How to impress bookers online…

I’ve been in comedy club offices while the manager is checking emails from comics.  They get random emails from comics who want to work their club and though they actually do take the time to read or at least skim over them, there’s one thing they always check…the comic’s online schedule.  They need to see where else that comic works because it’s the closest thing to a comedy resumé.  They usually know that club’s reputation and who books it.  I alluded to this a few posts ago but wanted to explain further.

To use an extreme example, if you’ve got a week at Caroline’s that’s pretty much gold for your resumé.  At the same time, having shows listed that sound like a joke themselves (I go back to Corky’s Saloon and Grill) it will only hurt your credibility.  Your schedule is your online resumé and if you don’t have one online, nothing separates you from the thousands of open mic comics.  If you’re not there yet, don’t worry, you don’t need one just yet.  Get some MC weeks at various Funnybones, Improvs, Looney Bins and build from there.  Once you start to get some dates, there are ways to make your schedule look better than it actually is.  I have a lot of tips on how to do this in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.  Gaps in a schedule are like gaps in a resumé but there are ways to fill those in to a degree.

Once you’re ready, get a real webpage.  Facebook isn’t enough for a booker to see if you’re legit or not.  They’ll trust your schedule even more than online clips.  The timing of when and how to self-promote is tricky, but that’s explained in my book as well.  You have to know when, how, and how much for each step of your career.  If another comic gives your name to a new club, give the manager something online to show you’re legit.

The hardest part about comics having a day job…

Several months ago I wrote a guest blog about the long-term process/plan of going from a day job to doing comedy full-time.  Read it here.  There’s nothing wrong with working a job while pursuing a comedy career.  Unless we’re delusional or living with our parents, we all have to go through it.  While you’re still working a day (or night) job, there are a lot of obvious challenges.  Scheduling, fatigue, and a few other common problems can plague anyone burning the candle at both ends. 

The toughest part about being a comic with a job is the times you can’t be a comic.

Learn to put the filter on when you’re at work.  The workplace is one of the best places to find material, but you have to be extremely careful when to hold the punchlines back.  You have to leave the comic mentality at home and realize that most workplaces have a different set of conversational standards than the pre-open mic meeting.  I once got fired from a subbing job for writing that “3 students were being smartasses and embarrassing themselves by using insulting slang, please give them detentions.”  Yes, smartasses got me fired from some hillbilly school in Ohio (Hamilton Local in southeast Columbus).  Luckily, bartending and the whole server industry usually loosens things up a bit, but some of the other better-paying jobs that comics need have no room for verbal error.  

It’s a tough concept because we naturally make jokes in conversation, and especially during important times (like meetings).  We’ve trained ourselves to say what comes to our mind.  “Is this funny?  Yes?  Say it–say it now!”  Another thing to remember is that your coworkers can often be those people in a crowd who just don’t “get it.”  My freshmen students often don’t get my jokes and the other 75% I have to filter out.  So yes, it’s important to train yourself to say funny things, but realistically, we all need money and often the joke you make isn’t worth losing your job over.

This is also good advice for “turning it off” around other comics who are much further along in the game with you.  I mean the guys who have been headlining for years and years.  I was recently talking to one and realized that I was boring the hell out of him and nothing I was saying was entertaining to him.  Be self-aware is what I’m saying.  If the other person isn’t contributing back to the conversation, you’re boring (again, someone should’ve told 23-year-old 33-year-old Rob this).

I’ll be away next week so in the meantime be sure to check out Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage (which is now available on Kindle for $6 less than retail!).

Thank you again for those who share my blog–the numbers continue to climb and I actually had to report my book sales for 2012 (hello, write-offs).

What headliners hate…

I’ve talked to multiple headliners about this week’s topic and for obvious reasons they didn’t want to be named.  There’s something that some comics are doing the wrong way as far as getting help.  It has to do with getting guest sets at a new club.  Newer comics are making the mistake of asking a headliner for a guest set at a club they’re trying to get into.  The problem is, if that set doesn’t go well, it reflects on the headliner’s “recommendation reputation.”  This means that next time, when the headliner (or feature) has someone in mind that they want to give a guest set to, the club manager will be less likely to oblige.  Stop asking headliners to get your guest sets for you.  There are multiple ways to get the set yourself (listed in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage), and if you happen to know the headliner that week, consider it a bonus.

But aren’t comics all about helping others?  Yes, it’s a great feeling to get another comic into the professional scene.  Most of us really enjoy doing that.  However, comics help only those who are ready in their opinion.  The comics who have helped get me into new clubs did that by inviting me for guest sets instead of me asking them.  On the rare times that I asked a comic for a set on their show, it was because we had already worked together and they had told me that they would be happy to help any time.  Honestly though, they usually offered the opportunity to me without me asking.  When I had 15 minutes, they got me MC work.  When I had 30, they got me feature work.  Let club managers and old pros tell you how many minutes you have, assume your own opinion is inflated (more on that in future posts).

Sitting around and waiting for a headliner’s help isn’t going to get most comics anywhere, so there’s a tactful way to increase your chances.  Get their attention by asking them what changes you need to make in your set in order to get work.  If they’re fully aware of your set and haven’t reached out to help you move forward, you’re not standing out from the pack enough to do so (by standing out I simply mean being funnier).

Just because you are Facebook friends, does not mean you have the right to ask that comic to help get you into a club.  It puts them in an awkward situation (and aren’t we all awkward enough?).  So the main point is this:  Get their attention and if they think your act is good enough, they’ll help get work for you.

As comics, we also talk about each other and who’s doing what.  For a one-nighter last week I booked Columbus comic, Nickey Winklman, as my feature all on reputation.  (It also helped that she wasn’t one of the Columbus comics who called this advice blog “spam.”)  So if you’re funny enough, it gets back to the people who can help you out.  I trusted her to bring a good MC and she came through with Anthony O’Connell…Great comics getting work that came to them instead of them asking.

What else matters?  The way you are as a person.  This is where it can even get petty.  Working with someone means spending hours with them, sometimes for days at a time, before and after shows.  If your act is annoying, you smell, you’re too dirty, you interrupt during conversations, you chew with your mouth open, can never pay for anything, you’re a close talker, you tell boring stories, you lie to impress people, drink like an idiot, you think you’re God’s gift to comedy, or have any other hangups, they’ll help someone else.  In other words, you need to be a better person than you normally are (like a real job interview).  And sometimes you have to pretend you like people in this business.  Does that mean “being fake?”  (And we all know from our Facebook friends that they “hate fake people”)  No, it just means tolerating others for the sake of business and making a living.  Many disagree with my opinion on this, that’s fine.  I like money.

Be a good person with a strong act and the help will come to you when you’re ready.  If it’s not happening, you’re not doing at least one of those two things.

Wow, this almost sounds like dating/relationship advice…it will happen when you’re ready.  Until then, keep improving yourself.