Gift Ideas For The Comedian In Your Life

If you have to get a gift for a comedian it could be a daunting task.  You may not want to get them something that will just be inspiration for a joke down the road.  Well, I ( with a lot of help from the Spokane comedy community check us out here ) compiled a list of gift ideas for the comic in your life.  No matter what stage they are at in their career, I believe they will thank you for these gifts.

41cSXOSJq7L._SX351_BO1,204,203,200_

The Moleskine: Comics love carrying around notebooks with all their premises and jokes.  If you get them some of these nice quality notebooks, they will thank you.  Oh, I have added links to where you can get these.  Don’t worry, I am not getting paid for it if you click.

810d1YfFJAL._SL1500_

An audio recorder: The picture above is of the Zoom H1 which is around 99 bucks.  There are cheaper ones out there, but this one has such great audio quality for the price.  An audio recorder for a comedian is a great choice because you can replay your set and hear an accurate record of the show.  Did that joke really bomb, or was it because someone yelled something right before you said the punchline? Now they will know.

71W-zW0JR+L._SL1500_

A smartphone mic: The picture above is of the Rode VideoMic Me.  You don’t have to get this one (which retails for about 60 bucks), but it is a great choice for the minimalist comedian in your life.  They can slap this on their smartphone, start up an audio recording app, and you have a recording.  They can also use them for video recordings where their smartphone is the best camera they have, and now they can have great sound as well.

71DwebVJToL._SL1500_

A tripod: You can use a nice table top tripod to get your recorder or camera off the table (or out of your friends shaky ass hands) so you don’t have to hear, or see, every time someone shakes the table.  The one in the picture is a gorilla pod, and I like these because you can wrap the legs around almost anything and still get a good recording.

th

An iTunes giftcard: Make sure you find out what kind of phone or service they are dealing with.  If they have an android phone get them a google play giftcard, and if they have a windows phone, get them professional help.  They can use these for a ton of things.  When I am in a hotel room trying not to blow money, I will rent a movie from iTunes and chill out.

51Ay8SY3l4L._SL1000_

A batterypack: If they are traveling all over the place, then this is a great gift.  I selected the Anker brand because it is the brand I use.  With this bad boy they don’t have to be chained to an outlet.

There were other gift ideas that I think a comedian would enjoy, like a subscription to Adobe CC, but that can be pretty pricey.  It is really useful though, if they are the type that does their own promotions.  Another great subscription idea is Evernote Premium.  Evernote is a note taking program, that works on anything.  Their is a free option, but with premium, you can download the notes that you took, and have them updated on everything you use to write jokes with.

Well, I hope this will give you some great ideas for the comedian in your life.  There is one gift you can give them that doesn’t cost anything and is always welcomed.  Support.  It is tough enough to go out there and pursue your dreams, it is even harder when they people closest to you don’t give a damn about what it is you are passionate about.  Just go to a show every once in awhile. Share their show details on social media. These tiny things means a lot to the struggling comics out there.  Thanks for reading!

 

 

Advertisements

Why You Need A Website

I hope you liked the previous couple of posts on the promotional package.  I learned a lot from the research I did on it.  What I usually do is, I look up what I need to know and then if I think it is something worth sharing I will write it up (most of the time poorly).  This post is no different.  I found out pretty early in the Seattle Comedy Competition that I needed a website.

Here is the thing:  I used to have a website!  When I first got started, I had a website and it wasn’t the greatest thing on the planet, but it had all my information on it.  I ran into money problems and I let the address lapse and ever since then I have been directing everyone over to Facebook.  Which is not a great thing.  A lot of people are turned off by Facebook.  There is a lot of noise there, and directing them there usually meant that they would not go there.  Facebook and twitter is a great place for fans to connect with you.  It is not a great place to have bookers and potential client go to you.  I have found that there are two things people look for in those that are in business for themselves.  A business card and a website.

