How Cleaner Material Can Mean More Bookings

Comedy is an art, but it is also a business, if you are not willing to clean up your act then you may not be able to maximize the amount of shows you can get.  Now, this is not an article telling you to stop cursing.  I like to curse.  What I am going to talk about is why having multiple versions of your material, or completely different sets, can help you in the long run.

What I have noticed a lot with newer comics, is that when they start out, they are really heavy handed on the cursing, or trying to gross out the crowd.  I know I was!  For a lot of people, it is a crutch to help them get over nervous situations, and there are not many things more nerve inducing than getting on stage in front of a bunch of people.  After awhile however, you have to be able to see where you material is going and then see if you can cut out language that may irritate the audience.  In a perfect word, people would not let words or subject matter get to them, but we are not living in a perfect word, and material of a sensitive nature can turn a show or not get you booked.

Most of you reading this are at a level where you are not a known act, so that means you are at the behest of bookers and promoters.  A bookers’ main job is to get comedians on the stage, and they would rather ensure that there is no controversy when they book these shows.  This is their business and they want to make sure everyone enjoys themselves and keep coming back.  If you send a booker a promo video with you talking about really sensitive subjects or cursing up a storm, then it doesn’t matter if you are funny.  If they think you are going to turn people off to returning to comedy, then you may not get the gig.  You have to remember that a lot of audience members are not comedy heads, they are not looking at it as a raw art form.  They are looking at it as a night out and there are people that don’t want cursing and some subject matter to be a part of that.

Cleaner material can also mean gigs that pay more.  Corporate shows are a great place to make a lot of money in a short amount of time, and they are not going to hire the person that will get up there and filth it up.  Most companies are all about a clean image and they will even want to show that in the entertainment that they get.  Like the paragraph above, the people present may not be comedy fans, just people who came to this conference and are winding down by listening to some yuk yuks.  The same goes for cruise ships.  I have several friends that do a lot of work on them and they report having to ensure that they have material that is clean because of the people they will be performing for.

That is not to say that you will not be able to make a nickel if you don’t stop saying fuck. This is not what this article is about.  It is about understanding that there are a lot of opportunities for people that are willing to shape their material for the moment they are in.  Now, there are many ways of doing this.  I try to write material that doesn’t rely on cursing to make it funny.  I have also rewritten a lot of material that at one point was really dirty and now…not so much.  That way if I want to let lose at a show then that means I can still use the same joke just not with the f-bombs.

I hope this helps you when you are sitting down writing.  It is not to scare you away from writing about your experiences or how you see the world. If you have a joke that has to have f-words and vagina juice in it then go ahead, but you have to understand that that may be the reason why you are not getting certain bookings.  At least until you are famous then do your whole special about vagina juice and fucking under bridges.

 

Artwork courtesy of: Arani

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Confidence Is Important

Sorry I haven’t posted an article in a week, I totally forgot last Wednesday and this pas Monday I was on the road for a gig.  I usually have articles queued up but I didn’t for this past week.

If you read the titled you know that this article will be about confidence.  It is important to your success as a comic.  Hell, I would go so far as to say that it may be as important as material.  The reason I say that is if you have great material, but are not confident enough to perform it, then it is almost like it doesn’t exist.  Confidence is instrumental to more than just performing stand-up, however.

No matter what you are doing in comedy, you have to be able to let people know that you are capable of getting the job done.  All comics will have a crisis of confidence, but the reason a lot of comics make it to the next level is because they knew they were funny.  For example.  I am sure every professional stand-up has had someone asked them how much to perform.  Confidence is the difference between making a living and just having weed money.

If I had to tell someone how to gain confidence in their stand-up, the things I have said in many articles on here still apply.  Get stage time.  Nothing will make you feel better about what you are doing than performing and seeing the results of your jokes first hand, over and over again.  Next, and again, you may have seen this in previous articles, but it needs to be said again, hang around like minded people.  If you hang around the negative, you will start looking at the word as such.  Hang around people that will help you and make you feel more confident in yourself and your material.  Now, I’m not saying hangout with a bunch of kiss asses that won’t tell you that your abortion joke sucks, realistic, positive people.

