For a comedian, your standup reel is one of the most important tools you need to book future gigs, whether for comedy clubs or private events. The reel is a comic’s calling card and can open the right doors to the right clubs and auditions. That’s why you need to pay attention to a few very important components so you’ll be taken seriously by those looking to hire you.
Here’s what you need to have for a great standup comedy demo reel.
A True Comedy Venue
To borrow a phrase from the real estate industry, “It’s all about location, location, location.” As a rising comedian, you will perform almost anywhere, and I believe that a comic should record every one of their sets in order to help them grow as a performer. But not every venue is ideal for a demo reel. No matter how funny you, or how funny your family, thought you were when you did five minutes of jokes at the family BBQ, that is definitely not a video that should ever be considered for use as a demo reel.
Ideally, the perfect comedy venue is a comedy club. But if that’s not an option, that’s OK as long as the venue is set up for a standup show with a stage, professional lighting focused on the comic, and a microphone with a good sound system. This could be in a hotel ballroom, a local theater, or a church’s multipurpose center. Anywhere that shows you in a professional light could be considered a “true comedy venue.”
The only reason that you, as a comic, make a reel in the first place is so that the person viewing it wants to hire you. Comedians aren’t cover bands. We don’t get hired to give our best version of other people’s jokes. We get hired based on our ability to make people laugh at our own views and opinions on everything that goes on in the world around us. Comedy bookers are always looking for new acts to bring to their shows so your reel should highlight your unique voice and comedic eye.
Let’s be real: all comics touch on the same topics and have done so for as long as I can remember. But what separates one comic from another is their take on those subjects. If a show producer views your reel then says, “That was hilarious! How did you think of that?” They’re complimenting your originality and creativity. Usually, this is followed by them asking when you are available to perform at their club or event.
A Clean Set
Your standup reel should be your best TV-ready set. This means your best jokes performed with little to no cursing. Now, I’m not telling you what type of comic you should be, but you have to view your reel as your “representative” for a job interview. Most comedy bookers assume that you can and will curse in your act unless you’re a strictly clean comic. What they want to see though is how funny your material is, not how many swear words you know.
Also, you don’t want to limit your job opportunities and comedy clubs aren’t the only places looking to hire comedians. Corporations, churches, event planners, cruise lines, and colleges are always in the market for a good, clean comic. Your reel should show that you can perform for any and every audience.
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I know what you’re thinking, “Well, of course, it’s not a comedy show without the laughs.” And you’re exactly right, which is why the viewer should be able to hear the laughs that your jokes create. The difference between a good show and a great show is the level of laughter. Your reel should always reflect your comedy greatness.
After all, there is truth in the saying, “Laughter is infectious.” If the audience on your reel is cracking up, then most likely the person watching it will fall in line too. Also, it’s better that the booker can see and hear your performance’s effect on an audience so that he or she can feel confident that you’ll do the same to their audience when they book you.
*This post was originally published on Dec. 3, 2019. It has since been updated.
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