flappersWe had our combined showcase this Thursday at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, for our Beginning/Advanced comedy class.

The bill was filled with 18 comedians ready to hit the stage to showcase. That’s a lot of comedians for one show, but to top it off we had to complete the show in a timely manner, because we had to clear the mainroom to let it get set for the late show.

Talk about pressure! Mix in with that the fact that I had a baby-sitter fall through and had to miss the show and you’ve got a tough beginning to an evening that had its obstacles.

Then the comedians, many of them doing a showcase for the very first time arrived to the club to discover that their time had been cut back from seven minutes to six. It can be stressful for a comedian to have to suddenly cut their time, especially for a newbie.

But the show went on and as I hear it (I can’t wait to get the video), and the show was great. Everyone did their best and had good sets. The show ended on time–for the most part… and, despite the stress of time-cuts, nobody died from a brain aneurism or anything like that.

Getting your time cut is commonplace in this business. I have a friend, Don Richardson, a professional comedian for 25 years, a regular at the Comedy Store. Don’s a real pro with real world experience who possesses a very good reputation…

One night he showed up at the Comedy Store for his scheduled 10pm set. As Don arrived at the Comedy Store he checked the list and there were 8 comedians that still needed to go on.  Just then, Andrew Dice Clay took the stage in the Original Room in a surprise appearance. Dice decided to do an hour and a half. By the time Dice finished, it was 11 o’clock and with the 8 comics still remaining.

Don knew he probably wasn’t going to get on that night.

I asked him how he felt about that. He said, “In this business, these things happen. You’ve got to learned to roll with the punches., It could be worse. I could be punching a clock. 

So there’s a great lesson to be learned here. That lesson is this: from the best laid scenarios to the worst planned events, comedians have to learn to be able to adjust to the show. A comedian is a rare person. They not only can make an audience of strangers laugh, they can do it under circumstances that are not always ideal.

We learn as comedians to take these things in stride. For some of you this may the first time something like this happened, but I assure you that if you continue in the comedy business it won’t be the last. Having your time cut short is a common thing to deal with in this business called show business. It’s so common, it becomes part of your craft.

You might be a solo act on stage as a comedian or a duo, or whatever, but in the total scheme you’ve got to be a utility man, you’ve got to be the guy or guys (and I say that not to leave out girls, but because of language limitation), who can roll with the punches and rise to the occasion under any circumstances.

On one hand as a comedy student, you prepared for a seven minute act. On the other hand you learned an advanced lesson and you’ve had real-world comedy experience, just like Don Richardson.

Have you encountered a similar situation? Or have a war story? Share it!

Jerry Corley
Jerry Corley

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian of nearly 30 years, working nearly every venue imaginable.

    5 replies to "Comedy Class | Getting Your Time Cut"

    • Laura Richter

      I was there as one of the comedians. I was grateful it wasn’t my first time on stage and immediately looked for stuff I could cut from my set. Knowing my material was key. I could drop a bit and no one else would know. I found it exhilarating.

    • Ramsey Omery

      George Carlin found playing the Ed Sullivan Show nervewracking because every comedian got their time cut on his show. It was always “the monkey act ran a little long, we’ll need you to go from 3 to 2 minutes”. It’s all good. I look forward to the tape too.

    • Michael Gabriel

      If you are dealing with overcoming stage fright and learning the proper techniques for speaking into a hand held microphone, being told at the last minute that your time has been cut, without a doubt sounds like it has the potential to be a real panic inducing moment.. BUT… if you know your material well and practice your set while recording it, so you know exactly how long each bit takes, then it seems like it shouldn’t be a problem. If you were a magician and each card trick took one minute to perform and you were told your time was cut from 7 minutes to 5, you would take a second to decide which 2 tricks to cut and that would be that. No big deal. One more example of “if you do your homework”, things will go more smoothly. DISCLAIMER: This is just how it seems to me and while I don’t have tons of experience, I think it makes sense… but then again I thought Milli Vanilli were good singers.

    • Trish Rodolff

      That last line made me snort the iced coffee I’m drinking. 🙂

    • Chris Cady

      What a great site and resource for comedians.

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