I also think another important think to help you become more confident in your stand-up is getting your crap together.  Get a better headshot,  get a writer to do your bio, get the best promo video you can possible get, and you will be more confident when you send that stuff to bookers and festival organizers.

It is important to remember that this is a business, and the weak shall not triumph.  You have to be willing to look people in the eye and tell them that you are good and that you are worth whatever it is you are asking for. See you next week at the proper time!

 

How Festivals Have Changed Comedy

Comedy festivals have been popping up all over the country in the past several years.  They are great ways to get a lot of comics in one area, and they are great for business savvy people who can make it turn a profit (or at the least not lose money from them).  Let’s talk about how they have changed comedy, for better or worse (you can be the judge of that).

Comedy festivals are great for comics in that if you can get into one you can use that as a bullet point in your bio to attract more gigs, but I think more important than that is the amount of working comics you are able to network with.  Remember, comedy is like any other industry, if you get to know the right people you will get more work.  Especially if you are not an ass hole.  This reason alone is the biggest reason to try to get into as many festivals as you can.  The time spent being face to face with comics that may have that one booker to help you fill out dates is worth the price of admission.  Here is my tip though:  Don’t try to sell yourself to other comics, they hate that.  Just be a normal person and not a billboard.  They will get that you are funny or you have done stuff, let your sets do the selling.

Comedy festivals can be great for a booker or promoter to make a little extra money on the side.  Don’t get me wrong, they work for whatever they get to take home, but if ran right, it can lead to extra income.  Now, just telling people to hand you 30 dollars and you MIGHT get back to them isn’t how the nice festivals in the country are ran.  They have more than just a couple of bars in which to perform. You can tell that the organizers have thought about the festival as a whole.  I am no expert in how these things are put together, but from just eyeballing it, it seems as though the money is spent on ads and feature performers. Not everyone can get Bill Burr to their festival, so you may have to pony up some dough.  This is why many festivals don’t make huge profits, but I think it is worth it.

Now, let’s talk about the bad.  On the comics side, I feel as though some may see festivals as their “get famous quick” plan.  It doesn’t work like that.  All the other things that make comics better still apply. Getting out and working the stage, and writing, are still preferable then just applying to festivals thinking you will get noticed.  On the festival organizers side, there is still a lot of uncertainty about whether or not they are put together unbiasedly.  What I mean is, are the people putting the line ups together looking for great talent or just getting their friends trips to their city off the backs of people wanting to be in a festival? I am always suspicious when I see repeat comics on the festival bill year after year, but I am a paranoid guy.

My thoughts and ideas on festivals have changed, and I think that is because I have seen what they can do for comics that are great, but just needed more eyes on them.  I also like the ones that are well ran, like the ones we have here in the Northwest.  If you are planning on submitting to a festival remember that you should have a great video and a professional headshot. Let them see that you mean business.

 

 

Why I Joined The Military…And Not The Church Of Scientology

Let’s get it out of the way now.  I didn’t join because I had no clue it existed in 2000.  I just thought Tom Cruise ran that way because it was more aerodynamic.

It was spring of the year 2000 and people were finally starting to plug their electronics back in, and admit flying cars would be a terrible idea.  I was about to finish high school, which was a task as is, and I was looking at the options a poor black kid from South Carolina had.  There was the local technical school, but I didn’t know anything about school loans at the time and my mom told me flat out that she didn’t have money for that (which I kinda knew already). There was working with my aunt at the not so local poultry factory. I could get a job there and stand in a row with other people pulling intestines out of chicken until my eventual heart implosion.  Then there was the military.  The recruiters swarmed around the campus daily just picking up on guys like me that didn’t have any other way out of their situation.  I didn’t even think about wars or possibly dying, I just wanted to get a Playstation 2.  Yup.  The biggest decision of my life was because I really wanted a Playstation.

