Welcome to the All New, Re-Designed Helpful Comic. We don't claim to be the comedy gurus, but we do think that we can help answer some question that you may have about the business of comedy.
We designed this page for the New and Up & Coming Comedians in the industry. At one point in time, we were just like you, we had a million questions about comedy and no one to answer them, so your prayers are answered (sorta). We will be posting information that we believe you can use and you can always send us your question and concerns and we will try to answer them or find someone that can.
In the meantime. Thanks for stopping by and I hope that you find something useful to help you along your journey as a comic!
Vernon E. Davis, II
Longhorn The Comedian
Founder, Helpful Comic
An Interview with Comedy Booking Agent Eric Yoder
July 19, 2011
Yes, this interview is over 3 years old, but I believe that it still carries a lot of weight and has some great information in it for all comics, new and old. - Vernon Davis
After last week’s interview with comedy manager/producer Reg Tigerman, I’m excited to have another exclusive interview for you today with Eric Yoder, a veteran comedy booking agent who works for the Funny Business Agency.
Here’s what Eric had to say about how he determines who to book, how the booking business has changed in the past few years, what comedians can typically expect to get paid for different types of gigs, and the biggest misconception that comedians have about booking agents among other things.
Can you tell me a little bit about your background, the Funny Business Agency, and what your role in the company is?
I’ve been handling club accounts and booking for Funny Business for about six years now. My job consists of new talent reviews, talent buying for clubs and consulting with club owners. Our agency books about 13-15 fulltime/weekend clubs and approximately 50 or so one-nighter rooms nationwide, as well as numerous corporate and college events. The majority of our work is in the Midwest, but we have a good amount of runs from Florida, to New Hampshire, to California, to Texas and many places in between.
I was born into comedy, visiting clubs with my Dad and meeting comedians since I was a little kid, and slowly moving up through the business from pulling headshots and bios for club promo packets, on to checking out new acts, then to sales, and finally into taking over the club accounts.
Funny Business is a family business. My dad, John Yoder, started Funny Business over 25 years ago and built the agency to one of the largest in the country. My brother, Jamison, handles college and corporate sales, and my other brother, Michael, now handles all our Internet and social marketing consulting for our clubs and for our agency. We have offices in Grand Rapids, MI – Asheville, NC – and Chapel Hill, NC.
As a booker, what’s the most challenging part of your job?
I’ve found that finding a good balance between your relationships with club owners and your relationships with comedians can be tough. I’ve always tried to stand behind and support the comedians that work for our agency, but because we work for the clubs, the club often becomes the priority when running into situations where there is a conflict between the two.
So there are often times my job goes from comedy booker to problem solver and finding solutions for conflict in a way that shows the talent and clubs are equally respected by our agency.
What do you think is the biggest misconception that comedians have about bookers?
I often get the impression that comedians don’t realize the amount of behind the scenes work that bookers and agencies put in when booking rooms. A lot of the times I think if a comedian works a room for us that maybe didn’t do enough advertising, or didn’t police the room well, etc., it’s because we didn’t train or consult with them on these things.
In reality, it tends to be that the club doesn’t choose to utilize all the resources we provide – a detailed 30-page comedy marketing packet, ideal room setup, how to properly run the show, and a ton more resources. It is as frustrating for us as it is for the comedians when the venue doesn’t utilize these tools.
Another common confusion I’ve seen more recently is comedians confusing the role of a booking agent versus a manager or an agent. A comedy booking agency represents the clubs, we are hired as talent buyers for them. Comedian agents, or managers, represent the comedians, whereas we are hired as talent buyers for the club, so ultimately work for them.
I see comedians coming to us wanting representation, or when we do decide to work with the comedian they think it is entirely on us to find them all their work and to promote for them, etc.
How do you decide who to book for a specific gig?
First of all, we look at what kind of crowds typically come to that venue. I will look at their age, demographic, what acts they’ve liked in the past, feedback we’ve gotten from them on how comedians do in their room, etc.
Then we go and look at avails for which comedians are open that week. We see what headliners are available and then we go through and see what kind of feedback they’ve gotten in the past and if they are a good fit for the room. We then go and look at a feature act and what kind of feature would work best paired with that headliner. If it’s a room we’ve booked for a while, then we also go back and look at the club’s previous feedback on acts and see which kind of comedians they liked in the past and who has done well for them.
