Comedic Styles: The Clean Comedian

We will continue our series on comedic styles with the clean comedian.  Some would probably say this isn’t a style, but I think it is.  Being a clean comedian or telling “clean” material is about more than just not cursing.  A lot of people associate this type of comedy (or they used to) with the boring comedian that tells jokes in front of a conference room full of people.  That stigma has changed in recent years because of comedians like Brain Regan and the fact that writing clean comedy is the fastest way to get on network TV, which leads to possibly getting booked in comedy clubs. So without further ado… let’s get into it!

Pros:

The ability to perform anywhere.  No one has ever kicked a “clean” comedian off the lineup (unless they are just not good).  You have the ability to perform in all group settings, so if there is a mixed aged audience (like with children) you will not worry anyone with your presence.

The ability to quickly advance.  If you are a clean comedian, you have that ability to work as a host much sooner because you won’t turn the crowd as quickly as someone that may be little more coarse. This is great if you are trying to get into clubs.

The ability to make more money as a corporate comedian or maybe on cruise ships.  There is so much money out there for a comedian that works clean!  If you can show promoters that you have quality clean material, you can book these gigs that my not be on the radar of people looking to get into clubs, but pays way better.

Cons:

Bar shows can be hard.  A rowdy bar may not pay attention to the clean guy if he doesn’t have a couple of jokes that can get their faces out of their beer.

Depending on you joke writing talent, writing clean material can be harder.  Not saying that curse words or dicks are essential to making a joke, you may not be digging deep enough into you mind to find material that can work out as clean.

I think every comedian should have a clean set.  Whether that means pulling curses and the more lewd details out of your existing jokes, or writing an entirely new set of jokes just for those cases, I think if you are trying to get work as a comedian, you should be as flexible as possible when it comes to your content.  When I am booking a corporate show, it is much harder to suggest comedians that I know are funny, but can’t do solid clean time.  If you don’t care about paying your rent with comedy then that is cool.  I don’t want you to sacrifice your beliefs just for money, but isn’t it cool to be able to get paid doing something you love?

What A Major Club Will Do For Your Local Scene

The Spokane Comedy Club (SCC) has been operating in town for almost a year, and in that year, it has transformed comedy in the area.

One of the biggest ways that SCC changed the area was just in the visibility of comedy.  Before SCC, a very small number knew about the clubs that came before it.  For years I would have people ask me where I perform, and when I told them that there was a comedy club in town, they would have a shocked look on their face, as if I told them that I am actually a little person standing on another little person’s shoulders.  It was frustrating because all of your attempts to get comedy in the area to be recognized seemed to be for naught.  The clubs before SCC just didn’t do a good job at advertising.  Just putting a sign up in front of a bar saying comedy doesn’t work as well as it did before.

Having a big club in town means you will have more people trying to become comedians.  People see the club, and then think this is their way to stardom. This is always a good thing because usually those are the more vocal people that will get word out that comedy is going on.  This leads to more packed open mic line ups, but it means they will get their family and friends and co workers to come see them.  This works out like a grass roots advertising campaign.

A weird thing happened to the scene about 9 months after the club came to town, a lot of the more seasoned comedians stopped coming around.  It was weird because, here we are with a club that is being packed, and the people that stuck it out in shady open mic dens are no longer to be found.  I hypothesized that it was because the talent level of what the new club wanted discouraged these comedians to a point that they no longer come out.  That is quite sad because this is what all those empty shows were all about!  You are about to be rewarded now, and you stop coming around.  It is heartbreaking.

If there is one negative to having a major club hit our scene, it has to be with independent shows.  Before the club came to be, there were a lot of independent shows around the town.  Eight months after the club?  80% of those shows disappeared.  I think what happened was all of these comedians that were putting on these shows thought that they would be working the club, when that didn’t happen for a lot of them, it left a hole in independent shows.  Don’t get me wrong, there are guys that were still producing shows when the bottom fell out, but not at the level that is was before the club came to town.

