If you’d like to book a comedian for your private party, we’d all like to work for you.
I’m going to talk about you (a person, not a company*) dealing directly (no agent**) with comedians who are not “off the telly”.
For “not ‘off the telly'” read: professional (it’s our full-time job), utterly dependable, only as good as our last gig and ferociously caring about our next gig, where we will have no celebrity status to paper over any gaps in our performance. If we mess up, it’s rare and accidental, to the point where risk is negligible.
This is is not a “how to”, just some things to bear in mind.
Like many things, if you pay more, you get more. I’m biased, so I’m going to say spend the most you can.
Here’s some info so you can gauge if you’re paying the right kind of more. This is for the UK, by the way.
Comedians who are making a living (because they are dependable, among other things) are getting around £240 for a set (very often with accommodation thrown in) on the weekends generally. Some will be able to do more than one gig in a night at this rate. I don’t think I’m giving away any trade secrets here.
If you’re offering £300, you are roughly on a level playing field with a comedy promoter who has a nice venue and a spotlight and people sitting in rows expecting to watch comedy. And the promise of more work to come. Regular comedy clubs are paying our rent, we love them. We all have to look after our regular clients.
Your function will be harder to play than a regular comedy club. The result of offering £300 or below on the weekend is that it’s a real payday for someone with less experience. That’s what you might get.
This is a very rough rule of thumb. You could pay less than this and get someone newer who happens to be magic on the night. You could also get someone dependable for that money, but other factors come into it. (Eg. How much travel involved for the comedian.)
Also, I’m writing in March 2015, before the inevitable zombie apocalypse. You’ll probably be able to hire all comedians for a bag of toenail clippings by the end of the year. If you haven’t already spent them.
Please don’t think I’m setting a price for anyone. Geek out on it, if you’re serious. We are too. Watch comedy, read forums, get involved. The best way to choose a comedian for your party is to see them a few times, see what they’re capable of in different contexts.
If you don’t have the time to invest, another way to see if you’re getting a professional is to see which clubs they are playing. (Not how often they’re playing, but the kind of venue.)
There’s loads more to say on this, (eg. night of the week affecting price, how to run things on the night, the benefits of getting a third party involved to run the show…) I’ll do more on this in future, but ask away in the meantime.
*If you have a corporate chequebook, spend a boatload of cash. On non-famous people. You’ll be patronising the arts and making us all better people. It’s the one noble thing you can do with your life.
**My advice, don’t try and bypass an agent. Breaking trust right away is a bad note to start on. If there’s an agent, deal with them and trust that they’re worth the extra. I think they charge 15% on top, generally. You can still use the info here, but factor in the extra.