What should you wear on stage?

December 16, 2014

Hi Dave – I was wondering what to wear / how to dress on stage. I notice there are not very many women in comedy. The ones that are maybe my favorites – Wanda Sykes, Paula Poundstone, Whoopi Goldberg, Ellen DeGeneres, etc… I can’t help but notice, they dress like a man. Did you ever notice that?

So should I wear a tie? Of course I’m not going to wear a tie. I’m also too old to look hot in a tight pair of jeans. I have tight jeans, (lately all my clothes are a bit tight), but I don’t want to gross anyone out. I’m not fishing for compliments. I just wonder if I should dress up, dress down, look masculine, feminine, should I wear black, should I wear some color…? What I’m not going to be like is Phyllis Diller and dress crazy. Thanks – J.

15slide13

Cruisin’ in Calvins!

Hey J. – I realize I’m talking with a woman of comedy and it’s not (the late and great) Phyllis Diller. And to make another point, I’ve never been known for my fashion sense. Keep in mind your question was not sent to Calvin Klein, which is the only name I know from the fashion design world. And that’s only because he designed my underwear – which is probably getting a little too personal for this FAQ and Answer session.

I also know there will be comedians and humorous speakers reading this who will think it’s not an important question. They’re wrong because it is. In fact I can’t remember doing a comedy workshop where this question wasn’t asked. It’s also been asked by working comedians I’ve booked for various gigs.

“What should I wear on stage?”

The answer depends on who you are on stage and where you are performing. You have to consider both to find the correct answer.

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CLEVELAND Improv

Starts Saturday – January 10, 2015

Includes an evening performance at The Improv on…

Wednesday, January 28th

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

When I started out on the club scene in New York City, I don’t remember stage wear being an important issue. For everyone starting out, writing and stage experience were the biggest concerns (and still should be for any comedian). We didn’t hang around the NYC Improv wondering what the comedians should wear on stage. It looked to me like whatever you put on that day before walking outside was what you wore on stage that night. For examples, think Dave Attell, Bill Hicks, Dave Chappelle and Sarah Silverman, (some of the acts I worked with in NYC), and you’ll know what I mean.

But I also learned a lesson about what to wear on stage from another comedian I worked with at the NYC Improv. The look is best called successful and the advice came from one of the funniest comedians I know, Rondell Sheridan. In fact it was such good advice, he shared it in my book How To Be A Working Comic

“I think I only did stand-up three times before I passed the audition at The Improv,” he said. “I always had a good gift for ad-libbing, and a couple of things happened in the audience during my audition. Plus, I dressed up. None of the other comics dressed up for the audition. I sort of looked like I’d been doing this for a long time.”

This is a lesson in showbiz. Of course the No. 1 factor is to be funny on stage. But your image can also influence an audience and talent bookers. If your material and who you are on stage – your comedy voice – says you’re successful, then what you wear should help convey that image. If you’re street – then dress street and not in a 3-piece suit (you punk!).

Whether you believe it or not, what you wear on stage also puts you into a category. In showbiz, they call it typecasting. I was surprised to go from a comedy scene in NYC where t-shirts, sports coats, jeans and sneakers were referred to as the comedy uniform, to Hollywood where there were actual lists in talent booking offices categorizing (typecasting) comedians because of what they wore on stage. The ones I remember distinctly were:

  • T-shirt comics
  • Sweater comics
  • Sport coat comics and…
  • Suit comics.
AE-eveningattheimprov-585x340

Classic Television

I’m being serious about this. It’s the truth – and anyone who has ever been behind the closed doors of the booking industry knows it. In fact, you can check it out yourself by going online and watching reruns of the classic stand-up comedy shows that influenced many of today’s comedians (A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, Caroline’s Comedy Hour, Comedy On The Road, etc…).

When it came time to book these television shows, the producers knew it was always good to present a variety of comedians. This would attract a wider range of viewers. For instance, unless it was a theme for a particular episode, not everyone would be interested in watching a line-up of only prop comics or of only political comics.

The great thing about these shows was if viewers didn’t like one particular style of comedy, chances were they’d continue to watch because they might like the next one. It’s often the same when booking live shows. The headliners don’t want the comics before them doing the same act.

What you wear on stage should help define your comedy voice. And to base this off what was just explained, not all television viewers will be interested in what successful comics wearing 3-piece suits have to say. Others would have no interest in a show featuring only comics in ripped jeans and t-shirts. Just like with music, comedy fans have different tastes. So to cast these shows, it made the job of deciding who would be scheduled on what episode a lot easier for talent bookers by referring to the lists.

This way audiences would see a variety of comics during each episode.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

———————————————————————

This is also true for auditions set up through comedy clubs. For example, when I was working at the Hollywood Improv I remember getting calls from casting directors for movies, sitcoms and programs (like The Today Show, etc…) looking for specific types. If they wanted to audition young guys in their 20’s for a role, we had a list of comics that fit that type. If they wanted to see political comics, we had a list for that also. We didn’t have to waste a lot of time going through our complete roster of comics. We already had it narrowed down.

But getting back to today’s original question, here are some quick thoughts…

Dress for who you are on stage. If you’re upscale, dress the part. If you’re on the streets – look it. Don’t dress like a bank president if your material is about being broke. And if you’re not crazy – don’t dress like (the late and great) Phyllis Diller.

You need to give this some thought and make a personal decision about your image and how you want an audience to see and remember you. One of the greatest examples of stage clothes influencing an audience and actually enhancing the comedian’s material was when Steve Martin wore his white suit.

steve-martin-born-standing-up

Recommended reading

If you’re too young to remember, look him up on YouTube – or check out the cover of his book, Born Standing Up (which I highly recommend reading). He’s wearing a white suit… looks expensive… looks classy… BUT he’s wearing bunny ears or has a fake arrow sticking through his head. Then he’s acting like a “wild and crazy guy” – and the perception works because audiences believe he is crazy because he’s so dressed up, but obviously not “normal.”

