Have you ever thought about opening a comedy club, but don’t know where to begin? Most people naively think that you need a good comedian to draw audiences, but really you need good audiences to draw good comedians. There are many common missteps and uncertainties along the path to making your club a staple of your city and have it operating profitably. Where some stray from the path, hold close these suggestions, for they will keep you on the road to success
First, what most people don’t realize about comedy clubs is that they don’t open huge. Since all you need for a comedy club is a stage, a microphone, a bar, and an audience, its easy to arrange a comedy “room” inside an existing bar or nightclub. This simple fact is great for someone just starting out: the start up costs are low as are the risks. You wont have to spend big bucks a new big screen television, or a fancy complicated sound system. Depending on the size of your city and the loyalty of your audience, your club might only have one performance a week.
Sometimes the population inst too familiar with live comedy, they have yet to experience the contagious laughter in the crowd and the unique experience of a talented comedian entertaining them. Make no mistake, live comedy is an outstanding form of entertainment that will easily spread by word. After attending a show people will tell their friends what a great time they had at the club. Who wouldn’t want to have fun at a fresh new venue in town?
As your audience grows and so does your budget, you can expand your schedule, and even look towards moving into your own building. This strategy has guided many of the most successful comedy club owners across the country, and a modest start can turn into a spectacular establishment. You’ll be amazed as you watch your business swell with interest and income as word of mouth draws more and more patrons.
But there are other ways, among others:
Explore the Need
Before you even initiate working on the idea of starting a comedy club, you must explore if it is actually needed in the area where you plan to start it. Research if there are similar clubs in the area. Understand how they are doing business, the rates of their tickets, what is it that they lack and excel at. It may so happen that the other clubs may not be offering quality food with entertainment. So along with interesting acts, you can try to work on the food aspect to make your club stand out. Also, if you find that there are too many comedy clubs in your desired area, it is best to think of some other location, where the competition will be less and response will be more.
Make a Business Plan
It is advisable that you make proper business plan in order to implement idea professionally. Visualize what you want for your comedy club; this may include its show timings, frequency of acts, location, decor, drinks, food, seating arrangement, ticket prices, comedians, staff, salaries and marketing. You will also have to look into the legal formalities of starting comedy club like applying for a permit to offer live entertainment, business license, tax identification number and liquor license.
If you do not have sufficient funds to start a comedy club on your own, you can start one in a partnership with a restaurant owner. Where the proceeds from the tickets will be yours while those from food and drinks will be his. This arrangement can work well until you have enough funds to shift your comedy club to your own place. Not only will you be able to use the restaurant’s liquor license but you will also save money on the rent, staff, supplies, etc. Some clubs completely eliminate the alcoholic drinks as the liquor license is expensive to acquire while others prefer to maximize their profits by offering them. You can even have a minimum 2 drinks standard or a cover charge which will ensure that you will earn profits through your drinks. Many people are keen for having a record for having tried comedy, so you can have an open mic session for them. You can also have a college night for one of the days. This way you will be giving an opportunity to local talent as well as saving on cost to pay the professional comedians. As there is a risk that hecklers who take the comic lines personally can get frisky, hire security guards for the safety of the comedians as well as the club’s property.
Plan the Budget
Decide a budget for your venture. You may find the burden of cost too much to bear initially; however, try to find a business partner who will be able to provide finance for the comedy club. You will have to decide a budget for everything, right from the rent of the place to salaries of the comedians and other staff. It is important that you take the smallest of expenses into consideration before finalizing the budget. Also, try to make a provision for unforeseen contingencies. Don’t forget to know about taxation and other formalities related to your comedy club.
Scout for a Place
Depending on your requirement, start screening rental commercial properties for your comedy club. Preferably, search for a place which faces less competition from other clubs. It is advisable that you get a location in commercial areas where bars, restaurants, theaters, cafes, pubs and shopping malls are located. This will direct a lot of crowd to your comedy club. Ensure that the site of your comedy club is within the vicinity of public transport. Ensure that you will be able to accommodate the seating arrangements for the decided number of people.
Managing the Club
If you lack managerial experience, the initial days of the comedy club can be quite taxing. However, don’t get daunted by it. You may have to shoulder a wide range of duties. During the day time you will have to ensure that the stock of supplies is updated and the place in clean. During the evening you may even have to host the show or tackle heckling issues. There will be times when you will have to expedite work, make alternate arrangements and make last-minute changes. However, you will get used to handling this with an ease over a period of time. Try to screen the script of the comedians, so you know that any kind of bathroom humor, sexism or racism is not present in the act which will harm the reputation of your club. Ensure that the comedy acts, as well as the food menu, is refreshed every other day to maintain your club’s popularity. Once, your comedy club is appreciated by the patrons there will be no looking back.
