Should I give myself a stage name?

Should I give myself a stage name?

No. Here’s why…Giving yourself a stage name is the quickest way to lose the respect of your comedy peers and the club managers.  Matt Behrens, manager of the St. Louis Funnybone states, “Any time you spend working on your stage name rather than working on your material before ever telling a joke…that’s a problem.  Learn how to play the instrument before you write a song.”

Art Veiluf, a retired comedy club manager, says just at the mention of comics with stage names, “I see no point in it.  A stage name is unwarranted in a young career.  If you give yourself a stage name, be prepared to change it a bunch of times because you haven’t found your voice yet.”

But what about the comics who have stage names? The two that we hear most about in today’s comedy scene are Carlos Mencia (Ned Arnel Mencia) and Larry the Cable Guy (Dan Whitney). Personal opinions aside, those are easily two of the least respected comics out there today for accusations of stealing jokes and dumbing the art form down to the lowest common denominator.   But they make money don’t they?  They do.  You won’t.  You’ll never get the chance to even host a show at your home club because the club owner won’t take you seriously.  Bottom line, don’t be like them.

Stage names in comedy are becoming outdated. Leave them behind with your rainbow suspenders and jokes about airline food. At this level in your career, a stage name is not going to give you any extra positive notoriety. If you’re remembered, it will be in a negative light. It’s not too late to drop your stage name if you already have one. Former Last Comic Standing winner John Reep started out as the “Hickory Dance Machine” and wisely got rid of that title years before his career took off.  Fifteen years later some comics still rip on him about it.

There are a few exceptions to the rule. If your name is so long and complicated that no one can pronounce it (Greeks?), it might be worth shortening up, although Costaki Economopoulos seems to have overcome it very nicely.  Perhaps if you share a name with a celebrity it would be a good idea to tweak it to something different.  It’s important that you don’t choose something that sounds like a stage name.  Think how ridiculous a lot of morning DJ’s sound when they introduce themselves as Swift Windy and Ted Storm.

Follow the lead of the successful comics out there today and stick with your real name.  Once you finally start earning money it makes check cashing a lot easier.

This tip has to do with that balance you must maintain of gaining respect from the club managers, the other comics, and the audience.  I stress the importance of and how to keep this balance in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage (Available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and iTunes).

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About Rob Durham

With an English Degree, three years as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone, over a decade of stand-up experience, and a recent certification in teaching high school English class, writing a book seemed like the next inevitable step for Rob Durham. The son of a coach, Rob has an excellent ability to teach and explain things in the easiest and most direct way possible. His (often labeled ridiculous) memory allows him to think of every possible situation that a new comic might face because at one point he was there too. Rob gives an inside look at comedy that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges every performer faces. Without ego and the myth that “anyone can do it” Rob gives the reader a true feel of what living the so-called dream feels like, from preparing for that first open mic night to touring the country. View all posts by Rob Durham

5 responses to “Should I give myself a stage name?

  • Foghorn

    I do use a “stagename” of FOGHORN. I’m not going to change it though because it was a nicknake given to me before I was a teen, (I am now 47) because I stammered like Foghorn Leghorn when I talked. A few speech therapy sessions later and I’m HEALED! So the name IS me, I don’t see a need to change it. Not going to. Using my real name would not change the way I write my comedy.

    • Rob Durham

      Like I say, there are exceptions to every rule. This was mainly for the newer guys who come to open mic with a stage name before they’ve even written a joke. They get mocked before their career even begins.

      • FOGHORN

        I am diggin’ the Blog Rob, and may save up some cash and drop it on your book…I checked it out on Amazon and if you can promise me the reviews there aren’t all friends of yours then I think you got a deal! :o) Seriously, looks interesting…peace and God Bless…

  • Pez Man

    This blog entry has a major gap in logic. Just because Carlos Mencia and Larry the Cable Guy are two of the least respected comics out there, accused of joke stealing and whatnot, it’s ridiculous to assume they are that way because of their stage names. That would be like saying Vanilla Ice stole the riff from Queen’s “Under Pressure” BECAUSE Robert Van Winkle called himself Vanilla Ice. Plus, Larry the Cable Guy is a character… and how Daniel Whitney is billed in film and other appearances. How is that any worse than Michael Caine (Maurice Mickelwhite), John Wayne (Marion Morrison), Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Baker), Vin Diesel (Frank Vincent) or any of the numerous rappers who use other names?

    • Rob Durham

      Pez Man,

      While I agree with you on the false logic (it was only second entry and I was trying to make a point in a cheap manner), I guess this rule is almost strictly for beginners. The guys you pointed out like Dan Whitney were successful using a stage name because they were already established. This entry’s main intention was to prevent beginners from signing up to their first open mic with a stage name. A comic should establish voice/character well before thinking of a name that paints them into a corner.

      The problem I find with stage names is that, unless they’re really well known, an audience might be turned off from them. Some of the club managers I know would be turned off by a stage name before even hearing the act because they feel their audiences would be the same way. They can give off a retro or outdated feel too.

      I also point out there any many exceptions to the “rules” that my book covers. The main thing to remember is that I’m trying to help beginners get into the side of comedy where they’ll make money. I’ll admit, in the urban comedy scene, stage names are more acceptable (though I find most of them cliche). As far as your last few examples with actors, that’s a completely different art form so comparing them is unfair.

      Thanks for your feedback!

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