1. Write your name on a big piece of paper
At a stand-up comedy gig, there will be more people wanting to do stand-up comedy than time will allow. Therefore a bucket system is used. Interested parties write their names on pieces of paper that are placed in a bucket. The host will then draw names from the bucket and read them aloud. If your name is called, you have been selected (aka you booked the gig). There will be a pile of paper scraps and a pen for you to write your name on next to the bucket. These pieces of paper will often be hand torn, meaning these pieces of paper are not the same size. Here is the trick: since the operating principle of the bucket system is that each piece of paper has an equal chance of being drawn, you can game this system by having your name on a bigger piece of paper. This will increase the odds that the host will grab your piece of paper. Picture one of those claw machines at an arcade. If a monkey were at the controls and were just randomly pressing buttons, the bigger stuffed animals would have a greater chance of being drawn than the smaller ones (the host is the monkey (say, a black lion tamarin monkey if specificity helps you when visualizing analogies) and you want your name to be the biggest stuffed animal possible (maybe an oversized panda bear that has I WUV U embroidered on it)).
2. Crumple up the piece of paper with your name on it
A big piece of paper is great, but it is only helping out your stand-up career via the x and y-axis of that bucket. Crumple that thing, and all of the sudden you just entered the z-axis of your comedy career. Paper is thin, people. A typical ream of paper has something like seven thousand pieces of paper in it. That means your flat piece of paper could get easily lost on the bottom of that bucket. So crumple, then uncrumple. Don’t worry, that paper will still be crumpled, even after you uncrumple it. What I’m saying is is that you couldn’t uncrumple a crumpled piece of paper with your hands, even if you wanted to. There really should be another word besides uncrumple for what I’m trying to describe to you. Maybe a blow-dryer would uncrumple it? I don’t think so though.
3. Bring your own piece of paper
with your name on it, pre-crumpled
This will save you time at the gig. Use this time for networking with other comics, club owners, late night talk show bookers/hosts, Lorne Michaels, and other people who frequent stand up gigs. Again, make sure that paper is nice and big. Using an 8.5”x11” is too conspicuous, but I’ve had luck with paper just slightly smaller. Your A series of office paper formats, specifically the A5-A8 range, is your sweet spot. A6 (5.8” x 4.1”) is my personal favorite. Take out your piece of paper and then put it on a table near the bucket. Pretend like you just found it in the pile. Play it cool. Have you seen a movie with James Franco in it? Or maybe a TV show? Be like James Franco in the movie or TV show you saw (i.e. cool).
4. Wait until the last possible moment
to put your name into the bucket
The host will make a big show about swishing his or her hand around, as if mixing up the pieces of paper, but I have a suspicion this is a ruse. Wait until after, then rush the stage and recite a sob story, like, “I’m sorry! I just got here. There was a black lion tamarin monkey on the subway tracks and they had to kill the monkey before we could move.” The host will roll his or her eyes and say, “Whatever!” and fart, but will still usually let you put your big piece of paper with your name on it on the top of the bucket.
5. Act like your name was called even if it wasn’t
At this point, you’ve done everything within your power to ensure you are a stand-up comic. Now you’re just waiting for your name to be called. A best practice habit is to say, “That’s me!” a few names into the drawing, whether or not it is actually your name. There is a chance the person whose name it really was is in the bathroom or deaf, and even if they are there and not deaf, they might defer to you if you act confident. Fake it till you make it, right? Flaunt it if you got it, right?
That’s it! Do this once or twice a month and you’ll be all set. See you at the top!