Keys to Being a Great "Club" Comedian

We have talked about what makes a comedian great for certain work in the comedy industry. We will go over our last (I think), the club comic.

All Things to Some People

Out of all the comedians we have talked about during this little series of posts, the club comic is the most varied of all these comedians. Why? Because the quality of club and the type of people in each changes. When you are at a show in a bar you know the type of people that would go to such a thing. A comedian performing at a college knows that not too many 50 year old people will be in the audience. In a club, however, you have a mix of people all coming together to laugh at your childhood.

Another thing that makes this a varied group is the fact that not all comedy clubs are created equal. For every Improv or Spokane Comedy Club, you have Jerry’s Laugh Shack. So that invites a different group of people. We used to have a lower level club in town before SCC opened up and the demographics were a lot older and you could see that played a factor in a lot of acts that went through those doors.

A club comedian has to walk in the building knowing that their jokes are gonna hit with the people in front of him. That could mean anything from not talking about stuff that is local to the comedian or not bringing up the controversy that is going on in the city they are performing in.

A Joke and a Smile

What I have noticed with a large number of great club comedians is their ability to immediately grab the attention of the audience in as little time as possible. They don’t really get into pleasantries unless a joke is coming right after. A quick smile and straight to business is the way a great club comic works and it is amazing to see an awesome comedian just play with the audience averting expectations and guiding them through a show that doesn’t even seem practiced.

Out of all these types of comedians, I strive to be a club comedian the most. They don’t get paid (usually) as well as college or corporate comedians, but there is usually little to know limit on what can be said at clubs. You have the freedom to say what you want at most bar shows, but the pay sucks.

Club comedy is the hardest to break into because of how the vetting system works for most clubs so that is why a lot of people just opt for other options. I enjoy meeting people outside of a more “constricted” environment and getting their genuine emotions to material you perform.

I guess that does it for this little series. I mean I could do more of these keys, but I didn’t want to talk about anything I didn’t have a little bit of firsthand knowledge about. Thanks for reading.

Gift Ideas for the Comedian in Your Life 2019 Edition

Here we are once again! It’s that time of year where you stave off that existential crisis and the ever approaching collapse of the universe, by celebrating the birth of a guy that was probably born in the spring because some pagans were winter humping or something…anyway, here is this years’ list of items I think the comedian in your life would love!

Shure MV88+ Premium Digital Stereo Condenser Microphone Video Kit with Manfrotto PIXI Mini Tripod

If that comedian in your life just started out they may want to record themselves and put it on YouTube and make a million million dollars. Well, tell them not to do the second part, but they should do the first part. Recording your set is valuable and all of us carry a recording device with us all the time. Just connect this to your phone and BAM! You have a nice setup to record yourself in the corner of a dank bar.

Tascam DR-22WL Portable Handheld Recorder with Wi-Fi

If they don’t want to see themselves in that dank bar get them this. Then they can hear themselves while they head to the next open mic. Laughing by yourself in public is always seen as a good thing.

Rode Microphones VideoMic NTG On-Camera Shotgun Supercardioid Microphone

If they love cameras and have a nice one (more on that later) then get them this. A shotgun mic aimed at the stage is a better idea then a camera’s mic that will pick up everything in the room. I have a model like this from Diety. I would put the link in here, but I am wasting valuable Call of Duty time typing this.

Samsung Galaxy S10e Factory Unlocked Phone with 128GB

If they need a new phone so they can look all cool around other comedians then get them this. Now that can send all their avails to bookers that will ignore them.

Apple iPhone XS Max, 256GB, Gold

And how can I forget the Apple folks. Besides getting more sex and being more well off than Android folks they want to walk around with a gold phone. Well, here it is. Call Tim Cook and tell him I said Hi.

Saramonic Blink 500 B3 Ultracompact 2.4 GHz Wireless Clip-On Microphone System with Lavalier and Battery-Free Dual-Channel Lightning Receiver for Apple iPhone and iPad

If they have plans of doing even more funny stuff then these are what they need! They are lav mics that transmit to a phone (they have android and ios receivers)! So they can film sketches without spending a ton on audio equipment. I have a model from Rode which works great as well, I would link but you know…lazy.