Many comedians and speakers have a look their audiences will remember. Rodney Dangerfield – uncomfortable in a jacket, white shirt and skinny red tie. Drew Carey – white shirt, skinny tie and glasses. Kat Williams – pimp (I’ll say no more). Early Robin Williams – suspenders. Early Margaret Cho – Valley Girl. Later Margaret Cho – hip, rebellious. Dave Chappelle – street. Larry The Cable Guy – redneck. Pee Wee Herman

Well, you should have a mental image by now for all these performers and others. What they wore on stage helped create that image. Again, the No. 1 factor is that they are all funny. Their “look” enhanced the comedy material and their comedy voice.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Another consideration is where you are performing.

images

Victims of Fashion

I’ll make this fast: If you’re doing a black tie event or a corporate gig, don’t show up in ripped jeans and a t-shirt. If you’re performing at a NASCAR rally – call Larry and ask to borrow one of his Cable Guy shirts.

Just like your comedy material and promotional material, it’s a good idea to put some thought into what you wear on stage. Remember, it’s show-BUSINESS. And in the business world, packaging (a recognizable image) promotes sales (getting paid bookings).

And finally, to address one of your other questions, I never really thought about the female comedians you named all dressing like men. As I mentioned, I’m no Calvin Klein and my fashion sense is pretty limited. If it fits the comedian’s image, then it’s fine with me.

But I’d also like to point out Amy Schumer, Rita Rudner, Lisa Lampanelli, Loni Love and… well, I could also make a long list of women that don’t dress like men. Does it make a difference from an audience point of view? Not that I’ve noticed. If the clothes fit the material and the performer – who they are on stage and where they are performing – then it works.

————————————————–

Dave Schwensen is the author of Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous SpeakersHow To Be A Working Comic and Comedy FAQs And Answers.

For information about these books, comedy workshops at The Cleveland Improv, and private coaching for comedians and speakers in person, by phone or via Skype visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

twitter

Writing a cover letter (email) talent bookers will read

December 1, 2014

Dave – What’s up. I have a quick question. You’ve helped me in the past with the structure of my Bio and Resume by looking in your book, How To Be A Working Comic. My question now is, I’m trying to come up with a structured letter or email to send to bookers or comedy clubs to get booked. Something where I would also have a link to a page with me performing so they wouldn’t have to stop and pop in a DVD – unless they wanted one. Would your book have something like that or could you point me in the right direction? I would really appreciate it… man! – K.B.

PS – We all love your emails and words of wisdom! So keep’em coming!

Hey K.B.

First of all I’ll start with the “last of all” in your message. Thanks! I just want to help you guys get on stage.

What you’re talking about is a cover letter. It’s a “structured” introduction to you and an invitation to check out your video and performance credits for work. Most everyone uses “email” instead of mailing a “letter,” but we both know we’re talking about the same thing.

man-purple-suit-hair-laptop-laugh-looking-up-laughing-his-computer-41504077

Informative, yet funny? Yer killin’ me!

Writing the cover letter, (like the bio), can be almost as creative as your comedy material. Not everyone will agree with me on that, but I used to get a lot of cover letters with promo packages when I was booking A&E’s An Evening At The Improv and believe me, with so much competition to be noticed, the creative ones would catch my attention. If I had to read something, it might as well be informative AND fun.

You’re a comedian (or humorous speaker), so I would expect you to be a funny person. I would also expect to be entertained – at least a little bit. Just don’t make your cover letter an entire comedy monologue. The only exception would be if it’s really, REALLY funny. Otherwise, save your best bits for your promo video and on stage showcase.

You don’t want to make your cover letter too long and wordy. You should be able to introduce yourself (that’s what it’s for!) and say everything you want the reader to do (the purpose behind a cover letter) in just two or three short paragraphs. And while we’re talking about being concise and to the point, I also suggest newer comics and speakers keep their bios approximately 150 words. NACA and APCA applications (for college showcases) insist on that length. When you star in your own sitcom, you can have a three or four page bio.

But back to the cover letter…

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CLEVELAND Improv

Starts Saturday – January 10, 2015

Includes an evening performance at The Improv on…

Wednesday, January 28th

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Basically, you want to introduce yourself. If you have another comedian or booker as a reference, mention it somewhere toward the beginning. Then tell the booker you’ve heard nothing but GREAT things about his club and you would abandon your entire family and all worldly possessions to perform there.

clingy-man

Wait! I was only schmoozing!

Okay, maybe not in those desperate words – mainly because you don’t want to come off as too desperate. But it never hurts to send out a bit of good will and a compliment or two (great crowds, best comics, beautiful club, professional staff – pick one). Use your common sense on how you might kiss-up to the boss without sounding like a kiss-up. The showbiz term for it is schmoozing.

Mention a few of your most impressive credits. Don’t list every single club you’ve ever played – and just list the “best” ones on your resume. Did you win a contest? Have you played another major club? Headline a benefit show? Just a few – don’t go overboard.

If you don’t have a particular reference or “connection” to use at the beginning, you might still have a good recommendation. Comedians and speakers that perform for local organizations, benefits, schools – wherever (and yeah, sometimes for free), should always ask for a letter of recommendation. If you don’t – you should. Just take a line or two from one or two of those and put it in the body of your letter.

Jenny Comic was very funny and helped to make our fundraiser a success.” – (credit quote to person or organization – or both)

Then come right out and ask the booker to watch your promo video. Say it – don’t hint at it. ”Attached is a link to my video – or included is a DVD… please watch it… I’m sure you’ll enjoy it… I want to play your club…” (As always, use your own words).

If you’re doing this by email include a working link to your website that contains your video or a link for your video on YouTube (or similar service). If you’re sending a snail mail letter, highlight your website link in the body of your letter AND include a promo package with a DVD. As I’ve mentioned in past FAQs, just about everything now is done online and that’s the main reason How To Be A Working Comic was updated last year to include online promoting. But what is now found on websites is the same material outlined in earlier editions of the book and what you would find in an effective “hard-copy” promotional package.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

I’ve detailed this in the book, but I’ll list it again because every once in awhile you’ll still run into a booker who wants the old-fashioned promo package. This includes a photo, bio, resume and DVD in a two-pocket folder. To be on the safe side, have a couple of those prepared and ready to send if requested.

