Taryn Ariel works at a world-renowned talent agency in New York City. Drawing upon her experience working in the agency’s comedy department, Taryn shares a series of articles with The Media Chronicles featuring tips and advice for those looking to make it in the competitive comedy industry.
There are so, many different jobs in the comedy industry. You need to learn as much as you can about what people do in each role, so you can make an informed decision and start heading towards your goal (even though inevitably, it never goes as planned).
1. Know a lot about comedy. Go to all kinds of comedy shows. I’m not just talking about Aziz Ansari when he came to your college, or watching Louis CK’s downloadable special. Find out where people put on alternative shows or where comedians go to practice their material at open mic nights at bars.
2. Have opinions. Know what you like, what you think is funny, and what other people like. Know which stand up comedians are better as writers or performers, and who you think would be great on SNL or network television.
3. Network, network, network. Chat with comedians. Chat with the people who run the venues. Chat with the people who you start to see at every show. They likely work in the industry in some way. Take people for drinks and talk to them about their comedy experience. Develop relationships. If people in the comedy world start to know you, they might even start reaching out to you when jobs start to open up. If not, tell them you are looking to get into the comedy business. The fact that you are already out at shows proves your commitment and passion for comedy. People will respond to that! Don’t be afraid to ask your connections to put in a good word for you when something opens up. Someone vouching for you is one of the best ways to get your name to the top of the pile.
4. Start to make things happen for yourself. Start booking a comedy show, even if your first attempts are just all of your friends and family gathered around in the back of a bar. Comedians who are starting out need places to perform materials: give them that place. You can try paying comedians in beer. Comedians have friends, and if they liked performing at your shows, they will bring more people to perform as well. Contact venues, or create an alternative space for comedy. Give yourself an edge or a niche if you want. Have the whole comedy show sit on the floor, including the comic! Once you establish yourself as a show, be it weekly, monthly, or as a podcast, start contacting agents and managers to offer to put their clients on your show. Starting something for yourself is a great way to prove your expertise. If you want to then go to an agency or management company, you can show your skills at selling yourself and your show, which is what a lot of the business comes down to.