New Year’s Resolution For Comedians

Every year around this time, I like to look back at the year and see if I accomplished the things I sat out to do.  Comics at my level, have fluctuations in the amount of money they make during the year.  It can seem like you are going to have a great year in January and February, but it trails off as the weather gets warmer and you didn’t bother to book shows for the summer time.   I will give you some of the things I want to improve upon next year and I will note things that all comics at this level should be trying to achieve as well.

The biggest thing is making sure all of my promo material is up to date.  This is an often overlooked part of comedy.  I will write a post on it in detail, but I have seen way to many comics that have these outdated packages that have really old head shots and resumes that have clubs on them that no longer exist and a bio that sounds like it was written in the early 90’s.  If you want to be taken seriously, you have to update these things.  Have you heard the saying, “Fake it til you make it.”? This is an instance where it is extremely important that you do!  Even if you haven’t been on a national tour with Jeff Foxworthy or be on the Tonight Show, at least make it look like you could be if only they would let you leave the state.

My headshot is about 5 years old and I want to get a new one.  I will start taking head shots in the new year, and I want to see the process from a professional before I start doing it.

Next is communicating with bookers.  This is a big strike against me.  I am not good at getting in contact with bookers and when I do I don’t keep at it.  This is another skill that a lot of good comics do not possess.  If you want to get work, you have to let bookers know that you are available to work for them.  This may seem cynical, but it is not even really important how good your comedy is just that you have the ability to be seen by bookers.  This is really more important than the promo package because if you are in the head of a booker then they will book you without all of the other stuff.

This may seem counterproductive, but I am of the mindset that you have to keep contacting bookers A LOT!  An email every couple of months will not do.  You want to be booked by these guys then you have to put yourself out there.  I am not gonna lie to you.  I hate this part of comedy the most.  I feel as though all I should HAVE to do is be funny and the bookings will follow, but that is not how it happens.  Getting seen and getting heard are two of the best ways to get more work.  So get on that.

This one is not that important, but I feel it is necessary in order to advance my career as a comic and that is travel more.  This past year I started going over to Seattle just to do open mics and getting in touch with the scene over there and it helped a lot in getting more work.  See, you would think in this advance world that we live in that people will see you on social media and YouTube and that would be good enough, but we are social creatures, and even though comics are the least social of them all, they still like to see people in the flesh.  That means flying or busing or driving (I wish I could sled to some of these places) to different places and getting in touch with the scene there. If you want to do this as a profession you will have to travel anyway, might as well get a head start.  The only problem with this is that it will cost money, and if you are not someone that can take a lot of time off work or are really broke it could be hard, but I was able to make it work on about 200-300 bucks a trip.  I got really cheap hotels (you may not even need that if you have friends and family in the area) and drove over.  Of course if you are planning to hit up LA or NYC it is gonna cost more, but you may be rewarded with connections that will return that 10 fold.

I also need to make a website.  This may seem unnecessary with Facebook and Twitter, but it is as important as ever.  Facebook is crowded and Twitter doesn’t allow you to get the point across like a dedicated website.  I used to have one that I kept pretty up to date, but I let it lapse and have since not done anything in that space since.  This allows people to see all of your stuff in one place.  Maybe a fan wants to see when you will be back it town, well there it is right there.  Even if you don’t have that much work going on to put up there, you can mark any time you will be on stage.  That makes it look like you are doing more than just sitting around.

This is a resolution I make for myself every year and that is to write more.  I usually try to write a new half hour every year.  That way I can have a new hour of my best stuff in a couple of years.  Now, this isn’t a conscious effort on my part.  I go up and perform and write and I just turn over the material as soon as it works.  If you are not headlining, then this matters little to you, but you should be trying to freshen up your material every so often.  I can not tell you how many people are still doing Al Pacino impressions and talking about Bill Clinton.  Yes, they are famous, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t seem old to be talking about them like they are relevant right now.

There you have it.  The list of things I try to work on.  Hopefully this will result in more success as a comedian.  At the very least if gives you things to shoot for while you are not on stage.  Have a happy new year and I hope all your gigs are well attended and well paid.