I thought that Facebook would be enough.  I mean think about it.  You have everything you need right there.  I think there is something different in the package that is a fan site and a more professional looking website.  Facebook is not about presenting information to someone that is looking for it.  You can find it, but that is not what you want people doing when they are looking for more media or information like an email address or phone number.

You don’t even have to have a fancy ass website either.  You can get a godaddy domain and have them hook you up with a website and everything (I am not advertising for them…but I would if they paid me).  I am going to go with squarespace.  I just like their pricing and I have played around with their website builder and the end results are really nice.  You don’t need a dedicated web site designer.  If you have the money and you want to look like a baller than go ahead!  I have seen some comics with some great sites.  http://alvinwilliamscomedy.com/ and https://www.natejacksoncomedy.com/ are two that come to mind right off the bat.  As you can see if you click on them that they have a very simple but yet clear design.  There isn’t a lot of BS going on.  It is for people to get in a get more information on them.  Want to know when they are back in town?  It’s there!  Want to know the cool stuff they have been up too?  Right on there.  Two very good sites that I will no doubt look toward for inspiration.

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind when you are building your own site.  First, you have to update the site!  Nothing is worst than seeing a professional comic, that you know has worked recently, showing on their website that they have a big after christmas comedy show.  You want people to get the impression that when you leave their town, you are still doing comedy like a big time comedy person.  Another thing is to not give away too much stuff on your site.  I have seen people put their whole act up on their site.  Why?  You want them to get just enough to want to see you live in person.  That is the job of the website!  Let the website be a place to intrigue them enough to throw down 10 bucks to see you.  It might also look to a booker that you don’t know what you are doing if you have all of your material up on your site to see.  The last thing is to make sure you have all of your information on there.  I have seen sites where all they have is their YouTube video and their bio.  That isn’t enough!  You need your email, agents info if you have it, dates that you already have booked, and your phone number.  If you are afraid that an ex is gonna call you demanding that you repay them, then you have other issues.

I hope this helps you with your site.  I will have my site up by the next post.  Thanks for reading and have a great week.

 

Going To New York

So, at the end of February, I will be heading to New York for a couple of days to venture in their comedy scene.  I’m not gonna move there.  Unless it captures me to the point that I can not live without being there all the damn time.  It is something that I should have been doing a long time ago, but just never got up the nerve to do it.  I am going with a couple of friends, so it will not be just me lost in a huge city for a week. It will be me and some friends lost in a huge city for a week.

There are multiple reasons to hit up New York.  It is one of the places you are told to go if you are going to REALLY pursue comedy.  It’s where a career can be made.  It is also a place where you can drown just trying to pay the rent.  That is my biggest reason for never wanting to venture into a bigger scene.  I see countless people go to these places like they are the first to think about it.  They have no savings.  They have no plans.  They don’t even have job leads.  They just go there and then they realize that they aren’t on SNL yet and they end up having to get a job just to pay for a shitty apartment and they never get out to do comedy like they wanted to.  Now they are just a New Yorker.  Maybe that is where the famous New York attitude comes from.  It’s just a bunch of people that had their dreams snatched away from them.

We are going to go there, take in the sites, and go to as many open mics as possible.  If I can do 2-3 a night that would be a dream come true.  I want to meet people that have connections.  You know the stuff comics who want to make money do.

I am going to be building my website tomorrow.  It is about 5 years in the making.  I thought I could get as much information out there with a facebook page.  That was not the case.  I don’t want people having to go to several different things just to get info on me.  I used to have a website.  I didn’t run it well. Now that I am a little be older and a little less stupid I think I can keep it running smoothly with up to date information.

There is this open mic in town that is ran on a debate format.  I liked it.  Although, someone accused me of just doing my material.  I don’t know why it got under my skin.  Probably because it wasn’t material.  Like I didn’t have it written down anywhere or performed it somewhere else.  I was just going off the top of my head.  The thing about doing comedy in this town for as long as I have is that there are people out there that like you and there are some that resent you.  Not because you did anything to them, but because you are something they want to be against.  It doesn’t really deter me or anything.  It was just weird that I was getting called out.  Especially seeing how people were doing real material.  Like stuff they perform all the time they just started doing when they ran out of stuff to say about the topic.

