Building Your Following: A Comedy Necessity
In every industry, a solid following is necessary to steadily grow your brand. Whether you are standing on a stage telling jokes or selling ready-to-drink cocktails, your following is essential for you to gain and understand.
Having a following promotes certain advantages against those who don’t have a following: credibility, more opportunities, an enhanced image, etc.
In entertainment, comedy especially, your following can mean the difference between you getting booked and not getting booked. Comedians are different to other visible professions like an actor where a following isn’t always as imperative to get your foot into a real industry door. For example, not everyone who goes to see Hamilton knows the actors, they are often just mistyfied by the Hamilton production.
With comedy, it’s different. Who is on the lineup matters to a club because they cannot just rely on the club name to put asses in seats. The names you attach to a show have to be alluring as well and this is why comedians (new and seasoned) always find themselves either being rejected by clubs or hearing no response at all. If you don’t present a following for the club to see as potential money source, then it doesn’t matter.
So how does one actually build a following? It’s not an easy feat, but here are some solid tips to help get you started.
Understand yourself as a brand first.
I primarily analyze comedy brands from the comics we use on our Gotham show. It’s one thing to look at already established talent, but that show for me is a clear indicator of who will make it in stand-up. While we do use new and professional talent, it’s a real test for who can rise above whatever is thrown at them on a live club show.
Several of the comics we have worked with are very aware of their comedy brands whether it’s the uber-bro, the rage filled Jersey girl, or the neurotic hot mess. These comics are not only aware of their brand, but they commit wholeheartedly to what they are selling.
I point out these types of comics because it’s much easier to gain a following when you know exactly what you are selling. Too often I see comedians (new and seasoned) not be specific enough in their identity as a comedian to the point where it comes off as scattered. It’s okay to try new things, but for the most part lack of consistently will either make it harder to build your following or attract a following that is inconsistent. Once you know your brand you will know who you appeal to and who you can target as your main audience.
Focus on quality over quantity.
Just like your stand-up where the amount of quality jokes is much more important than the amount of actual jokes you have, the same pertains to your following. It’s the quality over quantity theory that focuses on your quality followers being your most valued customers.
Your quality followers are the ones who will like and re-share your social media posts, they’ll come to see a show because you are on a lineup, or they’ll watch your NetFlix special or spot on late night.
When it comes to getting paid and giving the opportunity for much desired visibility, every comedy business entity looks at these factors whether it’s a network or a comedy club. They need to see that your brand actually makes your followers act.
Keep in mind that the necessity for a quality following changes as your career progresses. In the beginning of your comedy career no one expects you to have a massive following and they won’t believe that just because a ton of friends will watch you at a bringer show that you have an edge over others for real industry opportunities. A quality following takes time to build and quick success is often a futile effort in this industry.
Take an active role in building your following.
This is critical and it’s very common for comics to get lazy with this part, but you have to get out there and you have to be active when it comes to building your following. There’s various ways to do this: social media, networking, or even having your own projects.
It’s not enough to just rely on your comedy to bring you all your followers; it takes both talent and business savvy to solidify real followers and gain real opportunities.
Keep in mind that a following is something you build over time. No one ever started comedy and had a massive following overnight and you shouldn’t expect that either.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!