Private Shows And Film Success

I have a private show this weekend and I am always nervous about these things.  They usually want you to perform in front of a bunch of people that are probably forced there by a superior and so they don’t want to laugh for a myriad of reasons.  They usually want the show clean, which is something I can do no problem, but I am still anxious at the thought of maybe slipping and saying something terrible.  Another thing about these types of shows is that their definition of “clean” is different for a lot of people.  They are a volunteers for a Christian group so I am assuming all sexual innuendo is out the door as well as language.  Good thing I have a lot of material on my kid.

The short film I helped with got selected to be shown at the 50 hour slam here in Spokane!  When I saw the finished product I was amazed at how great it was, but I didn’t think we were gonna get selected to be a part of final selection.  I am really excited, and I hoped that after the show I can get down there in time to see our film get shown.

Photography has waned a little bit, and I think that is because I focused a lot on the artist community. Comedians don’t have any damn money!  I am gonna branch out and see where that takes me.  I have a facebook page dedicated to this endeavor, but I haven’t gotten too much work off of that.

Shawna and I were bored and so we just drove around the further reaches of Spokane and I will be going back to take pictures of some of the cool stuff I saw.  At the very least this will get me outside and walking around.  The weather is too good right now to waste.

My kid is playing softball and she is pretty good at the hitting.  Doesn’t understand a damn thing when it comes to fielding.  I was not a great fielder when I was playing highschool baseball, but I did know what I was supposed to do.  I like going to her games and taking photos of her, but I think she doesn’t like it because it draws attention to her.  Oh well, I’m her dad, I’m supposed to embarrass her.

Creating Comedy In A Bubble

Although it is the title of this entry, creating comedy in a bubble is not possible.  Kind of like altruism, something “corrupts” the process of creating jokes without any interference.  There is always an outside force acting upon you.  You know what?  Maybe we should go back to the beginning, and explain what I mean and then we can get into the hippie dippie parts.  Ok?

When I use the term “creating in a bubble”  I mean creating whatever you want without outside actors interfering with you or it.  When a painter paints, he doesn’t want people around to tell him that the colors are off or that the faces don’t look like faces.  A painter wants to create free of those forces so his true art, and true message can come across.  The same is to be said for a comedian, but slightly harder because our art is giving to an audience in real time.

As a comedian there will always be things that will affect your comedy.  Does the audience expect cleaner material?  Is the crowd uneasy?  Are they rowdy?  These things can have an affect on a performance.  Even more than that are you in a situation to even create without much issue.  Are you being told that you are too dirty, or that you focus to much on one subject? These things can affect your comedy.  It can affect the way you write jokes, and the way you perform those jokes.

When I first started doing comedy, I paid attention to what the audience was digging and I tried to write material to reflect that.  As you could probably imagine it was not that good.  I was all over the place, the audience wasn’t really feeling it, and to top it off I wasn’t even enjoying myself.  That was when I was told by a great mentor to many a comic, Jay Wendell Walker, to just do whatever I enjoyed doing.  I took that advise, and it totally changed my comedy.  Instead of letting people affect my comedy I started creating material and went out of my way to reject any criticism towards it.

When I say I rejected criticism you have to understand that I am talking about all forms of criticism that I felt didn’t make me better as a comedian. Hearing people say that you are not good or that you should not do certain material will make you stop doing that material and I think that can hurt your comedy. Does it actually make you a better comedian to hear someone tell you that you are too loud or you curse to much or you talk about boobs too much?  Example, someone after a show tells you you should not tell jokes about a certain subject because it happened to them.  That is messed up, but does that really have any bearing on your joke?  If you start pulling back material every time someone said it bothered them you would be telling knock knock jokes.  Sometimes jokes are not all cuddly. Sometimes harsh truths get exposed and you are not doing the world a service if you decide not to do it because someone is going to get upset.