Panasonic HC-VX981K 4K Ultra HD Camcorder

If you want to kick it up a little bit get them this. This is a great camera that captures a 4k image so all your pratfalls will be glorious. With some of the more pricier models, they can connect their shotgun mic to it and record themselves in 4k. They can be the Michael Bay of static comic shots!

Rode Microphones RODECaster Pro Integrated Podcast Production Console

If they have dreams of becoming the next Joe Rogan then get them this! It has everything (except the mics of course) an aspiring podcaster could want. They can have sound clips assigned to the buttons and they can connect their phone to it to receive phone calls from all their adoring fans. Or they can sit in the basement and talk to themselves…either or.

Fujifilm X-T3 26.1MP Mirrorless Digital Camera with XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS Lens, Black

If you really love that comedian in your life you can get them this! This will capture all their antics and when times get tough they can pawn it or use it to club a crazed fan.

I hope you enjoyed this year’s list of items. I like tech so that is why most of what I posted is tech related. If you were thinking clothes or something…get em a top hat. I hear that is the newest trend of 2020. The one thing every comedian would love from their loved ones though is encouragement. This is a bumpy road just to make ends meet, so if you love them enough to pay $75-$1700 on a gift for them then encourage them to get out their and make their dreams come true.

Keys to Being a Great "College" Comic

Let’s continue on with this series by talking about the college comedian. These are the men and women lucky enough to get paid some of that sweet ass tuition money that college students’ parents had to take out a second mortgage on their homes for.

Can you Jump Through the Hoops?

In the college comedy landscape, being funny is not half of the equation it is about 45 percent of it. Can you work clean? Can you audition well? Do you look like someone that can walk around campus and not be mistaken for a parent or the dean? If you answer no to any of these, just book a show at the bar down the street from the college and see how that works. Most college booking comes from these conferences that are held in different regions of the country. Comedians usually pay a fee to audition to then have the student events coordinator (or what ever they are called) book them for their college. It’s a lot like a cattle auction…except the cattle didn’t have to pay to be slaughtered.

I have seen people pay their own way to get to audition, and I have seen agencies foot some of the bill, knowing that if you get booked they can recoup that money. It’s actually a big deal when it is going on. A buddy of mine did a couple and he mostly complained about all the smiling he had to do.

It’s Sometimes More than Stand-Up

The comedians that do well in colleges are good at doing more than that. Sometimes, the college didn’t book you to just perform and then take all the items from the mini bar back at the hotel, they may want you to host their local open mic or talent show. I was talking to one comedian that was booked to do just that, host a talent show. He did time after whatever many acts came up and in total he did his set, but it was broken up into several sections. I know another comedian that was tasked with doing a campus got talent type show where he performed at the end.

It’s a Mixture

To be a great college comic you have to mix aspects of bar comics and corporate comics. You have to be able to get these kid’s attention! Remember, these are young adults that have finally gotten from under the wing of mom and dad and so the best among us are a presence on the stage. It’s not just about being loud though, you have to hook them into your act or they get disinterested or they just leave. One time I was performing at this college and I decide to open with my odder material. I got em! Just when I thought they were with me I started verging into topics like kids and school they became so disinterested I didn’t get them back until the very end of my set. A great college comedian would be able to hold them because they have a set more tailored for the wondering minds of our youth.

You also need a bit of the corporate juice. Why? Because college campuses are more “woke” then ever. You have to be able to tell jokes that are not poking fun, or seem to poke fun at any group. Great college comedians can sit up there for the required time and not ruffle any feathers. I know comedians that are booked for months doing colleges and although the audience is less enthused than most, they are booked like that because they give the colleges an option of entertainment that doesn’t involve getting your stomach pumped, and they don’t get a riot on campus because the comedian’s jokes were out of hand.

