Updated: 13 hours ago
Last Updated 29/11/2023
If you're new in town or trying to figure out what is the Perth Comedy scene and how to get involved in it, this article is for you.
The Perth comedy scene refers to the community of stand up comedians, venues, and events that exist in the Perth and wider WA region. Like with all scenes, the experience of a comedy scene can vary depending on where you are, but here are some general terms related to the comedy scene:
Open Mics: The backbone of any comedy scene is the open mic. These are usually weekly or monthly events where new and experienced comedians can try out their material in front of a live audience. They are typically held in bars or small clubs. Grassroots Comedy runs The Experimental Comedy Club on a Tuesday night. It is a 15 dollar entry and we generally cater towards more professionals and senior up-and-coming performers who run their material in our room. There are plenty of other open mics around, and we'll discuss that down this article.
Venues and Rooms: Comedy clubs, theaters, and other performance spaces are the places where comedians perform for paying audiences. These venues may host open mics, showcases, or headlining acts, and they often offer food and drink.
Room Runner: The Room Runner is the person who owns the comedy club event or the actual venue. This individual (or collective group) is responsible for booking the performers and promoting the show. This is likely the person you will be liaising with to get a spot in their room.
Community: We can't speak for other rooms, but within our Grassroots Comedy Ecosystem, a strong sense of community exists among comedians in our comedy scene. They often attend each other's shows and provide feedback and support for one another's work. You will often see a network of comedians attend the Experimental Comedy Club, Port City Comedy, the Windmill Comedy Club and the Comedy Lounge Gong Shows - all of these are reputable open mic events worth attending and being involved in.
Competition: While comedians support each other, there is also a level of competition in the scene. Comedians are vying for performance opportunities, gigs, and the attention of bookers and industry professionals. To our current knowledge, as far as we know, the only stand up comedy competitions right now is RAW Comedy (March), The Gong Show (Weekly every Thursday) at the Comedy Lounge and the Comedy Lounge's Funniest Five (November)
Festivals: A typical comedy fringe festival is a multi-day event featuring a wide variety of comedians and comedy acts. These festivals are usually held in a large city, with many performances taking place in theaters, bars, and other venues around the city. Perth is host to Fringe World and the Perth International Comedy Festival PICF. However, this festival has no local content, and is exclusive to visiting performances.
Diversity: A comedy scene often has a diverse mix of comedians, with different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. This diversity can lead to a wide range of comedic styles and topics being explored. Grassroots easily has the most diverse set of comics. One thing we don't do is actively advertise this like it's some sort of badge of honour. Being a migrant run business, we're aware of the tokenisation that often occurs on lineups. So our approach is this: "Book for their material and style, and not for who they are". That way the diversity itself comes naturally, and we do our best to see each other mostly on merit and competency.
Challenges: The life of a comedian can be challenging, and the comedy scene is no different. Comedians face rejection, hecklers, and audiences who may not respond to their material. Comedians face struggles from other comedians on every level. Gaslighting, bad behaviour and politics are key factors at play, very regularly. It is important to protect your mental health and take this into consideration before approaching and being involved in the comedy scene.
We will say this though. Overall, the comedy scene is a dynamic and exciting community of performers, venues, and events that offer opportunities for comedians to hone their craft, develop their skills, and build a career in comedy. In our opinion, we believe the Perth comedy scene is now maturing into something remarkable, innovative and getting to a world class level.
Grassroots Comedy is only 2 years old and has developed a huge network of over 500+ comedians on all levels just in this state alone. We're partnered with the likes of Token Events, A-List Entertainment and Comedy Central (Asia, India and South East Asia), along with a series of international live comedy networks and festivals.
There are multiple room runners and venues in Perth. Many don't survive the 1-2 year mark. Over the last 20 years of Perth Comedy there have been over 50 different rooms open and shut down. All lasting from 1 month to 10 years. Rooms come and go, acts come and go. That is the nature of the transient game.
There are only a handful of weekly shows in Perth. The open mic scene is prosperous, there are numerous levels and a LOT of comics in queues - just like Melbourne or Sydney, be prepared to wait. This is good. Use the time to write, rehearse and watch other live comedy shows.
Some open mic rooms are better than others. Grassroots Comedy takes pride in having the scene's most popular open mic room, The Experimental Comedy Club and the Second most popular room, The Leederville Comedy Club - home of the Traffic Light Game. We sell out our shows almost every Tuesday and many acts from overseas and interstate have popped in just to do a spot. Acts like Luke Kidgell, Lewis Spears, Chris Franklin, Reuben Solo, Jarryd Goundrey, Dane Simpson, Kate Smurthwaite, Emo Majok, Tom Ballard, Sami Shah, Ivan Aristeguieta, Anthony Locascio, Chris Giacobbe, Jason Leong - the list goes on and on. Google these names if you haven't heard of them before.
These are some key steps we recommend everyone do when they're first in Perth:
Look up and join the Perth Comedy Collective group on Facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/perthcomedycollective/
Attend comedy shows and buy tickets to live shows - Grassroots Comedy has compiled a list of gigs around Perth in a live spreadsheet which we keep active and include our competitors for the greater interest of helping new folks navigate the scene. This is the link https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1u7FP4s7TsKEJ1J4h2kIfvJ96SPv14s_Q0mt7uyiTTtg/edit?usp=sharing
Apply for Grassroots on the form link provided in that spreadsheet. Only apply once. https://airtable.com/shrvP5RnezkZpRGGA
Never done comedy before? Look it up. Plenty of information out there. Come prepared.
Are you an experienced comedian but still trying to find your feet? Approach clubs, take up open mic sets and effectively audition if you're coming without any references or recommendations. This is ok. If you're good and adaptable you will have NO issue getting to a working status in Perth after 1 or 2 spots. We're constantly tricked or played on by unknowns claiming to be pro comics, only be be let down and have them damage our events by crashing and bombing their sets. We're fairly connected in the US, UK and South East Asia, with a wider tentacle reach, so our quality control is measured. And if we don't know you, we're definitely asking around. Sometimes it takes a few goes in open mic to recalibrate from wherever you used to perform. This is ok, don't feel like you're taking a step back. This is an opportunity to grow and become adaptable
Help out where you can. There are numerous rooms that could use volunteers. If you have the time and you want to be known in the scene, this is a good way to be noticed. Providing your spare time and effort goes a long way for promoters and the wider community. It demonstrates your commitment and investment to the scene.
Stay away from politics and gossip. Being a relatively small city, Perth has had an unusual history of being a dumpster fire for liars and mediocre performers actively involved in nefarious activities to compensate for that inabilities to progress up the ladder. There are some very vile and unsavoury characters in comedy. Wiping them off the grid can only occur by changing the culture into a professional environment. Treat the scene like a solid workplace and not a high school yard.
Gig in every room. BEWARE the so called "friend" who tells you not to perform for so-and-so because they apparently did this-and-that. They do not have your best interests at heart. We've seen people tell fellow comedians not to gig at a club, only to find out they gig there themselves. Main reason some bad characters do this is to keep other performers away so they get more gigs. There is a lot of high school bs and we suggest you gig everywhere and eventually decide what rooms work for you and what doesn't. Everyone finds the things and places that work for them. Make up your own mind.
Have a lot of fun! For the most part, this is a fulfilling process and it's definitely one of the hardest professions to be in. Making advancements forward in this business is a significant milestone, so celebrate any or all your successes in this journey.