Tompkins 300: Is Social Media the New Way to Book Comedy Shows?
Comedian Paul F. Tompkins came to Chicago's Lakeshore theater last spring to record his new album, Freak Wharf. Although the show was a success with the audience, comics can't always count on selling out shows while on tour. There's risk involved in going to a new city, where there may not be anyone to fill our your seats. That's where forms of social media like Facebook and Twitter become useful. At least, they're starting to be.
Tompkins can't claim full responsibility for the idea, but his fans might be able to. What started as a group of committed fans in Toronto has become Tompkins' new way of figuring out where to take his tours next, including a return to Chicago. With the help of local comic, Dan Telfer, a group of Chicago fans were able to take part in the Tompkins 300.
Paul F. Tompkins blogged about the idea
last month. What started out as a Toronto comic bugging him to come do a show became a new way to tour and, more recently, promote a new album. He challenged the comic, Bob Kerr to find him 300 fans. Kerr delivered by forming a Facebook group and rallying fans.
If a user wants Tompkins to come to the city of _______, all they have to do is create a facebook group and get 300 people to join it. Fans tweet the existence of the group for the town of _______, and then if they reach 300, he books a show. Cities that normally don't get toured in now have an opportunity to prove their fandom.
When booking a comedy show, there can be a risk involved in going somewhere new. Even if a group of fans insist that you go to their town. Dan Telfer is an up and coming comic from Chicago who can't claim he has a following as big as someone like Paul F. Tompkins, but he can still relate.
With Toronto as the proof of concept, Telfer was wondering, could this work for Chicago? Chicago is known for its comedy, but its loyalties don't tend to lie with standup.
Telfer saw this as an opportunity and a challenge. Tompkins may have been here earlier in the year to record his new album, but that didn't mean Chicago didn't want to see him again. They just needed a means of letting their voice be heard.
While Tompkins has not yet announced the date of a show in Chicago, he's already owned up to his promise in Toronto. And he's acknowledged his fans here in the city. On November 28th, Paul F. Tompkins tweeted, "CHICAGO! You've done it!" He knows that he has fans here.