In stand-up comedy as opposed to traditional theater, differences occur not only in performance style and telling jokes, but in also what are different performance situations. Theater audiences in voyeur mode, sit in relative silence, while comedy club audiences can be a bit more engaging with the performers onstage. But a common notion that stand-up comics are spontaneous in their performances as opposed to actors who must closely follow a script might not quite be the case.

Although many professional comics alter their acts on a regular basis and often make jokes off the tops of their heads, a good portion of what makes up their show is tightly scripted.

The Catch-22 of getting paying comedy jobs is that in order to work you need to be good, but in order to be good, you need to work. And since a club owner is always looking to fill seats every time the club opens its doors for a performance to justify the cost of an event, if not to make money overall, it certainly helps if the comic has a following which can be a matter of passing around a mailing list at club dates, using the media to generate press coverage, and/or networking and winning awards.

There are places you can perform while you are developing your act, self-starting strategies to create work, and places to perform where you will get paid.

Places to Perform when Starting Out

When starting out, comics perform wherever they can. Places you can perform in while you are developing your act include amateur nights, where a great majority of stand-up comics begin their careers sometimes performing for weeks, months or even years.

At the beginning of your career, you will most likely not be performing under conditions you have control over. In comedy clubs, the choice spots are usually reserved for the pros, and the up and coming are relegated to the graveyard shift. Often, you will be performing at 1:00 a.m. Under these circumstances, you have to make adjustments. Other performance venues can include:

  • Performing in parks and on sidewalks
  • fundraisers and benefit shows
  • comedy festivals
  • television appearances
  • comedy night at local hotel
  • roasts
  • creating your own events


Video as a Tool to Land Work

Get a video of yourself performing in front of an audience. The tape should be no longer than 20 minutes. Put your best jokes first , and stay away from filler, such as "Where are you from". Don’t edit the tape. The club owner wants to see exactly how you work with an audience without any special video effects.


The Right Pictures

You also need an 8 x 10 glossy black-and-white picture of yourself. A simple headshot on a white background will do. A club owner wants a face shot because the newspapers are more likely to print that for publicity than an out-of-the-ordinary kind of picture.


Agents who Handle Comics

Admire Presentations, Inc.
170 West 76 Street, Suite 101
New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-580-4128

APA (Agency for the Performing Arts)
888 Seventh Avenue
New York, NY 10023
Phone: 212-582-1500

APA (Agency for the Performing Arts)
9000 Sunset Boulevard, 12 Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Phone: 213-582-1500

Ambassador Artists
P.O. Box 50358
Nashville, TN 37205
Phone: 615-352-2500

Arne Brav Associates
1143 Arno Road
Franklin, TN 37064
Phone: 615-791-1213

Banner Artists International
1650 Broadway, Suite 508
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-581-6900

Bernie Young Agency
6006 Greenbelt Road, Suite 285
Greenbelt, MD 20770
Phone: 301-937-2600

Bill Feggan Attractions
131 North Second Street
Raton, NM 87740
Phone: 505-445-5528

The Blade Agency
P.O. Box 1556
Gainesville, FL 32602
Phone: 352-372-8158

Buddy Lee Attractions
38 Music Square East, Suite 300
Nashville, TN 37203
Phone: 615-244-4336

Celebrity International
1020 16 Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
Phone: 615-259-3400

Coconuts Comedy Productions
12016 Lagoon Lane
Treasure Island, FL 33706
Phone: 813-360-7935

Comedy Connection
3004 Semmes Avenue
Richmond, VA 23225
Phone: 804-232-3181

Comedy Line Productions
2378 Calvin Extension, #4
Tonawanda, NY 14150
Phone: 716-822-4356

Comedy West
1206 Mill Creek Boulevard, C-201
Mill Creek, WA 98012
Phone: 206-485-4674

CAA (Creative Artists Agency)
1888 Century Park East, Suite 1400
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Phone: 213-277-4545

Creative Booking Service
5009 Monroe Road, Suite 103
Charlotte, NC 28205
Phone: 704-532-1980