To be a great bar comic, or corporate comic, or college comic is hard, but I see it as extra difficult to be a great college comedian because each campus you walk on is an entirely different culture than even the town around it. I have done shows at ever college in the Spokane area, and the college that had the best crowd? The private religious college. They sat, listened, and came up genuinely happy that I drove the five minutes to tell my jokes. The college I had the toughest time? My Alma Mater! A great college comic would be able to knock both of those campus shows out of the park!

Next time we with discuss the club comic.

Keys to Being a Great "Corporate" Comic

Corporate comedians are the unsung heroes of the entertainment industry. They go to board room to convention center to casino conference room and entertain people that don’t really want to laugh because then their supervisor will know what kinky things they are into. Let’s talk about what makes a great corporate comedian.

What is a Corporate Comedian

These are the men and women that usually, but not always, specialize in doing shows at businesses holiday parties, or company retreats, or just when the boss wants all his employees in the same room at the same time.

Know Your Audience

A great corporate comedian will know how to work clean to about pg-13. Pg-13 is a rating for movies, but it works great when describing the overall content of your material. This is the corporate comedian’s wheelhouse. If your jokes lack all punch and meaning after you remove the curse words and all out vulgarity, then you may not be a good fit. The corporate comedian is also really good at knowing what he is walking into. If you are going to perform for police officers, it may not be a good idea to tell them about all the people they shot. A great corporate comedian knows that he is less a comedian in these situations and more of a jester, poking fun at the boss or the one employee that tried comedy in the 80s.

Comedians working in these circles know that they are not there to blow people away with their comedy. They know that people are gonna be uptight because they are at a company function, so they have ways of knocking that down.

Looking the Part

Corporate comedians also have a way of dress about them. They usually have suits, but at the very least a nice shirt and some slacks. As you move up in pay you will see that there are a lot of comedians that only do corporate comedy because it pays well and if you can get it, they will pay for travel and lodging. With all that on the line businesses are looking for people that “look” like they have their wits about them. If you have a photo of you against a wall like you got your mug shot taken in the basement of a police station then they may pass on you. That is why it is worth it to find someone willing to take professional photos of you (this is not a plug).

Being a great corporate comedian is easy for those that don’t have much in the way of naughtiness in their material. The money is good and even if you had a bad performance that can sooth you over a bit. I have done many corporate shows and I enjoy them a lot. I get feed usually and I get paid sometimes even before the show begins. Nothing feels better than having a check in your pocket knowing that if all goes badly, you have your pay in your pocket.

Come back next time when we go over what makes a great college comedian.

Keys to Being a Great "Bar" Comic

Not all of us can cover every aspect of comedy. Some of us will do better in certain situations. Today, I will talk about what you need to be a great bar comic.

What is a Bar Comic

Bar comedians work mainly in…bars…Most comedians start out here, and a lot of comedians will gain most of their income in this area. Now, saying you are a bar comedian is not a bad thing. There are a lot of benefits to being able to rock a bar, here are some of the things a comedian needs to be successful in this environment.

Your Voice and Your Animations

If you are going to be doing shows in bars, you have to have a voice that can travel. The best bar comics project and make sure everyone in the place can hear them. Out of all the bars I have done shows, I have had one or two decent mic setups. Most of the time, you are shouting into a mic that came with a fifty dollar karaoke machine. You need to make sure you get their attention because if you don’t they will wonder why they can’t throw darts.

You also have to be a bit more animated. Remember, you are usually in a bar where people are just there drinking and doing whatever, and you have to keep them busy enough to buy more drinks and food. So if that means making your act outs a little more out there then hop to it!

Don’t be Afraid

You have to face a bar audience like you are staring a cougar in the face. Look at it and let it know you ain’t taking any shit. If the bar starts getting rowdy and you are not able to reign them in then you will see a flood of people not giving a damn anymore about your show and will want to play pool instead. The best bar comedians will pinpoint the one person that is acting out and get them to shut up long enough for them to finish their set.

