Comedy

How to get discovered in comedy: insiders reveal what they look for in new talent

“Own it, know it, deliver it, get discovered.”

“Own it, know it, deliver it, get discovered.”

(CBC)

Ever wondered what it takes to get discovered as a comedian? As part of our series Next Up, Canadian comedy insiders offered CBC Comedy their advice for budding comedians on how to secure gigs and get your start on the comedy scene.

Here are the four main qualities they are looking for in upcoming comedians. 

1. Be experimental

Alt Dot Comedy Lounge in Toronto started in 1996 to provide an alternative to the mainstream, says Lorne Perlmutar, who started the Alt Dot lounge. The Alt Dot helped nurture talent like the legendary sketch troupe The Kids in the Hall, who originally had a show for four years, and famous comedians like Will Ferrell and Tom Green have dropped by to check out talent and do a set.  

These experiences inspired Alt Dot to create a monthly open mic night meant to discover new talent.

"We were trying to give people the ability to explore and be something different" from what they've been doing, says Perlmutar. Since then, he says that alternative comedy has become mainstream: "Headliners are alternative comics now. They weren't as much 20 years ago."

"I'm looking for something that's almost intangible in some ways," says Perlmutar. The main qualities he's looking for are authenticity, likeability, poise, and potential.

2. Be entrepreneurial

Christina Edwards, director of events at Premiere Entertainment Group says the comedians who invest in themselves are the ones who get noticed. 

(CBC)

"The biggest thing every comedian has to do is see themselves as an entrepreneur," says Edwards.

This means selling your talent as your product, and preparing a proper video performance. 

"If you have a strong 10-12 minutes that you want to present to a festival, you need to bring someone in with a camcorder," says Edwards. 

3. Be persistent

Moya Walsh, Producer of Ha!ifax ComedyFest says to keep writing and practicing live, 

"You'll know when it works," says Walsh. "Own it, know it, deliver it, get discovered." 

Kevin Frank, artistic director at Second City Toronto says comedians should not only keep performing and open mics, but also be critical of their performances and make notes to improve.

(CBC)

"Put meaningful time in," says Frank, "How was it compared to the last performance? How different was the audience? Where were you in the time slot… these dynamics help you adjust your material."

4. Learn from other comedians

"I would liken it to an athlete," says Andrew Clark, program director at Humber College Comedy. 

(CBC)

Clark adds that open mic nights are a great place to play, and to see what registers well for other comedians. "In the same way that other pitchers would watch a pitcher… there would be the crowd, and at the back of the room there would be the comedians watching.  They're learning, they're in class."

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