The Things I Expect Out of an Opening Act

My theory is more comedy clubs would have greater success if the servers looked like this.

Sometimes I will have an opening act ask me if I have anything I don’t want them to do.  I appreciate when they ask, but I always just offer up 2 things. Do your time and Do your act.

Do you time means if you are supposed to do 30 minutes, be around 28-32 minutes. I would rather you go a couple minutes short than a couple minutes late.  Recently I mentioned I had an act who did 10 minutes short. If I would have directly followed him I can’t say I would have even been in the room, as I might have been getting my merchandise together, getting a drink from the bar, taking a dump, who knows.  Going short happens way less often, then going long, though. If you want to piss me off, go 40 minutes or more when you are supposed to go between 30-35 minutes.  If you want to prove you are a headliner, kick ass during the time you are supposed to. I don’t care how good you do, if you go long, you will get no positive comments from me to the booking agent. I totally get that you want my position, I had that attitude, as well, but it doesn’t mean I wasn’t professional.

Comedy clubs will give you a light to comics, which is a big help in doing the right amount of time. Some comics just never see the light and keeping trucking. I’ve been next to managers doing everything but shining a lighthouse ray into the on-stage acts eyes and they still make no acknowledgment they are being lit. No excuse for this, as if you can’t see a light from the back of the room, then you need to set your cellphone alarm.  I’m not perfect on the subject of going long, but I can count on one hand the times that I have made this mistake. All of them happened when I asked for the club to give me a 5 minute light and it was never given. Here is my favorite story.

I was at Crackers Comedy Club Downtown about a decade ago when I decided to do a last minute fill-in as the clubs MC.  Since I played the club a lot, the manager was a friend. Well, I did about 22 minutes the first set of the week, which was not good since I was supposed to do 15.  I never got my 5 minute light, but hadn’t MC’d in a few years so I continued until I knew I must have filled my time and then brought up the middle act. The headliner that week, the very funny John Bowman (opens for Lewis Black now) was livid. John is known for snapping on-stage, which he was doing off-stage too. The club manager told me that when I went long, she had told John that Scott is used to going longer so he should probably just do 40 minutes this week. Oh My Lord, I wish I could have seen Bowman’s face when she offered up this. After the show, I went up to John and apologized, told him I didn’t get my light and I would go no longer than 15 the rest of the week.

DO YOUR ACT: I’m not the comedy police, but I do have a good memory for comedy bits. I’m happy to say that I don’t see too many comics ripping off other comics.  It does happen occasionally, though. My favorite story on this subject was when I was doing a one-nighter where the manager asked if a local guy could do a guest set between me and the opening act. Not my favorite set-up, as I want to follow the opening act who is going to be funnier, but not much any of us can do about this.  So the local guy gets up and starts doing his act which seems really well-written, but also seems really rehearsed.  Then it dawns on me that this young, hetero guy is doing Ellen DeGeneres standup, word for word.  Here’s the best part of this story, he was eating shit with it, as he had no timing.

Here is my other story on someone hacking another comic. I was doing a terrible corporate event by a shady booking agent in Arkansas. Usually corporate events have just one comic, but I guess the booking agent thought he could promise them more for their money, so he had this guy I had never heard of open the show.  This guy gets up and proceeds to do a comic named Tommy Johnagin’s act. Once again, the thief wasn’t living up to the material. Here was the best part for me. I’m good friends with Tommy. After the show I told the guy his material was really good.  Something about it reminded me of my good friend Tommy Johnagin’s show. The thief very uncomfortably responded that Tommy was really good.  I just left it there, got my check, and left.  I think I made my point and I’ve never seen or heard of this guy again. He definitely didn’t finish second on Last Comic Standing like my friend, Tommy.

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