Going To New York

So, at the end of February, I will be heading to New York for a couple of days to venture in their comedy scene.  I’m not gonna move there.  Unless it captures me to the point that I can not live without being there all the damn time.  It is something that I should have been doing a long time ago, but just never got up the nerve to do it.  I am going with a couple of friends, so it will not be just me lost in a huge city for a week. It will be me and some friends lost in a huge city for a week.

There are multiple reasons to hit up New York.  It is one of the places you are told to go if you are going to REALLY pursue comedy.  It’s where a career can be made.  It is also a place where you can drown just trying to pay the rent.  That is my biggest reason for never wanting to venture into a bigger scene.  I see countless people go to these places like they are the first to think about it.  They have no savings.  They have no plans.  They don’t even have job leads.  They just go there and then they realize that they aren’t on SNL yet and they end up having to get a job just to pay for a shitty apartment and they never get out to do comedy like they wanted to.  Now they are just a New Yorker.  Maybe that is where the famous New York attitude comes from.  It’s just a bunch of people that had their dreams snatched away from them.

We are going to go there, take in the sites, and go to as many open mics as possible.  If I can do 2-3 a night that would be a dream come true.  I want to meet people that have connections.  You know the stuff comics who want to make money do.

I am going to be building my website tomorrow.  It is about 5 years in the making.  I thought I could get as much information out there with a facebook page.  That was not the case.  I don’t want people having to go to several different things just to get info on me.  I used to have a website.  I didn’t run it well. Now that I am a little be older and a little less stupid I think I can keep it running smoothly with up to date information.

There is this open mic in town that is ran on a debate format.  I liked it.  Although, someone accused me of just doing my material.  I don’t know why it got under my skin.  Probably because it wasn’t material.  Like I didn’t have it written down anywhere or performed it somewhere else.  I was just going off the top of my head.  The thing about doing comedy in this town for as long as I have is that there are people out there that like you and there are some that resent you.  Not because you did anything to them, but because you are something they want to be against.  It doesn’t really deter me or anything.  It was just weird that I was getting called out.  Especially seeing how people were doing real material.  Like stuff they perform all the time they just started doing when they ran out of stuff to say about the topic.

My photography stuff is starting to ramp up.  I am getting ready to start taking clients for headshots.  I want to do portraits and real estate photography as well.  I don’t want to do weddings.  It just seems like dealing with assholes all day.  I want to do more than just doing comedy.  There are times when I am home for weeks at a time.  I could be doing something else with that time.  I can write blogs and stuff and record videos, but I think there is enough time in there to take pictures and make money while doing it.

 

The Promo Package: The Resume

This is the last in a series on the promotional package that you would send to potential bookers.  We have gone over head shots, videos, and the biography.  Now we will discuss the resume.  I personally don’t think this is all that important.  It is mostly just shows them where you have performed and what other things you have done.  It looks really good if you have done a crap ton of stuff, but on the other hand, it looks weak if all you have done is open mics.  I don’t really have an idea on wether or not bookers are using this in their judgement on if they should hire you or not.

The resume is usually a page with your name up top (Your bio should have your name up there as well!) and you divide your entertainment type work into categories.  I have seen a lot of people that will go: COMEDY, TV/COMMERCIALS, MOVIES.  You can divide it however you want to make it look more impressive.

I usually put everything up on there that seems cool.  If all you have done is bar gigs then you would have to put them there, but as you do more stuff you should probably take them off.  It just a matter of trying to show the person looking at this that you have done some impressive stuff. Bars are not that impressive.  They are like the double A’s of the comedy kingdom.

If you have been in commercials and tv shows and stuff put that up there.  Why?  Hell I don’t know!  It makes you look like you are more than just a dive bar comic.  Bookers eat that crap up.  Especially if it is a show that is popular.  If you are on the Hallmark channel it might not be as impressive as ABC, but it is better than QVC by a long shot.

