How to Choose a Comedian
1. COMMON SENSE: Like choosing other Professionals, selecting a Comedian or humorous speaker is left to your common sense. You may discover that the performer has been "doing humor" for over 20 years (but maybe your program is the performer’s first professional engagement). The promotional material you received are top-notch (but maybe the comic/speaker has a good "day job" and can afford a slick press kit). The Entertainer may belong to an impressive association (but this may only mean that he/she paid the required dues). On the other hand, these three credentials may belong to a highly qualified professional Entertainer. Consider many of the items which follow, ask questions and use your best judgment!
2. COMEDIAN VERSUS HUMORIST: Generally speaking, a Comedian is an entertainer who delivers jokes. The humor comes at a fast pace, often two set-up lines followed by a punch line. The humorous speaker (humorist), on the other hand, is someone who probably delivers humor with a message: Story, relevant point, story, relevant point. There are many varied styles between total comic and straight motivational humorist. Humorists may ask you what percentage of humor versus motivational content you desire for your program. Comedians and humorists can provide great value. You first need to decide what your needs are.
3. FEES: There is normally a correlation between a performer’s fee and the quality of the program. You would never think that a £3000 Car might be similar to a £30,000 Car. Just the same, you wouldn’t think that a £500 comic/humorist might be similar to one who charges £5000. You normally get what you pay for. And consider this: You often pay many times more for the meal than for the Entertainer (on a per capita basis), when in fact the evening's program is probably far more important than the meal. Consider the true value-per-person-attending when deciding on your entertainment investment.
4. PROMOTIONAL MATERIALS: A good way to select an Entertainer is to request a press kit from everyone you’re considering and compare them. Normally, the more professional the press kit, the more professional the Entertainer. Press kits may include brochures, photo, articles, testimonials, client listings and more. The more professional the performer, the more likely that a press kit will be available.
5. TESTIMONIALS: testimonials may give you an indication of quality. You could ask for the names and phone numbers of three recent clients (who had the kind of program you need). Call them and ask questions. Read between the lines and listen for genuine enthusiasm in their voice when talking about their experience with the performer.
6. AUDIO AND VIDEO TAPES: Most professional comedians/humorists have demonstration tapes, either audio or video. The audio or video tape will never be YOUR exact program, but watch the tape for genuine audience response and performing style. Look for a demonstration tape before a live audience with no canned laughter.
7. VIEW A PERFORMANCE: It might be possible to watch the performer in a live performance before hiring. Although this is often not possible, you could ask. Most performers will not "audition" for a single-date performance, but you might be able to attend someone else's program.
8. PERFORMER’S EXPERIENCE: How long has the performer been entertaining? Does the comedian/humorist entertain full-time (earning a living as a performer) or part-time (with a full-time day job)? These considerations may or may not have a great impact on the quality of the performance.
9. CLEAN MATERIAL: You may be concerned about the "G-rated" nature of the material. Talk to the performer about your concerns about program content (sexual, bodily function, racial or religious jokes, for example).
10. CUSTOMIZATION: While talking with the Performer, you may get a feel for the customization skills of the entertainer. What kind of questions is the performer asking YOU about the audience? Is the comedian/humorist wanting you to provide "inside information" about the audience in advance of the program? Not every act needs customization but some performers specialize in adding this personal touch.
11. MEETING ROOM SETUP: Ask the performer what you will need to provide at the meeting venue: Risers/platform, Sound System, Lighting, projection equipment Etc. Many Entertainers will not speak from behind a lectern but prefer having an open platform from which to perform. Ensure that someone else, a Band for example, does not set up in the space reserved for the comedian/humorist. Beware of tall Centrepieces (Balloons for example) as they will block the view of many in the audience.
12. AGENT AND BUREAUS: Using an agent or Speakers bureau will normally ensure that you get a quality program. Agents and bureaus will not take a risk on a questionable, non-proven performer. In essence they screen the performers for you. Using a speakers bureau will not normally cost you more. The comedian/humorist normally pays the bureau's fee out of the normal fee charged. Using an agent's services may cost you more (this varies from agent to agent), but may be worth it for the piece of mind.
13. GUARANTEES: You will probably not see the word "guarantee" on the entertainer's promotional material. Will they guarantee your satisfaction? You could ask them. For the true professional a guarantee is a no-risk proposition.