What’s the best way for a comedian to get on your radar and get more work from your agency?
A lot of times referrals from comedians we work with and trust, or references from fellow bookers and club owners are a good start. When we get these we tend to take a closer look and move on to contacting them for videos, references and their work history.
We do check regular submissions weekly or bi-weekly, but the submissions with strong references usually get a closer look faster. It’s important to follow up on these every couple weeks after submitting, but be patient, since we receive approximately 30 submissions a week. It can take time to get through all of them and get back to the act.
Obviously it varies, but can you talk a little bit about the economics of booking these days? What does a “typical” gig pay for a comedian? What’s the range?
Well, I would say a typical weekday one-night gig (Sunday-Thursday) will pay in the $100-$175 range for features and $200-$250 for headliners. Friday or Saturday night gigs, $150-$200 to feature and $250-$400.
As far as full time clubs or weekend clubs, it varies quite a bit and would be difficult to give a range on. Almost all gigs provide hotel rooms for both feature and headliner, but some one-night rooms in or within 30 minutes of a major city like Chicago or Minneapolis try to save on the hotel rooms and use acts from the nearby markets.
The pay depends on many things – if it’s routed in a multi-day run, proximity to other gigs or back-to-back weeks, and a lot of other variables. Budget for a club to pay acts is determined by a few things – how many they seat, if they serve food, beer and liquor, market population, etc.
Our agency doesn’t take commissions from the comedians, since we are paid a flat-rate booking fee from the club. However, there are agencies out there that do both, commonly referred to as “double-dipping.” We have chosen to not to participate in that kind of practice for ethical and moral reasons.
I think that every booker would love if they could pay comedians more, but it’s about making the gig worthwhile for the comedians as well as making it financially do-able for the venue so they can profit and will keep the club running successfully in the long term.
What advice would you have for a comedian who’s interested in booking more corporate gigs? What about college gigs?
I personally don’t handle much of our college or corporate end, but I can tell you that CLEAN is one of the biggest priorities for these types of gigs. These are different than club bookings, because we “pitch” specific acts we find suitable for the event and they get a chance to take a look at the acts and decide which they would like to have.
This means putting together a demo that has professional quality sound, lighting and material. The client will be watching and reviewing your materials, not just us. I suggest having a minimum of one hour of squeaky clean material, and having great quaity video that showcases this best.
How do you think the booking business has changed in the last few years?
I would say that the Internet and social networking sites have made some big changes. Agencies are able to access comedian’s materials and websites faster. They can see the feedback and interactions comedians get, what clubs they are working, how many fans they have, and more by just looking at a couple pages on Facebook.
Facebook can be a dangerous thing for comedians though. Not seperating your personal account from a “Fan Page” is a mistake in my point of view. I see comedians posting overally emotional statuses or overly personal information not pertaining to their career, content or comedy.
I also see a lot of “spamming,” which inevitably leads to hiding posts from these acts. Then, when they actually post content , it no longer will show on a lot of people’s news feeds.
There has also been a steady growth of new comedians heavily flooding the markets. This allows for a lot of great new talent for us to familiarize ourselves with, but also makes the weeding out and review process much more time-consuming and difficult.
With so many beginning or new comedians, a lot of the time they are getting advice and feedback from other NEW comedians, which tends to not be the most accurate. I see comedians that get a two-minute clip on Rooftop Comedy and then use that as a clip they submit or an actual “credit” on their submission resume.
I think the comedy industry as a whole is consistently growing and changing as many new avenues for promotion, finding new talent/venues, and accessing new resources continue happening. It’s staying ahead of the curve and adapting to these new avenues that can really get comedians to take their career to the next level.
Besides putting on a good show, is there anything a comedian who gets booked can do to increase their chances of getting future bookings from that venue or promoter?
Many things. I’d say most importantly, be a professional. Show up early, be respectable and appreciative to ALL the staff at the venues you are performing at (you never know when that waitress you had may be the manager next time you come through…), share feedback and ideas on setting up their room and promoting. These types of small things go a long way.
Another is to be easy to work with. Know what you want to ask or book when you call a booker and be specific, be prepared, take feedback in stride – whether you feel it applies or not, learn the correct chain of command for who you need to contact for what types of info, share with the booker how the crowds and turnouts were for the gig you were at, etc.
