Starting a Comedy Night? Here's recipe for avoiding a pie in the face.
So the thought of hosting a regular comedy night or event has tempted you like the aroma of a pie, wafting from a windowsill? Before you get started, it’s worth 3.14 (recurring) minutes of your time to have a read about comedy, pie puns, and the recipe for success.
Being such a staple of comedy deliciousness 1, we’d like to use the pie as a metaphor for a comedy night itself. So, if you’re considering booking or presenting a night of comedy, or running a regular room at your venue, this may just help you avoid getting egg (custard and cream) on your face.
Cooking up a killer comedy night is all in the preparation. Follow this recipe and you’ll start enjoying the sort of reviews usually reserved for Michelin star rated restaurants.
You’ll need a pie tin (stage), heat source (spotlight), pie-announcer (microphone, mixing desk and speakers), and enough chairs to comfortably fit the widening waistlines of your pie-loving audience.
When selecting your ‘ingredients’ it’s worth finding out about their quality. Are they fresh or vintage? Can they tie a show together as an MC2? Add a powerful punch at the end as a headliner3? Or just add a sprinkle of entry-level4 variety to the night?
Choosing your comedians; this is where you can add some creative flair, provided you understand the basic recipe.
Choose wisely: the comedians and format you decide on for your event will affect the end result.
The secret, often forgotten ingredient, is a tech. In most cases, they’re the person who will set up the sound system, control for the variance in volume across the night, and play music to bring the acts on or across a drinks break. They may not be in the spotlight, but a good tech makes for a seamless, professional night. A night without a tech is like a pie without a crust: ugly.
Double check your lighting and tech at least 30 minutes before doors open, if the MC is there get their feedback too. No sound, no show.
Discuss proceedings with your MC run the night, who will be responsible for introducing each comedian. Organise a suitable running order.
Be clear about how much time to allot to each act. Five minutes for beginners, ten minutes and up for more established comics. Usually a flashlight signal from your tech will be useful sign for them get off stage in time.
Make sure you have the bar staff available for pre-show drinks and intermission. While service can continue throughout the night, try to eliminate the noise of blender and shaker drinks, if people are set on ordering an Apple Pie cocktail.
Sharing the recipe
While you may be aiming to be competing in a professional baking contest, it’s worth noting that well-run ‘open mic’ nights are fun, and can benefit the homegrown comedy scene.
If you’re planning to attract a crowd of pie-lovers, just be honest about what you’ve got for them. Don’t tell them it’s a gourmet, top-of-the line product if it’s actually an amatuer bake-off. Your audience won’t be back for seconds.
Thinking of giving away free pie?
Look, free samples are nice. But if you decide to give away all your tickets for nothing, usually people will not expect much. It makes the other offerings look unfairly expensive by comparison, and a bunch of people might walk out halfway through their comedy meal because they haven’t invested in it. What a waste of good pastry.
A benchmark entry price is $5. If you feel weird about charging, make the attendance fee part of a drink or meal deal. Consider serving actual pie.
Never charge the baker for making the pie.
Comics spend years crafting jokes, and for many it is their actual living. I don’t think there’s a person alive who’d be happy to pay to go to work. But many of the comedians will be working the stage for less than an hourly wage. So asking your comics to pay to perform is an automatic no no. There is no pie joke here. We are serious. This will poison everyone and they will die.
Bake it with love.
But perhaps, most importantly, bake it with love. Unless you have a big TV name or a really hot selling pie it’s hard to have a huge profit margin on tickets, but they do make a lot of people very happy. And happy people buy more bevvys, and even sometimes, pie. When a night is made right, you can smile at your full register and know that it’s not a half-baked night.
Clarifications in article
1 Pies in the face have been a part of comedy since there were pies and faces. Borrowed from touring clowning and theatre routines, the first filmed pie-in-the-face gag was first seen in the 1909 silent film Mr. Flip. It later became a staple of comedy shorts, featuring in works starring comedy greats Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy and The Three Stooges. Now, those guys were the kings of pastry buffoonery.
2 MC - The Master of Ceremonies is an experienced comedian, in control of acts, and helping to adjust the energy of the night where needed. They are the conduit for the crowd.
Headliner - Usually a paid performer, capable of performing a solid act of anywhere from 10-minutes to an hour.
4 Entry level/Open mic - A less experienced comedian, usually with a routine of 5 or 10-minutes max. Still refining their act, they may be used to getting paid in beer or vouchers.