Be Willing to Know When it is a Lost Cause

No comedian wants to feel in over their head. We all want to be able to knock every room out of the park. The thing is, that isn’t possible. If things are not going right, just grin and bear it for long enough that the promoter or bar tender pulls the plug. A great bar comedian will know when the crowd is just too rowdy to try to control and just focus on the people that want to listen. Sometimes that means playing to one or two tables, but if that means getting out of their with your dignity then so be it.

To be a great bar comedian does not mean you have to be dirty or anything. You just have to be confident in your material and your ability to push through some tough times. Come back next week where I talk about Corporate comedians.

How Comedy Competitions Ruined Me

I was talking to my lady and she was saying how my comedy has changed over the years. Now, when I first started doing comedy, I had a more rigid structure (set lists) and my jokes were a little more absurd in nature. When I got more comfortable, I would more or less walk on stage and “write” while I was up there.

When I say write on stage, what I mean is that I had a concept or premise and I would work it out while on stage. This led to a lot of jokes I told for a long time. This is the time frame she is talking about. A time when I seem more free on stage. I didn’t have a answer other than, “I changed because of competitions”

How Competitions Can Change Your Style

My first time doing a legit competition, it took me a couple of nights to figure out that people are not doing whatever came to them before they walked on stage. They had a polished, curated amount of time that was supposed to tilt the judges opinion in their favor. My dumb ass was just walking up there talking about giraffe necks. Yeah it might be funny, but the way this goes about is more of a group discovery. What I mean by that is I would go up there with the premise and just explore it out loud. That meant it might not work because the punchline came to me while on stage. That is a very dangerous way to tell jokes in a competition atmosphere where everyone is trying to do their best work.

So after the first night of doing this I started arranging a set of jokes that went together and I thought would work, and guess what? They did. I think after that I was just conditioned into working on jokes in that way, the way others were doing it, mainly out of fear of not succeeding, or losing to people that had an automatic amount of jokes to peel off for just such an occasion.

Success With A Style Can Turn It Permanent

Once I was done with the competition and I started getting more work and working for bigger acts, I started not even attempting that style out of fear that what I was doing was the reason I got the work in the first place. That style was replaced with a return to the writing on paper and theory crafting at open mics. Instead of using open mics as a laboratory to mix different ingredients to come up with a joke, I was using it as a lot of people were using them as which is a place to strike out or rewrite material.

That meant going weeks telling mainly the same material. This hadn’t been a part of me since I started. It has gotten to the point where I will just throw out a tried and true joke whenever that fear overcomes me. I will walk off stage feeling as though I am trapped because the thing I liked most about comedy, well, at least my comedy, was slowly devolving.

How To Reverse It

I noticed this about myself way before my girlfriend brought it to my attention, but I didn’t think anyone thought any which way about what I was doing. I mean, I just thought this was the way to go about it from now on because it seemed like people more successful than me were doing it this way.

I don’t know anyway to reverse this other than to go to open mics unprepared. Five or six years ago, I would go to open mics and not have any idea what I was going to talk about for my allotted time. I would sit down and then the floodgates would open and I would get ideas and I would write them down. It didn’t matter if they were just premises or full jokes, I just wrote them (typed them because I am part cyborg) down and when my name got called I would go up and work em out. That’s what an open mic is for in my mind. A place to experiment and if the experiment worked, think about putting it in my actual act.

Working On The Mind

That isn’t the only place I need to try to reverse what has been going on however. I think my mind has been scarred from seeing what works in successful comedians and not wanting to make the journey longer by adopting a method which is not common. My mind switched from having the audience come along with me on this journey of my thoughts and turned to me trying to give them a less trying means to laughter.

What got me hooked on comedy was not getting paid to do it, but watching people enjoy the silliness I concocted out of thin cloth. This means taking this mindset not only to open mics, but also to shows where I am getting paid. I think this could return me to that former comedian that seemed relaxed and free on stage…or it could blow up in my face. But that was half the fun of this endeavor anyway.

