I’m sure a lot of comedians, magicians, live bands, DJ’s, clowns and all kinds of performers will read this and say to themselves, ”C’mon Mama, these are simple things that I do already, you don’t have to remind me to be on time and all that rudimentary stuff”.
Well, two things: 1) I’m a Mama, it’s my job to nag you over the most simple things and 2) You may think you got it all covered but you’d be surprised, when you really go over it, how many of these things you either miss or don’t fully implement in your work.
Let’s go over it one step at a time:
1) Be On Time - Being on time is more than just arriving when you have to. Different performers need different amount of set up time so your arrival time is something that you should know from experience. Have you arrived at gigs at the last minute? That was poor planning on your part. Comedians don’t need nearly as much time as a magician, who doesn’t need as much time as a live band. Whatever your talent, make sure you leave plenty of time to travel so you will arrive when you want to be there. Also being on time applies to the amount of time you perform. When you are engaged for a certain amount of time, you should make sure to perform for that amount of time, not less. In rare cases, circumstances will dictate a different amount of performance time but that is the client’s decision, never yours.
2) Be Positive - Nobody like a ‘Negative Nellie’,, especially when you’re the performer. People hire comedians cause they want to laugh and if ‘complaining’ is part of your act, fine. But no one wants to hear it offstage. If you’re a magician, clients want you to come in and be magical, not bitch about traffic or the ‘rotten kids’ from your last event. Live bands are there to electrify the client’s guests, not gripe about whether of not the caterer is going to feed them. If the client wants you to perform at a time that won’t be optimal (like a comedian during people eating – that doesn’t work for comedy), DON’T say ‘Oh I’m not doing it that way”. Try saying something like, “that’s a great idea but my experience shows me that there may be a better way so everyone can enjoy it the most”. Is that so hard?
3) Be Clean - I’m NOT referring to your material. If you’re an act with ‘adult’ language, you and the client should work out if that’s appropriate for their event of not (hint – most times, it’s NOT. A wedding? a sweet sixteen? I don’t think so but a bachelor party? maybe). I am referring to cleanliness. Not necessarily yours but how about your equipment? If you’re a magician, are there scuff marks all over your boxes and props? If you’re a drummer in a live wedding band, is your kit old and beat up looking? A you a clown who is really in need of a new costume? Performers: what about your footwear? Do you have shoes you wear just for a show? are they polished?
4) Be Grateful – After your gig, do you send a thank you email? To the client? the agent who got you the gig? Did you make certain to properly say farewell to the client when you left the venue? Did you say thanks to anyone else? The manager of the venue who helped you at some point? Just remember that ‘thank you’ costs nothing. Have you been performing for a while? Lot of gigs under you belt? Do you make of point of remembering everyone’s names properly? Some orchestra leaders have dozens of names to remember and while it’s not unusual for band leaders to read names off a list during the introduction of the wedding party, you should really make a point of remembering essential names like the father of the bride. Why? because someone might notice that you can’t make a point to remember one name if they see you having to reach for paper to get the father of the bride’s name. They’ll never notice you reading if you have dozens of names to read, but they’ll remember if you need it for one important one.
Crappy weather? loading equipment in rain? snow? insane heat? Long trip with bad traffic? Maybe something completely unrelated is putting you in a bad mood? Spouse trouble? offspring issue? Remember this, however bad your experience at any one of your gigs, there are tens of thousands of other performers (and wannabe performers) who would trade that bad experience with you for one of their crappy days at an office job ANY DAY.
5) Be Humble - I know a comedian who has a theory. He says, “I pretty much do a similar act where ever I perform. The only difference is the audience so if I have an amazing show, it’s gotta be the audience was great.” If an audience member approaches this comedian to thank him for a great show, this comic will turn it around and thank the audience member for being part of a great crowd by telling that audience member his theory. Look, there’s a place in this business for ego, it’s called the stage. When you’re on the stage performing, it’s all about you. That’s why we’re there. That’s why we do it. And that’s OK as long as you keep that ego on that stage. Once you leave the stage, you’re back to sharing the planet with 6 billion other people so always be humble, ok? For Mama?
6) Be Professional – Depending on you definition of the word ‘professional’, there can be a pretty wide range here so I’m just gonna confine my definition of the word professional, for this article’s purpose, as the implementation of my seven key rules performers must obey. It doesn’t matter if you a bagpiper, a juggler, a walking table or a 16 piece swing band, these seven rules work for all. You follow these rules and you are a ‘professional’ to me.
7) Be The Best Performer You Can Be - I saved the easiest for last. Be the best performer you can be. How can that be hard? How can trying to be the best you can be at something you love so dearly be hard? What will it require? dedication (check), love of the craft (check), determination (check), guts & heart (double check). You’re all set dear performer, get out there and rock their world (but please remember these they key things when you do).
Mama’s always proud of you. Go out there and shine as bright as you can.