Monthly Archives: December 2013

What’s an annoying stage habit many of us have…

I read an article this week about something a lot of us do every so often…uptalk. Even if you’re never heard the term you can probably already guess what it is. It’s that way? …You talk? When you phrase something in a question? By uptalking at the end of your statement? Reno Collier is a comic who actually has a really funny bit on it. Stereotypically, sorority girls or valley girls are the main offenders. However, while listening at open mic last night I heard it in a lot of comics.

It’s harmful to your act for a few reasons. It takes away some of the assertiveness from your voice, and often your punchline. “Punch” is hard to do when you model it after a valley girl. Listen to your recorded sets and see if you’re guilty of it, even in setups. I think we develop this habit subconsciously making sure the audience is listening and following along. It’s even harder to avoid while trying new bits. So this week’s tip is to record yourself and see if you’re guilty of uptalk. If you can remove it, your laughs should increase if the joke has any potential at all.

As a reminder, a good portion of what I blog about is not mentioned in my book. So if you order, know that it’s a lot of other in-depth help with the unwritten rules of comedy. Thank you to everyone who’s been reading this blog for the last 2+ years. I will continue it as long as I can. Enjoy your holiday gigs!

Here’s the actual article. You have to watch a youtube clip to access the whole thing but you have that kind of time.


Why don’t comics promote each other more?

A friend of mine asked me to promote her new business that she had started.  I shared a link on Facebook and told a few people about it.  A lot of us comics sell our own products such as CDs, t-shirts, and (of course) books.  We don’t really promote each others’ shows or merchandise though (nor do we really ever ask that other comics promote it for us).  Why is that?  I’m not saying we should, but instead wanted to explain why we don’t and shouldn’t (with a few exceptions).

Whether we want to admit it or not, we’re kind of in a competition with one another.  Not necessarily on stage, but on the internet.  Comics tend to spam the hell out of Facebook friends on upcoming shows.  Friends get sick of hearing about promo.  So if we’re going to make annoying promotions (almost all of them are), we want to reserve that for our own shows and products.  (I’ve had people bitch about this blog being in their Facebook groups even though I’ve shared an additional book’s worth of advice in it over the last two years and only slide in small mentions of my book).

On very few occasions have I reached out to other comics or people to promote my book.  Here are the exceptions:

1.  Bookers–Bookers know a lot of up and coming comics who need help with certain things my book covered.  Steve Sabo and Eric Yoder were some of the bookers who were very happy to oblige and even paid for their books.  Thanks again, guys.

2.  People with a large following–I sent a free book to two people who I’m “friends” with on Facebook hoping they would share.  One person I reached out to and sent him a free one because he had authored a book as well (Mark Titus, Don’t Put Me in Coach).  He never got around to it, fine whatever.  It was my gamble.  The other was a comic WHO REQUESTED ONE FROM ME and said instead of paying he would Tweet and post on Facebook to thousands of people… and in 18 months he has yet to do so much as post a Tweet for it.  (He hasn’t had time to read it in those 18 months and apparently can’t even skim enough to give it a positive Tweet.)  You would think that of all people a fellow comic wouldn’t just “take” merchandise from another comic and not hold up his end of the bargain.  Maybe 2014 is the year he finally gets around to it.  I like to email him every May on the matter.  Or hey, he could just send me money.

Jimmy Pardo and I worked out a deal where instead of paying me as his opener he would mention my book on Never Not Funny…and then he went ahead and paid me anyway because he’s that much of a gentleman.

So why shouldn’t we ask each other to promote out stuff?  Other than the overabundance of promotion, it has to do with the quality of the product.  Secretly, a lot of us think, “I can’t believe he/she sells that crap.”  Your product comes from your imagination not our own.  If someone is ahead of us in the game we think they don’t need our help.  If they’re behind us, well then, we may find it not worth promoting.  So don’t ask others to promote on most occasions.

As Polonius said in Hamlet, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.”

 

And I’ll admit, I’ve asked you to share this blog, but my intention was to get the teaching points across.  Buying my book is your own choice.

And while I’m at it, my friend Trisha Wiles’ business helps people who need support on a wide variety of issues (comics) so check out www.iamafighter.com and get some there.  Sign up for free!


Something a headliner seems to notice most…

A normal comedy show should run around 90 minutes.  If it’s a later show, that time can even be shortened.  A lot of this has to do with how much how well the crowd is drinking.  During the holidays, people are a lot more festive and a lot of the crowd is finally cutting loose (they don’t usually drink as often as comics).  Therefore, they can get out of hand or just crash somewhere around an hour and fifteen if not sooner.  Now, imagine it’s your job to close out the show with a forty-five minute set in the following situation…The emcee goes over his/her time by a few minutes after the show starts ten minutes late.  The feature ignores his/her time and does closer to thirty-five minutes instead of the 25-30 agreed on before.  At this point the headliner is taking the stage about a drink later (15-20 minutes) than he or she would have if everyone had stuck to their time.  You know how it’s extremely difficult to be the first comic up on a show?  Being the last has its own set of challenges.  The point I’m trying to make this week is you have to stick to your time no matter the show or situation.   As someone who is just able to do forty-five and close a show out, it becomes ten times harder when times have all been ignored.  Just because you think you can do over a half hour doesn’t mean you should.  Comics need to stick to their time for the benefit of the headliner.  It’s the same courtesy as not opening with a lot of crowd work or extremely blue material. 

This rule is important at open mic as well.  Realize that when there are more than a dozen comics (or even two dozen) you’re screwing the other comics over by going over your time.  Assume that half of the acts weren’t that great and that the audience is praying for the show to end by the 100-minute mark.  It’s hard to fine tune or test material when the crowd is staring at their watches. 

I know it’s exciting to finally get to do longer sets, but odds are that if you’re finally getting to do thirty, five to ten of that isn’t worth forcing into your act just because you can remember it.  If your feature setlist includes almost every joke you’ve ever written, you shouldn’t be featuring yet.

So my message to the comics who are running shows, thinking about running shows, or are in shows:  Aim for ninety minutes and hold each act to that (especially if there are guest sets involved).  If you’re performing, stick to your time to the minute.  It will drastically improve the quality of the show with every comic who goes up as well as the crowd response.  I’ve never heard someone say, “That show was too short,” in the nearly fourteen years I’ve been doing this.  You’re also likely to get more work from headliners you open for when you stick to your time. 

This tip will help when you finally start working the road too.  It’s one thing to go over your time in your buddy’s show at a bar, it’s another to violate that rule on the road. I remember getting reamed and almost fired from one of my first MC weeks for going over by two minutes. Get in the habit of fitting your set into the allotted time.

For other tips on the importance of gaining respect from other comics, club managers, and the crowd, order a copy of Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.