Are You Ready?

Am I ready? This is probably the question I get asked the most from comedians just starting out.  There are many reasons for that.  They could be anxious to get to a place where they can make money doing what they love.  They may NEED it to start making money with the amount of time they are putting into it.  Or, they may just be looking at everyone else and assume that since others are getting paid to do comedy that they should as well.  I will tell you, the reader, the same thing I tell them, the comedian:  I can’t decide that.  I can make an opinion, but it is just my opinion. So, I decided to make it the topic for this week’s article.  Are you ready?  Ask yourself these questions and be honest with yourself.  That is hard to do, but I promise that being honest with yourself is better than having a booker or audience be honest with you instead.

The Time: People are always so worried about the time.  How long they have been doing it, How much time they have, etc.  The problem is this fluctuates depending on the person and type of comic you are.  If you are a one-liner type comic, or a comic that adheres to their material religiously,  just having 30 minutes worth of time may not be enough. What happens if a series of jokes falls flat, or you are in a town where you can’t joke about bear attacks because just the other day a bear ate 3 kids?  Whatever time you have you have to have an overflow.  That means if you are trying to be a host and you think you have a solid 15, think of it as a solid 10. Solid 25? 20. This has been evident in every aspect of my comedy career.  When I started, I thought I had 30 minutes.  I tapped out at 18 and just blabbed for the next 10 minutes.  Just timing yourself isn’t enough either because you may be in a favorable situation.  Time yourself in multiple locations and see how you fare.

You also can’t think that because you put x amount of time into it that it is time to get paid.  Not everyone develops the same.  I wrote a lot of jokes and liked to wing it on stage.  Not everyone is me, so not everyone will be able to do that comfortably.  Some people have been doing it for 3-4 years and haven’t gotten paid to do it.  That is because they don’t have quality time.

The Basics:  I have discussed this in other articles, but it bears repeating.  You need to have certain things before you can just start getting work.  You need a headshot!  I am not just saying that because I charge great rates to get yours done by me (wink, wink).  People need to know your face.  You can’t just have a flyer with your name and think people will just flock to that.  You also need a professional headshot.  When I say professional I am not speaking about $1,000 headshots.  I am talking about photos of yourself free from grain that comes when someone is snapping your photo with a smartphone or a compact camera. There is a reason that after all these years, cameras and lenses are still so big.  It is because you can’t substitute light! And that does two things for you.  A great headshot lets bookers and promoters know that you are serious, and it ensures the audience that you are a “real” comedian.

You also need things like a bio.  That give bookers a little bit about yourself and you need a great video.  Now, I have done articles on all of this so please read those for more detail on what you should be doing.  These things are what serious comedians have.

The Confidence:  You can have all the jokes and the best looking headshot, and you can have your bio written up by JK Rowling herself, and it won’t do a lick of good if you are not confident enough to look people in the eyes and let them know that you are worth something.  I had trouble with this.  I loved comedy so much that I felt like it was stealing to ask for money.  The thing is, bookers know this!  They know that a lot of people like the attention of standing on stage and a lot of comedians are hungry so they want stage time.  You have to be confident in knowing that what you are doing is worth paying for.  This is not just for comics, but all artistic professions where people tend to undervalue it.  No matter if it is a drawing or a half hour worth of comedy, if you think it is worth something, then have people pay for it!

This is just three things I think you have to be honest with yourself about.  If you feel like you have all of this down then get going.  Start trying to host at your local comedy club, or set up a show in a bar.  If you think you are ready to get paid work, then you have to test the theory out.  Best of luck to you, and if you get that bar going give me a call.

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The Exposure Myth

If you have dealt in anything artistic, you have had someone come to you for services and in exchange, they have offered “exposure” in return.  Let’s talk about it and why it isn’t a good idea to take them up on this offer most of the time.

When someone comes to you and ask you to do a show for them and they offer you exposure, or the promise of more things down the road, most of the time they will say, “We don’t have anything to pay you, but there will be a lot of people there.” or “I can’t give you anything now, but in the future we can hook you up.”  Think about that.  If they are a business or organization, they are paying people. Staff, vendors, coke dealers, even non-profits pay people to run the non-profit.  What they actually mean is, “Hey, we see you are a gullible comedian so we will make money off you while we can.”

Exposure is a myth.  It is a thing that people say to not have to pay everyone involved.  I have seen it from both sides and have experienced it myself.  I have had people come to me, wanting me to do a show and they were not willing to give me anything even though they were making money off of the endeavor. They wouldn’t be able to get away with that with the beer vendors.  They couldn’t ask the electrician to wire up the place and they will tell everyone who did it.  So why do they use this exposure thing on performing artists?  The reason is simple:  we are dreamers, and dreamers can be suckered easily.  We dream of walking into a show and getting discovered and then being whisked away to hollywood to star in a buddy cop movie opposite John Cusack.  What will more likely happen is they will put on the show, not pay you, and then either never call you again, or try to do the same thing to you in the future.

