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.

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My Time in the 39th Seattle International Comedy Competition

I was one of 32 competitors in this year’s Seattle International Comedy Competition (SICC).  I will talk about a couple of things that I experienced during my second time competing in this competition.

For those that aren’t familiar with this, this is a multi week competition all around the Western part of Washington state.  The first two weeks of the competition are the preliminary rounds.  The top five for both of those weeks move on to the semi-finals and the top five move on to the finals.  There have been a lot of amazing comedians that have taken part in this competition.  Many people submit each year and it is quite an accomplishment to get to compete (at least in my opinion).

When I was selected to be one of the 32 competitors I chose to compete in the first round.  There were a lot of Seattle locals in this round so I was nervous because of home town advantage and all.  I had worked on a set that I thought would work well and I was ready.  Me and fellow Spokane comedian Michael Glatzmaier were late because like a lot of people we underestimated Seattle’s notoriously bad traffic.  That first night sets the tone for the rest of the week for a lot of people.  Those that are suited to move on will, and those that may have bitten off more than they can chew (always wanted to say that) can usually be found looking out into the world in confusion.  I placed first the first night with what I think was my best performance of the entire competition (which is bad because it was the first night of the entire thing).  I felt like my set was dialed in and I was confident it could get me to the semi-finals.  The rest of the week, I placed second in each show.  For the week I finished first and I was comfortably moving on to the finals.  There was only one other show in which I thought I did well enough to finish first, but when you get called second you kind of forget about all that.

The semi-finals was not as comfortable as the preliminary round (of course).  I had a week to lay about and think, and the five comedians from the second week were still sharp going in.  I hadn’t worked on a semi-finals set as much as I had liked so I was basically trying to cobble something together.  I took what I was doing during the prelims, and added another couple jokes onto it.  I won the first night and I was feeling really good.  Then things got pretty bumpy after that.  Took fourth the next night.  Didn’t place at all the third night.  The fourth night I placed second, but I was still worried because this competition is score based and so placement doesn’t mean as much if everyone else’s scores are really close. The last night was in this enormous theater and everyone brought the heat.  I finished third for that night and fourth for the week.  I was the only one from the first week to move on to the finals.

I knew I was in trouble because my plan of action didn’t take into account making it to the finals.  I have a lot of  material.  Two (or three if you count an earlier DVD I did) albums and an iPad full of jokes means that when you are in a competition, you have too much to chose from.  Do I go with the older material that works great, but I haven’t done in awhile, or do I go with the newer stuff that I have been doing more lately, but may not be “winning” material.  I went with going with the material I have been doing lately and slapping one of my closers on the end.  I was excited about making the finals with a group of amazing comedians.  I was there with my buddy Phil who finished first for the week in the semi-finals and that first night I was just up there having fun.  I finished fourth for the night.  I was happy and life was good.  After the second night though, I realized I maybe the only one just happy to be there.  I finished that night second, but I could see on the other comedian’s faces that they were trying to win.  That’s when I realized I should probably try better.  The next couple of nights were rough because no matter what I wasn’t finishing how I wanted.  On the last night, first was pretty much decided and second was pretty hard to get to.  I decided to do more of my more opinionated material because I was in the heart of Seattle and it didn’t really matter at that point.  I took a time penalty and ended up fifth for the night and fifth for the entire competition.

These competitions teach you what you are made of as a comedian.  Will you fold and just mail it in to get it over with, or will you keep pounding away until you reach the finish?  Do you have great material are you full of hot air?  Overall I am disappointed in my finish because I expect more from myself.  Yes, it is good to be there, but those couple of shows in which I was just “happy” to be present was my ultimate downfall.  I want more from myself because I have been doing this for so long.  I think I am also embarrassed.  I know it may seem silly, but I was embarrassed to be beaten.  Competitions are weird like that.

What you have to learn from these things is that not finishing first doesn’t mean you can no longer be a comedian.  Plenty of comedians never got out of the preliminary round and went on to make a name for themselves.  There is also so much work out there when you are around comedians from all over the planet.  I have booked so much work as of late all because of this competition.  I also have a couple things that could really be big in the new year.  So all in all, a pleasant experience.

Gift Ideas for the Comedian in Your Life (2018 edition)

We have done this three times now, so why not do it again!  These are just some of the top gifts a comedian would love to get.  I have these broken down by level of comedian, but that doesn’t mean if someone is just starting out they wouldn’t like a new phone.  It’s based on price mainly.  So let’s get into this!