When we see a comedian that genuinely cares about a venue’s success and wants to help make it better, it says a lot. It also helps you stick out in our mind. Don’t give us, or a venue, a reason to not have you back of course, but instead of just gliding by, give us a reasont to WANT to have you back.
How important is a comedian’s website, YouTube videos, bio, email list, etc. to their chances of getting booked?
Very. When we book an act, a venue will typically search the comedian’s name to see what they are all about. If it goes to a nice website that is easy to maneuver, easy to find content and is of high quality it does make a difference. Having many videos, blogs, etc. can be a great way for a potential fan or a venue to want to learn more and to access your other online content.
Having fans, videos, an email list, or even making your own posters to send a venue, goes a long way. If you are a great, hilarious comedian, and are consistently professional BUT don’t do much to help promote yourself, don’t have a nice website or work to make yourself have a strong Internet presence, well, there are MANY great, hilarious, professional comedians that do.
Guess who we will pick?
For more from Eric and the Funny Business Agency, check out the Funny Business blog andFacebook page. If you’ve got a question for Eric, feel free to post it in the comments.
A Great Resource for Comedians, By Comedians
Created by Adam Scott Waddle
I personally recently read this book. I must say, that even as a veteran comic, I learned a lot and it reminded me of things that I use to do that I need to get back to doing. If you are a Road Comic or in the Comedy Business in anyway, you need to read this book, cover to cover. - Longhorn The Comedian
Bombing On Stage
Comedy Workshops, Business Communications Coach, Author "How To Be A Working Comic,"
From the weekly newsletter How To Be A Working Comic and Humorous Speaker.
Hey Dave – I entered a local comedy contest tonight and did virtually the same set that I did during a showcase that went very well at The Improv. Tonight I think it kind’a bombed. I had it recorded and did not get the same good laughs. I remember you saying that audiences are different. But as good as The Improv felt, tonight felt pretty bad. I would love to get your feedback… Thanks – MB
Hey MB – If MTV had a Real World series about being a comedian, you’re eligible to move into the house. Welcome to the real world of comedy. Don’t feel bad. Seriously – don’t. Not every single set or every club will be a great experience. It’s a learning process.
Read the rest at ... https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/bombing-stage-dave-schwensen
5 Things Not To Say To a Veteran Comedian When Asking For Advice
By Billy D. Washington - Edited By Al Bahmani
Acclaimed national touring Headliner Billy D. Washington takes time off his busy schedule to impart wisdom to the next generation of funny people.
1. “Since you’ve been in the game a long time…”
There are a lot of comedians who’ve “been in the game a long time…” but their body of work may not suggest that longevity equals success. What they’ve done in terms of TV, festivals, “A” rooms, tours, podcasts, military tours, colleges, film, writing and producing is far more noteworthy than their start date.
2. “If you ever need an opener, I’ll do it”.
Of course you will! The amateur comics agenda is completely different from the vets agenda on the road. Vets want people with them who they enjoy hanging out with while being of some benefit. Openers/features want vets to expose them to the spoils of their hard work while rarely trying to position themselves as friends. On his own, several years ago Touchee Jackson drove to see me in Austin at Cap City. Only after I asked, he hung out with me for the entire weekend allowing our relationship to grow organically. Over the next few years I took him with me everywhere I could because he grew increasingly better while at the same time becoming one of my best friends. Eventually he was as much of a resource to me as I was to him because he used his social skills to cultivate relationships that we shared at our collective table. I don’t know if I’ll ever share such a connection with another comic. Ever.
3. “Because this is who I am…”
Seasoned comics don’t even know who they are most of the time, so an amateurs self definition is a huge waste of time within this particular conversation. Talking about who you are is a conversation best reserved for yourself because most of the amateur archetypes are basically the same. “I want to be able to work all audiences”, “I want to be different”, “…favoritism”, “…haters” etc. If you really want to pick a vets brain ask him specifics about an idea. Jokes are the foundation of a career, not how to get into a room.
4. “My favorite comic is…”
Narcissism is something we all share no matter how far we are along. Rattling off a list of comics to a comic you’re asking for advice is a sure fire way prematurely end a conversation. My advice? Ask your favorite comics for advice, and don’t forget to mention my name.
5. “I didn’t watch your set but…”
If you don’t have the common decency to watch a veterans set then please don’t be foolish enough to say it. If a guy is willing to offer you his time to help advance your career be classy enough to at least reference a bit or admire a perspective. If the vet doesn’t impress you enough to earn a compliment then why even ask for advice?
