Monthly Archives: June 2018

Don’t Give Your Show Away…

This whole post was inspired by something that happened this morning. I’ll explain…

There’s an old piece of advice to never turn down stage time. Afterall, a comic starting out should get as much experience as possible, right?  Unfortunately, part of that experience teaches you when not to take the stage.

In 18 years, the worst gigs I’ve ever done were unpaid.  Opening for bands, performing at a conference, opening a meeting…no, no and no.  These are the types of gigs that if you’re going to do, you should charge a ridiculous amount for. They’re extremely challenging and odds are, the audience isn’t expecting a comedy show. When a crowd isn’t expecting OR paying for comedy, your job becomes 10 times harder.

When this happens, you’re doing a disservice to the comedy industry because the next morning all of those people will vent: “…And they had a comedian up there trying to be funny, and it was awful.”

“So many comedians just aren’t funny these days.”

“I know, I think I’ll boycott the local shows forever!”

Perhaps an exaggeration, but in the long run, you’re going to hurt the reputation of that many people’s opinion on live stand-up comedy.

The next part is, once you’re actually a legit comedian who has been paid multiple times for performing, don’t give it away. It’s the same as asking your tattoo artist buddy for a freebie, or some other artisan to give their skill away. It cheapens the industry. The only exception for this is when you’re performing for charity or showcasing for something that might further your career. As a poor comic, it’s nice to be able to donate the only thing that you can sometimes.

As I said, this post was brought on by something I was just asked to do. A colleague at UMSL asked if I could do a session in a teacher workshop this September. I agreed because it’s a day out of my classroom, I can sell books, and I like sharing tips and ideas with fellow teachers. Once approved, she added that I can “wake up the workshop with 25 minutes of my comedy bit” at 8:30 in the morning. 25-year-old Rob would’ve happily agreed, but 40-year-old Rob knows better. This is something I’d charge at least $500 for suffering through and that’s not in their budget. I kindly declined and explained why.

For more tips on how to make money in stand-up comedy, order my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage via Amazon, Kindle, Nook, etc.

frontcover

Advertisements

6 Things I Would Do Differently If I Could Start My Comedy Career Over…

If I could start my comedy career over, here are 6 things I would do differently…

  1. Establish a better reputation. Comedians gossip. I got to hear a lot of it as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone. It made me feel like part of the mix when I could participate in these conversations with headliners. I’d make fun of other comics as if I was any better, just trying to fit in. While I don’t think I ever had a bad reputation, it would’ve been nice to be on that short list of comics who everyone loves because they’re so ridiculously pleasant and positive to be around. I realize this positive-thinking stuff is hard to find within the industry.
  2. Put my profession in front of personal relationships. Something I didn’t understand early in my career is that being a comedian makes you miss a lot of important moments in life. My dumbass turned down a week of hosting at a very nice club in another state, because I would’ve had to cancel anniversary plans with my girlfriend at the time. It was our two month anniversary. It was a pretty big booker too. Again, I was a dumbass. I cringe as I think at how much more work that could’ve led to. Establish your career before you establish your relationship or else he or she won’t understand right away what the strains of working the road are…plus you’ll be poor which they won’t care for either.
  3. Record and listen to every set. I still suck at this. It’s not like there isn’t time when you’re out on the road. They say professional athletes spend hours in the film room to get better; the same has to be true with comedians. If it’s painful to listen to or watch, figure out why and change it. Otherwise you could make a bad habit permanent, and stunt the growth of your career.
  4. Write about every gig. Journal what went right and why as well as what didn’t and why it failed. Keep track of the people you worked with at the gig–the servers, bartenders, managers, and other comics because when you return you can reestablish that awesome new friendship you felt like you had after that third post-show drink.  When you build relationships with the people around your shows, it helps your following.  You should also note what jokes work better with different types of crowds.  Did you know that the people in Little Rock, Arkansas don’t have a good sense of humor about any jokes that suggest they’re a tad redneck? (Most places proudly admit it.)  Which cities are super-conservative? Which managers are sticklers about how much time you do? These things matter if you’re going to return someday. It’s also a good place to log the local jokes you write for that particular gig.
  5. Shut up and listen. When I hosted for a lot of bigger names, I for whatever reason thought that anything I had to say was interesting. I had no life or comedy experience, yet I probably interrupted their advice to tell them about my boring day or a gig I did last in the prior week. Not only did this limit some of the advice they could give me, it probably scared them off. And I honestly think it was just a couple of drinks that made me like this, so to piggyback on this one…
  6. Stay completely sober while you’re working. You can make excuses that you’re funnier when you’re buzzed or high, but you’re probably more annoying to be around because of the things mentioned in #5.

Trust me on these things. If you’re interested in learning more about how to make money in stand-up comedy, check out my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage which is available on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc.