Booking A Comedian For Your Private Party

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.



“I’ve started several businesses. Maybe 17 have failed out of 20. I fail quickly. I fail frequently. Entrepreneurship is a sentence of failures punctuated by brief success.”

The words of a successful/unsuccessful entrepreneur.

It makes me think of joke writing. For “business”, substitute “joke”.

A good stand-up show is all your successes in one place.

With stand-up and entrepreneurship, the trick is to find ways to fail that mean you can keep playing the game.


Should We Tell The Truth?

I got into show business because I hate the honest, ugly, savage, truth of waking up human, knowing that one day that I won’t wake up and those days or moments before that last sentient moment will probably be quite tricky.

The only solution to living with this painful reality is love*, a practice that’s not always easy, which takes a lifetime of work, vigilance and bravery to acquire the capacity to do it.

Of course, love is an end in itself, and the solution to the human condition and so on, but we’re all really busy at “work” due to everybody’s “love” of certain other ideas.

There you go. Truth in three paragraphs, whenever you need them.

Now bring on the lies of authors, songwriters, storytellers! I need a rest!

What’s that? All of a sudden, I’m hearing: Great writing tells the truth. Great fiction tells the truth. Great art tells the truth.

Truth, truth, truth, truth, truth. Ugh.

Surely all this truth needs breaking up with a dick joke once in a while?

Just saying, if you’re now thinking of a rude joke and smiling, treasure that feeling.

My work here is done.

*I’m not being touchy-feely. This is the scholarly definition of love, put forward by Erich Fromm in The Art Of Loving.


I’m A Nobody. Good!

Hey there. You might be reading this because you know me, or you saw me at a gig, or Google made a mistake, or we’re family, but let’s face it…

I’m a nobody. Good.

Adolf Hitler. Jimmy Savile. Jeremy Clarkson. If history teaches us anything, it’s that Somebodies are the problem. They should probably be banned.

If you’re a somebody and you’re reading this, sorry but it’s not for you.

What’s great about my story is that it’s not: I was a nobody, then through persistence, I met Bill Gates in a lift, convinced him to fund me, and now I own an island. That’s the blog post a Somebody would write.

What’s great about my story is that it’s this: I was a nobody, then through persistence (and luck*), I found a way to do what I love most days of my life. And I’m still a nobody. And there are others like me. Isn’t that great?

If I can do it with all my nobody-ness – you can, too.

Have you heard of the post-industrial economy? In short, it’s this. You’re fired.

I’m hearing the smart people say that it’s becoming vital to figure out how to make it without institutions.

So. I’ll try and be as honest as possible about my experiences here, and maybe you can take something from them. Or add to them. You should ask if you want to know something specific. And take it with a grain of salt**.

*I will be publishing a definitive “how-to” guide about luck tomorrow.

**I will be publishing a definitive “how-to” guide about truth the day after***.

***I don’t even know if I’m telling the truth in this last footnote.

Update. I thought it was more important to do the truth post first. So these footnotes are a bit of a massaging of truth. I think this might be irony.



Just me, but I think we’re all anarchists, in that we hate being told what to do, but we’re also all masochists, in that we wish somebody would make things easy for us, and tell us what to do.

Total freedom is still scary to us. Mostly, we’re descended from serfs.

Because we hate being told what to do, but also crave being told what to do, we’re always constructing reasons to be obedient where they don’t exist.

Do you want to put your heart and soul into making something? Do you care enough about it to take the hits and get better at what you do?

Then don’t obey your fear of taking a creative risk. That’s an order!


Creativity vs Dependability

Sometimes life’s confusing.

The world wants you to be as reliable as an assembly line worker, but with the flair of an artist.

Best I can offer today – Ernest Hemingway*:

“Write drunk, edit sober.”

*(Shhh. Let’s just enjoy the quote before we start worrying that Hemingway never actually said this.

There seems to be a debate about where the exact line came from. I’m not seeing a solid conclusion.

Maybe the moral is: “Write drunk, edit drunk, do your tags sober.”)


The Fourth Wall Is There For Your Safety And Mine

Between an audience and a performer there is the invisible fourth wall.

A difference between most performance and stand-up is that comedians “don’t have” the fourth wall. Or so it needs to seem.

Just my take, but I wouldn’t worry too much about “breaking” the wall.

There are all kinds of way successful comics out there, from the ultra who-are-you-what-do-you-do? types to the the tightly scripted one-liner merchants and there’s a place for them all.

People come to know you through what you’ve created. That’s intimate enough.

I reckon even the comedians that get audience members up on stage to dance/answer questions/pick a card haven’t broken the wall. It’s still a show, there’s still a wall, and those punters just became props.

I say pick your own relationship with the wall. For me it’s more of a serving hatch.

The diners can come into the kitchen if they like, but the stuff that’s relevant to them is coming through the hatch.