If you are actually trying to go after comedy as a career, you will end up driving places. That is a given. Here are some of the rules that I use so as to have a successful road trip. Remember these are just my little rules, other comics may do other things.
1. Leave on time – I am a stickler for this. I like to leave at a time where if I have a hotel room I can get there and relax. So, for instance, If I were travelling to Portland I would leave 9 hours before the show starts. From Spokane to Portland is roughly 6 hours (give or take how many times you have to pee), If I leave then that means I have a 3 hour buffer for things to go wrong. Last year I was going to a show and I left early and my tire blew and my spare was jacked. That still gave me time to get to my hotel (from a tow truck) and decompress for an hour. It was like nothings actually happened to me.
2. Follow the speed limit (to a degree)- This one rule has saved me thousands of dollars in fines and tickets and I learned it the hard way. I was driving through Oregon and I was doing 80 in a 60. Just blazing through that state. I got pulled over and had to pay out over 50% of my earnings that week in tickets. That one time was enough for me. Now I go at the maximum 5 miles over. Constantly. I have flown by cops on the freeway going 5 over and have not been stopped since (about 8 years ago).
When I am in a small town I don’t even go 5 over. I am not getting my black ass pulled over in a small little town where they can hide a body real easy. If the limit is 20, I do 20.
3. Entertainment Good entertainment will keep your brain busy while you are driving 11 hours to Winnemuca. I love podcast. So my iPod is chock full of them when I am going on a long road trip. I keep it a good mix so I am not listening to just WTF with Marc Maron for 8 hours (not that that’s a bad thing). I love anything about the supernatural, but there are not that many good podcast on them. I save up the ones I have and listen in bliss when one my trip.
4. Someone else’s car, Someone else’s rules – On the rare occasion when I am with someone else and in their car I let them do their thing. The only things I do not tolerate is drunk driving. If they want to listen to heavy metal, go ahead! They wanna smoke clove cigars, go ahead! It is their car and I want no drama. Most people will see that they have a guest and act right, but if not remember, you are saving money on gas.
This is the epic conclusion to the minisieries that is Comedian in the real world. I am excited at the fact that I was able to pull off two of these sons of bitches in a matter of minutes. I just wanted to get it all out before I forget. Hell, I even wrote notes!
Something comics tend to think will happen but doesn’t is that when they invite their friends, they will forever have their buddies following them from dive bar to dive bar cheering them on as they search for laughs. That is now how it will work. This is how it works 100% of the time. First you will get all of your friends to come see you perform. Then the more you do it the less your friends will show up. Then, before you know it, you are now there every week by yourself cursing your friends. Just stop that and go by yourself. They won’t be able to meet you in Idaho Falls when you have to do a show in front of the horniest people Idaho has to offer. They won’t be there every night so you need to get used to it. Just cut the cord. I ever asked anyone to come with me. I didn’t need the drama, especially if you didn’t do that well. They will try to talk you up again, but you know you sucked that night. Just leave them home and save them for the bigger shows.
Your significant other will not understand what it is about comedy you love so much. They may like to laugh as much as you do, but they won’t understand half of your jokes until they are polished. I tell my girl jokes all the time and she gets half of them and the other half she tells me to get rid off because no one will laugh. Then, she will see me perform the same jokes on stage and they will work and she will be dumbfounded. She doesn’t understand that to be noticed in comedy you can’t stay in Spokane. That a drive may help your career (Seattle has a great scene and so does Portland) you may need to make sacrifices and that may be the hardest for those grounded in reality to accept. Now, my girl is not like that. She tells me all the time that I need to get out there. I am more concerned with my quality of life at this point. I get nervous about blowing 100 bucks if it means I will not be able to pay a bill.
Money is the biggest reality check of them all I think. “If I had the money!” is something every comic has said at one point or another. If you had the money you could take a plane to a city instead of drive 9 hours. You could actually get something to eat. These are things that help if you got money. If you don’t you are spending a lot of time in a job you don’t want hoping that you can get a lottery ticket (if you could afford one) and be instantly wealthy. That way you can go to all the big cities and stay just long enough too…I don’t know…get more wealthy. That is the thing about money. If you had enough to do what you wanted would you still have the drive to do the little things. Would you still want to go to Ellensburg on a Thursday night for 100 bucks? Maybe, but maybe you can snort pixie dust off a hooker and stay home.
Driving a big thing as well, not as big as money, but it is up there. If you are a road comic (a lot of us are). You are driving a lot. You have to plan accordingly. You can’t feature in Billings Montana for 100 bucks a night if you drive a Ford Expedition. It will take at least 300 just to get there. You need reliable transportation and you need fuel efficient transportation.
I’m telling you. Once you realize these things as a comic life is so much easier. You then start to plan out stuff. You get a decent car and you plan guest sets in places that you know if you do a good job they will call you back. You keep your friends the hell away from open mics (unless you don’t want to see them again) and you make sure your significant other can take a joke. You then get to know comics and pretty soon you can be doing one nighters in the back woods of Oregon for 300 bucks. It’s the good life!
First of all, I want to apologize for not providing more updates sooner. I am not that busy. I am just that lazy. Ok now onto the subject at hand! This post will probably be a 2 parter as I gather notes for the second part. I wanted to talk about the reality of being a comic especially for those of you living in smaller areas of the country. This may not pertain to much to those living in or around larger cities, but you may be able to gleam something of use from this.
One of the biggest reality checks you get when becoming a comedian is that what you think will happen over night probably will not. I don’t know how many comics that approach me asking how I got paid to do comedy. What I want to say is, “I worked my ass off and went to places that I probably should not have.” See when you come from a point of innocence when it comes to comedy, you think that all you have to do is show up to an open mic a couple of times and then you are good to go. That is not the case. Hardly ever. Now, that is not to say it can’t happen. I got paid to do comedy after about 6 months of doing it. The thing is that it was a friend of mine who put the show on and also I was living, eating and breathing comedy. I was doing all I could to get as much stage time as possible. If you are only doing this weekly at an open mic where you are getting 3 minutes, it is a lot harder to get a grasp on what is and isn’t working. When I first started doing comedy I was able to get up and do 20 minutes because there were only 5 comics showing up. If you are willing to get 20 minutes of time on stage a week and are writing that much then it can work…
Unless you have a job or other responsibility. I was getting out of the military, so I had a little bit of money and a whole lot of time. I did not have 3 kids at the house or working 2 jobs. You may not be able to get out that much because of these things and that will put a damper on how fast you advance in the comedy world.
Comics all like to think that once we get on a stage in Whoknowswhere, USA that there is a comedy booker that is just looking for people to give them work. That is not the case. I have sent my promo package to more clubs than I can count and I get a response back from about 10 percent of them. I rarely get work from just doing my thing on stage. I get more work from knowing other comics. That is why those festivals are so grand. You can go there and just mingle with comics and get potential work. Don’t wait for bookers to come to you, you have to go to them.
I will be back in a little bit with part two of this!