How To Stand Out In Your Comedy Scene

A lot of comedians think that the best way to stand out is to just be funny.  All you have to do is write material, work it out week after week, and someday…you will be able to host!  Here is the thing that a lot of comedians just can’t understand: That is not the way to stand out in your scene.  I will tell you what does and why?

You may be saying, “Well, Harry, handsome mofo you, why isn’t being funny the best way to stand out?  That is my job, right?” Your job is to be funny, but being funny is just a part of being a comedian.  You have to think about all the stuff that a comedian does before and after they get on a stage and be funny.  You have to get to the show, on time.  You have to perform your time, not going over or under.  If you are gonna be on stage, you should probably not be up there so high that you forget your material, or go after people in the audience.  When you are off stage, it is probably not a good idea to touch the wait staff (unless they consent of course).

If you want to stand out, you have to do what the others around you are not willing to do.  For example, in Spokane, we have a major comedy club and some independent shows.  If you show up to the open mics and show yourself not be a douchebag, it is not that hard to rise to the top of the scene and start working at the club, where you can be sharing the stage with some huge names.  Because in almost every scene I have witness, there are the same groups of people.  You have the entitled people that think that they should get work because they have stuck it out. You have the comedy fans that are more into the idea of comedy then actually creating and performing their own stuff.  Then you have just lazy comedians that will not show up to open mics, and when they do they are still performing the same jokes.  It is not that hard to rise above these guys.  While they are sitting around wondering why no one is booking them, you are making face time with all the other comedians that are trying their best to, just like you, stand out and be noticed by the people that are booking shows.

People always look at me and assume I get work because I make people laugh.  That is so far from the truth.  At first it was because I was available, and that I could go to places at a moments notice.  Later, bookers turned to me because I was dependable. I got to the venue on time and was nice to the staff.  When the manager of the room sees that, they will book you again.  Now, if you suck, you will get some work, but after awhile it will be harder, but the idea here is to get your foot in the door with a lot of these bookers and promoters by being dependable.  Bookers need people to fill time.  Yeah they want a great show, but if the funniest person on the planet only shows up 50% of the time, then there is no show.

Look comedy is still hard, if you have read any of this blog you know that, the thing is to make sure that you are setting yourself up for success, and that means getting out and being seen and not being a horrible garbage person.

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How To Deal With Slack Comedians

As you move up in the world of comedy, you will meet lazy ass comedians.  Let’s talk about how to deal with them.

Before we go any further, we have to talk about comedians that are just doing it as a hobby.  If they are not trying to make this a career, or trying to make money then this doesn’t really apply to them.  They can be as slack as they want.  This is talking about those that talk about making this a career, but their lazy asses get in the way of all that.

It may seem subjective to call some comedians lazy or slack, but it isn’t.  Think about ways comedians get better today.  They go out to open mics and shows, they write new material (or sharpen the old stuff) and they try to network with as many comedians as possible.  If they are not doing that then their actions do not meet up with their talk.  Life gets in the way of our dreams, but it seems like those that really want it find a way and those that don’t find excuses.

I deal with comedians all the time that want to be a paid comedian, and make it a career, but they refuse to do the things necessary to make it happen.  It used to bother me, watching comedians that I would call my friends not coming to shows and not going to open mics and doing the little things to get better. Then when they got on a show they wouldn’t even tell their friends that they were doing one!  It would frustrate me.  After talking to comedians that have been doing this far longer than me, I realized that you can’t drag everyone across the finish line.  Out of any population there will be those that have a better work ethic than joke delivery.  Those that are funny, but lazy, and those that just like the life of a comedian without all the joke telling.  If you are trying to succeed, you can not concern yourself with that because it can drag you down as well.

It’s not just the comedy itself, but everything that surrounds comedy.  I help put on shows here in the area, and it used to get to me how people would get on the show and then not do the little things to help it be a success.  They wouldn’t promote it on their social media, they wouldn’t tell anyone, they would just show up.  That is not how it works in 2016!  You have to get the word out that you have entertainment because you are fighting against Netflix, movies, concerts, and just people laying on the couch.  What I realized is that I was transferring my goals on to every other comedian I met.  I just assumed that if I wanted to be a working comedian that everyone else wanted to as well.  That isn’t the case.  So what I started doing was focusing on my own goals.  What I noticed was that because not everyone was trying as hard, it made it easier to stand out.  This was about seven years ago and it is the same today.  If you want to make a career out of comedy get to work and you will notice that you are leaving those that aren’t willing to write and get their stuff in order (head shots, videos that sort of thing) behind.  So, to answer the title of this article.  How do you deal with slack comedians?  Don’t.  If you are working and are consistent you won’t see them for much longer.