All in all 3 rules apply when trying to get the best out of veteran advice.
1. Be friendly
2. Be mildly complimentary (no ass kissing)
Hopefully you guys don’t take this the wrong way, I’m sincerely trying to help.
Billy D. Washington is a former Harris County Deputy Constable in Harris County, Texas (Houston) turned international touring headliner. He’s been seen on “Last Comic Standing” and “The Late Show With Craig Ferguson” and the movie “Arlington Road”. He is also an accomplished musician and playwright.
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Helpful Tips From Comics
Dale Irvin • If comedy is going to be your business, treat it like a business. Watch your income, expenses, and keep good records. The product you manufacture is jokes, so make them the best. Your sales team is you, so never stop selling. Surround yourself with support, be it your spouse, friends, or family. They will keep you going when times get tough...and they will. Never give up and never stop trying and you will enjoy a satisfying and successful career.
Glenn Miller • Carry a small spiral notebook with you art all times. Write everything you perceive funny (or useful) the moment it comes to you. If you don't, you will forget it later.
Father Paul • I was told to record my set (whic I do) and write everything on the tape word for word..then cross out unnecessary words to tighten it up..
Phil Keeling • Oh, one other thing I'd tell a new comedian: do NOT rework street jokes and try to pass them off as your own. If
I see you do that even once, the odds of me wanting to work with you and get you in on paying gigs has dropped to absolutely nothing. It's my biggest pet peeve.
Jack Kearney • My good friend and comedy veteran Johnny Rizzo gave me one of the most important pieces of advice I ever got in this business. (even though I no longer tour) When someone asks you about another comic, even if you hate the comic and his act, just say "he's okay" in a very neutral way, or even that you haven't seen or you're not familiar with their act. (If you genuinely like the comic, feel free to say so)
You never know what the motivations behind this question are, and it could be a deliberate fact finding mission from the comic or a booker who happens to love said comic, and even if they are an a-hole, saying so may only hurt you...
Be sure you know and trust who you are sharing your opinions with...
Karen Fitzgerald • Keep writing....and when you think you have written plenty....write some more! and see each comedy opportunity as just that, an opportunity - you never know who is going to be there and see you and recommend you to someone else! Also, don't trash talk other comics or comedy clubs....it IS a small world and somehow the Comedy Karma Gods will find out and it comes back to bite you in the ass!
Jake Lawrence • The first thing anyone should do getting into comedy is make sure you have a support system,( like actors) live with your parents, or have a partner who is willing to support you while you give this comedy thing a shot,because you will make little or no money for a few years.
Once you have a 5-7 minute set expand it from the inside out,use the same opener and closer every set
When either showcasing for a club owner or you finally get a weekend gig DO NOT USE NEW JOKES,leave that for open mic. I have seen this happen to often..
The hard thing for young comics is getting their jokes across to a wide demographic, ie: the Saturday early show, mostly married couples, who are paying for a baby sitter, dinner, show,drinks and parking,that adds up to an expensive night. If there is a weak link in the show that's what they will remember the most..
Sandra Risser • 'Most new comics aren't as good as they think they are so my advice is "Don't do gigs you're not ready for". Get good solid 3, 5, 7, 10 minute sets. Don't "volunteer" for a 20 minute set until you have a solid 30 minutes. The most important word in what I said is "solid".
Ray Lowry • Think like an audience
Dave Dubroff • What's funny to your friends is not necessarily going to be funny to your friends and NEVER, EVER tell a story that doesn't have a punch line! Whenever possible have punchlines that are surprises which is more than just don't be obvious.
Brian Shirley • My best advice is get to know the business side of the comedy world ASAP and never stop networking,marketing and learning. I wish I had taken my first 10 years in the game a lot more seriously instead of partying and sleeping until noon. It's alright to have fun and let some steam off.The road can wear you down, but if I had started getting really serious about my career, I'd be a lot further along than I am now.
Jerry Kahn • There are three pieces of advice that I give to new comedians, but since this is asking for just one:
Always go to the bathroom before you go on stage; otherwise, you'll have to go when you are up there.
If you're curious about my other two pieces of advice:
1) Know your audience. Make sure that your material is suited for that specific group of people.
