Congratulations! You’re a Feature now!
You’ve climbed your way up the comedy ladder all the way to feature comedian, a choice spot in stand-up comedy where you get to perform 25-30 minutes of comedy before the headliner takes the stage! Great work, amigo! But don’t get cocky. There’s a lot of great feature acts out there, mostly in the form of sad, mid-western men living out of their cars, and if you want to compete with these men, you’re going to have to beat them at their own game. With that in mind, I’ve compiled the following advice based off of what I’ve witnessed from the many features that have crossed my path.
By sticking to this Feature’s Bible, and never, ever straying from the path – especially not to write new material – you’ll be able to feature deep into your fifties, hell maybe even into your sixties, with a routine you can set your watch to, provided you don’t have to eventually sell your watch to pay alimony. Which you will.
GREEN ROOM DECORUM
1. It’s important to make a good first impression with who ever you’re opening for. You want the headliner to know that even though you’re opening for him or her, you’re no slouch yourself. Time for a power move. TAKE OVER THE GREEN ROOM. Show up hours before the headliner arrives and just throw your shit everywhere. Unpack your suitcase, hang up your “show shirts,” plug in multiple devices, start ordering baskets of fried food early, and just stack those motherfuckers up. Like a dog marking his territory, staking your claim on the green room will show the headliner, the MC, and any guest spots that happen to drop by on the weekend, that this is your domain. Make them respect and understand that. Whose house?! FEATURE’S HOUSE!
2. As the opening act and the de facto right-hand man of the headliner all weekend long, it’s important not to be dull. Within seconds of meeting the headliner be sure to tell them a bit more about your self. Give them a narrative. Perhaps you’ve had recent legal troubles, perhaps you are recently divorced, perhaps you have gambling debts, let everyone know this early and often, and keep this as a through-line throughout the weekend. Have daily updates about this ongoing struggle.
Is your wife still a bitch? Does that booker still owe you money? Are you becoming slightly paranoid and wondering if the manager of the current club you are working has said anything to the headliner about your performance?
Get these thoughts out there! These are storytellers you are working with, after all, they love stories! Oh and be sure to be seen crying at least once in the greenroom over the course of the weekend. Let’s them know your heart is in the game.
3. Name drop. Relentlessly. Yeah, they’re a headliner, but you’ve worked with two guys who are Bob & Tom regulars. Be sure they know that. And talk about bookers a lot. Guys that book clubs, guys that book one-nighters. Bring them up constantly. Ask everyone if they’ve worked those rooms. If they haven’t tell them a story about the time that you worked that room. How you killed. How you banged a waitress that worked there. How the booker screwed you out of money. How you’re not allowed back in Idaho. That way they can benefit from your vast experience and will be able to imagine what it is like to actually work there.
1. Fuck the MC. This can’t be stressed enough. Most often he’s some dumb kid who’s just started getting regular work at the club. Fuck that. You’re the feature. Take a shot at him. If he looks weird, tell the audience how he looks weird. Point out how he looks like Harry Potter or some shit. Some hip reference to show that you get it. Tell the crowd that dumb kid probably likes Mighty Morphin Power Rangers or some shit, some old reference that they’ll have to cock their heads like confused dogs to remember. What a dumb asshole, that MC. Who does he think he is? The feature? No. He’s not the feature. YOU’RE THE FUCKING FEATURE. He’s the MC. Remind him of that constantly. Put that little asshole in his place.
2. Crowd work. You’ve only got twenty-five minutes up there, why only tell jokes in that time? The club wants to see that you know how to abandon script and just clumsily talk to an audience. GO. FOR. IT. If anyone looks strange or fat or non status quo, for Christ’s sake, let him or her know that! It’s what everyone is thinking. You’re the only one with the balls to say it. SO SAY IT.
3. With regard to material it’s wide open but there are some topics you’re going to need to hit. If you’re married be sure to talk about how you hate your wife, how your wife ruined your life, how she got fat, how she stood in the way of your comedy dreams – be sure to not mention that she’s at home with the kids while you make $600 for four days works chasing your dream. They don’t need to know that. That’s your artistic liberty.
4. Say a joke that’s really racist against black people – something about them stealing or being lazy. Then say you’re “just kidding.” Mention how you love black people, how you wish you could be black. Point out a black person in the crowd and say how cool they are, it’s all good. Right, homey? Talk black to them. Show the audience it’s all good. Say another joke that’s really racist against black people. Callback.