My photography stuff is starting to ramp up.  I am getting ready to start taking clients for headshots.  I want to do portraits and real estate photography as well.  I don’t want to do weddings.  It just seems like dealing with assholes all day.  I want to do more than just doing comedy.  There are times when I am home for weeks at a time.  I could be doing something else with that time.  I can write blogs and stuff and record videos, but I think there is enough time in there to take pictures and make money while doing it.

 

The Problem With Local Shows

I am a regional comic.  What that means is that I make the majority of my money in about 4-5 states.  This means that local shows that are put on are a big source of income for me.  The thing about doing shows locally (I live in Spokane WA on the east side of Washington state) is that it is HARD to get people in those seats.  Now, I have had conversations at length about why this is so.  Theories abound!  Everything from people don’t know about comedy in the area all the way to it’s too expensive (if 5 bucks is too much then you have other issues).  I have my own theories.

We live in a post comedy boom.  Back in the 80’s and 90’s comedy clubs were as plentiful as zits on Kim Kardashian’s ass.  With every boom though there is a burst of the bubble and by the mid to late 90’s most of the good will stand up comedy garnered was wasted.  Why?  Because human nature that’s why!  Instead of establishing itself as a viable form of entertainment, comedy became more seedy as people who wanted to run shows, but didn’t have the capital to open a new club (especially after they ruined a couple already) just threw them up in bars and basements around america.  Think about it like this:  When is the last time you have been to a comedy club that wasn’t also a restaurant or a bar or a strip mall?  This is one of the reasons people turned away from live comedy.  No one wants to go to a comedy club when it is in the seedy side of town and you have to bring your own cups.

Then let’s not forget the actual people putting on these shows.  They were either wannabe comics who failed miserably to make it in a time when anyone with a hook could make money or they were shady businessmen that saw a quick buck (sounds a lot like the housing and internet bubbles).  These people would charge money and threw anyone on stage that said they were a comic.  Since there were so many comedy clubs and not enough quality acts to fill them, people got burned one too many times and the clubs just dried up.

The comics actually performing back then didn’t help either.  These guys were snake oil salesmen.  They would flash a grin and show a comedy booker a bag full of trinkets that they were gonna make fun of on stage and they got a lot of work.  The problem is they were not that good.  Look at all the stereotypes of comedians.  Its always a guy telling terrible jokes that have been driving into the ground (see last week’s article on hack).  He always looks like a used car salesman.  This was even worse in smaller parts of the country because quality acts were in the big cities and comedy clubs needed acts it was easy for these people to go from small town to small town for years before they either got one too many DUIs or they opened up a subway that is connected to a conoco.

What does that have to do with comedy in Spokane (and probably your little neck of the woods).  Well, Spokane is one of those cities where these exact things happened! People started doing comedy in any place that would let them.  Comedy clubs were doing great in the area.  Then the people running the bars noticed that the same 5 acts were coming back over and over again.  The audiences noticed that they were paying more to get in and more for drinks and getting a guy that was telling all of Eddie Murphy’s old material, but in a british accent.

So what happened?  Well, the bar owners kicked the bookers out and refused to pay that much money for an inferior product.  Audience members decided to spend their money on known quality (that is why clubs all across America will not put you on unless you have TV credits, that is to let the people coming to the show know that you have been vested already and deemed funny) and just stopped coming to comedy clubs unless they could prove they could consistently bring in funny people.

So, comedy in Spokane has stagnated for about 6 years with one club and a lot of one nighters that pop up from time to time.  I am a believer that it is because of the (perceived) quality of comedy in the area and the lack of promotion that is making local shows suffer.  Even when you get out on local TV and advertise your event you may get a lukewarm response and that is because people have been burned before and people remember the bad experiences more than the no so bad experiences.