2) Always carry your business cards and a pen with you, since you always need to be marketing yourself
David "MAC" McDonald • Wear a bullit proof vest in the front so the audience can't kill you and wear one in the rear so you don't get stabbed in the back. Understand the fact that nobody owes you a damn thing. People will lie to you and tell you that you're funnier than you really are. Don't lie to yourself. If you're not funny, you're just not funny. Get as much stage time as you can. Don't be so quick to pack an audience with your friends and family because they will lie to you. At some point, they won't be there. You will drop more bombs than a B-52. Bad enough to make you want to quit. I don't care what actors say about difficulty. Stand-up is the toughest area of show business. It is not easy. With all that being said, the best advice I can give new comics is... "Be Funny, Period". After all, the audience paid. Give them their money's worth.
John Hein • ...when Drew Carey walks out of your house, follow him...
Keith McGill • Get on stage as much as humanly possible. You don't get better unless you hit the stage.
Clint Kyro • I'm not a comedian, I'm a drummer BUT! The real job is to entertain and I do have my on-stage banter/jokes so this is interesting to read from actual comedians. I'm not a comedian, but I play one on stage.
You got a tip for us? Send it to helpfulcomic@HelpfulComic.com
The psychology of comedy: where humour and psychosis overlap
New research shows that comedians have a remarkable amount in common with people who have schizophrenia or manic depression – and that this could be what makes them funny
"Many people say that comics are psychopaths," says the standup Jason Byrne, who should know what he's talking about after almost two decades in the business. "We put this front on of being a normal person but in our shows we're closer to our actual personality."
Which is? "Completely mental."
Byrne may sound flippant, but scientists have long been fascinated by the question of whether comedians have a common psychology. Is there a clear line from the warm-hearted Lucy Beaumont, for example, through Rhod Gilbert, with his foam-flecked rages over seemingly anodyne topics such as mince pies and electric toothbrushes, to Spike Milligan, who was once described by his psychiatrist as "certifiably insane"?
Over the past two years, psychologists at Oxford University have persuaded 523 comedians across the UK, US and Australia to complete an online survey designed to uncover their most defining characteristics, asking questions like, "Do you often feel like doing the opposite of what other people suggest, even though you know they are right?" and, "Do you dread going into a room by yourself where other people have already gathered and are talking?"
The results showed that comedians have a remarkable amount in common with people with schizophrenia and manic depression – and that this could be exactly what makes them funny.
Byrne describes the comic's world as a bit of a fantasy land where the oddities of daily life are blown out of proportion in a "cartoon animated" fashion. This enables them to spot and pick apart bizarre aspects that go unnoticed by most of us.
"Humour requires the ability to think outside the box or see unusual connections where others don't," agrees Victoria Ando of Oxford's department of experimental psychology, who led the study. "This divergent and over-inclusive way of thinking reflects many of the thought processes and patterns seen in psychosis. But while in psychotic patients these traits are too pathological to allow creativity, in a healthy individual they can contribute towards brilliance and inspiration."
The Oxford study also found that comedians often display depressive traits such as emotional flatness and detachment from others. The good news is that this seems to be related to the stress of the job, rather than an underlying disorder: there is little evidence that many suffer from clinical depression in the way that Robin Williams did. What's clear is that once they step off stage, comedians often stop being the life and soul of the party. Most combine two conflicting personality traits – they are both highly introverted and highly extroverted. A surprising number admit to becoming increasingly "socially uncomfortable" off stage as their career progresses.
"When you start in comedy you're always extroverted in conversation," explains standup and musician Vikki Stone. "You're trying out material on your mates, you're trying to play to a crowd all the time whether you're in front of an audience or not, all to try and appear fearless. And then once you've been in comedy for a while, you don't need to do that any more off stage. You want to get away from it all."
This personality split was found to be even more pronounced in female comedians, possibly a result of the animosity many face in a notoriously male-dominated environment.
"If you're [a woman] performing in a comedy club, the audience will automatically assume that you're crap," says Stone. "You have to earn their trust, which makes it harder. At the beginning of my set I have to be very confident and get them to laugh very quickly."
Comedians readily admit that they need to deal with negative comments, especially on the road to becoming established. But although they can obsess over heckles or bad reviews, the judgments aren't always external. When your job combines the three disciplines of acting, writing and directing, it's impossible not to criticise yourself. "The biggest negative thing you have to deal with on stage is your own brain," Byrne says. "The left side of my brain is basically scanning the audience. The right side is all my material that I have already. And the middle is the negative bit that's always there going: 'God, you're shit! What are you doing this for? Oh. My. God. They didn't even laugh at that bit. Didn't even laugh. What are you doing?'"