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.

This Post Has Not Been Rated

So I have started doing something that I was firmly against for a long time.  I have paid for the privilege of doing comedy festivals.  I have had a change of heart mainly because I am usually not doing anything else during those times so it makes sense to network with other comics and potentially get seen by someone important.  I still believe that some of these festivals are nothing more than money grabbing operations that use comedian’s dreams of hitting it big to fund the whole thing.  It’s like those things that take place in a hotel conference room on the weekend where some guy that made all his money selling people books on how to get rich, tells you that all you need to make money is to believe…and his book.  The thing is I travel to Portland and Seattle trying to network, but I still have to pay for things like hotel and food.  It would be great if someone else did that for me for a change…that’s if I get invited of course.

I have been trying to get my podcast off the ground since around April.  I love podcast, and I would like to add my two cents to the podcast discussion.  I have a format.  I have the site and everything ready…I just don’t know when it would be a great time to launch something like that.  That is my biggest problem.  It takes me a while to just get off my ass and get something done.  I will do a podcast, I just hope it is within this decade.

I got my photos submitted to the fair for their photography competition.  I am not so naive as to think I am this super great photographer, especially after picking it up only a year ago.  I do think a couple of the pictures I chose are really good.  Let’s hope I get a ribbon…damn I really want a ribbon.

So, the comedians in town have started gathering every week to shoot sketches and they have been really good so far.  Stuff like that makes me happy and at the same time furious!  Happy that so much talent is within arm’s reach, and furious that I can not eat their souls to gain their power.

Wrassling Badgers

Sometimes, I just name these blog post after things I want to search for in google images.  Today…it was badgers.

Someone linked this blog to reddit and it BLEW UP (relatively speaking)!  almost 500 views this week. That is a two month span for me normally.  I don’t know who it was, but I have always wanted to put this up there to see if someone else would like to read it, but reddit…scares the shit out of me.  Yeah, it’s a great place to go to see funny memes, but I don’t want to wander into /r/coontown and have my faith in humanity destroyed.

Since it’s so slow comedy wise in the area, I think a lot of comics just decide to stay home.  I think this is a mistake.  If you are still developing an act, I think you should still be going to open mics and working it out, that way when the shows pop up again you will be ready.  Nothing bothers me more than watching a comic disappear for 3-4 months and then show up when they think there is money to be made in comedy in the area only to not get any of that work because they “lost” it.  I don’t even know why it bothers me. It’s a simple system here in the area:  The one club in Spokane has an open mic.  The people looking for work get up and try to impress the runner of the club enough to get him to pay them.  The problem comes when you have been floating the river for 3 months and decide to come back and do comedy…you are not sharp like you are if you have been doing it at least every so often.  So when the club runner sees you up there with the same stuff he knows you are not ready.  This also applies to independent shows that take place during that same time.  Comics put other comics they have seen lately on their shows.  If they haven’t seen your ass in forever they are not putting you on.

I get it.  No one wants to do a show in front of 6 people when they can be drinking beer in their backyards.  The weather is great and no one wants to come inside.  If this is what you want to do though, you have to be willing to sacrifice that extra couple of hours to work your material in front of those 6 people.  When I was just starting out I went to every open mic, even if it wasn’t really a comedy open mic. I performed in front of small crowds and crowds that didn’t want to hear jokes.  Why?  So I can work on my material, so when it does come time to perform I got my shit down.  People work and have children, and that is fine, but you also can’t complain when you aren’t just being handed paid work.  My kid used to hate it when I had to leave to get to the open mic, but I did it because I wanted to at least try and be good at it.  You get what you put in…I think Abraham Lincoln said that.

What I have been seeing lately though is this is just par for the course in Spokane.  I think there is a little self defeat in most of the comics (and businesses) working in the area.  They feel as though they are on an island that will never be visited so they just slack off until they hear that something is happening.  Life doesn’t work like that though.  That is why it is so easy to tell the people that want it and the people that don’t in this town. The people that do want it, show up to empty rooms or rooms that can chew your ass up, and they work on their stuff and they eventually leave because they realize that everyone here is just mailing it in.  Then you have the people that bring the same shit they have been doing for three years on stage and they don’t write and they don’t try new things.  All they do is sit around talking shit about why one comic got on a show and they didn’t.

I have been lining up more photography gigs and it is basically covering the lost income from the lack of shows during the summer.  The thing is I never thought about photography as a money making venture. I just wanted something to record my YouTube videos and the next thing you know I am doing people’s head shots.

