front, but I can only think of handful of times where I’ve been dumb enough to risk my career over this.
- Now let’s get to your comedy ability. I want someone I have immense respect for as a comic. I want them to be original. I want to bring people who I feel have the potential to be headliners. Some comics like to bring an opener who doesn’t do that well, so they can look better. Not me. I want someone who is really funny, as my goal is to part of the best Overall show a comedy club will see for the year. Part of what makes it a great show is some diversity. So I don’t want to follow an act who is really similar to me. I would rather have someone who is a little less edgy, a little less likely to improv with the audience, and a comic who has a different comedy viewpoint than me.
So these are the factors that go into what I look for in my opening act. I don’t have these factors broken down into some kind of mathematical formula, but I will say that the comedy part is number 1. The person that fits these characteristics the most for me currently is an Indy-based comic named Jeff Oskay. He is a great guy who is fun to travel with and most importantly, I like his act so much I usually watch most of it before I hit the stage, even though I’ve worked with him many times.
I have plenty of comics who ask me after just one gig together about wanting me take them out on the road more. That just isn’t going to happen. Now if you live close to me, I’m a little more likely to consider it. I have plenty of friends who are good comics, but when they live 5 hours away from me, it just doesn’t make as much financial sense. Now here is an idea for some comics who would like to work with me. Find me a couple gigs and then I will be way more likely to help you. A couple of comics have done this for me and since they went out of their way for me, I was much more likely to return the favor. If I can’t make it work in regards to a roadtrip, I would definitely be more likely to say a good word in your regards with some booking agent.
Being a comic is such a narcissistic thing to do in the first place, so of course, it is a profession filled with self-absorbed people. Unless you are a singularly talented person, you might want to consider being a little more giving back to your fellow comics. It blows me away that so often, I will say something positive to a comic I’ve never worked with before and they never give me any of that love back. I’m not expecting a circle jerk of kudos, but it wouldn’t hurt to find something positive to say about my show. Outside of a handful people, I have a very good reputation among other comics as being a good dude. I have cultivated that over the years, as it’s important to me to be respected as a person who is ethical in this business. That would be as good of advice as any I could give to younger comics reading this.
FINAL NOTE: I was a feature act for a few years and I tried to be as positive and accommodating to the headliners as I could be. I never wanted them to give me a bad report to the booking agent. Now, I did try to blow a few of them out of the water when I was on-stage, so I know there are times when we had an uncomfortable moment or two, but I never disrespected them off-stage. It is a competitive business, which is why I don’t begrudge anyone who slams it out in front of me. Just don’t be an asshole off-stage.