Learn from Competition
It will be a very intelligent move to learn a thing or two about the comedy club business from your competitors. Hence, don’t forget to pay them a visit as a member of the audience. Look at the seating arrangement, decor, stage, sound system, type of jokes and food preferences. Also, don’t forget to learn from the mistakes they commit, like delivering the order late at the table or indulging in below-the-belt humor. Try to observe how the show unfolds. I am not suggesting you copy their theme; however, it can definitely inspire you to come up with something better.
Decide the price of the ticket by surveying the prices of the competitors. Ensure that they are not too high. Decide policies for online booking, last-minute booking, cancellation and refund. Try to also facilitate online booking so that people can book a show even if they stay far away. Sometimes, clubs have cover charge and the customers have to buy food or drinks for a particular amount. You can also implement this or any other strategy as per the requirements of your business.
You will require people at the bar, chefs, waiters, ticket givers and collectors. If possible, try to hire people who have a considerable level of experience. You would like to avoid service problems, like mix up of drinks or tasteless food, especially in the initial days when you are trying to build a reputation. If your club is open for a long duration, you may have to hire people to work in shifts. So, keep that in mind.
If you have seen stand-up comedians, they are very spontaneous and quick-witted. They even crack jokes about people in the audience. This kind of interaction is appreciated by the audience. Hence, when taking auditions for the job of stand-up comedians, see that they fit the bill. Try to give an opportunity to the local talent before hiring experienced professionals who will ask for a huge fee. Also, do not hire people who pass nasty and rude comments about the audience, or else, instead of becoming popular, your club’s reputation will suffer. It is advisable that you have a backup comedian, in case the person who is scheduled to perform cannot make it to the club at the decided time.
Plan the decoration of the club based on a theme. It can be anything which will act as a crowd puller. Understand the height of the stage and the number of tables in the area. Ensure that an excellent light and sound system is in place. Try to keep the club well-lit, fragrant, and bright. See to it that there is enough space for the waiters to move around the tables carrying their trays. Ensure that the place is decorated in themes of special occasions, like Halloween, Christmas, 4th of July, etc. Also, make sure that the ambiance is pleasant, and the place is neat and clean.
Have Excellent Acoustics
Ensure that your comedy club has good acoustics and sound system. You may need a live band to accompany your comedian, just to add a bit of extra jazz to the entertainment especially if he plans to sing a comic rendition of a song or decides to break into a dance sequence. Music after comic punches, will also add to the laughter of the audience. Try to have wooden furniture and flooring as it is highly conducive for amplifying sounds of clapping as well as laughter. Try to have minimal soft furnishings and ensure that ceiling is not too high, it will allow the sound to fill in the room. This helps the audience to relax as they will start enjoying the show.
Set Up the Kitchen
Decide what kind of menu you will offer. If you plan to keep special dinner menus only for a few nights, then you may contract a caterer. But if you are planning to have food available every night at the club, it is advisable that you recruit an in-house chef and staff. However, ensure that your food and liquor is up to the mark, and the kitchen adheres to the norms of cleanliness and hygiene.
Get Big, Get Better
Once your business is established, try bringing in big and popular comedians to run house-full shows. Slowly and steadily you can also try to start a chain of comedy clubs across your country and then expand the business in other countries as well. A New York-based parent company of a comedy club booked a huge profit on their initial stock offering, so you can also plan something as big as an IPO. Not only this but you can also earn a lot by creating original video properties for television showcase and also for viewing at home.
Promotion and Marketing
People will only come to your club when they know about it. Have a grand inauguration at the hands of a local celebrity. Try to promote it through social media. Create a page for your comedy club on Facebook, and have an account for it on Twitter. Create a website, through which people will be able to book advance tickets. Keep the website updated with all the information regarding the schedule, menu, as well as the profiles and photos of the comedians. Distribute pamphlets, and try to get the news in local newspapers and websites. If you want, you can also upload a few videos on You Tube. There are chances that your videos will go viral and fetch you a lot of publicity.
Now that you know how to start your own comedy club, don’t forget to do your homework before initiating it. The competition for comedy clubs is growing day by day as the number of people visiting them is increasing. Also, remember that with the advent in social media, people will discuss your club openly on these forums. In fact, there are several websites where people give their views about clubs, restaurants and cafes. This influences the way prospective patrons look at you. So, ensure that the patrons do not have complaints about the quality of the comedy acts or food. Remember, the key to the success of any business is innovation. Give your audiences something new and entertaining every time, and they will surely return to your club for more.