Creative Talent Consultants
333 North Broadway, Suite 3011
Jericho, NY 11753
Phone: 516-433-6588

Lil Cumber Attractions
6515 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 300A
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 213-469-1919

Dana Pennington Associates
8721 Santa Monica Boulevard
West Hollywood, CA 90069
Phone: 213-850-1909

DCA Productions
437 West 44 Street
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-245-2063

DMR Booking Agency
The Galleries of Syracuse, Suite 250
Syracuse, NY 13202
Phone: 315-475-2500

Eastcoast Entertainment (ATL)
1780 Century Circle
Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404-634-0016

The Entertainment Connection
401 Pennsylvania Parkway, Suite 104
Indianapolis, IN 46280
Phone: 317-575-5777

Entertainment United
64 Division Avenue
Levittown, NY 11756
Phone: 516-735-5550

Fireball Entertainment
P.O. Box 1769
New York, NY 10025
Phone: 212-666-6881

Fleming/Tamulevich and Associates
733-735 North Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48114
Phone: 313-995-9066

Funny Bone On Tour
734 Westport Plaza, Suite 275
St. Louis, MO 63146
Phone: 817-265-2277

Funny Business Agency (Canada)
1280 Bay Street
Toronto Ontario
Canada, M5R3LI

Funny Business Agency
4519 Cascade Road
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
Phone: 616-949-7387

G.G. Greg Agency
1288 East 168 Street
Cleveland, OH 44110
Phone: 216-692-1193

Gary Grant Talent Associates
P.O. Box 928
Port Washington, NY 11050
Phone: 516-744-9547

Gersh Agency
P.O. Box 5617
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: 213-274-6611

The Gilchrist Agency
310 Madison Avenue, Suite 1003
New York, NY 10017
Phone: 212-692-9166

Greater Talent Network
150 Fifth Avenue, Suite 1002
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212-645-4200

Hollander-Lustig Entertainment
321 North Lake Boulevard, Suite 103
North Palm Beach, FL 33408
Phone: 407-863-5800

ICM (International Creative Management)
40 West 57 Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-556-5600

ICM (International Creative Management)
40 West 57 Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-556-5600

In-June Talent
1800 North Highland Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 213-465-9135

Irvin Arthur Associates
9363 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 212
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Phone: 213-278-5934

Jackman & Taussig
1815 Butler Avenue, Suite 120
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: 213-478-6641

The Joey Edmonds Agency
2669 North Building
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: 312-871-1444

Just for Laughs Agency
22 Miller Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Phone: 415-383-4746

Knapp Comedy Promotions
P.O. Box 838
Highland Park, IL 60035
Phone: 708-433-8669

William Morris Agency
1350 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-586-5100

William Morris Agency
151 El Camino Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: 213-274-7451

NY Entertainment
221 West 57 Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-586-1000

223 Jericho Turnpike, Suite 200
Mineola, NY 11501-1606
Phone: 516-248-4019

10700 Ventura Boulevard, Suite C
Studio City, CA 91604
Phone: 818-980-9267

Prime Time Entertainment
2 Crow Canyon Court, Suite 210
San Ramon, CA 94583
Phone: 415-820-2379

Progressive Artists
Beverly Hills, CA
Phone: 213-553-8561

Pyramid Entertainment Group
89 Fifth Avenue, 7 Fl.
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212-242-7274

QBO Entertainment
48 East 50 Street, 4 Fl.
New York, NY 10022
Phone: 212-752-8040

Radioactive Talent
476 Elmont Road
Elmont, NY 11003
Phone: 516-315-1919

Rick Morgan Entertainment
132 Norwalk Avenue
Medford, NY 11763
Phone: 516-654-0507

Roger Paul Agency
581 Ninth Avenue, Suite 3C
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-268-0005

The Snikkers Agency
1905 Powers Ferry Road, Suite 240
Marietta, GA 30067
Phone: 404-971-9292; 404-935-3633