Throw that you were in Movies.  If you were an extra it doesn’t matter.  You are on the film so you can take credit for it.  It is all about trying to impress this person.  So if you were in Saving Private Ryan than throw that on there.  If you were in Freddy Got Fingered…leave that off.

I think the resume is dying off because it is usually bloated.  People will throw on there that they were on Last Comic Standing if they were just in a shot.  That counts…kind of.  I know this sounds hypocritical to what I just wrote above.  It is!  The thing is that if you want to work on a meaningful level you have to play by some silly ass rules.  In a perfect world, comics would get work based on how well they do on stage.  But this is not a perfect world.  You have to deal with bookers that have their own personal agendas.  You have to deal with comics that might not be on the up and up.  You have to go through hundreds of comics that are trying to get the same limited amount of work so you have to do everything you can to get seen.  That is why I do this blog.  And the YouTube videos.  And the upcoming podcast.  You have to impress these people, and the sad thing is that just your jokes will not cut it.  Just being able to show up and do a great job will not cut it.  Being able to not sexually molest the staff will not cut it.  You have to be a neon sign in a sea of neon signs.  This series will not guarantee you work.  But, if you do a good job at the promo package and show up ready to blow up (do well not detonate yourself) then you have a shot.  Thanks for reading.

No Excuses

Had a great show in Seattle last week.  Got to see a friend I haven’t seen in awhile.  Seattle is fun for me because there are all these nooks and crannies that I haven’t explored and that is exciting.  I also go over there and as soon as I hit Seattle proper I get angry as hell.  Traffic is lousy.  There is always construction or something going on which means as soon as you remember how to get somewhere you have to learn something again…it is a silly complaint, but I always get flustered over there.

Me and my friend (or is it My friend and I…) were talking about comedy and how to get more of it.  I will admit to anyone that will listen that I am a procrastinator and as such don’t get as much work as I think I could otherwise.  I try not to use any of my ailments as excuses.  Sometimes I have a flare up (Lupus not Herpes) and I will get fatigued easy and end up sleeping most of the day.  That isn’t an excuse because I can use that time I am awake to send out stuff and try to get more dates.  I think what happens with a lot of us is we will use our shortcomings as a crutch for why we haven’t met success. I try not to do that.  I want to be exposed for what I am.  Lazy.  That way you either try to change it or you just accept you are wasting your time.

The past 6 months I have been trying new things as far as comedy goes and it has been working pretty well for me.  I have stopped accepting any old gig.  I am not swimming in money, but not all shows are created equal.  I would rather spend my time promoting a great show then one that was thrown together at the last minute.  I would also be valued in my performance.  What used to happen is I would go and “headline” a show for 50-60 bucks and what would happen is I would be there with open micers.  That does two things.  It makes it so I can not charge what I think I am worth later and it makes me look suspect because I am on the tail end of a lot of comics that don’t have the time to be up there. I have stopped just going to every open mic.  What happens when you do that is people just go to the open mics and not to your paid shows.  It makes you a rarity.  It makes people what to see what you are up too.  I love comedy, I just know I should not be at everything every week.

I was watching a video of myself and man…I need to lose weight.  I looked like a pregnant man.  I hate working out, but it just needs to be done.  Either that or I need to come up with an excuse for why I am fat…wait.

 

The Promo Package: The Bio

We have talked about two of the most important parts of gathering a promotional package that will attract bookers and promoters.  Although this one is not as important (in my opinion), work still needs to be applied to the bio of your promotional package.  It gives the booker and anyone else reading it (like say a random person walking by a flyer at the comedy club) a glimpse into the what you are about.

The Biography should not be a novel.  Let’s get that out of the way.  If you are building a character that will go on adventures with a black guy, first, I think that’s been done before and second, you are missing the put of the bio.  It just tells the reader real quick of your style and accomplishments.  The reason this can be important is it tells the reader what to expect when they pay to see you, and where you’ve been before coming to North Dakota.

