What is a bringer gig?
This is an explanation of the comedy term 'bringer'
A ‘bringer’ is a comedy show where the comedians have to bring at least one audience member to perform. It’s a somewhat shady practice because the promoter is potentially relying on the comics to provide both the entertainment and the audience, for free. The audience (and sometimes even the acts) are often hit up for donations on the way out. Of course most of the acts don’t get paid at all (except maybe the MC and headliners).
By extension, the friend or fellow comic you rope into coming to watch you at a bringer night is also known as your ‘bringer’, although technically they’re your ‘bringee’.
In America, bringers have a bad reputation, but for some reason they’re standard in the London open mic comedy scene. Now I guess it’s a tough sell to get people to come and watch a bunch of inexperienced stand-ups who are not very funny yet, so I see why promoters and venues like this model. If you’re just starting out and want lots of stage time, it’s hard to avoid doing some bringers.
In my experience there are good bringer nights and bad bringer nights:
Good bringer nights try to do promotion and bring in an audience from the general public in addition to the bringers. Some good nights have started out as bringers and then built an audience to the point where they dropped the bringer requirement - for example Angel Comedy Raw and Double Bubble.
Bad bringer nights rely on bringers to make up the whole audience and don’t do any effective promotion, and haven’t built any additional audience despite running for years. These nights often book a lot of acts so they can fill the room, which results in a show that goes on way too long. There are bringers that regularly have 20+ acts and last nearly 3 hours. Some nights will then aggressively ask for donations from everyone, including the acts who performed, so not only are you bringing the audience and providing the content but you are paying for the privilege as well. You might well start to wonder how much value the promoter is actually adding.
Another downside of doing bringers is that eventually your friends will get sick of sitting through 2+ hours of mainly terrible stand-up, and you will end up relying on reciprocal +1 groups like UK Comedy Performers +1 Exchange - where you can find another act to be your bringer in exchange for being their bringer at a future date. The problem with that is that now you have to spend another evening sitting through far too much stand-up (and paying for travel), without even the benefit of performing. Bringers are supposed to be a way for new acts to get more stage time, but if you end up going down this route you’re burning half your evenings not performing. You’d only need to do half as many non-bringers to get the same amount of stage time.
I am trying not to do too many bringers, but I will still need to do them for a while. Remember that if you agree to come to a bringer night to see your comedian friend but drop out at the last minute, you’re putting them into an awkward situation where they have to scramble to find someone else…
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