How Much Performing Time Do I Need For Stand-up Comedy Gigs?

One of the things that folks who are trying to learn how to do stand-up comedy want to know is how much performing time they need for any particular stand-up comedy gig.

That aspect of stand-up comedy is dependent upon not only skill level but the requirements of the gig itself.

Here are some basic performance time guidelines for various types of stand-up comedy gigs:

Open Mic: Usually open mic comedians are provided 3-5 minutes of stage time. This makes sense because most open mic comedians don’t yet know how to do comedy yet and are in the early development stages of their stand-up comedy careers.

Open mic gigs are generally non-paid performances. The performance time requirements for paid performances are:

Opening Act: The opening act in a stand-up comedy show is generally required to perform for 10-15 minutes at the beginning of a multi-comedian show.

The opening act is often the emcee of a stand-up comedy show as well, introducing the middle or feature act and the headliner as a part of their gig responsibilities.

Middle or Feature Act: The middle or feature act is generally required to perform for 20-30 minutes after the opening act.

Headliner: The headliner is generally required to perform for 45 minutes after the middle or feature act.

And as a general rule, increased knowledge of how to do comedy is required for each level as a comedian as they progress.

Note: The paid gig times above reflect a typical 2 comedian or 3 comedian stand-up comedy show.

I should also mention that the guidelines for performance time above are general in nature and can vary significantly depending on the type of gig the comedian is hired to do – regardless of the “title” a comedian holds.

For example, headliners can be hired as both opening acts and feature acts. When I was actively performing, I was frequently hired for work at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

On almost every stand-up comedy show they hosted, all three acts – the opening act, middle or feature act and the headliner – were all headlining comedians.

For corporate type gigs, headlining comedians can be hired to do as little as 15-20 minutes of stand-up comedy depending on what the client wants from the comedian as far as performance time goes.

But typically for corporate gigs, the headlining comedian is required to perform 30-45+ minutes of stand-up comedy material.

And you will see comedians who know how to do comedy at all levels performing at stand-up comedy open mic nights in order to develop new stand-up comedy material.

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