Another reason why we get hit with exposure instead of money is because a lot of people just do not value the arts.  When they see a band, they do not see the hours it took to learn the instrument and the hours that was put into practicing those songs.  When a comic steps on stage they only see a guy up there telling dick and fart jokes.  They don’t see the open mics and writing and all the damn driving.  They think it is easy, or that since you are local you are not really worth it.  Well, you are.

With anything there are exceptions.  I perform at a couple of charities a year. I don’t expect to get paid a nickel. There are also shows like showcases that many clubs hold so they can see what talent they may bring in. Those are really the only exceptions I see, and honestly I wouldn’t do a showcase unless I knew the details beforehand. You may think that a club that is offering you to do time in front of a big time comic is awesome because you think that something will happen that will lead to more work, but in all honesty it won’t, so get what you are worth now instead of hoping that you will get work from all that extra exposure you are getting.

When I first started out, I would do shows where the booker or whatever would say I would get seen by a lot of people and that will lead to a lot of work. It didn’t happen, and they made money and the other comics, who were smarter, made money, but I didn’t get anything and they never called to book me for that paid show they promised.  I had to learn quickly to ask people what it was paying up front, and if they told me it wasn’t then I just told them I couldn’t do it.  Now, if you are just starting out, you will feel like you have to do it because that is how you get in the door.  That might be true, but then a booker or promoter knows that is messed up and would ask you to do a five minute quest set, not do your entire show for nothing.

With all of these articles about comedy, I try to give it to you from my perspective, which may not be a good perspective for those that are working consitently in comedy.  I am speaking from the view point of a comic that gets work, but not enough to get a new car or buy a plane ticket a week before I am suppose to go somewhere (damn they get expensive).  I hope these things help, and if you need a comic, and are gonna pay more than in exposure…get at ya boy.

Promoting Your Show

I hope everyone had a good and safe new year. Today, I will talk about ways that I have seen to successfully promote your shows.  This works for independent shows and shows you will be doing with a promotor or booker.

The first thing we need to get out of the way is that fear a lot of comedians have about trying to sell themselves.  I still struggle with it from time to time, but I have learned that it is a necessary part of being a comedian.  People have all sorts of different entertainment options, and what you have to do is be able to tell them that coming to your show is the better option.  That means you can’t tell people about your show half assed.  You have to be all in!  Why should someone come see you, if even you aren’t excited about it.

If I know about a show really far in advance, what I like to do is get the ball rolling as soon as possible.  So, if I have a month before the show, I will usually try to get a flyer done before hand. You can make a simple flyer on your phone or computer, or if you have the cash, you can get someone to do one for you.  Since I am not that good at making kick ass flyers for my show, I let a professional handle it.  Now, this route will cost you, but you will get a better looking flyer.  When money was low for me, what I would do is go online and look for images that were in the public domain or which allowed me to use them without a fee. Then, I would put my information over that photo.  Why would I do that?  Well, a funny photo will get more eyeballs then just a picture of your face, and that is the whole purpose of a flyer. If you are going to put pictures of your head and neck on there though, make sure the rest of the flyer is interesting.  Maybe cut out the background so it looks as though its your head and not just a picture you threw on there.

People get the impression that if you put up flyers that people will just come.  That is not true!  Again, like I said earlier, you have to convince people that YOUR show is the thing they want to do instead of staying inside and watching Netflix.  Just because you put it in your friends tattoo parlor, does not mean you will see a bunch of tatted up people at your show. That is why having a decent flyer, or at the least an interesting flyer, is more important than the number of flyers out there.  Besides, why waste all your time taping flyers to poles when you have the internet and social media!

Social media has changed how people promote their shows.  Some comedians have mailing lists that will email people that have come to your shows in the past.  This can serve two purposes.  One, it lets people know when a show is coming up and Two, even if those people aren’t near where the show will be held, they will keep you in mind when you come back through.

What I see a lot on social media that kind of bugs me is a comedian that has a show and they will post something up the night before the show of the day of the show.  NO!  That is not how people work.  People plan for things far in advance.  That is why I like to promote a month ahead of time.  That gives people enough time to decide what they are going to do on that day.  If you tell people the day of, there is a far less likely chance that they will show up because they already have Netflix and chill in their schedule.  What should be going on is throwing it out their every once in awhile on social media and then a week or two before the show then you go a little more heavy.  An example is my comedy CD recording.  I knew about three months ahead that on that date and time, I would be doing it.  So I got a flyer made, and I made one myself and I just put them up on Facebook and Twitter about a month before the show.  When the date got closer I increased the frequency of telling people about the shows.  Then the week of, I hit my social media pages harder.

There are downsides to this strategy though.  You don’t want to bother your social media base too much or they will start to zone you out, or just stop following you. There is a careful balance.  This is why I like the flyer or funny picture ideas. This is also why I have a dedicated page just for people who want my comedy and not my musings on public school lunch. This will keep eyeballs on it and at least entertain them.  You can fatigue your target audience if you keep throwing up the same flyer with you and your friend on it.