Another issue that is fairly recent is that comics (me included) have gotten lazy with promotion.  We will make a flyer and put it up at the venue and then post it online and then call it good.  Just because you have 500 friends on facebook does not mean you will get 500 people to your show.  For every 100 people you have to assume that only 1 of those people will be persuaded by your advertisement.  If you put on shows then try this experiment.  Send out an invite to your next show.  See how many people say they will or might come.  Then check the amount of audience members you get.  You will see that a lot of the time the number of people that saw the ad and then said they were coming is much larger than the amount of people that actually showed up.  I mean you can post it a lot and get people used to the fact that a show will be going on.  That is the only way I have seen it consistently work.  But the numbers will almost always be lower than what you planned.

I think in this area, the biggest problem is that people don’t think of Spokane as an area where good comedy can come from.  I think the reason for that is that Seattle and Portland are not that far away and people’s perception is that it makes no sense to do comedy here unless you are not good enough to cut it on the west side.  That is why shows do really well here when they are being performed in theaters like the Bing Crosby Theater or the Fox Theater.  People will come see those because again, they believe that those people on that stage have been vested and they believe they are getting a quality product.

I have gone about my career here the long way. I just try to put on the best show possible and gain enough of a following that when I do perform I can have a number of people come to that show.  It is not the cool route because at times there are a lot of empty seats in the crowd, but it is one that allows the people paying to get in a chance to trust that you will take care of their entertainment needs.  Now, I would love to get a TV credit and make it easier to get asses in chairs, but that is a process.  If you have read my blog, you will notice that is a ongoing theme.  Process to success.

I think the Spokane comedy scene would serve itself well to see a little deeper into why people are not showing up then just “its warm outside” and see that what people want now are what they have wanted forever.  A consistently funny show in an area where they don’t feel they will have to fight a bum to get to their automobile.

The Bar

I don’t know too many comics who didn’t start out their careers doing shows in bars.  I don’t know what makes this particular form of performance art go with the bar scene, but whenever you are looking to do comedy people just gravitate to the bar.  It may be because jokes are something that are slung around a lot in bars, or it may be that someone a long time ago said that alcohol needs to go with comedy, or it may just be that bars have a stage or an empty area and a hustler thought it was a great idea to do a show with a dart board as you backdrop.  Whatever the case, comedy is done in bars all across America and as such those shows have there own set of rules.

One of the biggest things to remember is that doing a show in a bar is a lot like playing a sport and it’s an away game.  What that means is that this bar is probably frequented by an established clientele and anything out of the ordinary is going to be met with hostility.  I remember when I first started doing comedy and I was doing a show in Great Falls Montana.  This bar didn’t have a stage they just put a plank on top of some crates and we were good.  When we announced that there was a comedy show being had in about 15 minutes everyone in the bar looked at us like we just told them we were coming for their guns. See, the thing about a lot of bar patrons is that if comedy is a newish thing there they won’t know.  They are not paying attention to the flyers in the bar most of the time.  Hell, they may be to drunk to remember that they were told about the comedy night.  When you are in this situation you have to remember that attacking the crowd isn’t going to be a good idea.  They already don’t want you there.  They can’t talk to their buddies about the asshole at work now, so even if they wanted to they can’t hear over the seething rage that is going on in their heads.  I have see a lot of people sit there and ridicule the customers and I have only seen a positive result once. What I do is I just go up strong.  Nice and loud so I drown out their talking (a lot of bars won’t have someone go around and tell them to hush up) and I talk about something local or recent.  Not like a stabbing or a kidnapping, but like fishing or sports or something.  That’s what people go to the bar to talk about anyway. Then I go into my set unless I am rocking it with random sports stuff or they love hearing about how horrible of a fisherman I am.

Another thing that separates a bar show from a show in a traditional comedy club is that a lot of these people have not been to a live comedy show.  They are in a bar and they may be a little tipsy so you have to take into account that they may yell things at the comic or not be able to control their inside voice.  I have seen some comics literally shutdown when they are getting to much feedback from the audience.  That will happen if you are new to this.  I have had it happen to me and my brain, which is usually working overtime during a show, is just blank and left me there to die a horrible death.  That is why having some strong stuff up front is going to help you survive.  If you tend to go up and just spend 30-45 seconds asking everyone how their day is going they could turn.  Go up firing!

