I booked a comic for a show and they were a no-show. What should I do about that? How can I prevent that from happening again in the future?
–Booker in Corktown
Comics cancelling is an unfortunate, but regular occurrence when you book a room. There are reasons why this happens and ways to avoid it, but I think it’s best to define the situation of a “no-show.” There’s the no-show, no-call, no advance warning situation and those are rare. Basically, if a comic fails to show up for a paid booking with no advance warning, never book them again. Talk to fellow bookers and comics, tell them your experience and find out who has no-showed for their shows. It’s probably the same comics! They might have some story about travel or a family emergency, but the good guys will make it out, no matter what. Reliability is a key to being a successful stand-up comic, so even one no-show can ruin your reputation and cause you to not get booked. Woody Allen said “99% of being successful is just showing up.”
The other type of “no-show” is where you get some advance warning that the comic can’t make it. That might be due to weather, health, or just a comic getting a better, more lucrative opportunity. These are understandable, and with some notice, you should be able to find a suitable replacement. As any booker will tell you, this type of cancellation — a “fallout” — is a regular part of the business. Again, comics will get a bad reputation for cancelling, even with some warning, so try to use guys with good word-of-mouth about both their acts and their reliability. The good news is that most comics will try to schedule a replacement date if they can’t make it, so at least that makes your job of booking future gigs easier.
If you are booking a showcase or booking headliners for feature money, or if it’s a long drive to a remote location, you may find comics cancelling more often than normal. In that case, raising the comedian’s pay, or providing hotel rooms for the comics can help alleviate this situation.
As the booker, you may find it unprofessional for a comedian to cancel a week out, but if a comic can make twice the money for half the drive, many will take the opportunity to do just that. If you’re worried about this happening, you can also sign a contract with any comedian to guarantee their appearance. This usually involves paying a deposit upfront, but it will go a long way to deter a comic from cancelling.
Joel Fragomeni is a familiar face to anyone who’s ever been to the legendary Mark Ridley’s Comedy Castle in Royal Oak, where he ensures that all of the shows run smoothly. He also teaches the Advanced Comedy Class at the Comedy Castle. For more information, call (248) 542-9900.
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