Spencer-De Francis
P.O. Box 5946
Denver, CO 82017
Phone: 303-279-4310

Spotlite Enterprises, Ltd.
221 West 57 Street
New York, NY 10019
Phone: 212-586-6750

Spotlite Enterprises, Ltd.
8665 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 208
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
Phone: 213-657-8004

The Stephen Gingold Agency
245 El Camino Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: 212-557-1021

Terry Lichtman Company
12456 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91604
Phone: 818-761-4804

T.H.E. Agency
Tracy Hubley Entertainment
125 South Clark Drive, #3
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Phone: 213-550-1125

Treehouse Comedy Productions
354 Connecticut Avenue
Norwalk, CT 06854
Phone: 203-855-9910

Triad Artists, Inc.
10100 Santa Monica Boulevard, 16 Fl.
Los Angeles, CA 90067
Phone: 213-556-2727

TSM Artista Management
P.O. Box 4129
Louisville, KY 40204
Phone: 502-459-5532

Turner Talent Network
8940 North Malibu Drive
Bayside, WI 53217
Phone: 414-351-0060

Yvette Bikoff Agency
9255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 510
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Phone: 213-278-7490




The Paying Gigs

Comedy Clubs

Terms to Know

Afterpiece. In eighteenth-century London theatres, a short comedy performed after a five-act tragedy, providing comic relief for the audience.

Billing. The size of an actor’s role such as starring or guest starring. Also, where the actor’s name will be placed in the credits and if the name will be shown on the screen alone or with others.

Booker. An agency employee who sets appointments for talent/models.

Double-take. An exaggerated facial response to another actor’s words or actions, usually used for comic effect.

Laugh Track. The laughter of a live audience of a situation comedy or other television show that actors are performing in front of, that is recorded to be played back when the show is aired..

Mimicry. An actor’s ability to sound and/or look like someone else, usually a famous person.

Self-Contained Artist. An artist who writes and performs his or her own material. Also refers to artists who require no production or personnel assistance from promoters.

For a full glossary listing click here

The best place to start a comedy career is at your local comedy club. In nearly every city there is a comedy club. Usually, these clubs book three acts a week. In most clubs, the opener gets 10-20 minutes; the middle gets 20-30 minutes, and the closer gets 35-60 minutes. Most clubs have at least one night a week for newcomers, and very often the opening act is booked from these slots. After gathering at least 20 minutes of solid material on video, try to make a connection with the booker by phone or by letter before mailing your tape.

It is not necessary to have been on television to get booked into a comedy club. But don’t expect a lot to happen, and tapes are not usually returned. Club owners on average get a hundred calls a day and 60 tapes a week. Avoid performing at the top comedy clubs until you have really developed your act. Producers and directors are always in the audience in the major clubs in Los Angeles and/or New York, and first impressions are lasting. If you are from a small town, stay there until you are ready. Chicago, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia are good comedy workshop towns where you hone your skills.


A comic who has 60 minutes of jokes that are clean material, and has an act that appeals to college students can earn decent dollars in the college market, even with no television exposure. College bookings are organized by the National Association for Campus Activities (NACA). Each year NACA sponsors 11 regional conventions and one national convention that is held in February.

At these conventions, comics showcase 20 minutes of their act before a group of 400 to 2,000 students who are directly responsible for booking you. At the showcase, all performers’ prices are set and made available to the buyers before the convention. In the Exhibit Hall each agency maintains a booth with publicity, prices, and availability of the acts they represent.

The best way to participate in the college market is to submit a 20-minute video of your act to the NACA selection committee through a college agent. This videotape needs to show how good you are, what you can do, and how well you appeal to the college audience, and it needs to do all of this in three minutes because that is they can be expected to view each tape.

A comic can choose to be self-represented at a NACA convention but would have to contend with the expense involved in maintaining a presence there. Not only do you have the expense of airfare and hotel, but you have the added expense of developing quality promotional materials and maintaining a booth in the Exhibit Hall. According to NACA, acts that have representation have a much better success rate than of self-represented acts. College agents usually charge 20 percent.

