No-No’s For The Brand New Comic

This was an idea given to me by Mika Lahman.  Check out her Facebook page to check out show dates.

I love brand new comics.  They have all that hopeful glee, like people starting their first day as a social worker. There are just things that annoy other comedians and can get them to turn on you.  This is not what any new comic wants because getting in with the right comics can get you stage time and other opportunities.  Now before I go any further, I am not saying be a follower.  I am saying you can tone it down and be a normal human. Ok, let’s talk about some of the biggest don’ts.

Running material in casual conversation:  Nothing will get other comics to stop talking to you faster than trying to run your brand new material by them while you are just talking to them.  We will hear your material when you do it on stage.  If you need critiquing, then ask someone after the fact, they will be much more willing to provide you with advice then.  Not while you are outside smoking.

Giving other new comics advice:  When talking to comics that have been doing this for years, this is one of the biggest annoyances. I can see why.  If you have just been doing it long enough for other comics to finally know your name, and now you are giving out sage advice like you are a cornerstone in the community, it comes across as arrogant.

Being an encyclopedia of comedy: If you want to piss off a comic just tell them that the joke they have been doing is someone else’s bit.  Are you sure it is the same, or is it the same topic? Maybe they have been doing it for five years and the comic you saw on Comedy Central has been doing it for three. These are things that will get you punched in the face.  No one wants to be called a thief.  If you think they are performing a joke similar to another comic, it may be best to approach them and ask questions.

The brand-new, career comic:  You are excited.  You just got on stage for the first time.  You want everyone to know that you are now doing comedy.  You go on Facebook, and change your job description.  You are no longer “Electronics specialist” at Fred Meyers, you are now a comedian!  Don’t do that.  You may go up the next five times and bomb and realize you may not be enjoying it as much as you did the first time.  I understand.  You want to do this forever, but give it time.  See if you enjoy it first.  This is the same as going on a date with someone and changing your Facebook status to: “In a relationship”.

The brand new show booker: More open mics get started by brand new comedians that want to start something they can call their own.  The problem is, most of the time, they have no context.  Comics just starting out look at the holes in a comedy scene and just assume that the holes are there because the other comics are lazy or they didn’t realize the opportunity.  They don’t know that the reason their isn’t comedy there is because that place didn’t want to pay for comedy, or that five comics where stabbed their three years ago.  I have seen this time and time again.  Some comic, that has been doing it for all of three months, wants to start an open mic where they can be the leader.  They do it in a place that isn’t really compatible with good comedy and they assume that it didn’t work  because other comics in the scene didn’t want it to work.  Instead of looking at it as maybe it didn’t work because it didn’t work the first four times it was tried.

Already ready for work:  If you want to piss a professional comic off, have a brand new comic walk up to them and start asking about how much they should start charging.  Don’t look at other comics as a guide to when you should be getting paid work.  Everyone is different.  Some comics get work after three months, and others have been doing it for three years and still haven’t gotten a red cent.  You need material, good material.  Work hard, write hard, and seize your opportunities.  Don’t look at comedy as get money quick scheme.  You could be going too soon and hurt any chance of making more money in the future.

Comedy is not like other professions.  You are not the rookie QB that will be winning games after your first start.  Calm down!  Get in the scene and observe what works and what doesn’t.  Find what works for you and go for it.  I hope the best for you.  Remember me when you are booking theaters all across the country.

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Why The “Act Out” Is An Important Comedic Technique

Hello!  Sorry I didn’t put out an article last week, I don’t have a reason as for why I didn’t, I just didn’t.  I have regularly writing articles on this blog for the better part of two years, and I thought you guys wouldn’t miss one week.  Nope!  I was wrong, you guys totally expect a weekly article (if the numbers are any indication).  So, to apologize, I will put out two articles this week.  Thanks for checking out my blog (even though I know they are fading out of style).  This week we discuss, the “act out”.

The “act out” (I promise this is the last of the parenthesis) is what comedians call pantomiming actions that accompany a bit.  Some of the greatest comedians on the planet, use this to help “fill out” (ok I lied) a joke. Everything from facial expressions to complete body movements fall under “acting out”.  What this can do for a joke is huge.

An example of this is when you are telling a joke about a situation that most in the audience may not understand.  By acting out parts of the joke, you ensure that more people in the audience understand what you mean.  Another example is using facial expressions to rely to the audience your feelings at the time.  A simple frown or eyebrow raise, can alert the audience to your feelings while the events around you took place. Action on stage is also just more appealing then the comic that is just standing there talking.

Acting out can extent material.  Instead of just talking about walking with your pants around your ankles, you could act out that part and add an extra bit of time to the joke.  It may seem like a small amount of time, but when you add this to many of your jokes you may go from barely hitting 20 minutes, to now being able to feature.  The act out can also help in situations where the crowd is a little rowdy.  With a good act out, you can (hopefully) reel in a crowd that didn’t give a damn of your existence, It’s like shaking keys in front of a baby.

Now, the act out isn’t a sure fire way of improving your material however.  Just flopping around like a basketball player, won’t yield results.  With everything in comedy it has to be timely.  Look at your material and see when you should apply an act out.  It is probably best to do it right after you talked about it.  You can use act outs to extent your time, but if you are performing 30 second act outs to a 10 second joke, then you are doing it wrong. Don’t use it as a crutch.

When comedians first start out, they are so afraid that they just stand there and tell the joke and move on. With some simple arm movements, facial expressions, and complete pantomiming, you can turn a good joke into an amazing joke.