Open Micer:

Comedians love pens, man!  Get them these and they will thank you all year round.  They need pens to sign up for open mics and most importantly, for writing the material that will one day get them out of the basement of a hotel and onto the stage of a fancy comedy club.

Hook em up with some notebooks.  Comedians go through tons of these damn things.  So you might as well get them some nice ones so they can look back at all the dick jokes they wrote.

If the comedian in your life is serious about their performance, then they should be recording it to see if the laughs are coming when they want them and to pick up on any bad habits they have on stage.  This is a cheap option if you are not going to use an app on your phone.

Get em a lyft gift card.  I don’t have a link, so you will just have to type it into your pocket computer.  Driving to all these spots will waste a lot of gas.  Hook em up with an adult (that is usually not drunk) that will drive them around.

 

Feature:

Update the sound coming out of your phone, so you can hear yourself even better than a voice recorder that will get all the noise in the room (really bad if you are doing a show in a bar).  Grab this mic from Rode that will enhance your sound as well as video if you want to record video with your smartphone.

I am always looking for ways to record myself performing.  I can see my mannerisms and check on act outs and adjust them if I am going to crazy.   You can also use a good recording to send to bookers if you are in a pinch (I would use a camera and not my smartphone).  That is why getting a tripod for you smartphone is great! This one is a good option.  It comes with a remote so you can start the recording as soon as your name is called.

Get your love one the gift of spotify!  I rock Apple Music, but I know not everyone is into Apple Music as much as they are into Spotify.  This will help them calm down before a set, or help them not loose their mind while driving to a gig, or set the mood while they are getting some action after a show.  I don’t know what they are into, but the gift of music is normally a great one.

Headliner:

Wanna blow a comedian’s mind? Get them this!  This is one of the best laptops you can get and the only way they wouldn’t like this is if they like Macs (like me). This laptop will have enough power to help them make up posters, record and edit podcast and play all those sexual documentaries comedians love.

If you know me in real life (and not just from my crappy writing) then you know I love my iPad.  Well, I personally now have an iPad Pro and it is one of the best tablets available.  You can get a surface, but I feel the speed and portability of the iPad can not be beat.  I edit photos and videos on this bad boy.  I write my jokes into it, and I watch netflix on it when I am in a hotel room far from home.  My electronic companion.

Comedians need a good phone so they can take all those calls from people wanting them on their shows.  Now you can grab an iPhone, but they are pricey (especially the new XS ones).  How about the baddest Samsung has to offer.  The S9 has great big screen and a nice camera so you can get selfies with all those stars they are hanging out with.

 

If you want a dedicated camera to record sets for submission or even just to look at get this bad boy! This is a great camera, and I have seen the video from this camera with my own eyes and several comedians have this.

 

There you have it.  Some gift ideas for that comedian in your life.  Give the gift of consumer electronics to fill that hole in their life.  I am sure that any of these gift would be great to give to almost anyone, but comedians will find extra use from them.

Why Spokane May Not be the Best Place to Start Your Comedy Career

Last week, I wrote a post about how Spokane (or similarly sized city) would make a great place to start your comedy career.  As I said from that post, I would write a post about why it would not be a great place to begin your comedy career.  Lets do it!

Limited Audience: A city like Spokane has about 250,000 people living in it (almost twice as much if you count the metropolitan populace).  Out of that amount you have to start counting out certain groups, like people who don’t like stand-up or people to young to attend shows.  That leaves you with an even smaller group of people in which to apply your trade.  On a Saturday night, for example, only about 300-400 people are attending a comedy show in the area.  Cities like New York or Chicago are seeing multiple times that many people.

Talent Pool: Spokane bleeds talent every year.  Comedians get to a point where they feel as though they are stalling in their career and make the move to a larger city.  This is one of the downsides to living in a town of this size.  Just when the amount of talent in the city reaches a level where attention is drawn to it, enough people leave that it starts to effect shows.  When your best comedians leave for greener pastures, the only comedians left may not be ready to get paid, but you have no choice sometimes but to put them up.

Small chance to make it BIG:  Let’s face it.  Spokane is not a destination for any of the late shows.  No talent agent is going to Chan’s to look for a comedian to give a Netflix special to.  That is why people go to NYC and LA and Chicago.  You have a higher chance of being spotted or connecting with the right people and changing your life from just comedian on the side to full time comedian.  No matter how cheap the rent is in Spokane, the possibility of making it trumps that every time.

