What You Learn Producing Your Own Shows

I am a pretty low key guy, so I like to leave the producing of shows to other people, but when I do, I have learned some things about it.

Venues Have Ridiculous Expectations: 

When a local comedian ask me what I would tell a venue that I want to do a show with I tell them do not make insane promises. Why would you do that when they already have insane ideas on what to expect. A lot of places want to see a certain return on their investment. That makes sense. The problem is comedy doesn’t sell like alcohol and pool tables. You have to do a little leg work. That means putting up flyers and posting to your social media pages (if they have one) to let people that frequent your establishment know that something different is going on. I have walked into places an hour before the show starts and they are pissed that no one is there. You look on their Facebook page and look around and not a sign around to suggest that anything was going to happen that night.

You Have to Babysit Comedians

One of the things I hate the most about putting on a show is having to hold the hands of grown ass adults. There are just a good amount of comedians out there that you just have to keep an eye on more than others. Now, I am not talking about the creepy stuff, I am talking about normal comedian stuff like sending you their promo kit, or promoting the show, or showing up to the show. I have had multiple comedians during my time just not show up. When I asked one dude he said, “I didn’t know I was on the show.” The show that for three months we promoted with a flyer with his big ass head on it.

It’s a Constant Fight

If you are producing a regular show, you know that it is a constant fight. You have to convince people that the thing you are putting on is better than the alternative activities they would do on that night. You have to keep interesting acts coming in, which can be hard when you have an out of the way show, and comedians can’t work other things to make it more profitable. You are constantly promoting shows which can have a numbing effect on your audience. It is a constant struggle to get asses in seats so you can stay running one more show, and all it take is one silly ass thing to fall through and you can have a ruined show or worse, a messed up reputation.

Producing your own shows isn’t for everyone. That is why that isn’t the angle I have taken in my comedy career. You have to be willing to walk into rooms with business people and explain to them why they should waste their resources on you and your show. You have to be willing to promote over and over because just telling people one time that a spot has comedy isn’t enough. There are people that do it successfully though and to those I salute you.

Why are There so Many Sociopaths in Entertainment

I have spent the past couple of days watching the documentaries on the Fry Festival and all the terrible things that surround that. One thing that I noticed about both (other than the Hulu one was much better than the Netflix one) was how easy Billy McFarland, the head of this bullshit snake, was able to scam people out of millions upon millions of dollars. Then I got thinking about my own experiences and realized that there are a lot of sociopaths in the entertainment industry.

As a comedian, I have my ass in all other sorts of creative endeavors and there is almost always a person there pulling the strings, and sucking the life out of others. They are almost always failures in whatever it is they decided to do. I have been around music promoters, comedy promoters, and producers that are so good at suckering in people.

But why? Why are there so many sociopaths (a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. – google search) in the entertainment industry? Well, the biggest reason is because there is normally not a barrier to entry. All you have to do is say you are a comedy booker and you can operate as such until everything crumbles around you. You don’t have to know how to play a single note to put together a show, as long as you can get the person that has the building you plan on having this show agree to let you enter.

You also get to deal with damn near the perfect victims. A lot of people in the entertainment industry are on the outer parts of it. Like me, for example, I get paid to perform comedy, but I am not a known entity. I am the type of person that a sociopath loves because they can feed on my want to get higher on the comedy totem pole. These guys will tell you anything you need to hear in order for you to go with them on their bullshit. Sociopaths have this ability to lie so easily that even the hardest people will fall for it. It’s even easier because those of us on the outer edges of entertainment want any route to get to the next level.

So you have an easy industry to enter and victims that want to believe everything you have to say. I have been a victim many times from people that want you to believe that they are that next big promoter or the next booker people will bend over backwards to please. You also don’t have to deal to much with your victims. If a show goes bad and no one got paid? Oh well. Next time it will work out. Then after the fourth show, when people finally realize that they are dealing with a con man, they have made money to make it seem worth it. Then they just either move to a new city or lay low until it is time to do it again.

My advice to all up and comers in entertainment is to take almost everything with a grain of salt. Just remember the old saying: “if it seems to good to be true, it usually is.” Don’t fall for the traps that many do. Don’t pay for stage time. Don’t sling tickets if that is the only way you can get on stage. Don’t perform before you find out what you are getting as compensation. Thanks.

You Are Not Owed Anything

This may seem harsh, but I will keep it short so it stings a little less:  You are not owed anything in comedy.  There.  If that surprised you, or got your heart rate up, that means you are the perfect person for this blog post.

I think what happens is we take what we know from other industries, and assume it should work that way in comedy.  Longevity does not equal experience.  Experience does not equal ability.  Ability does not equal employ-ability… None of these things mean you are a shoe in for certain things.  This isn’t like working down at the docks, where if you were there for five years you get promoted.  You don’t get promoted in comedy just because you have been going to open mics steadily for five years.  If that were the case a lot of people would have HBO specials.  When someone tells me that they have been doing comedy for x number of years, it means nothing because you can get on stage once, never get on again for 10 years, and still call yourself a comedian.  Have you been writing?  Have you been performing?  These are the things that I think are more important than just how many years you have called yourself a comedian.

