« MICF - One final thing... | Main | Up, Up and Segway! »

Comedy Festival - How Do I?









Simon Munnery, in La Concepta & Hats Off to the 101ers.

"You kinda know something about this Comedy Festival thing, right? There are SO many shows! You guys must make a fortune! Who should I go see?"  Is a question I am asked at least once a day during the month of April. (Today, the next door neighbours dog, Hitler asked me.) 

My answer is always the same - go see Munnery, even if he's not here, go see Munnery. AND GO AND SEE TWO LOCAL SHOWS FOR EVERY INTERNATIONAL YOU SEE! There is a perception that local comedians get paid to put on a little 'skit' (my fave word for comedy production), go drinking with their buddies all night then sit around enduring endless self congratulating breakfasts in the morning.  Let me shake the untruth off that for you.

Putting on a little skit, for a month takes a LOT of work.  A lot of work and a LOT OF MONEY. You see, the majority of the acts present for MICF are risking their OWN bank accounts, personal lives and sanity. You don't just rock up to the Town Hall in March and put a sticker on the door of the venue you'd like to play in. Although this is a policy I'd like to initiate.

Felicity Ward in the Hedgehog Delemna

No, the work starts about October the year before. You fill out your MICF registration and find the $500 you need to register your show.

Let's keep a running tally, shall we?

Registration, $500

This is of course a show you have already written the bones of, at the very least. You need to have photos. (I think this guy is the best. James Penlidis) Lets call it $400.  Remember, you're not going to get away with a pic of you and your bestie drunk on the beach at Surfers, but professional images which relay the tone of your show. There are going to be HUNDREDS of images/posters vying for spots on lamppost, walls and cafe racks. Most of shows with a much bigger budget than yours so how are you going to stand out? *poster costs, assuming you've done most of the art work yourself, let's call it $1,000. P.S., do you know the difference between semi gloss, matte, and universal gloss paper? Do you need A4 A 3 or A1 size posters?  Have you thought about postcards?

Asher Treleaven

Registration, $500
Photography, $400
Printing, $1,000 

Now you'll need somewhere to put on your little dog and pony show and unless your Dad's got a barn, you're going to want a centrally located CBD venue. Town Hall venues are prized hubs. Being IN the Town Hall does NOT always translate to ticket sales but you're still going to want to be there. Conservative estimates for the venue and tech - oh yes, you'll need someone to run your lights, sound and whatever else you've skillfully woven into your increasingly elaborate pastiche. Conservative estimates will put that charge at around $1000 a week for one of the smaller 30 - 50 seat venues.  The bigger the room, the more the cost.

Registration, $500
Photography, $400
Printing, $1,000 
Venue & Tech, $4,000 

Jennifer Wong, Ouch & Other WordsIt's getting a little flop-sweatish now, isn't it? Ooh! Don't forget your Entertainment Liability Insurance. You don't want your confetti cannons going off early and taking out a pensioners eye.  Or your mic stand to fall off the stage and kill a Seeing Eye Dog. Let's guesstimate, $250 (it's been a while and I can't find any receipts of the insurance we've had to buy) but that seems tame.

Registration, $500
Photography, $400
Printing, $1,000 
Venue & Tech, $4,000 
Insurance, $250

Advertising! How are you going to let people know your tiny little show is on, in amongst the throngs of Hughsies, the heavily promoted International acts and the locals being produced by Token?  To be honest, you're not. You're going to rely on Word of Mouth but you're still going to buy a little advertising space aren't you? Buying ad space translates to editorial space. (you're buying ad space, the paper are 'giving you' editorial space). A 1/8 page, a 1/4 page, a 1/2 of full page ad?  How much money have you got to burn? You can spend anything from $500 for a tiny corner in something like Beat or InPress for the run or thousands on a Herald Sun 1/2 page. We'll call it a conservative $800 for advertising and flyering - have I mentioned standing outside your venue handing out those precious posters/postcards/flyers you had printed as a way of luring people into your show after they see the show they wanted to see is sold out? You can do that yourself or pay someone to do it for you. Damian Callinan, Robinson Crusoe

Registration, $500
Photography, $400
Printing, $1,000 
Venue & Tech, $4,000 
Insurance, $250
Advertising, $800 

If you want a publicist, you can hire one now. If one has room for your show. It's gonna cost ya. $2,000 is a very conservative estimate.

Let's have a closer look at those locals, in particular. How many of them realistically make a living from stand up? If your guess is in the double digits, you're very probably wrong. SO, if you want to put on a show, you're going to need to take time off work. You won't have time to wait tables, or nurse, or be the funny accountant.  You've got some holiday time coming up - best use it. Insert your own lost wages estimate here. $Umpty dollars.

Daniel Kitson in Where Once Was WonderOk, so there are hundreds of shows to choose from. The tickets cost anywhere from $10, Tight Arse Tuesday tix to $40 for (example) Judith Lucy on Sunday night.

Well, you're thinking. Let's shoot at the centre of that range and sell 20 tickets a night, that's $440! See, you guys are raking it in! TicketMaster take half that ticket cost as their fee. What?! Hmm, still $220 a night, where do I sign up! Let's also look at the guesstimated average audience size for a local (unknown quantity) show is on a good night, 10 people. Have you dampened your trousers yet?

As the MICF website says, "Producing a show involves everything from organising venue hire, marketing and publicity, travel and accommodation, sourcing props and equipment, budgeting, ticketing, obtaining insurance and licences and much more. As part of your registration, the Festival provides information packs and workshops to assist you, but it is up to you to make it happen."