Most people will tell you, “I did it to serve my country!” or, “I joined to make a difference!”.  I joined mainly because I wanted enough money to buy a video game console.  Now, there were other reasons.  My friends were joining left and right, and I didn’t want to get left behind and regret it for the rest of my life.  I did it because it was a government job.  I would have benefits that my mom and dad could have only dreamed, and I wanted to be something in the world.  I always wanted to matter.  Growing up, I saw the people in my neighborhood just living.  Not really doing things that they enjoyed, but just getting by.  I didn’t want to get by.  I wanted someone to see me and know that I meant something.  Maybe not there at that moment, but somewhere in the world, I mattered.

I joined the Air Force because I liked the color blue, I like airplanes, and their basic training was only six and a half weeks.  That’s it.  What do you expect from a teenager?  You thought I would sit there with an excel sheet or google the differences?  It was 2000!  There was only one computer in the entire county and it belonged to the library and my brother was on it all the time trying to download porn.

I got stationed at Fairchild Air Force Base in Spokane, WA.  This was the furthest I had even been from my home in my life and I was a tad scared, but I think it made me a better person.  I had to depend on myself instead of having a family member to lean on.  I didn’t have all the drama that home brought, and I kind of liked it.  I got to go to Saudi Arabia and Iraq during my five years in the military.  I got medically discharged in 2005 because lupus and the military apparently don’t mix that well.   It was tough adjusting to civilian life.  I was going through a divorce at around the same time, but I had also discovered comedy in that span so I had a lot on my plate.  I tried getting a normal job, but this was before everyone shouted how much they wanted to hire veterans. I went to school, got a degree in Sociology, and started doing comedy full time.

I think the military is responsible for everything, good and bad, that has happened to me in my life. Yet, I regret none of it.  If I had this life to live 10 more times, 8 of those times I would join the Air Force.  The other two times would be spent joining the circus, and becoming a ninja.  It got me out of South Carolina.  I got to meet the mother of my daughter.  I got to see that I had this talent in me to make people laugh that I would have never pursued in South Carolina.  I got a degree and have had great experiences because of signing my name on that line when I was 18 in 2000.  I know this story wasn’t the most noble of Veteran’s Day stories, but it is mine, and it is one I would never trade away.

Turning The Holidays Into Paydays

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…especially if you are a comic looking for ways to get more work! The holidays are a great time to book private shows and corporate shows.  Lets go over some of the things you need to make a little extra cash during this time.

First, if you are reading this now, on the day it was posted, it may be too late.  That’s because most holiday parties and corporate events have already been put together.  It is best to get your feelers out around October, September if you live in a large area.  Most of my stuff comes to me directly so if you have been performing for awhile now, you may not have to do too much heavy lifting.  You know the old saying:  The early bird gets the worm.  Well, it applies here as well so next year get on it!

Do some scouting.  You have friends..Well, I am assuming, maybe you’re an asshole and no one likes you, but for the people with friends with normal jobs, just ask them if they want to have a comedian at their party.  Most companies will be having a Christmas party, so just get out there and see if they want you to tell some yuk yuks.

Now, just because you know people that want to have you tell jokes while they exchange shitty gifts doesn’t mean you are set.  You have to set a price.  A realistic price.  Just because it is a company doesn’t mean they have unlimited resources.  Especially for a comedian that will only give them an hour of entertainment when a cheaper karaoke machine can give them several.  Do your homework.  If you are dealing with Bob’s land of bolts, then you should not be trying to charge them like they are Amazon.  Some businesses may have a set amount saved up, so it is best to ask what they can do.  That way you don’t price yourself out of a gig.  They will probably undercut you, so make sure you have a price in your head.  If you have to drive across the state, don’t take an amount that puts you in the hole by the time you get back.

When doing these types of shows, you have to have your clean show hat on.  You may run into the rare business that will let your talk about sharting, but most of these parties want to tow the line between fun and not worthy of a lawsuit.  Make sure you can give a great show without getting too weird. If you just sit there and curse at them for 45 minutes, don’t expect to get that gig next year.  So, if you have only 45 minutes of shart jokes (you damn genius you) then wait until you get some material that can target an audience of this nature better.

I think you have enough information to get a nice amount of gigs this next holiday season.  The same basics of comedy applies.  Make em laugh.  Give em a good show.  And have a great time!