The club has given me, personally, a lot more exposure.  I get to perform a lot more private shows for a lot more money because people have seen me at the club.  I also get chances to perform with some really big names in comedy because of them and that increases my chances of working with them in the future. Having a club of this nature in the area did good things for me as a comedian, and I think for the whole of the Spokane area.  This area has so many people, and the fact that no one was serving them top notch comedy was almost a crime.  Now that the club is approaching one year, I think it will do better things for our scene.

Comedy And The Modern Market

The world keeps turning, but the world of comedy doesn’t seem to spin at the same speed.  As an industry, we are really behind the times in a lot of ways.  Let’s talk about some of them.

Pay: This may be where the comedy industry as a whole has fell way behind.  Right now, the going rate on the west coast of the United States for one nighters (just one show) is $100 for a feature and $200 for a headliner.  That has been the amount of pay for about 25 years!  What other profession has been this stagnant?  Hell, teachers have gotten more raises, and no one like to pay teachers.  The reason it is this way is because comedians just accept it as such.  Whenever someone does say something, 2,000 comedians come out of the wood work and agree to the old price.  You can’t fix what most don’t see as a problem.

Venue Responsibility: It has been this way since I started, but if a place wants to do comedy and they are not willing to invest anything in it (just throwing up flyers in your bathroom is not going to cut it) then you have to decide if it is worth it.  If you are just trying to line your pockets, then you don’t care if four people show up to a bar show if you already have your money, but they may never do another show again.

Merchandising: Selling items after shows has become more than just a way to supplement your gas budget.  Years ago, you would sell a cd or a shirt, but now comedians are selling everything from pens to bumper stickers.  This makes it easier for a comedian to go to any venue in the country because then they will be able to make a decent amount of money.  That doesn’t mean the pay shouldn’t be raised though.

Social Media: No longer do you just walk into town and do a show.  You can announce your arrival weeks in advance.  This can generate buzz, and in the future, when you do return, you can build a following that can help you make even more money.

These are just some of the things that can help the comedian in the modern market.  What is important is to keep looking for ways to get noticed by more people. More people that know you exist means more potential people that will show up to a show.

Gift Ideas For The Comedian In Your Life 2016

I thought I would update this article to give those out there more ideas on what to get that special someone in their life that also happens to deal in the funny arts.  They will be in three categories: Stocking Stuffers, Mid range (sorry I couldn’t come up with s cooler category), and then Loaded.  I hope this guide will help you find a great gift for the comedian in your life.

 

STOCKING STUFFERS

These are great for the comedian that is hard to shop for

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Pens: Comedians need a writing utensil when an idea hits their head meat, so you might as well keep them well stocked in pens.  I like gel pens.  I don’t know why, but I tend to gravitate to them.  Get them a box of pens and whenever they are thinking of the perfect butthole joke, they will think of you.

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Gift Card:  A lot of people think gift cards are lazy gifts.  I don’t!  I love them.  Instead of someone getting me something I will never use, I get to go out and pick what I will leave in my closet forever.  This is a great idea for the comedian that is so hard to shop for that you are losing sleep because of it.

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Netflix:  If they are a road comic, they will love you for getting them a subscription to a service like Netflix. While they are in a hotel room or on the side of the road trying to get some much needed rest, they can watch their favorite comedy special.

 

MID-RANGE

This is for the comedians that you want to spend a little bit more on.

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Moleskine Smart Writing Set:  Comedians love to write, but they are also afraid of losing their notebook or once the notebook is full, and they have to write in a new one, all of their previously written jokes are not with them.  No longer!  With this bad boy, they can still write like they are Ernest Hemingway, yet keep all of their writings with them through the smart writing app.  They also have notebooks for evernote and livescribe, so if they use one of those services it will save right there!