I hope my point got across.  As an entertainer, you will always have things that will affect your comedy in some way, shape, or form.  What the great comedians have done, however, is block all of that external, negative, information off, and they were able to create comedy that is not only funny, but eye opening.  If you want to reach your maximum potential you will have to do the same thing.  Take your gloves off, and go for it on stage!  Look through the darker parts of your notepad and bring those bits to life.  You wrote an entire page about frog fighting?  Try it!  You never know what will become a key part of your act if you are letting your fear and the negative or unwanted advice of others get to you. Sometimes what I do is I will look through my phone for a bit or a premise I wrote down awhile ago, and just give it a shot on stage.  Go to an open mic and go for it.  I think you will see that ignoring all the factors that curtail your material will help you out in the long run!

Comedy In Portland

I have experienced two shows in Portland.  One professional show and one open mic and I was very impressed.  The open mic was at Helium Comedy Club.  It is a really nice club and they ran a damn good open mic.  They had 25 people and got them all in in under 2 hours!  That just can’t happen in Spokane.  That would have been 2 and a half to 3 hours and I think it is because they are hardcore about their rules.  If you are not there by a certain time then you don’t get to go on.  If you go over the time, then you will not be put on the list next time.  I think that is something that Spokane should adopt.  They gave the more established comedians more time.  I thought that was fair.  You get what you earned.  I only talked to a handful of comics, but they were cool.

The professional show was hosted and put together by Todd Armstrong and it was really good.  The audience for both the open mic and the pro show was great.  I got to see Freddie Walker and he just looked like Portland was where he was supposed to be.  In Spokane, I think people were thrown off a little bit by his absurd material.  In a larger city, you will probably get more of an audience that will appreciate what you are doing.

I haven’t travelled that much through Portland, so I haven’t taken that many pictures, but I do love the city.  The traffic isn’t murder like Seattle.  They only have one photo shop that was alright.  The other two that I checked out were not that good.  They were tiny and didn’t have a used section.

I am going to go see if there is an open mic I can check out in a place that isn’t as top shelf as Helium.  I will probably be able to see another side of Portland comedy.  See ya Monday!

Experiencing Other Comedy Scenes

Spokane is good and everything, but it isn’t the biggest of comedy scenes.  That is why it is good practice to venture out and check out other scenes.  There are many reasons to do so, and we will go over almost all of them right now.

One of the biggest reasons you would want to go out to other cities and digest their comedy scenes is that it will get you noticed.  That is important for small markets like Spokane.  Spokane has a reputation that was not earned by most of the active participants of the comedy scene today.  That means that a lot of people just ignore comedians here altogether.  You are not getting talent scouts or bookers making trips here to check out what Spokane has to offer, so you have to go to them.  It is great to get out and talk to other comics and see what connections you can make.  If you get noticed by other comics and start interacting with them you will see more work come out of it as a result.  When I went to Seattle to do open mics and stuff there, I was amazed by how many people I started talking too and how much extra stuff came about because of it.

Another reason to venture to other places is to get a grasp on how funny you actually are.  Does your material rely on the audience knowing local landmarks?  Then it might not work in places outside of that area.  I have seen this a lot with LA and San Fran comics.  They do so much stuff in their areas that when they go further away then just their metropolitan area, they realize that it doesn’t actually translate well.  Other cities also have different things going on or a completely different culture that you may not be aware of that is affecting your jokes.  When I was doing the competition in Seattle I used to do this joke that killed in Spokane and in other smaller areas, but when I did it in front of a Seattle crowd they didn’t laugh as hard.  I changed a couple of words in the joke to make it not seem like I was calling someone something hateful and the joke was killing again.  That isn’t something that people who don’t care about will notice.

I also believe that going to other cities and getting your feet wet in there comedy scenes will help you with your comedy.  Is someone there doing a joke similar to yours and now that you heard it you notice that it is dumb?  Wouldn’t happen if you just stay put.  It will let you know where you stand in the overall comedy landscape.  Do you need to write more?  Is your timing down?  Other places on the map will prepare you for that.

