What every pro comic should do once in awhile…

I’ll admit it.  A lot of times after a show all I care about it how much merch I’m going to sell.  The set can go fine, and even great, but really, that’s the last part of the work for the night.  People come up and say, “You were funnier’n shit man!” and they babble some other drunken compliments, shake my hand way too hard, and then leave.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate every compliment and make it a point to say thank you twice, but like other comics, I’ve become jaded.

I’ll also admit, I don’t like going to comedy shows that I’m not performing at.  There are a few exceptions like if one of the mega-legends were to come into town and perform, then yes, I would be content to sit with the “common folk” for 90 minutes.  I enjoy concerts a lot more though.

Last night I allowed myself to be on the other side of the merch table and from this experience I now have a new appreciation and perspective on the people who support me.

My friend (and fellow comic) Frankie Chubb and I went to a small venue on the Wash U. campus called “The Chapel Venue.”  Inside, they only asked for $5-$10 donations for admission and $2 donations for beers to see a guitarist I saw years ago named Levi Weaver.

Like a lot of my gigs, the room had plenty of empty seats.  Frankie and I were both blown away with how talented this guy is and enjoyed the whole show.  For his encore he asked for requests and though I hated myself for being that guy, asked for one.  He played it!  (This makes up for the time I dropped $50 on Pearl Jam only to have them ignore the entire Ten album)  Afterwards, Levi hung around and sold CDs and gave away posters.  And here’s the part that pro comics should try and do–find someone you’re a fan of and play the part of the fan for once.  I couldn’t wait for the lady ahead of me to stop babbling to him so I could get my turn.  She rambled on and told him she had driven all the way from Houston to see him…then joked that she was actually there to visit her daughter.  (Hey lady–don’t turn your compliments into a joke you dumb whore!)  Finally, I got to tell him in a slurring-from-three-beers manner about the previous show I saw him at, thanked him for playing his Idioteque cover upon my request, had him sign a poster, and then bought a CD.  I couldn’t wait to show him support.  I refrained from the annoying things that some comedy fans do, “You know, you should do this, this and this with your talents…”  And “Here’s who I like that’s more famous than you…”  Comics get a lot of that.  Part of me was embarrassed while the other part of me thought, “This is good to see things from this perspective.”  Not to tout, but I have a lot of nice things said to me after shows and sometimes I don’t really feel the genuine side of it.  Being a fan one night really opened my eyes to the enthusiasm people have with their support.  I’ve realized not to take compliments for granted.  And yes, you’re probably wondering, “OK Rob, how’d you fit your stupid book into the conversation?”  Well, Levi mentioned he’d always wanted to try 5 minutes so I’m going to send him one.  As fans, we want the performer to know that we’ve accomplished something too.  It gives us that connection and we just want them to think we’re as cool as they are.

So whether it’s a sporting event, concert, play, or whatever, see if you can play the role of the fan just once and realize how hard it is to not be annoying when you’re overcome with how much the performance wowed you.

What eventually happens at your comedy club…

Not all comics prefer to work comedy clubs.  Many are suited better for one-nighters.  My advice is to work both because we all want to make as much money as possible and improve our act.  I’ve talked about the challenges a comic faces as they improve at their home club.  Your home club is usually the last one to promote you to the next level (from MC to feature, from feature to headliner).  In this entry I wanted to focus on something positive though.  Your home club can become your professional family and be there for more than just stage time and a paycheck.

The Columbus Funnybone hosted the wedding of my friend Bill Arrundale this last Saturday.  The club has been such a big part of his life that it was the prefect place for him to tie the not.  Here in St. Louis, we used our Funnybone to give Rahn Ramey one last memorial service on Sunday.  Pardon my sentimental entry, but I think it’s important to point out that a lot of us have shared more than just laughs at our home clubs.  I had the honor to be a part of the final standing ovation of Rahn Ramey’s wonderful life and career on Sunday and it’s something I’ll never forget.

So use your home club as more than a place to work.  Hang out there and build connections and relationships in your comedy community because the further you get into this career, the more support you’re going to need for the other issues in life.  Why?  Because your non-comic friends are going to have a completely different life than you.  They might not be able to connect as well because their jobs don’t involve driving six hours to make a hundred bucks on a Wednesday (by the way, don’t take that gig unless you really have to).

When and if you decide to dedicate your life to comedy, you’re going to need to rely on different relationships to stay sane.  Your home club should be the best place to start.

Something else MCs shouldn’t do…

Over the years I’ve been near the managers as MCs try to make the show’s announcements funny…they don’t like that.  I’ve also been the MC who made this same mistake for years and looking back I want to punch myself.  Here’s this week’s lesson:  Announcements that the club has you make during the show are not/should not be funny.  I was misled by seeing MCs be able to get laughs while I was a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone.  The thing is, the manager doesn’t expect you or want you to get laughs during the announcements.  They want the announcements delivered correctly and quickly (Who’s there next week, drink specials, tip the servers, etc.)

So why not be funny?  It’s hard enough to get laughs from your regular material; trying to improv a joke with an announcement won’t work.  You did your time, you got laughs during your set (hopefully), so deliver the announcements correctly if you want to be booked for another MC week.  A club manager will be more upset if you mess up an announcement compared to messing up a joke.

One more tip about this:  Do not make a crack at the servers when reminding the crowd to tip them.  You’ll recall an earlier post about how the booker isn’t the only one to determine your fate.

For other MC advice please read Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.  It’s also available on iTunes, Kindle, or other formats on Smashwords.

And since this week’s post is so short.  If you’re in the St. Louis area and want to see me perform.  I’ll be at the Westport Funnybone August 7-12 with Bob Biggerstaff.


*One last thing:  I’m getting a lot of hits from South Africa and Brazil…Shoot me an email if that’s you.