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Squarespace:  Every serious comedian (and even the not so serious ones) have a website.  You need something to send folks to other than you Facebook page (that is so 2012).  With a squarespace subscription, they will have a great place to set up a site that looks really good.  I am not a website builder, but harryjriley.com looks pretty good.  The price is low, but the quality is high.

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GoPro: Watching yourself on stage is a good way to see what you need to change.  Pictured is the gopro 5, but they have a cheaper gopro session 5 that is good as well.  You can mount these bad boys anywhere and with the included app, they can see their shot without having to keep readjusting it if it is in a hard to reach spot (like over an audience member’s head).  They also have editing software that will help them clean the video up and have it ready for potential bookers.

 

LOADED!

This category is for those with deep pockets or you really, really love that comedian.

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Camcorder: Getting good video of your sets is really important when you are trying to get into competitions and get booked.  Hook your comedian up with a baller camcorder like this Sony FDR-AX33. It records in 4k, so when that comedy festival organizer sees every crease in their slacks they are a shoe in to be picked!

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A New Phone: Phones.  Where would we be without them?  Probably not in the bathroom playing candy crush.  Smartphones are like swiss army knives of tech.  A comedian can record their shows, and then edit them and then send them to YouTube for the world to see within minutes.  Pictured is the iphone 7 plus, but it doesn’t have to be Apple (make sure you know what operating system they like before getting them a new phone) Android has several great phones like the Google Pixel and then there is the OnePlus 3.

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Surface Pro 4: Nothing says you love someone like a new laptop, tablet thingy.  The surface pro 4 is everything a world traveling comedian could want in a device.  It has the power of a laptop, but the portability of a tablet.  They can sketch out their poster ideas right there on the touch screen and when they want to edit their script they can with type cover that can be had later.

I hope this gives you some ideas on what to get that special comedian in your life.

Special thanks to Michael Glatzmeir, Ryan McComb, and Missy Narrance, for the help with this article!

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Respecting Your Audience

A lot of us imagine getting up in front of packed houses of people, and all of them are there to see us and only us.  This is sometimes not the case and I think it is a very important skill to learn.  That of appreciating the audience.

A lot of us forget that people have a myriad of options when it comes to being entertained.  They could go to the movies or a concert or stay home and do meth in their basement.  When you have a paying person sitting there willing to listen to you say things into a mic that should be appreciated and valued.  We focus so much on art that we sometimes forget that we are also entertaining people.  People that could very well be out doing something better with their time.

I see it a lot at like a poorly attended show where no one on the stage seems to give a damn.  It is not the audiences’ fault that there are not more people there.  They still paid the same (either in money or time) to come see you perform.  There wasn’t a stipulation that if there were less then a certain number of people that the show was going to be shit.  This also speaks to the professional level of the people involved as well.  A professional comedian should be willing to swallow their pride for the time they are performing in order to give the customer what they want.

Maybe I feel so strongly about this because when I started in Spokane, no one was coming to shows.  Open mics were sparse and if you had a show somewhere you had to basically hold people hostage for them to listen.  So when you did get people that came in voluntarily, it was freaking awesome and you wanted to do all you could to entertain.  It may also stem from me having such low self-esteem. No matter how many people show up I am always still surprised they came to my show.

Respecting the audiences goes further than just the number of people.  It also goes to how you perceive them.  As comics we all look out into the audience and we assume things about them.  If you are in Idaho you may think they are more conservative then if you were standing in front of an audience in Portland.  Even though they may seem like different crowds, they all share one thing in common:  They want to laugh!  Do what you need to do to make them laugh.  I don’t know how many times I have actually heard a comic tell a room of people that they may not get a joke, or they ridicule them for where they live.  That does not endear you to the audience. Unless that is your persona on stage, you come off as an asshole.

I have done a show for a total of two people.  Yup.  Two.  And you know what?  It was a great show!  They sat there and listened to my silliness and I thanked them both and gave them a CD to thank them for not turning away.  See, without an audience we would just be a bunch of people screaming really messed up stuff.  We need people to come and want to be entertained.  That is how comedy works.