I know it is hard to get out of your comfort zone.  Trust me!  I love getting up at Uncle D’s and doing my thing or walking up on stage at Chan’s and rocking it out for a bit.  Going to other stages in other cities will help you become a better, stronger comedian.  Here is an example:  Mika Lahman is a comic in Spokane that I went to New York City with.  While there, she wrote more material because she was knee deep in comedy every day.  When she came back to Spokane, you could see that she was a different, better comic with more of a stage presence and new bits that have been doing really well.  It is nerve racking to be sitting by yourself in a city that you don’t know around comics that you don’t know, but all that means is that if you crush it you will get to know those comics and good things will (or should) happen as a result.  And if it doesn’t go that well…who the hell cares they don’t know you!

What I usually do in a new city at an open mic where no one knows me, I go up and do my good stuff.  I am not at my usual open mic, so I am there to impress at this moment.  I get up and I do the best 2-3 minutes I got (or that I feel like doing) and then that makes it easier to interact with other comics.  No one wants to shake hands with the new, terrible guy, but everyone wants to know the guy that just blew the doors off the place for 2-3 minutes.  I try to do more than just the big open mics as well.  When I go to Portland this week, I am not just going to Helium and stuff.  I am going to any open mic that will have me.  You get a better sense of what that city has to offer as far as comedians are concerned.  You see that in Spokane.  There are some people who do not go to Uncle D’s, but love going to Neato Burrito to do their open mic.  The smaller places are where you will find your independent bookers and stuff, and that leads to potential work.

The biggest thing you should remember about going to other places and exploring their comedy scene is that this is what you signed up for!  You wanted to go all over and get paid to do comedy, right?  If so, then this is the tried and true way to do it.  You can send emails and promo packages until you are blue in the face, but when you walking into a club and rocking it right then and there they have to pay attention to that.

Thanks for reading my blog.  I appreciate it and I thank you.  I hope these things entertain and help.

A Whole Box Of CDs

I did my show at my old college.  It was fun.  I was told that we got more people then the other two acts got.  That made me feel good.  There isn’t anything I could have done to made it better.  The crowd was a little timid, but overall it was a great show.  I think I like doing colleges.  The problem is that there is a complicated system to get into these types of colleges.  You have to go to a conference and parade around and hope that you can beat out all the different acts there that want the same thing as you.

A couple of comics came out to the show and I thought that was cool as hell.  That is the cool thing about comics in this town nowadays.  A lot of guys could give two fucks about what others are doing, but there are a couple of guys that will go to anything, and that shows that Spokane comedy is getting better and better with each new wave of people.

Photography has slacked off a little, but I plan on picking that up.  I just need to get the word out that this is what I do and that I can do a lot of different things.  I don’t want to mess with weddings though. The last thing I need is to have some bridezilla come after me about not taking enough pictures of her and her dog or some crazy shit.  I just want to take portraits and event photos and call it good.  I think the issue is that because everyone has a camera that we have just accepted blurry ass terrible pictures as just a part of life.  It is even harder to convince people to pay you hundreds of dollars for something that their kid does all the time.  I think the message needs to be that I can provide great pictures that won’t put you in the poor house.

I bought a new box of CDs to sell after shows.  People tend to like CDs.  I would prefer to just sell people download cards, but that can be complicated.  Some people have iPhones and some have Androids and then some weird guy will have a Windows phone or some shit, and all these people have different ways of getting things on their devices.  Some people don’t even add things on there phones, so a CD is the logical choice.  I need more stuff to sell.  I have ideas, but I don’t want to sell something just for the sake of selling stuff.  I want people to see the thing and say, “Damn, I need that!”

Thank you for checking out my blog.  I appreciate it so much.

 

When Is It Time To Start Getting Paid?