Now back to the cover letter… uh, email…

At the end of your message thank the booker for his time and (here’s the secret) instead of saying something along the lines of “I hope to hear from you soon,” TELL HIM (or HER) you’ll contact him within a certain time frame. Usually two weeks is good. This follow-up can be done by email, but I suggest a phone call. There’s a chance he’ll call you, but I wouldn’t hold my breath unless you have a solid gold reference from a major comedian or have already worked for a big-time talent booker. The idea is to keep the door open for you to contact the booker again. AND you’ve warned him in advance!

Now, this is where today’s article could turn into a book chapter about “playing the game” when contacting talent bookers and building a professional relationships. I’ve talked about that in past newsletters and will probably repeat myself in future ones. The focus behind today’s FAQ And Answer was to map out your cover letter.

too-much-emailRemember, you work in the entertainment business and should treat it that way – as a business. Creativity can be a major plus in promotions, but you also need to be professional about it.

Keep your cover letter (email) concise and to the point. Talent bookers get a lot of submissions and don’t have time to read through pages and pages of sample comedy routines, “how you’re going to change the face of comedy,” or “how you’ve been funny since birth.” Tell them what you’ve done, throw in a recommendation (if you have one or two) and that you would like to work for them. Then make it easy to find and watch your promo video.

That sounds like a “working” cover letter to me.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

———————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous SpeakersHow To Be A Working Comic and Comedy FAQs And Answers.

For information about these books, comedy workshops at The Cleveland Improv, and private coaching for comedians and speakers in person, by phone or via Skype visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Twitter

Booking corporate gigs: think big and start small

November 24, 2014

Hi Dave – I just joined your email list. I do humor and did my first two stand-up open mics… rough crowd. Someone threw a cup of ice at one of the other comedians. My goal: to get some gigs entertaining at travel conferences. I have a bunch of funny travel stories. Any idea who I approach? A booking agent? I’m new to this, so any thoughts are appreciated. – R.R.

Hey R.R. – Only one cup of ice and you call it a rough crowd? Welcome to the world of late night open mics. No wonder you want to perform at conference / corporate gigs. The audience is usually better behaved and the most they’d throw at you are icy stares if you’re not funny.

What you really need to concentrate on is getting more experience performing in front of an audience. Two stand-up open mics are a great start, but you need a LOT more. It’s key for working not only on your material, but also timing and delivery – and avoiding icy stares.

That can only be learned through on stage experience.

excited_cartoon

I love that topic!!

So in addition to getting more performing experience, my suggestion for you right now would be to focus on writing. Specifically – since you mentioned it – writing funny travel stories. It’s a topic that interests you and what you want to share with an audience.

After all, you mentioned it…

This is true for anyone that writes, whether it’s comedy material, a speaker’s presentation, short stories, epic novels… and the list goes on and on. If you don’t find it interesting, chances are your audience won’t either.

There are many different writing techniques to help you get started, or if you’ve already started, how to organize your efforts into a working comedy set or presentation. I’ve shared more than a few in past FAQs And Answers and organized the best ones in my book Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material (check out Amazon.com – it’s cheap… or as they say in the corporate world: inexpensive).

In the meantime, if you want to have a theme for your corporate programs pick topics that you know and really want to talk about. In your case, travel stories.

Start small.

What I mean by that is to work on coming up with a short five minute comedy set or humorous presentation. It’s like writing a book. You may have an outline for an entire novel, but you still have to write it one chapter at a time. To use an old saying to back me up:

“Don’t bite off more than you can chew.”

Put together what you feel is a great five minute presentation. Fill it out. Use colors (my favorite term for great descriptions). If it’s about travel – take the audience there with you through colors and experiences. And since we’re also talking about humor, be creative and funny with your writing.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

The next step is to try it out in front of an audience. If you’re a comedian, hit all the open mic clubs in your area as many times as they’ll let you on stage. If you’re a humorous speaker, volunteer to do your short presentation at area breakfast, lunch, or dinner meetings for business and social organizations.

For free.

will work for freeWhy free? Because it’s a  practice session for you. These places are doing YOU the favor – not the other way around.

I’ve written a lot about this concept in past FAQs And Answers. Business and social organizations are the open mic circuit for corporate comedians and humorous speakers and the best way to put together a presentation. But remember, keep it squeaky clean and G-rated (another concept I’ve shared a lot about in past articles).

That’s the ONLY way to work in this market. Don’t let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.

Once your five minutes works on an audience (gets laughs), start writing another five minutes and trying it out in front of more live audiences. Repeat the process. When that works, guess what?

You’ll have TEN minutes of working material.

For talent agents and event planners, the term conference means more than just a simple breakfast, lunch, or dinner meeting. It basically describes more of an event that can be spread out over time – for instance, a few days or an entire weekend – and can include training seminars, break-out sessions, field trips, banquets, entertainment, awards ceremonies, and other events that make up the entire conference.

And to have a successful conference, meeting planners want successful presentations from proven presenters. Make sense? It needs to if you want to work in the corporate market.

When it comes to entertainment (comedians and humorous speakers), corporate events usually book anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour of performance time. Keynote speakers, break-out sessions and training seminars are different types of programs than what your question pertains to, so I’ll save writing that epic article for another time.

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CLEVELAND Improv

Starts Saturday – January 10, 2015

Includes an evening performance at The Improv on…

Wednesday, January 28th

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Event planners will contact speakers bureaus, talent agencies, search the internet, watch videos, and ask other event planners or clients for recommendations. They want a comedian / entertainer / speaker that has proven he/she can provide the entertainment or message they need for this particular conference.

Why?