 

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Female Comics

Woman comics have a uniquely difficult time.  Being a black male, I know how it is to be judged on stage, but I am still a guy.  I can fall back on the familiar male troupes.  The weird thing about women comics is that women usually make up 50% or more of the audience of a comedy club (bars are different of course), but they make up a fraction of the comedians working today.  Why is that?  Here are some of my theories.

I have seen and shared the stage with many great women, but they all seem to go through the same difficulties.  The biggest of which is this notion that women are not funny.  I don’t know where that came from, but it seems to come from a place of ignorance.  Maybe there are unfunny women just like there are unfunny black people and white people and unfunny men.  I think this has to do with what women talk about on stage.  I think if heard by an insecure male, instead of admitting it is a biting piece of humor will just say it wasn’t funny to insulate themselves from how terrible they are as people.  If you want to be a horrible person fine, but it is not the lady’s fault.

Women also have to deal with male bookers a lot of the times.  On top of a lot of people thinking they are not funny they also have to be sexualized.  How humiliating it must feel to be called up for a show and the only reason they want you on it is because you can satisfy them?  I have heard so many women talk about that one booker who would not give them the show unless they put their mouth on em.  This stuff happens all the time in the industry.  That doesn’t mean that every woman you see on stage blew someone to be there.  That just means they had to do a whole lot more to be there.

In the Spokane scene, we have several really good female comics that will one day make money doing this (if they wish).  What I love about it is that you can hear something different instead of the same ole male related material.  I think the same thing applies for female comics as it would for any comic.  Get your material and keep working at it until you get your chance to shine.  Woman just have extra things to worry about.  If they are attractive they could be seen before they are ready.  That means they could do a show that they should not have because they were probably not prepared for it and it could set their career back.

Woman are also unique in that they could use that appeal to attract fans.  Since woman are a large part of the audience, you could cater to your clientele by having more women on the show.  That then runs into the previous issue of being seen too soon so you can see that this is  a tricky matter.  There is a market out there for all women shows and women headliners and I think as society moves ahead we will see more women take on these roles that men held onto for so long.

Sacrifice

If you want to make a career out of show business, you will have to know that sacrifices will have to be made.  That is the name of the business.  If you want it bad enough, you will have to sacrifice something.  The entire business is all about doing what the next guy won’t do in order to get further in your career.

When you first start out, especially in comedy, going out to open mics.  That means you have forgo all the things you would do with that 2-3 hours that you had available.  You have to give up on hanging out with your friends every weekend.  You have to tell your kids sometimes that you are going to be somewhere else when they want to hang out with you.

If you are lucky enough, you may start getting paid for comedy.  If that is the case, you will have to see how much you are willing to give up to make more money doing comedy.  If you have a full time job, you might have to sacrifice your vacation time in order to get to shows.  Some people (like me) make almost enough to just not even worry about work anymore, but not there yet.  So, you might have to go large portions of the year broke as shit.  If you are not willing to do that then keep your job and don’t go into comedy full time.

People who are full time comedians have to sacrifice yet still.  If you are gone almost every week you have to have a great relationship.  If you have kids, they may have to get used to seeing you a couple of days a month.  When you are living out of a suitcase you sacrifice a lot.  Like what channel CSI comes on.  When you are home you know.  When you are in a different part of the country, you have no clue.

At this stage in my career, I am sacrificing time with my kid.  I am sacrificing spending time with my lady.  I sacrifice these things because I really want to succeed in comedy.  I want comedy to be the thing that pays my bills, and in order to do that I have to do things like go to open mics on night I would rather not.  I do shows that I know might not work out, but in order to pay the bills I have to do it.  I give up having a full time, great paying job.  I do that because I love comedy so much.  If you can’t see yourself doing this then there is nothing wrong with just having comedy as a hobby.