Many a young comedian have asked me this question, and I have the same answer for all of them:  I don’t know.  This is a question when you should truly be honest with yourself.  Sometimes we think we should get paid to do something because then it means we are validated. A lot of people may think they are not comedians until they get paid to be a comedian.  Some may think that it is just a natural progression of things. You do something for a certain amount of time and then you start getting paid for it.

I am a photographer on the side.  I started charging when I realized that people wanted me to take their picture more and more.  By charging, people will realize that you are not just a free option they can run to when they need something done, and it covers expenses that you incurred while trying to become what it is you set out to be.  In show business it is no different.  When people start asking you to do time for them more and more you should then realized that you have become a commodity and that you should be charging for your services.

When I started out there were not that many opening acts in town so after about 3-4 months I started getting asked to do more and more time and soon enough I was faced with the decision of whether I should start asking people to pay me for my joke slinging.  Here is the thing about that:  Almost all non comedians think they are doing you a service by letting you get up and tell jokes for their little event.  They will tell you things like, “Well, it is great exposure!” or “You will get more work out of it.” Don’t listen to those people.  They didn’t do the things they did for free forever and neither should you. Here is a quick rule of thumb.  If they ask you to do more than 10 minutes they should offer you some type of compensation.  5-10 minutes is usually a guest set, that is you do a little time before the people getting paid go up.  Anything other than that is paid comedian territory and don’t let anyone tell you different.  Also think about it from this angle, if it isn’t a charity event then they are charging people and if they are not doing it for free then neither should you.

You see, when I was started out, there was no one around to tell me which way to go.  I would basically do my entire show at the time for free for anyone that would ask me because I thought that people would just start paying you out of the goodness of their hearts.  We both know that is wrong.  If you don’t put your foot down and ask to be paid to get on the stage then people, especially in comedy, will run all over you.  When it came to a point where I saw people doing the same time as me, but getting paid at the end of the night, I knew I should be getting paid as well.

Now you may be asking, “Well, how much do I charge?”  and the answer to that is different depending on many factors.  Where you live, how much time you can do, and how much you are comfortable with are all questions you should know before you go asking people for money.  In the one place we have here in Spokane, that can be confusing because that is how the owner of the one comedy club wants it to be.  The industry standard for road gigs has been 100 for feature (20-30 minutes) and 200 for headliners (50 minutes to an hour).  This isn’t always the case however.  Some clubs will pay a reduced rate because they figure that you are not driving anywhere to the next gig.  I have seen that rarely though.  In Spokane, a lot of the shows that are put on are put on without much of a budget so you have to be aware that you may not get 100 bucks to feature.  There was a place here opened for awhile that had a budget of about 80 bucks.  Are you comfortable getting paid 20 bucks to do your 30 minutes?  If you are then you will like these types of shows.

I have been headlining for awhile and people ask me to do private shows and shows in places that are not bars or comedy clubs.  I was never quite sure how to go about getting what I thought I was worth. That is why nowadays I ask how much the budget is.  They may still lie, but at least you know around about how much they are willing to pay you.  I had someone ask me how much I would do for a college gig.  Now, colleges have budgets for entertainment, so they have a number that they can pay you.  You should always remember one thing when you are asking for money.  You will get fucked.  No one gets paid what they are actually worth.  That is not how capitalism works.  You get paid what they think they can get away with paying you.  So, if you think you are worth 100 a night in some bar then that means you are probably worth double that.  Ok, so the college asked me how much I wanted and I asked them their budget.  They didn’t want to tell me, but they gave me a number.  I thought it was too low seeing as how I knew what bigger comedians got paid to go there.  I am not asking for what Jerry Seinfeld would get, I am not at that level, but I do have an idea of where I am in the pool of comedians. I countered and they accepted.  So now I got 300 bucks and all the text books I can fit into the trunk of my car.