  1. Because they usually pay good money and want their money’s worth and…
  2. If this conference gets good word-of-mouth, everyone and more will want to attend their next one. That reeks of success in the business world!

The best way to break in is to think big and start small.

Focus on your material and get stage experience – first. Build your presentation or comedy set “chapter by chapter.” On stage experience will help develop your delivery style and timing. Get rid of material that doesn’t work and work on new material that does.

shortcutfortune

Found this in my fortune cookie

There’s no shortcut and any ‘working comic’ will tell you it takes time. The only way to do this is through continued writing and performing. The only way you’ll ever find out for sure if it works or not is from audience reaction. An audience will always let you know.

When it’s good, chances are no one will throw a cup of ice at the stage. Then again, in some late night open-mics that can be sign of approval.

It’s a process and hopefully this advice will take some time off the learning curve.

Finally, I wouldn’t think about contacting a booking agent until you’re truly confident you can deliver the goods. That means audience proven material from an experienced comedian or speaker.

You’ll have a good idea you’re ready when your free gigs start leading to paying gigs. Someone in the audience might hand you a business card after a performance and ask if you’re available for their next meeting or conference. I’ve seen it happen – a lot. And when it does, just be prepared to ask…

“Where, when and how much are you gonna pay me?”

When it happens on a consistent basis you’ll start building credits for event planners and booking agents. They might even consider working with you. Why? Because YOUR proven experience will help them attract paying clients.

I’ve seen it happen – a lot.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

———————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers, How To Be A Working Comic and Comedy FAQs And Answers.

For information about these books, comedy workshops at The Cleveland Improv, and private coaching for comedians and speakers in person, by phone or via Skype visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Twitter

What is corporate material?

November 17, 2014

Hi Dave – You talked last week about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. What is considered corporate material and what is not? – Johnny

Hey Johnny – You know what? I’ve never been asked that question in such a general way. Usually it’s more specific, such as a comedian or speaker asking if certain joke or material they’re planning to perform is appropriate for a corporate show.

Unpopular-OpinionI already know there will be a lot of different opinions about this topic, so maybe some of you will help me out…

Do you have any constructive thoughts or personal experiences about what is regarded as corporate material? Let me know and I’ll share them with everyone in a future FAQ and Answer.

But for right now – as a general answer to your general question – my experiences as both a booking agent and corporate speaker is to work clean. I’ve said that many times before, but I wouldn’t continue to say it if it wasn’t true.

Recently I’ve been following a debate on one of the popular social networks over whether or not the F-Bomb will soon be acceptable at corporate functions. If you ask me, the people spreading that opinion are a little more than F-Bombed themselves.

It’s not happening now and it won’t anytime soon.

Oh yeah, as always in showbiz there might be an isolated instance here or there for an “edgy” company (think MTV or Comedy Central) but if you want work regularly in the corporate market, then you work clean.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

That means no F-Bombs or any bits where F-Bomb is the focused activity. Got that?

Okay, so now that we know you must work clean in the corporate market, let’s get back to the real topic of your question. What type of material are they looking for?

A lot depends on the corporate function. It’s all about the theme

I’ve found through experience that stand-up comedians get booked more often for holiday parties and special events, like a retirement banquet or an awards ceremony. And yes, there are exceptions. But when I get calls from businesses looking for comedians those are the most often mentioned.

If you’re a comedian, it’s important to know the theme of the event. For instance, I’ve scheduled comedians to perform at corporate Christmas parties where the client wanted at least some mention of the holiday season. The comic can talk about his marriage, kids, sports, news events – whatever – for a lot of his act, then throw in some holiday jokes and the client is ecstatic. Other times the client might complain that he specifically wanted holiday jokes and doesn’t give an F-Bomb about the other material.

c2041ba3c8de11153581510940a96ad2

I don’t know Ray, but love his style!

I’ve also booked comedians for retirement banquets. The comics don’t even know the guy the company is retiring and feeding, but they know the audience wants laughs. The comics for this type of event are usually good at “roasting” and ad-libbing. But as usual, most companies will demand a clean show.

So it’s always good to know the theme and work that into the act. One way to do that is to talk with the client before the engagement to see what type of material they’re looking for. Again, for comedians it can be most anything because they’re considered entertainment. No business lessons, training or message is required. The job is to make the corporate audience laugh in a way that doesn’t embarrass the CEO or other head honchos (that means clean comedy).

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Humorous speakers are different. They already have a topic that fits into the corporate market. For instance, they may talk about stress relief, communications, networking, tech training, or even proper office attire. Believe me, there are a lot of different topics that can work within the themes of a lot of different corporate events.  Humorous speakers with a message can be hired to deliver keynotes, do break-out sessions, and half-day (or full-day) training seminars. With a humorous delivery they’re entertaining and delivering information (infotainment) at the same time. The material – the speaker’s topic – will be based on their expertise.

expertFor instance, if you’re an expert in communications – that’s what your material will consist of. If you’re an expert in technology, finance, marketing, selling – whatever – that’s what you will talk about.

That will determine what is corporate material for a humorous speaker. Get it?

Okay, like  I said earlier that was a pretty general question – but I hope my general answer helped. Now it’s up to you.

Any thoughts…?

—————————————————————————-

Comedy Workshops 

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s Fall 2014 Workshops at

The Chicago & Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs

SOLD-OUT!!

Winter 2015 dates TBA

Visit WEBSITE for more information

———————————————————-

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

 

Corporate comedian vs. humorous speaker

November 10, 2014

Hi Dave – I’m a comedian that has put his time in on the road. Roughly 15 years. I’ve been able to make ends meet with side jobs as a deejay radio personality. Why I’m writing you is because I’m getting too old to keep traveling for very little money and I’m very interested in getting into corporate shows and humorous speaking. I’m looking for help and according to you, networking is the best solution. Any advice will be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time – C.L.

Hey C.L. – I think at every stage of my career I’ve talked with comedians who were ready to get off the road. Some were sick of traveling and wanted a regular life, while others just wanted to pursue different career options that would include working in the corporate market as a comedian and/or speaker.

