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The Unprofessional Comedian: Don’t Be “That Guy”

I have been in comedy for over three years and one thing irks me every time I encounter it: lack of professionalism.

You never really get used to unprofessional behavior. Perhaps you figure out how to deal with certain things that arise, but it will always be a surprise the levels that lack of professionalism can take you.

Comedy tends to be an industry where at the surface, it seems like it’s all fun and games; however, the business of comedy definitely has no room for unwarranted funny business.

Like the rest of the entertainment industry, a lot of work goes into the production of a comedy club show, stand-up special, and a short video; your lack of professionalism can potentially cost you work and opportunities to be seen without you even realizing it.

Here’s some things NOT to do while building your career as a stand-up comedian.

Show up late to a gig

Every industry will tell you the same thing: TIME IS MONEY. If someone takes the time to book you for a gig, it’s common courtesy to be present and on time. Plain and simple.

Production never stops and if someone tells you a specific time and place to be, there is always a reason behind it.

Let’s say you booked a part on a comedy sketch that’s set to launch on YouTube next month. The production booked a space to film and you’re an hour late or you don’t show. The production either has to extend the time for booking the space (more money) or they have to rebook altogether and likely have to pay for the time they had already reserved.

Chances are if either happens they won’t be using you and will move forward with the project without you.

Especially as you build your career to becoming the professional comic you want to be, you have to make it clear that you are easy to work with and tardiness will leave a lasting negative impression on those around you.

Conduct yourself poorly on social media

This one can be a little tricky because social media is at its most basic level a place where you can vent your thoughts and interact with others. At least for “normal” people that is true, but for comics, you have to treat social media as an extension of your overall business to successfully build your brand.

It’s perfectly fine if you want to test out a punchline or share an opinion on a social matter, but keep in mind social media inadvertently causes us to be watched constantly. Too many times I have seen comics further push the boundaries of acceptable behavior on social media: starting social media fights, posting highly insensitive jokes at the wrong time, joining groups and annoying other users to a point where they get banned, etc.

Sure, this is funny, but in the wrong way and people will begin to take you less seriously over time.

Make no mistake that people pick up on negative social media behaviors and unfortunately everything sticks. This might make them laugh a little bit, but a poor social media image will likely make many productions less inclined to book you for work.

Copy the ideas of others

In comedy, copying can be done in many ways. The most obvious way of doing this is stealing a joke.

Copying can also play out with differing productions. Perhaps you found out someone is producing a show with a cool, fresh concept and you think “I can do that too.” Or you start following a production and make it a point to produce at every venue they have shows.

Piggybacking off of someone else’s ideas is no way to run a production and people in the community notice. If you’re going to do something similar, ensure that you do it better because many will notice when you put the work and effort into an idea and when it has glaring similarities to others.

It’s cool to use others’ ideas for inspiration, but a blatant copy will never bode well.

When it boils down to it, you need to treat your comedy career just as that: a career. Take it seriously and treat everything as business and you’ll see a difference in how many opportunities come your way.

Have any thoughts on professionalism as a comedian? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!

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