Saturday, 24 September 2011

One Man Show

At some point a comedian will have the opportunity to stage a one man show. This could be at The Edinburgh Fringe, a local festival or every few months at a night they have a hand in running, just because. It is useful to have a one man show under your belt, as it looks good on paper to yourself and the festival organisers who are chasing eventual funding (of which you will see precisely none of).
There are a few different ways to approach putting on a show of your own.

1. Pick n Mix - There is an established “headline” act, the title of the evening is that of the headliner’s show, however, there are two or more other “support” acts on before him. This is often to allow someone who hasn’t got an awful lot of experience to later say that they’ve done “a festival” or taken part in it, neglecting to mention they were actually a support act and squandered a twenty minute spot when they can just about fill five competently. The headline act can then usually do well under an hour of his own stuff and hope that the audience doesn’t notice that it isn’t actually a “show” after all, more of a gig with his mates, regardless of whether or not they compliment each other’s styles.

2. Free For All - This approach is at least more honest than the above one. A group of comics come together to put a show on. Usually performing 20-30 minutes each throughout the evening. Again, a credit is taken for doing the festival and also neglecting to mention that they did a bog-standard performance of material you would have seen anywhere else they perform anyway, calling into question why they bothered even doing it in the first place beyond satisfying their own selfdom.

3. "Serious Art" - Billing your show as “Theatre / Experimental / Niche / Etc” gives you a large advantage at a cost. The downside is that you can’t say you had a “comedy show”.  The advantage being that you will attract the type of crowd that approaches everything ever so earnestly - it’s unlikely that they will offer any sort of direct criticism, because as an art/theatre show, it’s up to "each person’s perspective". Thus your show will rarely be described as “unfunny”, because it’s art. As a result, very little effort needs to be applied in this format. Throw in a poem, song or interpretive dance somewhere during the hour and you’re set. More people will promote and discuss your show because it wasn’t billed as a comedy show, yet it made em laugh! Thus it’s much better than any actual comedy show!

    Once you’ve decided on your format, all that you need is a show name, your blurb and a photo. The show’s name should reflect what sort of material or themes you may be touching on, but that doesn’t necessarily apply here. Any old thing will do. It doesn’t really need to make a lot of sense, because chances are you haven’t worked awfully hard on constructing a cogent theme throughout anyway.

    Example of a bad poster
    Much of your comedian’s blurb can do for the show’s blurb, as it’s (mostly) you they’re coming to see. Make sure to turn up the bullshit factor to 11 though, as you’re probably competing with other comics around the same time. Paraphrase quotes from newspapers about gigs you’ve done, even if it’s a quote you originally gave them about yourself at one point. Use the same techniques you used coming up with your original blurb. The more hyperbole the better, usually.

    For your show’s photo/poster, try to find either the tackiest, nausea-inducing font/colour combination you can get, or the shoddiest, MS Paint style production values and share them everywhere. If possible, make it a chore to figure out what’s going on in the flyer, so punters actually feel obligated to go to it because they spent around a minute and a half figuring out why your face is on a poster.

    And there we have it! A sure-fire guide to setting up your one man show! Always remember to promise more than you can deliver and MAKE ‘EM LAUGH!

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