1349119737249.cached

You didn’t just say that – did you?

Others are true road warriors and have no intention of ever giving up traveling and performing – literally – around the world. Some enjoy living like rock stars (believe me, I’ve heard some wild stories that could make Mick Jagger blush), and others took advantage of what different cities could offer – such as art museums, sight seeing and shopping. I have a good (headliner) friend who tries to plans his winter road schedule around NBA games. He won’t play in a city unless the home team is in town and he can catch a game or two.

You mentioned pursuing a different career option to get off the road as a comedian. Doing corporate shows as a comedian or humorous speaker can be similar in many ways to working the road as a stand-up comedian, but also very different.

I’ve been told by too many comedians (and from personal experience) the corporate market pays more. You’re also not on the road as much. You can go to one location, do one show and then go home. On the comedy club circuit, you’re usually performing at one club for four or five nights in a row. If you’re “in demand” you’ll have a couple days off, then repeat the four or five day cycle.

Of course if you’re “in demand,” which also means earning good $$$’s you can take a few weeks off now and then. If you’re barely scraping by doing opening and feature spots, you might have to work as often as possible to pay for the house or apartment you’re rarely living in.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Maybe those are extreme examples, but you get my point. You can either love or hate working the road – the choice is yours.

I’ve talked a lot in past FAQs and Answers about breaking into the corporate market as a humorous speaker or comedian. And yeah, a lot of it is through networking. You have to let the buyers know you’re out there if you want the work. Some of this can be done through speakers bureaus (same as comedy booking agents only they don’t book clubs). But most of the work, especially when you’re starting out in the market, is done by YOU (add a drum rim shot just for the effect).

In a nutshell, here’s some quick advice:

1. You can be a corporate comedian and / or a humorous speaker. But you need to know that there’s a difference.

  • A corporate comedian is a comedian.
Z77mlKS

What’s so funny about that?

They can do their “act” – similar to what they do in a comedy club or personalize it for whatever company is hiring them – and entertain at corporate functions. These can be holiday parties, retirement banquets, award ceremonies, etc… Corporate comics can even be hired for corporate events to provide laughs and lighten-up the mood after all day business seminars.

Personal example. I was hired last year to do my pop culture program at the end of a two day medical conference. I know nothing about medicine and my audience was nothing but doctors. But it didn’t matter. They wanted something different to unwind after two days of training seminars and that’s what I was there for.

  • Humorous speakers should be funny AND have a message.

For instance, you can talk about almost any topic – computer software, finance, communications, alcohol awareness, politics, medicine, whatever – and find conferences that are doing seminars on those topics. You as a humorous speaker is staying within the theme of the conference, but also providing the entertainment.

2. Write CLEAN material.

Don’t even think of going for R-rated or X-rated material. You won’t work – period. Even PG-13 is pushing it.

Imagine you’re hired for a corporate event. You’re either doing stand-up or have a humorous presentation with a message. Then imagine the head honcho – the CEO of the company – and her husband (or his wife) are sitting at the main table. And just to raise the stakes, they are straight-edge, nearing retirement age (you’d find their grandchildren in comedy clubs), and basking in the glory of providing a business event in a family-style atmosphere (they let their employees imagine they’re like family to them).

Since these events are all about business – improving their business – and usually maintaining some sort of professional atmosphere, how are they (the CEOs that will sign your check) going to feel if you start dropping F-bombs and sex jokes in front of their family… uh, employees?

They most likely won’t feel like signing your check – or recommending you (networking) for future corporate gigs.

—————————————————————————-

Dave Schwensen’s Comedy Workshops 

Workshop Marquee 150

Fall 2014 Workshops at

The Chicago & Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs

SOLD-OUT!!

Winter 2015 dates TBA

Visit WEBSITE for more information

———————————————————-

3. Networking is a great way to be found for corporate gigs.

This is marketing and to be honest, I cover this in detail in my book How To Be A Working Comic (add another rim shot for a “not see it coming” book plug!)

Marketing / networking tools include:

  • Website (sorry, but Facebook doesn’t cut it)
  • A great promotional video
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Emails / mailing list
  • Postcards
  • Business cards
  • Blogs and newsletters
  • Cold calling (at least to start out)
  • Doing free gigs (at least to start out)

The last one – doing free gigs – is the same as doing open-mics when you’re starting out as a comedian. Work out your material in front of corporate-type audiences (I covered this in a past FAQ and Answer) to find what works and what doesn’t. It’s also where you’ll start your marketing efforts for paid gigs.

business card swap

Who’s in your wallet?

If someone likes you enough to inquire about your availability for a future event, give them a professional looking business card with your contact info and ask for one of theirs. Believe me, business people have them – and so should you if you’re serious about the business.

Okay as I said, this is just some basic (in a nutshell) info about working in the corporate market as a comedian or humorous speaker. It’s a different career, but when starting out and putting together the marketing (networking) process, it’s not that different from finding work as a comedian.

And just in case you’ve read this far and are really interested in this topic, here’s another rim shot worthy “not see it coming” plug for my online course on becoming a working corporate comedian. There’s a seven day free trial if you want to check it out…

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include writing corporate material, business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

 

Acting credits on a comedy resume?

November 3, 2014

Hi Dave – Last week you wrote about what credits can go on a comedy resume. I’m just getting into comedy and my resume is more for acting. Although acting is something I would love to do, comedy is my passion. I’m not sure how to make a comedy resume because I haven’t done anything worthwhile so far in comedy other than some shows I set up for my school and a few open mic nights. Can I take some of my acting credits and put it onto the comedic resume?” – Chris

b15796bd9edbe13808fe13bffdf1669aHey Chris – Of course comedy bookers are looking for comedy credits. School shows and open-mics count (at the beginning) because it shows you have stage time and are getting experience. Once you start doing “real clubs” those credits can be taken off and never mentioned again – ha!

BUT – and I expect some debate about this – I also believe acting credits have a place on comedy resumes.

