When you’ve been doing stand-up for a little while, maybe 6 months to a year you will start to hear a lot of talk about bringer shows. But what are they, should you do them and what are some of the important things to know? Basically a bringer show is a show where you get to perform in exchange for bringing a certain amount of guests. They are mainly offered to newer comics as a way for the club to bring in more guests. In theory they serve as vehicles to give you more stage time at real clubs with actual pro comics, but you have to be careful which ones you select. There are some great opportunities with low bringer requirements that are actually quality shows. There are also bringer shows with outrageous minimums and ticket prices that feature shows that are way too long with nothing but amateur comedians Sometimes the producers of bringer shows can be very deceptive. They will make promises that aren’t true like saying you will be seen by the club booker or that industry will be present. Whenever I see someone advertising a show where “industry” will be present I am fairly skeptical.
If you do decide to do a bringer show you should do your research. It is possible to find bringer shows that require 2-3 guests and actually have decent lineups. I would talk to other comedians at your level and slightly above and ask them about their experiences with bringer shows. This way you can start to separate the good from the bad. The first bringer show that I did required I bring 5 people which is not horrendous. Each one of my guests had to pay $25 for tickets and buy two drinks which is a bit pricey. There were 25 comedians on the show and none of them were any good. I believe I went up 22nd. I was so embarrassed. I made my friends and family sit through a three hour awful show to watch me do five minutes of tired comedy. After that you can imagine their hesitancy to come and watch me do another show. You need to be strategic with your friends and invite them to the right shows. They are an important ally and support system to consider when making your initial comedy decisions.
I think when you are new you should at least do one bringer show but do not make a habit of doing them. The club and the producers are trying to make money and will just you as a way to profit off your friends. If you do a bringer show have a reason for doing it. Maybe you’re auditioning for the club at a legitimate place. Maybe you want to get a professional quality tape of your performance and the club is promising that. Maybe you’ve never done a show before and you want to see how you fare with a real audience. Whatever it is have a plan and be skeptical of what the producer is telling you. Again I think it’s really important to talk to other comics that have done the specific bringer show you are considering. This will provide you with valuable information and help you to better navigate the community. Ideally you want to find a show that your guests will enjoy. They are there to support you but you want them to have a good time as well. It is important not to burn out your friends support.
Overall every comedian has to take their own path. You learn from your mistakes and experiences which is another reason I think you should at least do one bringer show. Make sure you actually meet the requirements that are agreed upon with the club and try to be as professional as possible. Reputation is important in comedy so try to be professional and courteous. In general if a producer is reaching out to you as a completely new comic that should raise some questions. Do you really think that your open mic performance is so good that someone of interest has actually heard of you? In reality it’s much more likely that you are just a number, a cog in some producers well oiled exploiting machine and you are being taken advantage of. Be professional and do your best but don’t be afraid to fail. If you think you are being taken advantage of or you’re on a shit show consider not doing it. No matter what a producer says to you about the show you can always say no. They’re not going to damage your career. If anything doing too many bringer shows will be more damaging. They may talk a big game but most of the people producing bringer shows are pretty low on the comedy food chain.