Most college agents will ask you to submit current press materials (8 x 10 glossies, resume, bio, clippings) and a video. The college market is good to approach when you have an hour of clean material that appeals to college students (material on cafeteria food, fraternities, teachers, dorms, etc.). If you do manage to get a gig before you are ready and you don’t deliver, it could mean a bad first impression. Also, know that there is a tremendous amount of travel involved.


Corporate enterprises will hire comics to entertain at their meetings or conventions, but they are known to be careful when making a selection. Most companies do not want to risk hiring anyone too controversial. A comic in this field needs to have 40-60 minutes of material that has good jokes with a broad appeal.

Cruise Ships

Certain agents book comics exclusively on cruise ships, although many ships prefer to book the comic directly. In order to be considered to work cruise ships, you need to have three different 20-minute sets of clean, non-controversial material. You need to have three different sets because on a ship the audience stays the same. Generally, a comic will only work a few nights a week on a ship. To apply, you send the cruise ship company a videotape with two totally different 25-minute sets.

Hotels, Casinos, Concerts

Most of the big rooms in hotels and casinos are reserved for comedy’s brightest stars. But it does happen that a newcomer opens for a headliner and ends up playing some of the bigger rooms.


At some point in their career, most comics will get at least one opportunity to be looked at by a TV show’s bookers. Naturally, to heighten your chances of landing the gig, you should have acquired a good amount of experience in the field before presenting your material at an audition. Doing your act on television can be a very different experience from the clubs. In most TV studios, the studio audience is far away from you, and sometimes there is no audience at all. In this case, a comic needs to know how to relate to a TV camera - possibly leading to training for television acting.

Star Search

TV’s Star Search is a talent showcase that will book a comic without an agent or union card. If you would like to be considered for Star Search, send in a tape that is over 5 minutes long, but less than 30. They will look at all tapes. Sometimes Star Search will book comics from audio tapes, sight unseen, as well as from auditions across the country, even in small-town comedy clubs. They usually will take a club owner’s suggestions.

Getting Cast in TV and Film by Doing Stand-up

Casting directors and network casting executives all go to stand-up clubs to discover talent. But just because comics do well in stand-up doesn’t mean that they will know what to do when they walk into a casting director’s office and are handed a script to read. Rule of thumb guidelines that can aid a stand-up comic at a reading include the following:

  • Don’t do your act in an office, but invite the director to come down and see your show the next time you are performing. Stand-up belongs onstage, in front of an audience, not in front of a desk;
  • Take acting classes to enhance or amplify whatever it is about you that piques the interest of casting directors;
  • Send postcards/ecards to casting directors to notify them where and when you are playing. Casting directors want to find new talent. They always want to be the one who discovers a new talent and so they are very responsive. If the casting director cannot go, possibly someone from the office will be sent.


Relevant Associations & Organizations

Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities (APCA)
P.O. Box 4340
Sevierville TN 37862
Phone: 800-681-5031
The APCA is a national campus buyers organization that holds showcases and supplies entertainment information to campus talent buyers throughout the United States.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
9255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 930
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Phone: 310-274-0628
Fax: 310-274-5063
Trade association composed of approximately 100 agency companies engaged in the talent agency business. The membership includes agencies of all sizes representing clients in the motion picture industry, stage, television, radio (including commercials), and literary work.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Bob Hope Hollywood USO at LAX
Los Angeles Inter. Airport Center
203 World Way West, Suite 200
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Phone: 310-645-3716/202-610-5700
Fax: 310-645-0317
The USO (United Service Organizations) is chartered by Congress as a non-profit charitable corporation, it is not a part of the United States Government. The USO mission is to provide morale, welfare, and recreation-type services to uniformed military Personnel.
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

National Association for Campus Activities (NACA)
13 Harbison Way
Columbia, South Carolina 29212
Phone: 803-732-6222
Toll-Free: 800-845-2338
NACA has evolved into the nation’s largest collegiate organization for campus activities with nearly 1,200 member colleges and universities, and more than 600 associate member talent agencies, performers, and product specialty firms working in the college market.
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For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here