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August, 2010 Issue

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Agency Profile - Summit Comedy

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When it comes to comedy agencies in the campus market whom you know you can absolutely depend on to provide a great act and buying experience every time they're asked, the numbers seem to be few. There are a handful of agents out there who are not only trustworthy and represent good talent, but also understand the perspective and circumstances of the campus programmer. Summit Comedy has certainly come to represent the pinnacle of this standard.

Recently celebrating its twelfth anniversary, founder, owner and primary driving force behind the outfit, Chuck Johnson, is justifiably proud. The entertainment force he created out of nothing has recently expanded to include a brick and mortar office, two full time agents and boasts not one but two comics in the final six of "Last Comic Standing" in Roy Wood Jr., Tommy Johnagin. "I think that's a feat nowadays for a new agency trying to make it out there," Chuck comments proudly.

The agency operates under a trident tactic, focusing on three separate target markets with distinctly different needs. "There are three spokes to our wheel; we operate in the corporate, college and club markets respectively. There really isn't much outside of those three types of gigs that would require a special focus."

The reality is, Chuck handles anything under the comedy sun. While his core roster consists of talent generally affordable by college and club clients, Summit also handles any requests for performers on the higher end of the spectrum. "When people ask, I've always said 'Anything in the comedy world.' From the highs to the lows, it doesn't matter if you are looking to spend $100 or $100,000. We can pinpoint their needs exactly."

For the first ten years of the business' existence, it was navigated solo with Chuck at the helm. Two years ago Robin Menier joined the force after leaving the tutelage of her mentor in the market, the illustrious Joey Edmonds, (formerly of Edmonds & Curly, one of the most revered comedy duos in the campus market). "I had never hired anyone until Robin and I think some areas of the business were being overlooked simply because I didn't have enough time in my day to attend to it all. She fell into my lap and it has been a boon to let her run all the aspects of our college division."

"For the last two years, I have been THE college division of Summit," Robin says. "I have gone to every conference I could attend with Chuck picking up the ones I couldn't so we would be consistently represented in the marketplace. I have obviously been in the market for a long time, working professionally for ten years before Summit and even before that in campus activities as a student. I actually celebrated my twelfth years in the field along with the agency!"

Robin's day to day activities have to date been cloistered in the seclusion of her home, so the Summit office will be a new experience for her. "I have been working from home for the last ten years. This is going to be a new and different experience for me to be in an office building and I am excited about it. To be honest, I am definitely an extrovert and love people and it will be fun to share the office with Melissa and have that social aspect of the work day too."

Recent addition Melissa Beer joins Team Summit after gaining well rounded experience at one of the premier operations in the campus market, The College Agency, which represents a wide variety of talent outside of the pure comedy sphere. "Melissa coming on board I think further solidifies Summit's place, experience, and abilities within the college market. Chuck says, "Of course I still stay involved in the market, but these two ladies are really going to provide full service to our college clients."

"My husband and I actually bought a home recently in Woodbury," Melissa says, "which is where Robin happens to live. After all of that shook out, I was looking for a change professionally and approached Chuck. I will be helping out with the college market and am excited to be on the team and learn from their expertise in comedy."

Both of Chuck's new agents were brought on to accommodate Summit's impressive growth in the college market and were clearly drafted as elite agents with equally impressive resumes. Robin and Melissa both fall in perfectly with the vision Chuck held for the agency at its inception. "I knew immediately that I never wanted to put all of my eggs in one basket. I've seen so many agencies pigeonhole themselves in one way or another that I made a concerted effort to stay fluid, dynamic and always diverse enough to remain stable if certain markets wax and wane. There are plenty of other ways to make money in the comedy business."

Summit Comedy's YouTube Channel

Part of being a great comic is knowing your audience. Part of being a great agent usually comes down to knowing their comics' audiences. Putting the right acts in front of the right people is what makes having a comedy specialist so valuable, especially when a buyer isn't sure what they want. Or, perhaps if what they want is dead wrong for their event. Either way, it's hard to have the expertise necessary if one isn't completely immersed in the talent pool. Fortunately, Chuck very much is. "I have been on many panels when different groups will fly me in specifically to discuss things like the difference in markets and audiences and how to be a better comic. I have always said to every comic I have worked with, 'If you can tailor your act to the crowd you are facing, you will usually be asked back.' Whether it is a cruise ship, corporation, college or a night club, if they just tweak material here and there, they can be very successful and keep the buyers very happy."

Working with so many comics, there are obviously some who want to maintain their original act to the benefit of their artistic integrity, but often with a negative affect on the amount of work they do. "I know many comics who are quite content to drop f-bombs in their act and just remain in the comedy clubs. They are happy with that, but we have many clients on our roster who can (and do) work any market they choose because they have put a highlight on that flexibility."

Chuck doesn't impose himself or Summit on the comics. Quite the opposite. He encourages all the performers they work with to develop their own style and presence. That doesn't mean of course, that it doesn't help to taken in some pointers. "I never once have said to a comic 'You should write cleaner!' I am simply there to tell them what is out there and available and what their limitations might be. But beyond that, I don't influence them to all be perfectly clean cookie cutter acts. Having said that, I do include in many of my panel discussions the fact that I have never, ever had a client call and say 'We didn't like him because he was too clean.' Never happened in 12 years and I don't think it will. It certainly has come through in the reverse; the worst thing a comic can do is offend an audience who's specifically requested something on the cleaner end of the spectrum."

What it really comes down to is having a team on your side you can trust to get you the right act for your audience. "If we send out a comic who screws a gig up, it hurts everyone on the team, and that's how we refer to ourselves. We are Team Summit and all the comedians on our roster reflect on us. It makes a difference, positively or negatively. If one of our comics wins "Last Comic Standing," that is huge for Summit and every other artist on our roster. If people call for Tommy or Roy because of 'Last Comic,' there is a good chance if one of them doesn't get the gig, one of our other people will. On the same token, if Kevin Bozeman or Will Marfori goes in and screws up a show by dropping 100 f-bombs, the rest of the Summit roster doesn't have much of a chance in the future with that client. Neither of those would do that by the way, they are two of the classiest acts we represent (laughs)."

Summit is the ultimate choice for buyer's who want to be assured not only of quality talent, but also of talent that fits the bill for your event. So, whether you are a college or military buyer or have an event for a corporate, association, special event, fair, festival or club, you can be sure the pros at Team Summit will have you punching just the right ticket.

BOOK IT! For more information on Summit Comedy and their outstanding roster, contact Robin or Melissa at (800) 947-0651. For virtual links including online media of Summit's artists, log on to our website at www.campusactivitiesmagazine.com