There are some things I think you should avoid.  Stay away from words like edgy and raw.  That was done to death back in the 80’s and it makes you sound like you are trying to be a rebel or a shock comedian.  Stay away from lines like “views on his zany life” or stuff like that.  Why?  Because the audience is not stupid to comedians.  You know how in zombie movies/shows they act like zombies are not a thing in their universe? Like it isn’t pop culture knowledge about the traits that zombies have?  The opposite applies here.  The average person has seen comedy and will know that you might talk about something that happened to your life.  It seems outdated to me.

My bio is rather short because I hate writing about and hyping myself up.  That is what you HAVE to do though!  You have to give them a reason to book you.  A bio that is nothing but you trying to make the reader laugh is cool, but if it doesn’t go over in their heads then you look like you are trying to hard.  I usually throw in a couple funny lines, but nothing too polarizing.  You also have to make sure your accomplishments are thrown in there as well.  When I did the Seattle International Comedy Competition I had to write up a small bio of myself and I didn’t put anything in there that would make someone think I was other than a comic from Spokane.  See, it is a sad truth, but people don’t want to spend their money on an unproven hack.  They want someone that has done stuff.  Now, you can throw in stuff like who you opened for (don’t use open for though, use “worked with” sounds better), but if you only opened for the local chainsaw carver and you are trying to get booked in the big city, no one knows who that is so there is no clout there.  If you opened for like a known comic throw that in there.  People like to see those familiar names.  It assures them that at some point you were vetted.  Is that true 100% of the time?  Hells nah!  Sometimes it means you were the only one in town with a  solid 10 minutes when Bill Burr came through.  They don’t know that.

Some people go by the philosophy of stretching fact in the bio.  I’m in the undersell over deliver camp.  I would rather not say I was on Comedy Central if I was ON Comedy Central.  People will put in there that they were on some major network, knowing that most people are not going to bother to research it and get to the bottom of it.  It comforts the brain knowing that the person they are about to see is not just a hobo right off the street.

Last thing.  Keep it to about a half a page.  If you have so much that you have to convey to the reader you may need to find another medium in which to do it.  Get a website or something.  This isn’t a memoir.  It’s to deliver a quick message on your abilities.  Writing too much will bore the reader and they may say, “forget this!” and you lost a fan.

Keep these things in mind when writing up your bio and you are 3/4’s of the way to super stardom…ok…so I over sold that just a bit, but you get what I was trying to say.

Fear And Loathing In Spokane

I live in Spokane Washington.  Spokane is the second largest city in Washington state, yet because of it’s location (about an hour from Idaho) it is more conservative city then other large cities in this area.  I say that because a career in comedy is tough in a town where the arts are an after thought and most of the business owners in town consist of people that inherited 75k from their “nana” and decided to open a bar.

Whenever I talk to a fellow comedian in town, it always comes to why I am still in Spokane.  Spokane isn’t where you blow up your comedy career.  Spokane is where you find out if you love comedy or not and then you move somewhere else.  When they ask me why I am still here and they tell me I am good enough to be somewhere else I get a small anxiety attack.  First, from the thought that another comic thinks that highly of me and second because that has been a daily battle for me for the past five years.

Comedy is what defines me.  That isn’t a bad thing, if you are in an area that values that sort of thing.  In Spokane, that does nothing to the masses.  It’s like telling someone you are a professional hula hooper, or a forklift racer.  It seem more odd than anything to the layman that a comedian would be here.  Spokane does that to people.

My kid lives here.  That is about the only reason I have for being here.  I don’t want to leave my kid and only get to see here every couple of months or once a year.  I like having daily interactions with my child.  This is what tears at me.  Follow my dream to the ends of the earth or be a decent dad?  Distance isn’t a factor in determining if you are a good dad, but I feel as one of the only black adults she knows, I have to help her navigate life.  That’s my duty and I take it seriously.