Just because you have been on showcases a bunch of times doesn’t mean you should be featuring at a club.  I see it time and time again.  Someone has been getting spots on shows, and now they think they are ready to feature.  Getting on stage is good experience, but that doesn’t mean you have the ability to perform for 20-30 minutes.  Ask a comedian that has been doing it for about six months to a year how much time they have, and most will overestimate.  Why?  Because open mics and such may give them  the impression that they have a lot of material that works.  That is not the case.  Once you get in front of a paying, attentive crowd, they are not going to let things slide because “everyone is just working on stuff”.  Get honest with yourself.  Do you have 20 quality minutes, or 10 decent minutes and 10 minutes of bonus ramblings.  Getting honest with yourself will help you not burn yourself when you are trying to get work.

So, you have been doing it for a while and have the chops.  You feel you have what it takes to start working.  What’s this though?  No one wants to work with you?  You can’t get booked anywhere even though you are funnier than all the other comedians that get booked?  Have you ever thought that maybe you’re an asshole?  Close you eyes (later, not now), and think of all your interactions with other comedians. Is it you and a bunch of probably skinny white dudes running through a meadow?  Or, is it a bunch of arguments and Facebook post telling comedians to eat a dick?  If it’s the latter, than that is your answer to why you are not getting booked.  You can not expect to be a piece of shit, AND be booked.  It may seem like the world of comedy is this large expansive network, but it is much smaller than that.  There are only so many comedy bookers and the odds that they have dealt with someone that has dealt with you is probable at the least.  If you have a great set, a set that makes bras fall off and guys get tramp stamps, but you can’t be worked with than people will just leave you off of shows.  There is a limit to this though.  If you are in the upper levels of comedy, like the Tom Seguras, and Phillip Kopczynskis  of the world, then you may be able to get away with not being the coolest person to work with, because you are putting asses in seats.  If, however, you are trying to get booked on your local show, and you are a total asshat, then why would anyone put up with that, no matter how funny you are.

Just remember that just because someone was doing it for 6 years and got on SNL doesn’t mean that is the trajectory for you.  Things happen to people differently.  I know comedians that started after me and are all over the country.  That doesn’t mean I deserve to be there as well.  That means that they may have had more connections, or were more personable to people, so they could network easier.  Maybe their material isn’t 80% dick jokes.  You have to be honest and look within when things are not going the way they should.

 

Koala Bear Stew

I used to have a stuffed koala bear that I pretended to go on adventures with.  I had a theme song and everything.  I don’t know what happened to that thing.  Probably got taken by one of my thieving fucking cousins.

I went over to Seattle to do a show.  It was in a really cool bar.  They had books.  I like reading material when my friends are getting wasted and getting closer to the devil.  I didn’t have to do to much time.  I was a little off in the beginning, but I pulled it off in the long run.  I hate going up with recently written jokes and trying to pull them off.  I had a unicorn joke that worked really well.  So I feel accomplished.

I didn’t have a lot of time to do other stuff.  After visiting the camera stores like I usually do, I had a big ass headache.  I think it was from the smell of one of the damn camera stores.  It smelled like a cougar came inside and pissed on everything.  I need to get out and do more photography in the city.  I hate having to park my car and having to trek around, which is what you have to do to take photos of stuff. I can see the irony.

I had a discussion with a local comic and we both agreed that Spokane comedy has a problem with worth.  There are a lot of comics in the area that are working for little to no pay and I think that gives a perception that the work we put out isn’t really good.  People look at me like I am a weirdo because I want to get paid for my work.  I think it is the other way around.  Comics should not do their work for nothing.  For instance, I was asked to do a show at the Bing for a group called “Friends of the Bing”  it is a non-profit group that puts on shows there.  The problem is every show I have been involved with that also involved them, has been a loosing proposition for all of the talent.  Take a guess on who got paid though?  Why should everyone else get paid except the reason people are even there?  The people who work the lights get paid.  The people that work the sound get paid.  Why can’t I get paid?  I expressed that to the person that was tasked with wrangling talent for the group and I don’t think he really understood what I was getting at.  I think it comes from the perception that the city isn’t known for comedy and these guys are not confident in their abilities.  So they go into these places and when the owner doesn’t cave to there commands of some sort of payment they flip and next thing you know they are running a show for free or they are putting on shows and no one is getting money.

That is another reason I try to stay out of the comedy scene.  I used to go to these shows and when I would talk to the comics none of them were getting paid much if at all.  The place would be packed and people are buying food and drinks, but the reason they were even there weren’t getting any money. That really turned me off to a lot of the stuff that is going on in the city.  I can understand an open mic not getting money, but if you are putting on a show on a Friday or Saturday the comics should be compensated. There doesn’t have to be a cover.  If they bar wants to give you a set amount then that is fine.  These places have to have something invested or they will not respect it.  I have done shows where the bar didn’t put up any signage.  Hell, they won’t even turn the TVs off!  Why? because they don’t respect it because they have nothing invested.  The moment the money is coming out of their damn pockets is the moment the flyers go up and the bar staff will be informing the customers of what’s going on.  It is a problem with almost all of the guys that got their start in Spokane.  They get to a point where they can get paid and they will just accept anything. Now, you will have to do shows sometimes for little to no money, but that is in an attempt to get something out of it.  They don’t seem to be doing that.