Comedy clubs have what a show is down to a science.  You have the MC that will do 5-15. He is usually there to establish the rules for the night (you know, turn your phones off no heckling). The feature that will do from 20-30 and the headliner that will do 50-60.  A show is usually an hour and a half and everyone is happy.  In a bar you may not have the luxury of a MC to get the crowd going and to iron out the rowdy table or the people still playing pool in the back.  If you are the feature (the first guy up) you are the hybrid MC/feature for tonight and you have to work as such.  Your first 10-15 may not even register with the crowd so you have to work through that and not get flustered.  You have to tell them about their cell phones and talking ahead of time so that when your headliner is getting up he doesn’t have to wade through that mess.  When you are working in this role you might want to start off light with pleasantries and the like. Personally I hate doing this role because I like to tell my jokes.  Not babysit, but I am also not the best MC so that may explain that.

I have been the headliner of bar shows and they can be awesome or they can be terrible depending on how the other guy did.  If he didn’t do his job, or just wasn’t funny, it’s almost like you never had an opener to begin with.  If the room is just rowdy, most headliners can power through that with material that will please a rowdy crowd that is craving dick jokes.  I have an entire set devoted to just such a room.  Do I like to do it?  Not really, but you have to remember that there are not talent scouts in a bar in Bozeman Montana so that stuff that you plan on doing for Letterman may not fly with this group. I was told that you could also do street jokes (jokes that are told by a lot of people where the author of the joke is not known), but honestly I have enough material that I just stick to my thing and leave that alone.  Bar shows will make you work sometimes.  You will be sweaty and tired, but the audience will love it and you may get to come back to do it again under more favorable conditions.  The best thing about bar shows is that it is a great to iron out what jokes are really lame and should be let go.  You will be able to work through anything so when you get to a comedy club you look that much more awesome because you are used to trying to get and maintain their attention throughout your show.  It can get you into bad habits like more cursing or more material that is of a sexual nature that works great for bars, but might be too much for the wine room.

Before I stop typing I really hope this blog helps people and also entertains.  I am not Jerry Seinfeld.  I do not have 30 years of experience under my belt.  I will not be able to tell you  how to get a show or book out Madison Square Garden.  All I can write about is what it is like for a struggling comic to get by on comedy and his charm.  I have stuff on YouTube under Harry J. Riley and I am on the usual assortment of social media sites.  Thanks for reading!

 

Refocus

Comedy is one of those businesses where it is up to you to make things work.  Yes, some people have the luxury of being extremely lucky.  They may walk into a comedy club on the night that some big talent scout is there and be on a sitcom by lunch.  For most of use, it is a steady stream of rejection and mediocrity until you either are good enough to push through any obstacle or you give up and start working as a cashier at Safeway.  

So, when I was frustrated at the way my comedy career was heading I asked my good friend Troy to help.  He game me an outline and I have tried to adhere to it.  It is mainly about getting more attention for you and your comedy through social media, probably the greatest blessing for comics since amplified voice devices.  What I am attempting to do is draw people (you) into me as an artist and a person.  So with that in mind, I am doing things a little differently.

First, is the laziness in which I go about areas like twitter and Instagram.  I will be putting more stuff on both of those so please follow me on twitter (@harryjriley) and Instagram (mozaralla stick).  Then I will be doing anything on Google Plus.  Just something.  Because I was doing nothing on it before.  I have a fan page on facebook in which I am supplying more than just show dates and I will be posting more stuff on youtube.  It will not just be me doing stand up.  It will be a vlog style show about almost anything.  I am still trying to figure out the name, but until I get my gear I am still in the planning stages of that.  This is me trying to put more into my comedy career then just working at bars.  Let’s see where it goes.