Basically (as mentioned above) these credits show you have stage time and performing experience. These shouldn’t be at the top of your resume, unless it’s all you have at the moment, but can be listed following any comedy credits you might already have. Even after open-mics and school shows, which take preference over acting credits in a comedy resume.

An exception would be if you were starring or co-starring in a hit television show or movie. In that case you won’t even need a resume. What the heck – you don’t even need much comedy experience. Talent bookers will schedule a celebrity knowing the club will be in for at least one big $$$ weekend – even if he’s not funny. Audiences will pay at least once to see a celebrity. But once the word hits the street he’s not funny, a second time through the club circuit can be a difficult sell for the club owner.

—————————————————————————-

Only 2 spots still available!!

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance on Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

No repeat business and bad word of mouth is not good for business. 

But since you’re already concerned with building a comedy resume at this early stage of the game, I’ll assume you’ll have stage experience and a funny act by the time your acting credits land you on the cover of People Magazine.

I’ve had comedians send me resumes that include credits from doing soap operas, Off-Off-Waaaaaay Off-Off Broadway shows, television commercials, voice overs, community theater, and school talent shows. With a lack of comedy performing credits, it shows they are still involved in “showbiz” and have at least been on stage in front of an audience.

I mentioned this last week, but I’ll repeat myself…

mtv-beavis-butthead

Let me tell you something funny…

You would be surprised at the number of resumes – and videos – I used to receive as submissions for A&E’s An Evening at the Improv with NO real credits at all. I’m talking about nothing! There were videos were filmed in someone’s living room with NO audience and the “comic” was sitting in a chair talking into a camera…

I’ll repeat myself again. NO audience! That’s a great way to prove you have NO experience.

But they were still trying to get work as comedians.

I’m an active supporter in helping people achieve their goals, but I don’t know any comedy bookers that would hire someone without onstage (in front of an audience) experience. Unless, of course, you want to refer to my above thoughts about booking a celebrity for a big payday.

Listing your acting credits shows you have something going for you as far as showbiz experience. Based on resumes I’ve seen over the years from working comics, include them until you have enough real comedy credits to take their place.

There’s also more information about writing resumes and bios in my book How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy. I’m not trying to sell you a copy to make a big payday – I just wanted you to know. Your local library should have a copy or can find one for you.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Start collecting your performing credits

October 28, 2014

Hey Dave – I’m trying to put together a resume for my comedy stuff. I’ve only been doing comedy for a few months and just a lot of open mics. Should I bother with a resume at this point? – Bob

Hey Bob – In all reality, since you’ve been doing comedy for only a few months, it wouldn’t be a good idea to throw yourself into the competition as a “professional comedian looking for work.” So there really is no point in having a resume – yet.

Yeah, I know there are exceptions. For instance, you might have the “right contacts” after a couple months to score a gig hosting your frat brother’s bachelor party or have a friend of a friend ask you to do a few minutes at a local benefit show. But since you’re still in the very early stages of developing both your writing and performing style, you probably shouldn’t charge a fee for that. Be thankful for the on stage experience. If they want to be generous and throw you a few bucks, consider it a donation toward your career goal rather than a paycheck.

Funny-Jimi-Hendrix-PictureDon’t get me wrong because these gigs still count as valuable experience, which is what you need to get ahead in this business. But these very early performances don’t exactly grant you admission into the ranks of professional comedians.

Am I being a too blunt, cold-hearted or closed minded about this – classifying you as a “non-professional” without even seeing you perform? Not really.

Every talent booker that wants to keep his job knows experience counts. You’ve only been in this for a few months. The comedians you see in the legit comedy clubs, on the college circuit, and doing corporate gigs have a LOT of experience and have paid a LOT of dues to get there. In fact, I doubt any of them would disagree when I say they’ve put in YEARS of work dealing with rejection, bad nights, bad breaks, hard knocks, hack jokes, idiot hecklers, and shows that make them feel (as George Wallace described in my book Comedy FAQs And Answers) like they want to drive off a bridge after the gig because they’ve bombed so bad.

But now that I’ve said all that and (hopefully not) deflated your ego or crushed your comedy dreams, there’s no reason why you can’t start building a resume NOW. In fact, I think it’s a pretty good idea.

You have to start somewhere when your goal is to score paid bookings. No booker is going to hire a comedian with no experience. As I also say in Comedy FAQs And Answers and have often repeated in these articles:

They may call it amateur night, but nobody’s looking to hire an amateur.

—————————————————————————-

Only 3 spots still available!!

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance on Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Bookers know the deal about working your way up the comedy ladder. You have to start somewhere and it’s NEVER at the top, which would be headlining in a legitimate comedy club. Yeah, I’ve known a few “acts” (term used loosely in this case) that had rich, famous, or connected parents and thought they could buy their way into the exclusive professional comedians club. In one case I saw firsthand, the act had daddy schmooze or practically buy the club to get his wanna’be famous son on stage. But it didn’t work. Junior may have had a joke writer, director and daddy’s agent, but he hadn’t paid his dues to become an experienced comic. He hadn’t developed his comedy voice – including timing, delivery and an ability to work with and off of an audience.

He was an actor acting like a comedian. Once the novelty of booking an act with a famous parent wore off, there were more experienced comics that talent bookers knew were better at entertaining – and therefore, better in the long run for business.

Waiting-in-Line-Outside-N-007

How to stay in business…

A club’s reputation depends on providing great shows. To stay in business it must be profitable (paying customers). Inexperience doesn’t sell unless it’s billed as “amateur night” or “open-mic night.” And even then many clubs can only make those nights work (profitable) by making them “bringer shows.”

Wow, isn’t it amazing how I can go off on a tangent by just trying to answer a simple question? If you’ve stayed with me so far, let me get back on track…

YES – if you want to become a professional working comic, now is a good time to start putting together your resume. And in case you’re not sure what goes into a comedy resume, it’s a list of your performing credits as a comedian.

