Monthly Archives: October 2014

3 Offstage Actions to Take to Accelerate the Full-Time Comic Process…

There are a lot of comics eager to feature and make comedy their only career.  Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to do well within the first two to three years.  If you’re a bit older and have more life experience than the average 24-year-old, that helps.  If you’re simply gifted at comedy (which is very rare) that may allow you to become full-time even sooner.  You have to have the material and joke-writing ability and that can take years (at least five for me).

So what can you do in the mean time while you’re building your experience levels? (kinda like those Final Fantasy games)

1.  Break up with your boyfriend/girlfriend.  When you’re in love, it’s hard to put comedy first.  If you do, they’ll get even with you and you’ll end up getting hurt.  It’s best to be single so that it doesn’t matter how late you’re out.  I once turned down a gig so that I didn’t break a 3-month anniversary date with a girl.  I was dumb.  When you put sex love first, it’s going to cut into your career ambition.  Odds are it’s not going to go well and at some point it’s going to be an even bigger distraction and financial burden.  But won’t it make great material when we break up?  Art comes from pain, right?  Sure it will.  Do that now and then good luck coming up with an original punchline for the most overused setup in comedy.

And don’t you dare think about taking him/her on the road with you!  Those mishaps are covered in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.  “What’s she going to do, Rob?  Wreck the car an hour before showtime?”  It happened.  Read all about it.

2.  Get a full-time job.  You need to be able to work gigs where you’re going to lose money.  I used to drive 5 hours to Topeka for a $100 gig.  That’s not very profitable.  By having less free time, you’ll find your work ethic and need to get better will be much improved.  Suddenly, those 3 hours of free time won’t be wasted on video games (kinda like those Final Fantasy games–ha, callback!).  There are challenges to working a day job, but if you can’t handle that, you can’t handle the road.  It takes self-discipline.  Build up your savings account, get a car that works, move back to your parents’ place or the cheapest rent you can find…and then all of a sudden…quit your day job.

3.  Make comedy your main source of income.  Some people can’t stand the thought of going into debt.  If comedy is your main income, I guarantee you won’t flake out on making the calls you need to make.  With nothing on your schedule, you’ll have plenty of time to send those avails out.  (By the way, send those out often–monthly at least.  Most club managers aren’t offended by that, especially if you’ve worked there before.)  These three steps are a multi-year process, but the most motivational thing you can do.  As your money runs out, pick up something part time again, but let the reality of poverty and the shittiness of a comic’s income sink in before you decide this is really what you want to do with your life.  What percentage are you willing to commit?

Treat every club like a new job hiring process.  You need to find their calendar and see who’s working there so they can help you get a guest set.  Find out who actually books each club that you’re trying to get into.  There’s no point driving four hours to perform in front of the assistant manager who has no say in booking (I’ve done that too). The bills won’t stop and that’s usually enough motivation to take the necessary risks.  There’s plenty to do in the other 23 hours.

So basically:  dump, work, quit, scramble/hustle.

And yes, I linked a lot of previous posts in here; read those too.

Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage is available on Amazon, iTunes, Kindle, Nook, KOBO, etc.  I recommend paperback on Amazon for an easy reference guide.

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The 4 most common mistakes first-time comics make…

Since Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage was published, I’ve had a lot of comics tell me one of two things:

1.  I’m glad I read your book before I went up for the first time.

2.  I wish I would’ve read your book before I went up the first time.

Almost every time a new comic begins his or her career at the St. Louis Funnybone open mic, the back of the room gets a good chuckle at the same basic rookie mistakes.  So here they are…don’t do them.

1.  Leaving the mic stand in front of you after taking the microphone out–It looks bad, don’t do it.  I wrote pages and pages about what else not to do on stage.

2.  Attempting shock humor–Joke-writing and delivery is an acquired skill, but as rookies we all think we have something brilliant to say that will blow everyone away and instantly gain the respect of our new peers.  Don’t think this way, you’ll hurt yourself.  If you hear laughter from the back of the room, it’s for the wrong reason.

3.  Going over your time–Four minutes means four minutes.  “I didn’t see the light,” is not an effective excuse.  This isn’t your homework in grade school, this is a professional show.  Get off close to a minute before your limit.  You don’t need to share all of your “comedy gold” in the first week.

4.  Excessive language–Similar to number two, cussing on stage must be done with some tact instead of a nervous habit.  Last month a guy said fuck over fifty times in under four minutes (at least he stuck to his time).

Yes, of course I want you to buy my book because it makes money, but honestly, we all cringe when these same four mistakes are made every week (actually my favorite reaction is when Andi Smith just mutters, “Uh-oh,” over and over).  So excuse me as I write this sentence hoping to make it google-search friendly for first time stand-up comics looking for tips for their first time doing stand-up comedy at open mic aaaaand that ought to do it.  Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage is available on Kindle, iTunes, and of course in paperback.

*And thank you to everyone who writes!