Aren't all performers plagued by self-doubt? Perhaps. But the solitary nature of much comedy seems to accentuate it. The Oxford study also analysed over 200 actors – and found that while they rated high on the extrovert scale, they scored low for introversion. This seems to be because actors usually share criticism and praise with a whole group of other people, so the range of emotions is not as extreme.
"Comedians probably experience more intense highs and lows as everything on the stage is their own work, whereas in theatre there is a less individual burden," Ando says. "The audience satisfaction comes from a combination of the work of the author, the director, the scenographer and, of course, the other actors. And there's a subtle difference in how they engage with the audience."
What does she mean by that? Actors are engaging in a "two-way emotional exchange through the roles they play". And comedians? "Comedians are putting up a front."
• Jason Byrne is at Assembly Hall, Edinburgh, until 24 August. Vikki Stone is at Underbelly Cowgate, Edinburgh, until 24 August
Comedy Related Tweets
Stop saying you “killed it” on Facebook
By Rob Durham
Every Saturday night my Facebook feed goes from a stream of non-comic friends posting their dinner pics to a late-night stream of comics letting the rest of the world know that they did a show (which is fine, show people you’re working). However, a select number of comics always accompany their gig pictures with news of how they killed, slayed, or whatever ridiculous verb they can come up with. Stop doing that. No one believes you. Bookers aren’t scrolling through their Facebook feed searching for your own Yelp review of your show. Ever see any of the headliners you look up to post about killing it? No. (If so, stop looking up to them.)
If you’re at a club and the manager asks how your set went, be honest. If it wasn’t your best show, it’s best to let them know you’re aware that you didn’t do well. The thing is, they already know how you did, they’re seeing what you consider good enough. If they hear you lie about it, they’ll either think you’re delusional or have set the bar too low for what is acceptable. Raise the bar on yourself.
It’s okay to admit when you have a bad set. Last week I wrote about not meshing well with the headliner’s crowd. Most of you understand that yes, there are bad bookings. However, one Facebook thread went on and on about how “it sounds like this happens to this guy a lot. It’s never the crowd’s fault!” Yes, new readers… I wrote last week’s blog to share with the world how much trouble I always seem to have. Ignore the 100+ blog entries where you learn from my mistakes in 14 years of experience. Instead, take away from it that I’m not a good enough comic. I had to revisit my entry about ignoring negative crap.
For other tips on how to gain respect from other comics as well as the bookers who’ll make sure you have a career, read my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage. (Available on Kindle, iTunes, Nook, and Amazon)
5 Things You Can Learn From Gabriel Iglesias
Gabriel Iglesias recently appeared on an episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast where he discussed the evolution of his career and how he’s grown into one of the biggest headliners in the country.
But most importantly for up and coming comics, he explained how he approaches marketing and branding himself in a way that has helped separate him from the rest of the crowd.
You can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.
1. Be Easy To Remember – And ConsistentAt around the 17-minute mark, Iglesias explains that he embraced the nickname “Fluffy” early on because he realized that nobody that saw him was remembering his name. So, he decided to incorporate the nickname Fluffy into his act and into everything he did from a marketing perspective, recognizing that it was more memorable than his name. “It branded me,” he says.
Iglesias’ branding didn’t stop with his nickname. Early on he also made a conscious decision to maintain a consistent look – in his case it involved shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. He explains that it’s tough enough for people to remember specific comics in general, but comics who constantly change their look only make it harder on themselves.
2. If You’re Likeable, Be LikeableAt around the 40-minute mark, Iglesias shares what he calls the best piece of advice he’s ever received. While early on some of his material included profanity, he was advised to take the profanity out of his act because it was interfering with his biggest strength – he was a very likeable guy on stage.
He embraced that likeability factor and even though he has nothing against profanity, removed it from his act and concentrated on ensuring that everything he did played off of the likeability of his persona.
3. You Can Learn A Lot From A “Day Job” When it comes to marketing and branding, Iglesias clearly knew more than the average comic when he started out- that’s because of his day job.
Around the 46-minute mark, he talks about how early in his career he worked at a Robinsons-May department store. While it may not have been his ideal job, he saw an opportunity to learn things that could help his comedy career. He didn’t work in the marketing department, but he befriended some guys who did and says he learned a ton from them about how to market and brand products.
He then took what he was learning and applied it to his comedy career.
4. Be Willing To Step Backwards To Move Forward At around the 51-minute mark, Iglesias reveals that a couple years into his career he came to a bit of a crossroads – he had built a strong following among Latino audiences and in certain parts of the country, but was a virtual unknown elsewhere. He could have gone on to have a successful career just focusing on the audience he had, but instead decided that he wanted to push to reach a broader audience.
In order to do that, he had to be willing to abandon the theaters he had been playing and go back to playing smaller venues in front of tiny crowds who didn’t know who he was. And even worse, he discovered that much of the material he had developed didn’t play well with more mainstream crowds so he essentially had to reconstruct his entire act for those crowds.
But ultimately, that decision and his willingness to essentially start over in a mainstream world is what allowed him to improve and reach the level of success he’s at today.
5. You Can Learn From Wrestling At around the 59-minute mark, Iglesias mentions that some of the most important things he’s learned about showmanship, marketing, and especially merchandising, he actually learned from pro wrestling. He explains that he studies wrestling and recognized how they merchandise their acts as well as how they add rock show elements to their matches.
And just like he did with the Robinsons-May marketing guys, he has adapted what he’s learned into his own comedy career.
READ THIS NEXT: 5 Things You Can Learn From Adam Carolla
Addicted To Comedy: Would You Risk Your Job For Comedy?
Reading the biographies of comedians who struggled during their early days on the road to success inspires me deeply. I continue to study the careers of comics from all generations, because each of them faced difficult obstacles and discovered ways to overcome them. Learning from their mistakes helps prevent me from duplicating their errors. Gone are the days when comedians were required to submit bulky VHS tapes or DVDs with their headshots and bio to bookers and comedy clubs for potential gigs.
Can you imagine the costs involved to mail that stuff to various booking agents and promoters? The digital era allows us to produce quality EPKs at a fraction of that cost. Using the internet and tools like Skype eliminated the need to pay for long distance calls and expensive postal costs. This is a huge advantage to comedians who are beginning their careers, and probably aren’t getting paid much.
If you’re a working comedian, you probably have videos online to display your style of comedy. Much like the days of bootleg records or Napster, sometimes your work may find its way to the public without proper authorization. Here’s what happened to me…..
Someone suggested I teach a two-week camp for teenagers who wanted to learn about comedy. Based on my resume, this firm understood how I became established on the DC comedy scene. I was told during the interview that the job was mine, and an offer letter would be sent in a few days. Within a week I received a phone call, explaining how the company decided to decline my hiring. This decision was based on a video they watched on the internet when I performed at an open mic show a few years back. They felt that my material was deemed inappropriate for children.
That response blew me away because I’m a fairly clean comedian. When they described the video they reviewed, I remembered that night as if it was yesterday. At this particular open mic show, a newbie comic was bombing onstage for five minutes with material about humping female breasts. The room was silent the entire time he performed. When I was announced, of course I had to address it! I made impromptu jokes about how the man who invented that act was probably a broke guy in a whorehouse. But it wasn’t performed as clean as I described it here. After I won the audience over, I continued with my normal set. The venue posted that performance to their YouTube channel, and I forgot about it until now.
After hearing their reason for not hiring me, I thanked them for being honest with me and left it at that. There are plenty of comedians who said or performed offensive things during their career:
Having said that, I will not apologize for that video of me. It was obvious how they were not familiar with the difference between open mic comedy and a regular comedy show. I put the blame on myself for allowing an amateur performance of myself to be released. Image is everything in this business, and comedians should consider how they are perceived. Comedienne Leighann Lord described it best:
“I’m in a business where people’s opinion of me matters. Artists sometimes get sidetracked though trying to figure out what “they” want. They can be the audience, the industry, the sponsors. As a stand-up comic, my obligation is to entertain and make you laugh. How I do that is up to me, not them.”
Opinions are not limited to online performances. Sometimes I wonder if comics think about what they are posting to other social media outlets. Matt Ward wrote an excellent article titled How Facebook Can Lose You As Many Gigs As It Gets You. Some of his key points include:
Remember…the internet never forgets!
© 2013 Wayne Manigo