In the beginning of your career it can include:

A list of your comedy performances and the venues. If you haven’t played any true comedy clubs, list open-mics. Talent bookers from out of the area may not have heard of any of them, but that doesn’t matter. This list shows you have at least some stage experience.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

When you’re starting out in the business you’re only looking for a showcase (audition) or a gig as an opening act in a comedy club. You don’t need to have headlined or even featured (middle act) at The Improv or other known clubs to be considered as an opening act. You need to be funny AND show the talent booker you have enough stage experience so you won’t suffer a meltdown when you walk on stage in front of a live audience. If you’re funny and show enough stage presence to pass the audition, but all you have are open-mic credits – then that’s what you’ll list on  your resume as experience.

List them under the header Clubs or Open-mics.

If you have plenty of open-mics and have also done shows outside of these clubs – list them under separate headers. You can have one titled Benefit Shows or Special Events.

You can also add any comedy workshops or seminars you’ve attended. If it includes a comedy club performance, put that on your resume. But be honest! Add the disclaimer that it was a workshop or seminar performance. It still shows experience – and in this case, “guided” experience from a coach. That can be more influential to a talent booker than flying blind through a string of late night, unheard of open-mics.

You can list these under Workshops and/or Training.

8-rings

“A guy rides into a bar…”

Do you have special talents you use on stage? This could be anything that helps you get laughs from an audience including singing, doing accents, playing guitar, balancing stuff, juggling stuff, riding a unicycle, setting yourself on fire – whatever. If it’s in your act it’s a Special Talent or Special Skill and can be on your resume.

This will also give bookers a better idea of what you do on stage.

Now here’s the deal. This is how you start and build a comedy resume. BUT you want to keep replacing lesser credits with “known” credits. For instance, it’s great to have Johnny’s Yuk-A-Torium and five or six other open-mics on your resume to show experience. But do your best to eventually replace them with credits from legitimate comedy clubs, (The Improv, Zanies, Funny Bone, Comedy Zone, etc.). But until you get on those stages, use whatever you have, open-mics, benefit shows, frat parties, to show you have experience and have not just been doing stand-up in your living room in front of a video camera.

And yeah – someone once sent me an audition tape for A&E’s An Evening At The Improv direct from his living room. Did he get the show? Nope. It was obvious to me he had no on stage experience.

Here’s a good rule to remember – don’t try to move up the ladder too fast.

You’ll need a lot more than a few months to become an experienced act and ready for the best stages. But you can start keeping track of your performing credits now and have a decent list when you’re ready to start showcasing. The experience you get while putting together a decent list of comedy clubs for your resume will eventually help you break out of open-mics and into the world of paying gigs.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Showcases can be a ticking time bomb

October 21, 2014

Last week’s FAQ and Answer was about staying within – sticking to – the amount of time you’ve been given to perform on stage. If you missed it, the article is still posted through the link below. One question that wasn’t sent in, but I’ve been asked quite a bit is about showcase times. To be more specific, why are showcase performances usually so short?

time-is-running-outYou don’t have enough time to prove how good you really are – right?

To clarify for anyone just getting into the comedy or speaking biz, showcase is another word for audition. A successful showcase can lead to work (auditioning for talent bookers, event planners, etc.) or representation (auditioning for a talent agent or manager).

Why use the word showcase? I dunno… maybe it sounds more professional or less stressful, but it means exactly the same as audition.

I’ve been involved in a lot of showcases for comedy clubs, television shows, corporate events and college gigs. And here’s a behind-the-scenes truth about this business. The industry people – talent bookers, agents and managers – looking to hire or represent performers want to make the most of their on the job time. In other words, they don’t want to spend every night of the week going to a club and only seeing one performer showcasing each night. It makes much more sense (time management) to see a number of performances during one show.

They also don’t want to sit through ten, twenty or thirty minute sets when it’s obvious within the first three minutes the showcasing performer is not what they are looking to hire.

This is why industry showcases include numerous performers doing short sets. For instance…

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

When I was auditioning comedians for the television show A&E’s An Evening At The Improv, I would schedule showcases for Monday evenings at The Improv on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. I’d block out about 35 minutes to see ten comics do three minutes each. The extra five minutes would be a buffer for MC introductions and time for the acts to get on and off the stage. If everyone kept to their time – and it was more than just expected they would – then Mission Showcase would be accomplished.

Within that short period of time ten comedians would have an opportunity to book a television show.

And it wasn’t just me in the audience on Monday nights watching the showcase. There were talent bookers for The Tonight Show, HBO, MTV and other shows and networks checking out the new comics. They knew this was happening on Monday evenings and everyone could all get a lot of work done in a little over half an hour.

But it was never a surprise when some of the comics complained that three minutes was not enough time to showcase their talent. But you know what?

They were wrong.

images

No sweat!

Three minutes is PLENTY of time for an experienced talent booker to know whether or not they want to hire the showcasing performer. In my case, if you couldn’t prove you were ready to perform on A&E’s An Evening at the Improv within three minutes (to be honest it was more like within 30 seconds) then you weren’t right for that particular show. This was also true for the other talent bookers watching these showcases.

If a comedian couldn’t demonstrate what he can do on stage within the first three minutes, there was NO WAY a talent booker will hire him to do those same three minutes on a television show. Even if the comic suddenly became hysterically funny at the end of this showcase – the first three minutes will have lost viewers channel surfing for better entertainment.

It’s similar to auditioning for American Idol, The Voice or So You Think You Can Dance. Before anyone makes it to the televised episodes, thousands of hopefuls showcase in front of one, two or maybe three judges off-camera for (trust me on this because I’ve been there) much less than three minutes. If performers can’t impress the judges within that time frame – they can forget about moving on in the competition.

Lesson? If you think you have what it takes to get on any of those shows, don’t waste any time during your showcase. Bring your A Game and go for it asap.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

It’s also important to realize this is your opportunity as a performer or humorous speaker to make a good first impression with the industry people. It shows you’re professional by knowing the importance of sticking to a schedule – their schedule. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read last week’s article.