Comedy And Relationships

I have been doing comedy for almost ten years and in those 10 years I have been in two relationships.  In those two relationships, I have had so many fights about comedy and it’s after effects that I stopped counting long ago.  If you are going to pursue comedy, you will need a partner that is not only secure in the relationship, but also encouraging.  I think the biggest reason for falling outs is that a lot of the time, people see comedy or theater as a hobby, not something someone can really do to earn a living.  That is the big reason why I ended up going to college.  My girlfriend at the time (We shall call her Miriam…because that was her name) wanted me to get a good paying job.

I have seen more often than not that the biggest reason a relationship falls apart because of comedy is when the person that is not a comedian starts feeling like they no longer matter.  This is on the comedian.  You can not expect to have someone as a back up plan when there are no open mics or shows that night.  It is always important to let them know that they are very important to you.  You have to understand that a relationship with a comedian is not like dating a banker.  There are late nights and drunks and even a mean spirited little person.  With that said, you have to have a partner that is secure enough that they will come with you to events or they can find things to do when you are not around.

I think when people get into relationships with comedians they have to understand first of all that you are dealing with someone that doesn’t think like you do.  They may see things a little twisted.  They may make fun of things that are sacred to you.  If that is the case then you need to find someone that can sit still at Nanna’s funeral (Who puts a hat on a body in a casket? Of course I’m gonna laugh.).

There will be instances where they are out until weird times of the night because they are out doing comedy and no one likes comedy when the sun is up.  They will also be accosted by drunk old men, women, and children.  If you are used to being the center of attention then you might want to swipe to the left of that comedian on tender…or is it right?  I should probably research these jokes.

Women are a huge part of the comedy audience.  They may approach the comedian and talk to you.  Your loved one has to be secure enough in themselves that they will see this as someone that enjoyed your work and move on.  If this person wants to bang you and they suspect that then you as the comedian should know that banging the fans, while enjoyable, can be hazardous to your relationship.  It’s all about trust.  Does your mate trust you around a pari of boobs?  If not then you should probably either leave that relationship so you can bang who you want or sit them down and ensure them that you are not banging ever woman that tells you they enjoy your show.

I have seen some relationships where the comedian had to choose between comedy and the relationship.  If I was ever confronted with something like that I would leave that relationship.  Comedy is my life.  It is what I love and it is what defines me as a person.  I could never just get a normal day-to-day without comedy being an outlet.  I would honestly rather swallow a bullet.  But since I don’t like massive head trauma, it is best that I get out of any relationship that would ask that of me.

People often ask me if I think two comedians can be in a worthwhile relationship.  I don’t know.  Every time I have seen it it has not worked out to well.  Either because the two in the relationship have different ideas on what comedy is to them, or one gets more work and it causes a strain on the relationship.  Or someone in the relationship is just a douchebag.

I don’t have any good observations on women comics.  Most of the women comics I know are single.  When they get in relationships the guy is usually really protective because most comics are guys and guys (for the most part) like vaginas.  It is hard for a lot of men to see their lady as the center of attention.  The married comedians I know are doing pretty well.  Maybe because they are not as broken as their male counterparts…I don’t know…I just observe and report.

Like any relationship, a relationship with a comic is about trust.  Do you trust that comic to come home without someone’s saliva on their genitals? Do you trust them to not spend their show money on cocaine?  Can you handle going to bars and traveling miles and miles for little pay?  If not then just date a banker, or a mechanic, or one of those guys that fixes air conditioning units for apartment buildings.  You may not want to be around someone who’s life is about making people laugh.  Or you may have found an asshat.  I don’t know.  I just observe and report.

 

 