With rumors that the only comedy club in town will be closing down, I feel like one of the longest performing comics in town, I should be setting up a place that can fill in.  The problem is Spokane is on an entertainment island.  Boise is 6 hours.  Portland is 6.  Seattle is a day and a half by buggy (my preferred method of travel).  People rather go to those towns to do comedy than Spokane.  Can that be reversed?  Yes.  But how long would that take.

I like to tell the other comics how I got where I am.  Which isn’t very far.  I have brute forced my career so to say.  I haven’t attached myself to a niche in the market or used a savvy media presence to gain more attention.  I have gain more shows from just going to where I am supposed to go and just performing.  I don’t think I am good at the other methods.  I don’t think I could work a niche for too long before I just decide to go crazy.  I half ass my social network stuff.  So for my skill set, I think I am in the place I am supposed to be.  I think in 3-5 years I will be doing more nationally, but this is the result of lots of driving and getting in front of the right people.

I am honestly scared of not doing more.  Not for the money or fame, but of the people that would see me as an example that they can make it work in Spokane.  It scares the gas out of me.

The Promo Package: The Video Submission

If you are trying to get work as a professional comic, there are two very important things you will need.  Last week we discussed the headshot.  That is very important.  It shows that you are serious about being a professional comedian and it let’s the promoter/booker know what the hell you look like.  I think the most important part of the entire package is the video clip you email to them. It is even more important than the headshot.  The headshot is just a snapshot of what you look like when there is a decent camera taking your picture and a editor getting the bags from under your eyes.  The video that you send in to your potential employer is what they are actually paying you for.  Your jokes!  This is where so many comics (myself included) have gone wrong.  Let’s talk about the does and don’t so we all can get more work.

Like I said with the headshot, it maybe best to get someone that knows what they are doing.  Someone that knows about lighting and sound and everything else that it takes to make you look as good as possible.  Remember, you may only have one shot to get in the door with a lot of bookers.  The last thing you want is a crappy video being what you present to them.

Let’s talk about lighting.  This is a big part of video.  If you can’t see anything then it is of no value to anyone. Comedy clubs are famous for being dark. That is why getting away from the camera on your phone is important. Cameras are on about 99% of phones made, but not that many are good enough to be using in such dark environments. There are phones out there that can do some great video however.  Have you bought your phone in the past couple of years?  Then it may be able to provide you with a good video that you can do something with. I would suggest a dedicated camera because they are more likely to have a larger sensor which means it can gather more light and give you a better video.  Have you seen a video that looks really pixelated and stuff?  That is because a lot of cameras that are on phones have smaller sensors and that results in a crunchy look to your videos.  Try getting a friend with a  DSLR to record it for you.  That is the free option.  You can probably get a videographer or photographer to come in and do it for not that much if you are serious.

If you have no choice but to use your phone then please get a stand!  Nothing says amateur like a shaky video.  It also pays to have it away from people that may be talking.  You don’t want someone commenting on your jokes during your performance.

The other big factor in your video is audio.  Again, it pays to have someone that knows that they are doing so you can get a performance that not only looks good but sounds good as well.  Most phones (and cameras) have omnidirectional mics that will pick up everything that is around it.  This is bad for your performance because it will pick up the waiters talking and people clanking glasses and the drug deal that is going on in the back of the club…all things you don’t want a booker to hear.  You want them to focus on you.  Not the grainy security camera video or the fact that he can’t hear you over table 5.  There are options you can use like a dedicated audio recorder and then you can sync the sound up later.  You could buy a mic for your phone that will plug into the headphone jack and provide great sound.  Like this: http://bhpho.to/1DzwFBM or something like this: http://bhpho.to/1xGcueh these will focus on your voice (if pointed at the stage) and you can record video and get great sound.  If you have a DSLR get yourself a shotgun mic like the ones from Rode and those will do great as well.

Ok.  So you have the video and it looks great.  Well now you have to edit it.  Make sure it is between 3-5 minutes.  What I have done however is made a 5 minute and a 10 minute video.  That is because I have had some bookers that wanted a longer video and I have one primed and ready to go.