Sometimes, You Have to Bet on Yourself

I wish I could tell you that there was an easy way to comedy stardom ( or at least the ability to pay your rent with it). Just show up, blow up, and glow up. That isn’t the case though. Everyone’s career has a different path. No two people will achieve their comedy goals the same way. There is one thing I can tell you though…sometimes you have to believe in yourself enough to put your money behind it.

Don’t Depend On Others For Your Living

Depending on clubs to accept you, or waiting for someone with a bunch of bar shows to put you on is not a good way of making comedy work for you. I know this because that is what I have done. If no one was calling me for a weekend at their club or a couple of bar dates then I just didn’t do comedy for money that month. It left me feeling hopeless and that I had no chance to succeed at this. You should never wait for people to pay you. Pay yourself, but to do that you have to put money out there.

Ways To Make It Work

If you are someone that is mostly doing bar shows or one nighters, then you should be selling merchandise. I have a whole article on selling merchandise, but I will say it again. SELL SOMETHING! Bands do it. You can do it. T-shirts, stickers, coasters, hats, lighters, socks, just sell something! Now, you are not just dependent on the money you are getting from the show, and that can go towards paying bills.

You not getting booked enough? Then you do the booking. Call up your favorite bar and ask them to let you do something. You may get a “no”, but you may also get a “yes”. Don’t want to perform for the bar crowd? Find a venue that you can perform in. A lot of times a venue will charge you to rent it. Save up and buy the place for the night and push it.

I have friends that have set up months of work by just calling and seeing if they can perform in a venue. They work out the details so they can make some money and they are out performing, but they usually pay for the rental of the place or clean up after the show, and they usually do all their own advertising. They put money in, betting that they can make a return on their investment. They did that because the investment was in themselves.

Why A Lot Of Us Don’t Do This

There are many reasons to not do this. You could lose your shirt if you bet too big (don’t rent a thousand seat theater if you are just a no name like me). That’s the thing though, believing in yourself has to go with a little bit of foresight and reality. If you have been performing for a month and think you have enough time to headline your own show, you may come crashing down to reality.

If you are one of those that sit around, emailing clubs, and messaging your buddies that book one nighters to see if they have anything for you, this could work for you. It is all about taking that step. Take a couple hundred dollars and get some shirts or something made for selling after a show. Book a venue and advertise it and see if you can make some money. It seems daunting because it is. We all want to be able to have our talent equally judged, but that isn’t the case. Not every club booker or every hole in the wall promoter will see you the same. These people don’t care that you put in hours a day writing and you line up at the open mics and you do your two to three minutes and you rewrite and you drive hours and you sleep in crappy motels where you stay awake to listen if anyone smashes your car window. The only one that cares about that is you, and if you care then you should care enough to want to get to the places you think you should.

Why Do I Tell You This

I tell you this because the first twelves years of comedy I did this. I would send email after email to clubs and bookers just hoping that they would enjoy my video and headshot enough to see that I was serious and I was funny enough to pay. I would sit here in this chair wondering what was wrong with me and my act. Is my headshot blurry? Is my video submission not loud enough? Not sharp enough? Did I curse in it? I never took that effort I spent worrying and using it to look for places that I could book myself and making money when I wasn’t doing something for someone else. I didn’t look into the adjacent things I could be doing like submitting to commercials and TV shows. I just sulked.

Then one day I stopped. I got tired of the “We can’t use you” email replies and I took some money and invested in some merchandise and getting myself booked at more private events. Then my attitude started to change. I wasn’t so saddened when a club told me they were booked up because that meant that was a weekend to book a private event. When a bar show fell through I was not going to miss paying my phone bill because I sold enough shirts from the last show to pay it early. I’m not saying it is all sunshine booty rubs. Sometimes I don’t get that private event or I don’t sell any shirts, but that is just how it goes.

I can’t tell you what you should do, but what I can offer you is this. When it is all said and done, do you want to say that you wasted your time chasing after clubs and bookers that had no time for you or do you want to say you gave it your best shot and you bet on yourself. Only you can answer that.