I want to do a short film with my daughter.  Just a little something.  Not even speaking.  I still don’t know what she is going to do.  All I got so far is her waking up in a park or something and then trying to find her way home.  Hell, it’s an excuse to play outside with my kid.

I really want an electric bike.  Or a scooter. scooters get the ladies.  Ladies love scooters.

Should You Put Your Sets On YouTube

Comics who start out in the area usually ask me this.  I think we all want to appeal to a ton of people and gain a ton of fans and stuff, but in the end it can do more harm than good.  There are times when you absolutely need to have your video online and there are times when you would be best served to just leave it for your private consumption.

Let’s go over scenarios first.  If you just started out and don’t really have much material it is probably best to keep it off the internets.  If you want your friends and family to check out your stuff then you can upload it and set it to private and send them a link to it.  If you are thinking that it will attract tons of fans and start you on the path to stardom then it may not work out like that for you.  The internet is already awash with cat videos, and videos of dudes falling out of trees, and even more important to us comics: other, more well known comedians.  See you have to think of it like this:  If people are looking at videos they have to go through all the videos of people punching a shark or getting ran over by someone in an electric scooter.  If they are specifically looking for stand up then it is even less likely that people will see your video and decide to watch that when they can watch a clip of a comedian they have seen on television and movies.  Now, if they do happen across your video because you have an interesting topic or something, then you have that person judging material that you may not have worked out properly.  In truthfulness, I put up videos that have jokes that I stumbled across while at an open mic, but I watch it to make sure that it is something that I would laugh at.  If you are just starting out and it is one of your first sets, it doesn’t show you in a great light.  People won’t know that that is your third time on stage, and even then because it is the internet and everyone on the internet is a cumsock (patent pending…) they will ridicule your material and you, and that may hurt your confidence way to early (let comedy naturally destroy it).

Ok.  You have been doing it longer than three weeks and you have some material that you want on the YouTubes (I calls it what I wants).  Maybe you want to see if you can get a bunch of views and a tv deal. Well, the tip here is don’t put your entire set up there!  I see so many comedians put their entire 10 minutes on YouTube as if it will help people come out and see you.  The key with YouTube for a comedian is to entice people to come purchase the product.  That means getting them to come see you live.  You aren’t getting anything out of it if they can see your entire show from the comfort of their cell phone.  If you have 5 minutes that you want to put online think about just 2 or 3 minutes. That way the person looking at it will want to see more of you and may just come see you live instead.  What I do is if I have a set recorded that I want to put online then I will find a good section of jokes or maybe just one joke and throw that up there with a screen showing my information.  That way if they like what they see they can come check more of me out.

The final scenario is the person that wants to feature or headline and they get work and just want it mostly for promotional purposes.  First off, give me some of your contacts…I’m begging you man!..er…The same as above applies, you want to tease the audience, but now you have to have a clip or two of your material for potential bookers.  I have several videos on my YouTube page that I send out with my promo package.  If you want to read my post on the video submission just go here.  The key here is to have a video that shows your best side.  If you are trying to get booked with a cruise line then you should not send them a video clip of your pretending to fist a mermaid.  You may want to show the family friendly side of your show.  I have a normal clip where I say the word shit (not just the word shit, there are jokes splattered about) and I send that to clubs and bookers that book those types of rooms where language isn’t that big a deal.  When I am sending stuff off for tv and stuff, I send them my set where I am not cursing.  I have a 3 minute video and a 10 minute video.  This came about because of necessity. I was sending my 3 minute video out to bookers and a couple of them asked for more. I then had to find 10 minutes and I will send them that one if they request it.  The reason I have 3 minutes instead of 5?  I don’t know.  I think that was the stuff I wanted to showcase and I know that these guys aren’t watching an entire 10 minute video.  On the off chance that they are…I got em.

I hope I didn’t come across as pessimistic about putting your material up online for the world to view. There are instances where comics have had their material stolen because they had a good premise and a joke that showed promise, only to have someone in another part of the country snatch it and fix the things that would have probably been fixed naturally and then they watch comedy central to see some guy do their stuff word for word.  When I started putting videos up there no one told me what to do because all of this stuff was still new.  I would put material up and have it shredded to pieces. I wasn’t ready to have that material represent me!  It was online though so it showed anyone looking at comedy my sorry ass telling jokes about drop kicking santa or some dumb shit and that will leave an impression on people.  Now what I do is if I have a bit that I want up, I will put it up there and put in the description that it was from an open mic.  I also stopped putting stuff online that I didn’t really like after watching it again.  Now, I may just be a jaded comic.  I only have about 6k views on my channel. You may fare better.  I hope you do.  I don’t want to see anyone fail, I just want you to understand that it isn’t as harmless as you think.