How to Sell Out Your Improv Show or Sketch Show, Part 2

Last week, Improv Nerd director Sam Bowers shared some of his best advice for how you can sell out your improv show or sketch show. He should know. Sam recently co-produced the first-ever 24 Hour Sketch Comedy Competition at The Second City, which played to an oversold crowd.

You can read the first five tips here. And lucky for us, Sam had so many great tips that we couldn’t include them all in one blog. So we saved five more tips to share them with you this week. We hope this inspires you to get your next show off the ground and in front of an audience!

  1. Be Original
    Fresh ideas are increasingly difficult to come by in our continued improv-explosion, but a sharp one can draw an audience. I was incredibly interested in iO’s show “Improvised Jay Leno’s Garage.” I couldn’t possibly fathom how that was going to work because I’d never seen anything like it, so I bought a ticket and went. Create a truly original idea and people will come.
  1. Provide An Incentive For Performers To Bring Crowds
    This was our most successful tactic in selling out the 24 Hour Sketch Comedy Competition, and also the model for the ever-successful “Cagematch” format. We created an incentive for the performers to bring as many audience members as possible because the audience would vote on which team was best. Essentially, their chances of winning were going to be higher if they brought more people.
  1. Create Stakes
    Remember The Hunger Games, where audiences ravenously watched as the tributes competed for their literal lives? While I don’t recommend forcing improvisers to fight to the death (actually how Second City runs their general auditions), creating stakes will make people more excited to see your show. For the 24HSCC, we required all teams to pay $50 up front to register. This meant teams were literally staking cash on their hopes to win the contest, with the winner taking home $250 in cash prizes. With real money on the line, audiences were attracted to the risk.
  1. Target an Audience
    Creating a show for a specific audience will inevitably yield higher ticket sales, particularly from people you may not already know (REAL HUMANS???). The Annoyance Theater famously rose to prominence thanks to several signature shows in the late ’80s/early ’90s, including The Real Life Brady Bunch. As one of the most successful TV shows of the ’70s, fans of The Brady Bunch turned out in droves to watch this cast of comic misfits perform word-for-word reenactments of episodes (cast members such as Steve Carell, Jane Lynch, and Susan Messing didn’t hurt either). What fervent fandoms exist and how can you make a show about them?
  1. Take Care of the Audience
    ComedySportz founder Dick Chudnow talks of seeing a stand-up comedian rip into an audience member several decades ago, causing that person to leave the show in tears. Dick’s belief was that this person would probably never go to another comedy show again because of how traumatic it may have been. Instead, Dick created a show that seeks to protect the audience from beginning to end. I apply this philosophy to every show I produce by respecting my audience with regards to the content presented on stage, as well as with the high production value of the work. My co-producer, Griffin Griggs, and I hand-selected teams we believed would produce good work. We provided these teams with enough time to actually write and rehearse a quality piece of material, including giving them a tech rehearsal and a chance to smooth out their performance.With me directing the 24HSCC from the booth and Griffin hosting from the stage, we were able to ensure the flow of energy was effortless and smooth, allowing the audience to enjoy the show without ever being taken out of the experience. We made sure the audience felt like the priority, and that’s the kind of treatment that spreads by word of mouth.(Photo courtesy of Dave Audino, DEA Photo and Film)

Hurry! Don’t miss your chance to study with Jimmy Carrane this summer. Sign up for one of his three weekend summer intensives July 14-15, July 28-29 or Aug. 11-12. The early bird deadline ends June 30!