Another thing to be aware of is when you are actually trying to promote your shows.  If you are doing it at 10:30am on a Monday it may not have the same effect as a Thursday at 4:30pm. Why?  Because not everyone you know is a comic that is just sitting on social media all day.  Think about the people you usually perform for, do they mostly fit a certain demographic?  If so, then you have a good idea on how to get their eyes on what you are selling.  I like to put my stuff up on Facebook around noon and again at around 4-5pm.  That is when people are doing lunch and would most likely look at Facebook and see a picture of my face glued to the body of a kangaroo.  Or they are sitting at home and want to see what is going on.  I say Facebook because I haven’t figured out Twitter yet.  For all I know I am being followed by a bunch of sex-bots…

I really hope this helps people that are trying to get more asses in the seats.  With everything, this will take time and patience, but once you figure out how to promote your shows you will see the added benefits of increased money and the ability to get better negotiating deals when you want to put on your own shows in different spots.  Thanks for reading and I hope you have a bomb ass year!

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!

Donald Trump Is A Cartoon Supervillian

Can anyone seriously look at Donald Trump and say to themselves, “I can see him as president.”? That dude is a mountain hideout away from being a supervillian.  Every time this guy announces he will run for president he ends up doing a bunch of crazy shit and makes more money, yet we bitch and complain about Kim Kardashian making money from doing nothing.

Summer is winding done and that means the competitions and festivals are ramping up.  I applied to enter the San Francisco Comedy Competition, and I may try to get into the Big Sky Comedy Festival. These can be sure fire ways to get more eyes on you.  That is if you can get in.  I was opposed to paying to get into a competition.  I felt that if you are paying to enter a competition then the people putting it on have no incentive to get the best of the best.  They can just look to put on the best show, like a network comedy competition.  They will gather two black people, even better if it is a black woman, and then pad the rest just so it looks interesting.  I don’t like that.  If 19 funny ass white people entered and you have 19 spots then they should get those spots.  I don’t want to be thrown on a show just so it doesn’t look whitewashed.  Now, I feel like 30 bucks is worth it to possibly get more work.  It is way cheaper than driving all over the country and it is more time effective than sending hundreds of emails and getting nothing.

I am going to be entering a couple of my photos into the county fair.  I don’t know why I am so excited, but I am.  I don’t even know what kind of photo I will enter into the competition.  I was thinking I should pull at the patriot in everyone and do something with a flag, but man…that is too on the nose.  I will just look through what I have and try to make a decision.  I want to win something.  I think, just like with comedy, that it will validate what I am doing.  At least to me.

Money Means Nothing If You Have To Eat A Bag Of Spiders

This has been a great Spring comedy wise.  Comedy in this area usually shuts down, but I have been fortunate enough to have two distinct qualities most other comedians in the area do not possess.  First, I can work really long clean.  Some may have 5-10 minutes, but I can go an hour without the curses and the sex stuff that I get booked to do private stuff.  Second, I am lucky.  I have been doing it long enough in the area that I am a safe bet to most people looking for comedy.  I hope the same holds true for the holiday season.

I was about to buy a car, but it didn’t happen.  The dealership (Camp Chevrolet in Spokane, WA) must have taught all their employees from the old ass school of selling cars.  First, they were typing things into a computer, but printing everything out on paper.  Why?  It is 2015!  I can see you typing it into the computer.  Just show me the damn screen.  Then they did stupid shit like lowball you on your trade when I can look up what it is worth (give or take 10%).  We had a wedding to go to, but they kept trying to keep us there by stalling.  That made me feel like a wooly mammoth getting pushed on the edge of a cliff.   We left and came back the next day at 10.  The guy tried to get me to sign for a deal that I told them the day before would not work.  I know he remembered me.  I was the only black guy in there that day…trust me. We walked out, but I wanted the car so I made a different offer.  They said they just needed to talk to the bank and would call me.  They call me and the guy is all, “Hurry up and come look at it, or this lady will get it.”  Really?  That’s how you do your deals Camp Chevrolet?  Ultimatums?  I said I wanted the car.  When I told you I would come down I came down not late, but actually early so don’t pull that school yard shit.  We get there and it is the same deal from the day before!  Not the one we shook hands on.  The one that I already told them I didn’t want to do.  So I was just pissed and left.  The car was nice, but not if they are going to pretend it is 1998 and I can’t find a better deal elsewhere.

Haven’t seen the kid in awhile.  About a week.  We still text.  Well, I text…she just reads em and continues enjoying her dad free life I guess.  She will text when she needs something though.  At least I know that is the relationship my child wants with me.  No pretense.  No tomfoolery.  Just right out in the open.  You have to admire that.

I am doing more than just taking pictures of people’s faces.  I will be doing some photography for some ad stuff and some fine art stuff in the future.  I never even though I would go down this road.  The view is nice so far.