What I Learned Trying To Record My Own CD

I was headlining the comedy club we have in Spokane.  I was also recording it for a cd I wanted to release in the new year.  I learned a lot about doing it myself. See, the last time I did a cd recording, I had help from a guy that has a lot of experience with this like this.  I do not have such knowledge.  I do, however, have YouTube, so I figured I could learn.  I learned how to hook my macbook to a mixer.  I didn’t take into account the fact that the club did not have a mixer.  They had a weird, old ass, PA system thing with a tape out.  I connected my macbook to that and…nothing.  I could not get the sound to go through my computer.  Apparently, Apple, in there infinite wisdom, decided to take the line in out of headphone jack.  In the past, you could hook a mic up to the headphone jack, change a setting, and you were good to go.  Not anymore!  You need a usb adapter to allow you to take a mic jack and get it into the mac.  So I decided to use my ipad.  I know they allow mic inputs in the headphone jack.  So, that is what I did Saturday night.  I had it connected, ready to go, garageband is connected and recording…and garageband on the ipad doesn’t allow you to record longer than like 30 minutes!  So I have a recording of my show, but only about half of it.  So…I should have just gotten my guy to do it for me again.  I did learn how to connect stuff to other stuff, but man it sucked to know that what is keeping my cd from coming out is the limitations of a program.  So I bought the usb headphone adapter and I will try again.  I don’t know if I will have to get a spot to record it or go back to the club.

 

Thanks for checking out my blog.  I really appreciate it.  I hope it helps or at the very least entertain you.

Why You Aren’t Getting More Work

Show business is more than just talent.  You have to be prepared for almost any type of work.  Comedy is a little behind in some instances, but there are still things that we are not doing to get more work.

Headshots: This is usually the first thing a booker or promoter sees when they are looking for comics to hire.  Just a snap shot with you phone and in greyscale is not gonna cut it!  If you can afford it then you should.  Nothing says I am worth that money than a nice headshot.  If you can try to get a color and black and white.  I think black and white is from the old days.  If you can’t afford it see if you have a comedy buddy that will do it cheap or for free.  Getting a headshot with a nice DSLR is still better than that cameraphone pic you have from 5 years ago.

Bios and Resumes: I hate this because it is like bragging about yourself, but it does serve a purpose.  First, what it does is it tells bookers that you have done (or haven’t done) stuff.  If you have opened for Dave Chapelle you should probably let people know that mainly because it lets them know that you have been vetted.  I usually don’t get asked for this anymore.  It doesn’t really make sense.  Unless you are an actor.  Why do you want to know how many bars and sub comedy clubs I have worked.

Social Media: This is not the 90’s anymore.  You have to be out there and nothing is better than social media.  You really should be on twitter and facebook so you can connect and promote.  Promotion of shows is a hit or miss affair.  If you are in a small town you can burn out potential patrons pretty quickly.  If you are in a bigger area, it pays to have these so you can connect with other comics.  I have gotten a lot of work from just having Facebook and twitter and people seeing that I am active.

Video Reel:  I feel that this is very important.  You want people who are about to hire you, to see what you can actually do.  They might not really think your bio is impressive, but they may see your video and you can change their mind.  Well, if you do a good job with it.  Again, cameraphone video might be handy, but it won’t impress a booker.  You want high quality video that shows what you can do.  You should try to have a couple of videos so you can send them depending what kind of work you are trying to get.  I have one for the corporate stuff and one for normal clubs and such.  The corporate video doesn’t have cursing in it.  That way they can see that I can do material that won’t send them the HR.

I think if you keep on working and doing these things (and keeping them updated!), you will see that it is much easier to get work.

SICC And What It Taught Me

I finished the Seattle International Comedy Competition 6th.  I was really close to making it to the finals.  The competition taught me some things about myself.  Mainly, that I am not just some guy pretending to be a comic.  I am a comedian, whose jokes are up to par with the rest of the comics working today.  I always thought that Spokane made it that I was not really writing jokes for a larger set of people.  That I was too local.  I was able to make it work for me and I actually won a night in the semi final round. Another thing I realized is that I need to sharpen up my stuff so I look more presentable to potential bookers.

Spokane comedy will be changing in about 4-6 months.  A couple of people that were holding things down are leaving.  The main comedy club in town will be closing shop and there will be less open mics to work on new material.  This has happened before.  It will probably happen again.  I think Spokane needs a shake up, but not like this.  I think we need a franchise club to come in and take over.  Some of their practices are not conducive to growing comics in the area, but it would make comedy a viable option in an area not known for it.

I have been thinking of leaving Spokane so I can get more opportunities.  That only works if you have the work ethic in the first place to be ready when those opportunities arise.  If you are not sharp, don’t have your stuff together and not ready, then you are not going to succeed.