5. If you’re black, point out how lame and white the audience is. Mention how they can’t believe they stumbled into a show where a black guy is on stage! Use a lame, white voice when you pretend to be them. Gee whiz! Honey, hold on to your purse! Mention something about black guys having huge dicks. Try not to picture old photographs of civil rights leaders while you do this. They have no place here.
6. If a punchline doesn’t work, try yelling it again a second time. If that doesn’t work, point out how something is wrong with the audience for not laughing at that punchline. Resume crowd work. Callback.
7. Lastly, don’t be a woman. Ever.
1. This first bit of advice should probably go into “The Act” section, as technically it should be executed during the on-stage performance, but I will offer it up here, for the utmost of merchandising clarity. After all, merch is your payday; it’s important not to fuck around. Spend the last three to five minutes of your set painstakingly explaining the merchandise you will be selling after the show. This is your one shot to talk directly to the audience, might as well unfurl the wares. Hold that T-shirt up, show the entire audience exactly what they could be lucky enough to own a mere forty-seven minutes from now, reassure them that yes, you do have size XXL. Also, as your merchandise is usually seven to nine years old, and thus relevant to jokes from that era, this is your one chance to explain your merchandise as more often that not, it will have nothing to do with your act. Explain it!
2. Well then! What to sell? Sky is the limit, my friend! The only limitation is your imagination, which very often is an enormous limitation so let me save you some time: stick to drinking, drugs and tits. You’ve got some clever puns you’ve strung together? Awesome. Sell that shit to @midnight you fucking hipster. THIS IS ABOUT MOVING PRODUCT. Think everyman. Some actual T-shirts that I have seen include:
– Professional Motor Boater
– Professional Boob Inspector
– I Know Your Eyes Are Up There, I’m Looking At Your Tits
– Volunteer Breast Cancer Detector
That last shirt was actually sold by a guy who claimed that he was raising money for Susan G. Komen, and that a portion of the proceeds we’re going to raise funds for breast cancer awareness. When I asked him about the details of his philanthropy, he became nervous and paranoid and stammered some murky explanation that made the whole thing seem more suspect and sketchy. Haha, whatever bro, who gives a shit?! Sell some pink wristbands too! Move that merch! Life on the road!
Koozies are popular! They’re cheap, easy-to-print, and top sellers. Why not have several options of koozies as well? People snatch ‘em up! Some actual beer koozies that I have seen include:
– BAC – Blood Awesome Content
– I’m Not Drunk, Officer. I’m High.
– a koozie that just looked like the label of a prescription bottle
– a koozie featuring the American Flag
– a koozie featuring the Confederate flag
– Professional Motor Boater
– Professional Boob Inspector
– a koozie that just had a huge set of tits on it
MAKE IT SOMETHING UNIQUE TO YOU AND SIT BACK AND COLLECT THE BIG BUCKS!!!
But don’t put out an album that you recorded or anything. No one buy’s CD’s anymore. Besides, bro, your sets are like Buddhist sand paintings. Ephemeral. To be experienced once and then scattered to the wind. Fuck posterity. This is art.
Oh, that reminds me!
– a koozie with a picture of dead Osama Bin Laden!
Well sir (definitely never madam), looks like you’re ready to go out there and feature! Enjoy yourself! Enjoy Indianapolis, Lancaster and Ypsilanti! Enjoy the ride because it will all be over soon. One day, before you know it, you’ll be ready to headline! And that particular position comes with it’s own set of rules to play (Hint: never tip the wait staff for the food and drinks your taking out of the kitchen; you’re working, they’re working, why would you tip? You don’t tip your co-workers, do you? Don’t be an asshole.)
Until then, go out and feature young man (never woman), the comedy world is yours for the taking!
Oh, almost forgot! At the end of the weekend, after the last tab has been collected and the merch is all boxed up, don’t forget to corner the headliner! Ask him to vouch for you at a pre-prepared list of clubs you’ve written out. If he’s non-committal really hold him to the fire. Ask him when, specifically you and him will be working together and what club he is doing next and if he will insist that you open for him. You’ve gotten to know each other over the last few days, he won’t mind. He gets it. This shit is dog-eat-dog, bro. Wait, dog-eat-dog, that’s actually pretty funny. Or what about, eat-dog-eat?! Like as a name for a Chinese restaurant. Hahaha, a Chinese Restaurant called, “Eat Dog Eat?!” That’s fucking hilarious! There’s definitely something there, man. Put it in the act!