MICF is an amazing festival. If not for it, I would not have had 3/4 of the life experience I've had. I would not know who Simon Munnery was. Or Daniel Kitson. I wouldn't have seen Greg Fleet bare his soul and lengthen his sleeves or Felicity Ward rock the shit out of a room. I would not have smeared chocolate cake on Adam Richard's head (ok, that probably still would have happened, just not in front of 3000 people) nor would I have laughed so hard at Bill Bailey that I hawked up a lung. I'd also probably not have the sight of a bare chested Sam Simmons smashing taco shells into his pigeon frame burnt into my retinas, nor would I have... ok the rest of that sentence is now redacted. You know why, Festival of 1998...

It's SO important that you get out there and support local acts. They're literally selling their souls for you.  Go see Damian Callinan, go see Jennifer Wong. You're probably already planning on seeing Wil Anderson, why wouldn't you? He's brilliant but please, take a chance and see someone you've never even heard of.

They've got an average of $8,000 on the line. And don't think, oh I can just see them in October after all this festival stuff has died down. You can't. Festival is special. Festival is very often the only time of the year you'll see any one of these comedians do a solo show of 1 hours duration, packed to the gills with lights, props and a small Bolivan Lizard (WHAT a show!). Go. What are you waiting for?

fahey xx


Reader Comments (14)

What exactly do you get from MICF for your $500? Anything apart from inclusion in the program book and the right to put their logo on your poster?

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSF Lyons

You get $500 worth of Festival Program space, the right to use the MICF logo on all your advertising and the phone number of the front desk. The guys and girls in the office ARE very helpful - to all gawd, how many shows this year? 300? 400 shows... That's what you "get".

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterfahey

Fay, when wage earning grown ups ask for comps to my show I might just print them a version of this instead.

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKate McLenan

This year I chose to buy a new kitchen instead of putting on a show!

April 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWendy Little

What a blog... I'm going to make you my agent. xxx

April 10, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjames penlidis

Bravo etc etc Love it. xxxx

April 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNelly Thomas

Loved your blog about the cost of putting on a Festie show. Really sensible and honest (and witty of course).


April 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersp

Excellent blog FYI (Fahey Younger Incorporated) You have given a great insight into an enterprise I can barely be bothered with. Most years I feel the same way the farmers must have felt when business took over the show. I also enjoyed how you spared people the explanation of the hell that is the writing of the show. In fact, now I think of it, Next year I am going to take a lead from Wendy Little and buy a new kitchen... then probably I'll write a show about it.

Cheers m' dear, Bradford

April 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBradford E Oakes

ahhhh, you always manage to put things, succinctly! thanks Bradley Cakes! :-P xx

April 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterMiss Itchy

Great article! Too many people (punters mostly, but comedians too) have just no idea what it takes to put on a show in MICF. Hopefully articles like this will help people appreciate the cost involved.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Connell

So well put.
You might want to add flights and accom for interstate acts!
But a great piece. Huzzah.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSimon Kennedy

It's unfortunate that performers who use the Town Hall not only have 'sliding' rental (ie. the MICF takes more as your ticket sales go up) but also have to use Ticketmaster and Ticketek who not only slug you $3+ to you but to slug punters (Ticketmaster $5.95) . And what do you get? The same thing you'd get if you used Trybooking.com - a ticket. Last year I paid over $1000 to Melbourne Fringe in ticket fees and considering I'd lost $3000 on the show it would've been nice to have that money. We artists need to set up our own festival with next to nothing ticketing fees and registration. Keep the whole thing online.

April 23, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRasputin

Eh, you're still up yerself you mole. No, alright, I hafta say it... "Good one, Horse Box." I know you could have gone on and on... like you usually do... bwah, I still kill me... and my comments are for festival newbies - for you seasoned pro's "move along, nothing to see here."

Now, I do know you know there are many other potential costs: travel and accom (for non-Melburnians) plus specific audio-visual production/editing if you want to use some within your show, props/set dressing if you want it, the city PARKING costs that add up to about 60 buck-a-week, your 'show' clothes/outfits or a lot of extra makeup, costlier food & drink than usual, petrol or public transport six days a week, a bucket of smashed crabs if you have a friend named Tim, fee for an accountant to do your GST or PAYE or whatever that thing you have to do but won't do yourself coz you're utterly knackered, a show Director you'll probably pay or at least 'should' pay before you pay yourself back, dinner, gifts or drinks for helpers that hand out flyers for you, ninety grillion dubloons of coffee, flowers for your door, tech & box office staff, cards, easter eggs, headlice treatment, parking fines for when you won't pay for parking, drugs (for headaches, nong!), fees for all the necessary comps for publicity/friends/family/press night because issuing complimentaries aren't actually free, a packet of blue sponges and/or spew bags, forty-eight bucks for a new dignity wig and the cost of a) divorce or relationship breakdown unless partner is also in festival in which case you may not break up then but you WILL murder each other to death until you die b) property settlement c) psychotherapy for self/family/partner d) a tiny pink dog called Sheree Gladstone, and e) Detox Clinic fees.

It's huge and I miss doing a festival and as hard as it is, if you keep doing it because you love it, you're doing the best thing in the world. After a few years it could pay off financially but don't ever do it for that reason. Become an epigeneticist or gravedigger instead. Aim to have fun whilst honing essential skills and you'll be fine. Sort of.

April 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHaggs

& there it all is! said perfectly by my Chubb Alarm Triggering Bestie. xx Take heed young, keen things.

April 24, 2012 | Registered CommenterMiss Itchy

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>