A couple of things you need to be aware of is language and clothing. If you want to get as much work as possible then you may want to go PG-13 in the material department.  Bookers and human.  They may not want to hear you dropping f bombs.  Even if that isn’t your entire act, it is what the bookers will see and they will probably not give you work.  You may also want to consider what you wear.  If you are in a hoodie or in a clown mask you may not get booked.  Just things to consider…Yes, I hate it as well.  You should be able to get on stage buck naked if it gets you work, but I am not the master of the universe…just King Peppersnake.

Don’t send them the file.  Put it on a video sharing site like YouTube and then send them the link.  No one opens a 25mb email. That is just a virus waiting to happen.

I hope your video submission is great.  If you wonder why my writing changed in the middle of this post it’s because I got constipated and this is my descent into madness and non poopiness.

I’m expanding the blog to include some more personal musings.  Those will be probably be on Wednesdays or whenever something cool happens to me…which is usually on a Wednesday.

The Promo Package: The Headshot

Since this is the beginning of a new year, I figured we would all benefit from learning a thing or two about getting our promotional packages together so we can obtain more work.  A promotional package is all of the things you need to promote yourself to any potential bookers.  What is normally included is the head shot, the bio, the resume, and a video of your performance.  We will go through each one.  Now I am not an expert.  I just know what has worked and what hasn’t worked for me.  So if you need expert thoughts on the matter…I don’t know where you would go maybe just call up Chris Rock he’s in the phone book.

This week’s post is about the head shot.  This, in my opinion, is the second most important part of the promotional package.  This is usually the first thing they will see.  Honestly this will usually go a long way between deciding if you will get hired or not.  Bookers and promoters are human.  They have the same hang ups that everyone else has, and sadly most of these guys already have a stable of comics that they are using and are not really looking for anyone new.  That sounds messed up, but you can maybe change their minds with a great promo package and that starts with the head shot.

First things first you need a color head shot.  STORY TIME!! I was recently booked to do a show and the promoter asked for a hi res head shot.  I sent him the one I have been using for about 5 years now.  He replied asking if I had any COLOR hi res head shots.  I was honestly embarrassed because I had not kept up with the times and my head shot showed that I may not be as serious about comedy as I put on.

It is 2015!  The future.  A lot of things are going on the internet now.  There is no need to have black and white head shots.  The reason I have black and white head shots is that when I was starting I wanted color to look different, but all of the bookers I worked with insisted on black and white.  I then moved that way and now I am in the position I am today.

You want to get them professionally done if possible.  This is not has expensive as it may seem.  Besides, you will pay for it in about a month of gigs!  Get someone who knows how to take head shots.  There are many in your area.  I have seen the pricing anywhere from 175 and up here in Spokane, but if you live in New York or L.A. you may be paying a bit more.  Do not have your friend take a head shot of you with an iphone in a dark ass room and pass that off as a head shot.  That isn’t a head shot, that is a what they call a candid shot and that is useful on flyers, but not to represent you to the booker.

This is my opinion, but you don’t need to be doing weird in the photo.  Just a nice smile or something will do.  I have seen a lot of head shots where the person is like flipping the camera off or throwing a baby in the air and again, those are more candid shots.  Those have a place, but not as your head shot.  It is just supposed to show how you will (kinda) look when you show up to the show.

This day and age you are probably not mailing promo packages, so you might not worry about printing them (unless you also do acting then you will be printing them then) just make sure you have the highest resolution you can possibly get. That is why a professional is needed.  They know the current sizes and can get you what you want.  Don’t send a booker a 480×320 picture of yourself.  Why?  Because when they make it larger it will look all pixelated.  And you won’t get the gig.

I hope this helps.  Again.  I am not a complete expert.  There are many post out there on the internet that will help you learn more.

If you are in the Spokane, WA area I have started to do head shot and portrait photography.  I have everything needed to get you a great photo.  Contact me if you need something.  Thanks and have a great new year!