"I'll need some promo...."You can always tell the professionalism and length of time a person has been doing comedy by their promotional materials. I'm not talking website, or burned DVD they sell from the stage of open mics and such. I'm talking the Big 3. The press kit: Head shot, Bio and Video clip. The Holy Trinity of what every booking agent and club owner asks for when considering an act for an emcee spot at Captain Billy's Humor Ship or Chuckle Bunnies weekend headliner. Promo. A press kit. An EPK. Whatever. It's what a booker needs. And more often than not, these are also the 3 things, if not done properly, can snuff out your dream of road glory. Screw up this first (or more often than not, second) impression and you will fall into the limbo of unanswered calls and emails. Get it right and...well...chances are, the above still applies, but possibly with a bit less frequency.
Used to be a lot harder. Back in the olden days (cue violin music) one would have to run to Kinkos and print out multiple paper copies of bios and press clippings. Put these in a big envelope with some 8x10 black and white glossies and a VHS tape with your best 10 minutes (clean) that you had to tape at a particular showcase because only 2 of your friends actually had a video camera and one of them was also using it as his video player (mostly for porn). Put all this in a big mailer and send it off to the club/booker/agent at a pretty exorbitant cost. This process was repeated for every gig you wanted. $7 to $10 dollars a pop, if you had to overnight it. And usually the whole package was dropped into a box by a desk with dozens of other like packages. All postmarked dreams next to the desk waiting for the gatekeeper to pull one out, lottery like, and pop in the tape. And if the Comedy Gods were smiling, the phone wouldn't ring, no one would walk into the office to sell cleaning supplies, the wife/husband wouldn't need an errand run and Voila! 2 minutes in, the gatekeeper would chuckle, make a note and you were in the door. Barely. One toe, crammed in the door frame, but in.
Now it is 1000% easier. Everybody has a camera. iPhones can shoot High Definition and 1080 p. Email and EPK's have done away with hard copies for the most part. All of the above can be done from a computer while eating a microwaved burrito wearing only socks. Hungover. Modern technology has made sending promo as easy as surfing for 3 girls 1 guy porn while streaming Pandora. With all this extra time and ease, one would think that up and coming performers would have more time to polish the elements of their promo. One would think. But I can't count the number of times I have asked for promo from someone looking for work (or more likely received it unasked from a complete stranger who heard I booked a room) and received a mish mash of crap that a drunk capuchin monkey could do better. So, in the interest of sharing and hopefully affecting some positive change, lets break down each area and some common mistakes...
Bio:Yes, you are a unique and interesting snowflake. Your life's history is a page turning adventure chock full of love and loss and redemption. And...no one cares. Nope. So you stepped on stage by accident and had a magical epiphany that led you to quit your day job at the Burger Barn and pursue a life of jest, funny and frolic. So what. Save it for the stage. Maybe. If it is funny. Point is, a booker has a million bios to read and limited time to do it. Keep it short. 4 or 5 lines, tops. A little about yourself, some (real) experience and a nice little wrap up. That's it. Not a laundry list of unknown venues or student films. No childhood stories. And for Zeus's sake, DO NOT PAD YOUR RESUME! Yes...you did 3 minutes at the Melrose Improv for a midnight showcase. That stays out. Unless you were booked and paid by the establishment, do not include it. This industry is not as big and spread out as you think. People talk. References are checked. Lying = Deleted.
Headshot:Look at you, all wacky and stuff...hanging on some monkey bars holding a plastic carp and making googly eyes. Hahaha....you so cray! Save that crap for Facebook. Make it your profile pic, if need be, but do not send that as a headshot. A headshot can be an image of your personality, but err on the side of professional. 8x10. Color. Not a snapshot a friend took of you on stage. And definitely not a low rez, 80 dpi GIF. Make it print quality. 300 dpi. JPEG preferably. Most bookers will forward these to the club to print out, so unless you want to look like Super Mario circa 1988, all pixilated and such, take the time, make the effort and spend the money to get professional shots done. And don't make those duck lips, fer Chrissakes.
Video:This is where so many dreams of comedy nirvana come to a screeching halt. And usually it takes less than a minute. That's right. Again...a booking agent has limited time and the attention span of an ADD guppy. If the video doesn't grab them right away, or if it creates skin crawling disgust in that same time period, say buh bye to work. And by grab them right away, I'm not talking gimmicks or shock. The tape should be well lit, in what looks like an actual comedy environment. There is a story about an agent that got a tape from a guy who did his whole set in his garage with an audience of mannequins. And sucked. Even if they could have, the dummies wouldn't have laughed. Film somewhere you'd want your family to see you. And keep it relatively clean. NO "F" BOMBS. I get it. You're edgy, man. You're a rebel and you're going to do your thing...to hell with the system! Well....not if you want work. Until you are having your agent negotiate your next HBO special, bookers want to see if you can work clean. The last thing they need is some Stanhope wannabee spewing malice for 5 minutes in front of their TV clean headliner, Save that for open mic. 10 minutes. At least. And straight through. Do not edit your clip for content. It says to the booker "I can't do 10 minutes straight through and get laughs." An edited tape is as bad as emulating a Tarantino film. Aim for maximum laughs per second and you should be fine.
So there you have it. Now you should have a nice template to use when you are ready to put yourself out on the market. Now go polish that 10 minutes. And mind the light!