Trapped in local material:  There is a saying (one which I will be writing an article about soon) that goes: Local jokes get local work.  Because Spokane and the surrounding area can be a comedy island, people tend to cater a little to much to the townsfolk and before you know it, you have a set that is basically all about Spokane and towns around it.  That may work here, but once you go somewhere else, no one cares about how methed out Ritzville looks.

So, there you have it, some reasons why Spokane may not be the best place to start your career.  I always like to give both sides to an argument, and I hope you will see both the good and the bad to being a comedian in Spokane.  Remember, if you have the persistence and the talent, you can be a great comedian anywhere.

Lets Just Talk

When I started this blog, the goal was simple:  Give people that are just starting out a guide so that they can be as successful as possible.  I can not tell you how to get on Conan or pitch a TV show because I have never done that.  I have spent over a decade in shady bars all over the country and I have dealt with the ups and downs of climbing the comedy ladder.  When I was starting out, there wasn’t anything online to help you.  You just walked on stage and made mistakes until you learned it.  This may seem like a good method, but what it does is make it extremely hard for some to even attempt comedy.  Not all of us can just collect ourselves and get up on stage.  Some need that confidence that something like this blog can provide.

I will never charge people to access what I have written.  I like to make money, but I want these tips available to those that are actually trying to find something to help them get to that next step.  One thing that has to be remembered though when reading this is that these are my observations and experiences.  Yours may differ.  With any amount of advice, you can take all, some, or none.  It wasn’t until I was doing it for a while that I had people that actually steered me in a direction that helped me get better and get more work.  Not everyone will have access to important mentors like this, so hopefully this will help at least a little.

Comedy has to be entered into with a passion and a persistence that is not like many things in this world.  Comedy is a long, painful, embarrassing, journey that many will just simply give up.  For those of us that continue to grind and persist, and struggle, it may seem at times to not even be worth it. That is where the passion comes in.  There are plenty of funny people out there, but there are not that many that can get on stage and articulate that humor to the masses.  It is also a business and if there is one thing I have learned its that many human don’t like to take chances when it comes to their money.  It is hard to get up on stage night after night to sculpt a joke that will work most of the time, but it is even harder to then go to someone and tell them to give you money for those well-crafted jokes.  A lot of people just can’t do it.  I have had to get part time jobs in between dry spells.  I have had to pawn almost everything in my house at one point to keep this alive.  The thing is, some people don’t want to go through that.  Does that mean they were not passionate about comedy?  No.  It means that comedy is a great way to see how far you are willing to go for something.  Before comedy rewards you, it will ask: What are you willing to give up?  Some give up their friends.  Some give up their marriages.  Some give up great jobs.  It will ask how hard are you willing to work.  Will you go to every mic in your town?  Will you spend three hours in a bar for three minutes on stage?  Will you drive across the state for dinner and gas money?  It will ask for more and more, and when you have given all you have to it, it may give you what you sought out.  You may be a working comedian, or a get commercial work, or appear in shows and movies, or you won’t.  Comedy will ask so much from you and still there is the chance that you will end up at the end of the road empty handed and broke.  Most passions are cruel that way.  Not every painter gets to live on just the sale of their paintings and not every singer gets paid for their songs, but we all pursued the thing that makes us feel alive and whole.  These things that we pursue are what gives this human experience meaning.  It makes a life worth living.

I knew when I was getting out of the military and pursuing comedy, that it may end up with me at the end broken and alone.  The thing is, I had nothing else to lose.  I was getting medically discharged from something that I was planning on making my career.  I was already spat out of something, and had no fear.  Would I have gone after comedy the way I had if under better circumstances?  I don’t think so.  I think I was looking for something to make me feel as though I wasn’t as broken as they told me I was.   I wanted to care about more than a paycheck.

I would not call myself a successful comedian, but I can call myself a working comedian.  It takes work and luck to make comedy something more than just pocket money, and I hope this blog does that at least a little bit.  I hope that even though I am not a successful comedian, you will look at what I have been through and help it guide you so you can achieve what it is you are looking for in comedy.  Comedy is hard, and that is why you need as much help as you can get along the way.