Hosting Ain’t Easy

I got to host the Thursday night show at the new club here in Spokane.  I haven’t hosted a paid show in a long time and I was a little nervous about how it would go.  I have hosted a little over 10 paid shows in my time as a comedian.  Way less than the times I have featured or headlined.  It is a skill that I have always thought was important, but never got to develop.  I have seen great hosts, and I have seen bad hosts, so I was determined to mimic the great hosts I have seen over the years.

One thing that is very important when hosting is knowing that the show isn’t about you.  You warm them up and you get the show going.  I am not used to that thought process.  The stage for me is an outlet, and sometimes I get lost up there, so I was determined not to do that.  I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to be selfish, and I wanted to get hired again.

You see this more at independently ran shows, where things are a little more lax.  You will see the host going up and doing time in between acts and it seems like they want to pull the attention back to them. When you are in a club, especially a club with big names coming through, you have to be aware that the people paying are not there to see you.  They want less host and more guy they saw on YouTube while they were at their cubicle.

I was also really nervous about getting the names right.  Dave Fulton is a straight forward name, but Andy Woodhull sounded weird whenever I practiced saying it.  I had a speech impediment as a child, so I am always worried that the sounds I make are not correct.  I studied the credits until I could say them without looking at the paper.  I always liked that from hosts that I have seen.  It looks like they are about their business and that is what I wanted to do.

I had 8 minutes so I did my material that struck a middle ground.  I saw clips of Andy and I have seen Dave a couple of times, so I decided on my material and I went up…and stumbled all over my lines.  Nerves!  Nerves hit me.  I get nervous a lot, but mainly because I want to do well, not because of anything else.  This was a different type of nerve though.  It was like when I first started doing comedy.  It perked my ears a bit.

Other than messing up a bit on a couple of jokes, the hosting part went smoothly.  I have always felt that the job of the host is to hype, warm, and introduce, and I felt I did two of those things well, and one of those things passably.  It taught me that no matter how long you have been doing it, you can always be placed in a unique situation.  It was unique in that it was my first time hosting at the new club, and I wanted to do well enough that I would get asked to do it again.  I learned that I need to do it more, and I will get that chance when I host the open mic this week.  That will give me a really good chance to practice on my hosting skills. See you next week when we talk about what types of cured meats to take with you on stage.

Times, They Are Changing

For a decade, Uncle D’s Comedy Underground WAS comedy on the east side of Washington state.  They didn’t bring in the bigger names in comedy, mainly due to the size of the room and budget, but it was a place for comics, young and old alike, to perfect their craft and get paid to perform.  Uncle D’s final show was last Thursday and it was bittersweet.  It allowed me a place to perfect jokes and meet other comedians.  It was inviting, and helped newer comedians gain confidence on stage.  Some saw it as an establishment very much stuck in the old ways of comedy.  Not much in the way of social networking, or advertisement, for most people, learning that Uncle D’s is no more, is like learning a semi famous actor died.  You thought they died a long time ago.

People not from the area, dismissed the club for a number of reasons.  They may not have liked the owner, or the fact that the acts where mainstays of the 80’s and 90’s, but for most of us that lived in Spokane, it was all we had.  That club was the only place in betweeners like me could get paid to headline.  It was the only place for some comics who only have 15-20 minutes to get actual work.  For these things it will always be remembered.

Even before Uncle D announced he was closing his doors, the Spokane Comedy Club was pulling into town to start what perhaps might be the best attempt at live comedy in the city.  Within three weeks they have brought in big comedy names and have more lined up.  This is the club Spokane, and Spokane comedians, have been begging for.  But the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same.

For Spokane, it establishes it as a city.  A big city.  All the other big cities have comedy clubs where big names come through town to be gawked at.  Spokane has to learn, and learn quickly, that this comes with a price.  In order to see these big names, you have to pay big(ger) prices.  No longer will you pay $12 in order to see generic “comedy”.  You will pay to see these guys live that you normally see on TV.  To me, that is worth it.  I would love to see Chris D’Elia live for 30-40 bucks, but I love comedy.  Spokane is also gaining a reputation as a city of people that don’t know how to shut up when a show is going.  No matter how many signs, or videos tell them otherwise, their always seems to be one guy or gal in the crowd that wants everyone to know their garage was blown over in the windstorm of 2015.

The local comedians will be in for a surprise as well.  No longer will it be acceptable to run the light as long as you wish, and have no worries about not being able to go up next week.  The open mic will be ran like it is ran in larger cities.  You run the light, you don’t go up next week.  Another thing that comedians will have to learn to live with is the fact that their decent 10 minutes is not going to get them featured in this club.  The product is better, so the comedians have to be better.  I think I said this in an earlier article, but there are comedians in this town that feel like a new club means a new person that will deal with their bullshit.  The issue is that this is not a new club owner.  Adam, runs another club, and he has dealt with some really big names, what makes anyone think he will put up with the old Spokane comic bullshit?  These guys are in it to run a business, not a daycare for comedians, and it will hit some right in the chest when they realize this.

Times are changing.  There is a newer crop of comedians that are running their own shows and making names for themselves.  There is a new comedy club that is bringing some of the biggest acts in the country.  This will most likely have a trickle down effect.  Independent shows will likely see an increase in attendance because people will want to see comedy.  Last weeks Drink N Debate was a testament to that.  Things change, except the things that don’t, like working on material, and gaining an audience are still fundamental parts of being a comedian.  I hope the city and the comedians within it realize what a unique situation we see ourselves in.