You have to be honest with yourself.  If you have been doing it for 3-4 months and you live in a large city, you should not be trying to get paid for work.  There are just too many people out there with more time.  That isn’t to say it can’t be done. If you are a phenom, then you should ask to get paid, but you will know if you are or not if you are getting request for shows all over the place.  If you only have 5 minutes then you should hold off on asking for money.  Get more good material under your belt and then try again.  If you are happy with getting a meal and a beer as payment then go for it!  Nothing wrong with that, but don’t get mad when the other comedians are taking home money and you are taking home a half eaten Reuben.

Why Do So Many People Hate Portland?

I am going to go to Portland in a couple of weeks and all I hear is how it is really a toxic place for comics coming into the town.  I have only done comedy there once and it was in a truck stop.  People that have lived there or have visited there for a while have all said the same thing:  The comics there are pretty hostile.  When I did the competition in Seattle, I met a couple of comedians from there and I thought they were pretty cool.  Now, when you are going to open mics and dealing with open mic guys then you might run into hostility.  I wouldn’t understand why professional comics would act like that though.  You can only work a room so many times.  If you have done it, it doesn’t matter how many other people go in there to work, you still can’t do it for awhile.  Sometimes competition is irrational. People will assume they have to fight over resources that are plentiful as is.  Maybe they don’t realize that they are one of the few bright spots in the comedy landscape.  People see Portland as this progressive place that has green grass and the hippies chicks give head behind a vegan restaurant. Comics on the other hand, see Portland as a place where the audiences are super sensitive and the comics won’t talk to you.  I couldn’t care less about that.  If you have good stuff that isn’t just making fun of people then you will get over.  If you are going to open mics and the open mic comedians don’t want to talk to you that means one of two things.  You suck hard, or you are good and they feel threaten.  I am going there to go to open mics and go to camera shops.  I am not there to find a best friend.

My favorite podcast right now is Weed and Whiskey.  It was created by two local comedians, and it is really funny to me.  Maybe it’s because I know these guys, or it could be because it is really a good podcast.  If you haven’t heard of it then you should check it out.

I am getting ready to start my own podcast.  I have the wordpress site up and running I just need a place to host my podcast.  I am not looking for a podcast where I just sit there and crack wise.  I want to create content.  The podcast will focus on the top movies, music, and books of the week.  I will try to make it fun, but I am not focusing on funny.

So, last week our show at the Bing Crosby Theater in town premiered and it was a success…to us. To the runners of the theater however, it did not perform that well.  No one that worked on the show got any money after the bills got paid.  This is a risk of doing shows in such a place.  When we were still in the production phase of the show, I looked up the cost that they had in order to do a show there.  If you want to do a show at the Bing in downtown Spokane it will cost you at the bare minimum about 1,000 dollars.   The show we put on cost more because we had costumes and stuff to purchase.  Before the show even played for a single soul we were in the hole about 1700 bucks.  The Bing is almost prohibitively expensive.  You have to pay the 750 rental fee.  Then you have to pay for the tech guys at 27.50 and hour, then you have to pay for an advertising package that is about 300 then you have to pay for insurance, so you already in the hole about 1300 before you add your cost for putting on a show (like just to show the money in front of people like that was $250).

There has been a trend of taking comedy from the seedy bars and move them to these older theaters that can accommodate hundreds of people.  The problem with that is that these places cost so much just to get into the building.  For the Bing, you have to pay for their advertising package, but what does that even mean?  If you pay that much money for advertising ($300), and then you don’t see anything in newspapers or the internet then it isn’t worth it.  A lot of people in Spokane like the idea of taking every idea to the Bing.  It is “prestigious” and there is the potential to make a lot of money.  Well, they believe that.  In reality, every show I have seen there has made money…for the Bing with concessions and fees, but the people performing do not really make anything.  That is why I didn’t want to do the Homegrown series of shows they were doing there.  You had to sell your own tickets and do all the footwork, and the only people that would make any real money are the people that did the least amount of work.