Why Credits Suck

If you are in the comedy industry, then you know how important credits are.  They can be the difference between hosting, featuring, or getting the chance to headline a club.  Credits are a huge driving force to a lot of things comedians do nowadays and I think I will try my best to explain why they suck.  I will also do an article on why they don’t suck, which you will be able to find here.  So without further ado…

 

Credits don’t show skill: Just because you were a finalist of such and such competition, or you were on whatever late night show, doesn’t tell anyone looking at your credits anything.  It may tell the lay person something, but all it says is that you have about five minutes of great material.  What does that matter if you are sending promo packages to clubs asking to headline?  I’ve seen comedians that have credits for being a writer for some website, but that didn’t translate to being good on stage.

Credits are a lazy way to promote:  It is harder than ever to get people out to your shows, so credits are supposed to be there to let people know that you are worth spending money on.  The problem is some bookers and club owners will assume that slapping an NBC logo on a poster is all they need to get the seats filled.  Having a credit is not the top way to get people in the door.  It isn’t even in the top five in my opinion. There are tried and true ways to get the word out that the comedian you have coming in is funny.

No one reads about your credits:  So a comedian says he was on last comic standing, it is probably a good idea to know what they mean when they say that.  Were they a finalist or were they in a commercial for a half a second?   I was on the TV show Z-Nation that is on SYFY.  I was shot within two minutes of being on and you will not know that was me unless you know me.  That credit does nothing to show I am worth the price of admission.

Most Credits are Meaningless:  What is so weird about this is that almost everyone knows it, but we still do it.  Why?  Some agent told a group of comedians that credits will land you all over the place, and we ran with it.  What soon happened was people started exploiting this fact from top to bottom.  Comedians know that most credits are meaningless so they stack them up just to overwhelm anyone looking at them.  That is why so many comedy festivals have popped up.  You can have a ton of comedians come out and get that credit, which they need to get considered more, and if you are lucky you get to run a festival and hopefully make a little money. The average person has never heard of “small metro city comedy festival”, but it helps pad the credits.  Bookers and agents know they are meaningless, so they ask their comedians to go out and do more stuff.  Ever noticed how almost every comedian has a podcast?  Even if no one listens to the thing, you will at least have something for the host to tell the audience about.  Club owners know they are meaningless, but still depend on them so they can pull in people that may recognize the name.  That is why clubs all across the country will have “late night sketch show” star headline for a weekend.  They bring in people!  So, clubs that can’t afford that will try to bring in a guy with a ton of credits as well, but just not the name recognition so you will see logos for things you are familiar (NBC, FOX, Pandora) with and just assume that means a quality act.

 

Comedy is a tough business and with credits, it was thought that this would be a great way to balance everything out.  Get the credits and then move up the comedy ladder.  Comedians are resourceful if anything else and have learned how to turn this system into something damn near ridiculous.  Check out why they can actually be a good thing here!

 

 

Pushing Through No

People are always trying to find out what the difference is between them and their favorite comedians.  I hear it a lot when talking to comedians and they wonder why they have been doing it for five years and still hosting, but some guy they saw on TV has been doing it just as long and…well, they are on TV.  I have written before about the ways these guys are different.  Today I am going to write about one way that stops many people, including me at times, and that is “no”.

See, what separates us from most of the comedians, actors, and singers you see is that they don’t take no as a final answer.  No is more of a stop gap than anything.  If you are a comedian reading this, think of the times you have been told no (in one way or another).  The local booker doesn’t reply to your emails.  Clubs don’t want you for anything other than hosting.  Your family thinks its a phase.  Instead of just letting that get to them and keep them from progressing, these people are pushing.  Why?  Because they know that no isn’t the end all be all!  That is just one person, controlling a small bubble of the comedy landscape.  So instead of letting it eat them alive, they push on past that person and go to another, and another, and another, until they get to the next step in their career.

It is not easy to do this.  If it was, I wouldn’t be at an open mic right now writing this.  When I first started trying to branch out, hearing no from someone would obliterate my self-esteem.  Now, it is just part of the process.  This is the way this industry runs.  Is it fair?  No, but the way I see it is like this:  Everyone is trying to either maintain or make more money and gain prestige.  If they just allowed anyone in that could hurt that without making absolutely sure they could at least keep the status quo, then that means loosing a room, or a valuable client.

Ok.  So you’ve read all that and you think that you are one yes from being Tom Segura.  Wait.  Not letting “no” stop you is just one part of a whole.  You still have to write you ass off and get on stages and maintain relationships with people.  Every comedian out there has another comedian or booker or someone believe in them and help them and you need that as well, just don’t let disappointments get you down.