Thursday, January 1, 2009

Why should we come to your show?

One thing I know for sure at this, the start of 2009: I’m no longer qualified to write about “the state of the scene.”

It’s just too big and there’s too much I haven’t seen. I’ve never seen Hype7 outside of the festival, or been to most of the new shows out at Roving Imp. I’ve never watched CounterClockwise Comedy roast a movie. I’ll have to miss FFC’s 10th anniversary show because I’ve got a Tantrum show Friday and Fakers are competing in Thunderdome on Saturday. I haven’t seen Stitch-Tactics or Holy Cow or Those People.

And I want to see all of them, eventually. But figuring out which ones to make priorities can be tough, in large part because of a pattern I’m noticing in some of the newer troupes: the clever-but-vague listing or press release. A couple of smart-ass remarks, a brief description (short-form, long-form, sketch) and maybe a hint about the cast (newest! biggest! mix-and-matchiest!).

Not. Enough.

Civilians don’t know what the hell short- and long-form are—and no, adding “fast-paced” and “Chicago-style” don’t help. If you want to stand out in listings or blurbs or on websites, you have to help audience members pick what show they’re going to see. How do you make it sound more fun or interesting than all of their other choices—improv and otherwise?

Our community is growing exponentially. You used to be guaranteed to pick up at least half a dozen hard-core improvisers just by doing a show. But now there’s enough going on that even the most supportive/obsessive of us have to pick and choose. Many of us know each other—and most of the players I know choose to see their friends or the shows/performers they hear getting talked up.

What are the “can’t miss” performances? Which troupes consistently deliver the funny—so you can take civilian friends and be pretty sure they’ll be converted to fans? Who’s doing new, fresh, innovative work? Which performers always bring their A games and show you how it’s done? Why is it worth my $5/7/10?

Based on the standard journalistic questions, here’s the bare minimum you should include in every full-length post or press release:
  • What: What formats are you doing? How do they work? What’s your comedic style?
  • Where: We usually get this one OK. But are there venue details that would help sell the show? 
  • When: Again, we do OK with this. Next step: How do you make the timing important or add a sense of urgency? 
  • Who: Who’s in your cast? Where do they come from, if it’s relevant? Why are they worth seeing? What makes your troupe special?
  • Why: Here’s where we really fall down. What’s the real reason I should come see your show? Why is it worth my time and money? Why shouldn’t I miss it? Why is it better than anything else I might see that night.
  • How: How do I reserve tickets? Can I pay with a credit card? Where do I go to learn more? we want to see your troupe play this year? I don’t know. You tell us.


  1. Chicago-style is the one with the thick crust, right?

    I'm in improv now. I know shit.

  2. Yes. And clearly. Also, do not try to fold it when you eat it.


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