I submitted my application to be in the San Francisco comedy competition.  I will find out in August if I was accepted.  A part of me wants to go do it (exposure), but another part of me (the part that hates competitions) really wants to avoid these things.  It is not cheap to spend a week in San Fran.  Hotel, food, hookers, that all adds up.  When I did the Seattle competition, there were people that were basically hobos for that week.  I want to be more prepared than that.  I want to have a comfortable place to stay and relax and focus on the task at hand.  The task of world domination.

 

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.

Staying On Task

I am a procrastinator.  This is one of the biggest reasons my career has had lulls in it.  I also get really down on myself (probably from the procrastination) and that also leads to times when things that I should have done didn’t get accomplished.  When comedians ask me what they should do to get the things that they want out of comedy, I say to stay on task.

Staying on task is essential if you want to become successful in anything, not just comedy.  In my opinion it is more important than who you know or how funny you are.  It doesn’t matter if you know a booker that can get you three months of work if you keep forgetting to get him your head shots and bio so he can set the shows up.  You can be funny as hell, but if you are holding off on doing the little things than you will get looked over for the guy that could do those things needed to be successful.

Task accomplishment is the thing that separates greats from the could have beens.  You think athletes just walk on the field and do what they do because of just natural talent?  They are there because they were willing to do the little things.  Working out, learning the game, practice.  Those are the things that will make you that much better than your competition.  In the comedy world that means getting more opportunities.

Some people have terrible memories, or just a bunch of stuff that they need to do and no way to accomplish any of it.  That is where a checklist is valuable.  I lean on checklist heavily.  I think that is how I was able to graduate college.  I put all the things I needed to do in a checklist and went from most to least important.  If you have a bad memory or just need to organize your task I highly encourage you to give this a try.  Most smartphones have a built in task manager, or you can find plenty in app stores or online.  I like task managers because what it does is organize the things that I need to do and I can also assign which things are really important and what things I can wait on.  Do I need to contact someone about a pending show date?  That is something I just do right away.  Should I check out a website on how to record better audio of my sets?  I can wait on that for a little bit.

A checklist is great and all, but doesn’t do jack if you are like me and tend to wander throughout your free time.  It took me a solid year to get a website done because I was procrastinating most of the time and when I actually sat down to give it a try, I would end up reading comic book character origin stories and the like.  I have a tough time just staying on task that now I have a set of rules that I follow when I am trying to get something done.

One of the first things I do when I am trying to get stuff done (like write a blog) is I get rid of all the distractions.  I turn off the TV and I close the web browser.  That way I don’t start looking up silly crap or watching Teen Titans and never getting anything done.  I also make sure that I am doing these things when I am alone.  If my kid is over and I need to get something done, then it is not getting done.  So the thing that I try to do instead is wait until she is gone and then I can get the thing done.  I have had people tell me to set time aside for task, but that has never worked for me because I never really know what is going on from day to day.  I just make sure that during the times when I am not doing another pressing matter that I knock out a couple of things on my checklist.

You might also be like me in that you have way to much crap going on and you don’t know what is the most important.  When I am not on stage I am writing this blog, or writing short stories, or writing scripts and sketches, or editing a video, or filming a video, or taking pictures, or editing pictures, or trying to learn how to do all of those things better.  That means a lot of times I will end up not knowing what to do and just not do anything.  I have tried many different things to try and get this in order, but the thing is my mood changes.  Sometimes I get depressed about my comedy career and so I start doing more writing to try and keep my mind off of it.  I may look at my blog and think that it is terrible and so I go online to look for ways to make my videos better.  I am always tied up in something and sometimes I just get lost.  The thing that I have tried that has helped a little is just trying to do a little bit of something each day.  I try to get in some learning about something and then I try to apply it.  For example, I want to make better flyers.  I watch something on lynda.com and then make sure I try it before I forget it.  Now, I feel as though I have accomplished something, and I may have gotten a flyer or something done.

The one thing I think you should try to avoid however is getting down on yourself.  I don’t know how much time I have wasted getting down on myself because I was lost or because I procrastinated too long and now an opportunity has passed me by.  I try to keep myself involved in the things I am interested in so I can get around to getting stuff done sooner.  I like producing video.  I try to help people in the area film their ideas and what that does is it lets me learn things that I can use on my own projects.  I try to go to open mics because that gets my comedy juices flowing.  I get ideas and I don’t feel rusty when I have a paid show and I haven’t really gotten on stage in a couple of days.  I write this blog so I can keep my head into writing and that will usually get me warmed up to write a couple of pages of story or get a sketch idea on paper.  The most important thing is to not get discouraged.  Keep focused and work your way through the things you need to do to be successful in anything that you want to do.