Another reason to stick to your showcasing time is consideration for your fellow comedians or speakers.

It doesn’t matter if your showcase is done in front of a large audience, like we did at the Hollywood Improv, or just a few judges similar to Last Comic Standing, The Voice and American Idol. Anyone watching a lot of performers doing short performances will get burned-out faster than if they were watching one great performer during the same time frame.

For example, Jerry Seinfeld can do an hour set and leave the audience wanting more. He’s a seasoned professional entertainer. No one can argue that. But newcomers won’t have the experience or material to hold an audience that long. It takes time – stage time – and talent to reach that status. And if you’re already there – like Seinfeld – then you wouldn’t be showcasing anyway.

And no one can argue that either…

So one way to make these talent showcases fair (there’s a word you don’t often hear in showbiz) is to keep the talent bookers and audience from being burned-out for the later performers. It’s not fair to the performers at the end of the showcase. Here’s another example…

During my comedy workshops ten aspiring comedians perform five minute sets during our evening graduation show. That’s 50 minutes – not including an MC warming up the crowd for ten minutes to kick things off and doing short introductions for each comic. That brings our show to over an hour, which is getting into Seinfeld territory on stage.

The audience is fresh and excited in the beginning. And by keeping each comedian’s set short and funny, chances are the audience will not get burned-out by the end. There may be performers they don’t care as much for, but the next one will be on stage within a few minutes. The audience interest level can be held.

time is up concept clockAt one workshop performance a few years ago, the FIRST comic in our show – for whatever reason – never took his eyes off the first few rows of tables. He kept his head down and never looked at the people seated in the back. He had been told to watch for my signal from the sound booth (back of the room) telling him his five minutes were almost up and to finish his performance.

Except he NEVER looked up. He kept his head down and didn’t stop talking.

He had a good five minutes – which is what he had created during our workshop. He had been prepared and did a good job. But when he finished his five minutes, he just kept rambling on. He didn’t stop talking.

Suddenly, it wasn’t funny. In fact – it was the complete opposite. The audience lost interest. You could see them breaking up into small discussion groups at their tables, looking at the menus and trying to order drinks to ease their pain.

When he ran out of things to say, he finally left the stage. The audience had already checked out mentally and the comedian who was unfortunate enough to have the next spot had to work TWICE as hard to get the audience back (get them to pay attention). It was not an easy night for either comic – or even the next few that had to follow this showcase killing disaster.

The comic that went long found me at the back of the room. He had lost track of time and had no idea how many minutes he’d been on stage. So when he asked me how he did, I had to give him an honest answer:

“You did ten freaking minutes!” I said.

Okay, I hope I didn’t sound as angry as that looks. But I was being honest. I took time to explain how what he had done affected the show. It really wasn’t fair to anyone that night – including him, especially since the first five minutes of his set was great. The additional time he did onstage (unprepared in advance) left an impression with the audience that he wasn’t very good after all.

As far as I know he’s still doing comedy and since talent bookers are hiring him, I know the lesson was learned.

So whether you’re showcasing or doing a paid gig, remember the importance of time. It’s a ticking time bomb – and we all know how comedians and speakers HATE to bomb!!

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up Comedy, Comedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Stick to your time on stage

October 13, 2014

Hey Dave – Without revealing my secret identity, I heard you talking not too long ago and know you were pretty upset with a comedian who went over his time and was on stage too long. It’s probably safe to say he overstayed his welcome. Care to elaborate? – G.

Hey G – What are you? A secret agent with a secret identity listening to my not-so-private conversations? Oh well, I guess it could be worse. Instead of a sleazy private eye snooping on me, you could be a self-centered comedian – or humorous speaker – who goes over his allotted time on stage.

images-7Want to kill a potentially great relationship with a comedy club or make sure you’re never invited back for a return gig at a college or corporate event? When you’re given the light (the signal) to end your set and leave the stage – ignore it. Go ahead and do another 15 minutes, half an hour, an hour… or two… Everyone will surely love and worship your amazing and boundless talent that you’re compelled to share so unselfishly for however long your ego needs to be stroked on stage.

And in case you don’t recognize sarcasm in the written word, insert a capitalized “NOT!” after that last sentence. In a creative profession that thrives on having ”no rules” (being original and unique is a big plus) going over your time on stage breaks a big business rule – and is a big minus.

As always there are exceptions that depend on your status within the industry and everyone starting out in the business needs to realize that. There are fundraising efforts – that are planned in advance – to set records for time on stage. I’m pretty sure the current one is still held by comedian Bob Marley who did forty hours of stand-up a few years ago and raised $12,000 for the Portland Maine Barbara Bush Hospital.

That’s truly awesome, but not what we’re talking about today.

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

Another exception is having your own hit television show or enough name recognition to sell out theaters and arenas. That’s like being the favorite child or grandchild. You get special privileges.

For instance, a major star like Dave Chappelle can go for a (then) world record on stage, as he did in 2007 at LA’s Laugh Factory, (over 6 hours). He broke the record set not long before that by Dane Cook (almost 4 hours) who – as you know – is another major star.

Stars of their magnitude can stay on stage as long as they like – when it’s their headlining show in a theater, arena or (sometimes) a club. That’s the power of star power. It’s like seeing Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, or U2 perform three hour concerts. Their fans are into it, paid big money to see that particular artist, and these acts have the material to entertain for that length of time.

pointing at watchBut until you’re working within that stratosphere of popularity, stick to your time on stage.

Reasons why? As always, I’m glad you asked…

It’s a business – which is a fact I emphasize in many of these FAQ’s and Answers. Some club owners are in the entertainment biz because they enjoy it and like to nurture and promote new talent. Others are only in it to make money. But the bottom line for both is if they don’t make money – and yes, this includes the nurturing types – they go out of business. When a club goes out of business, comedians have one less place to work.

Clubs earn money selling tickets, selling food and drinks – and keeping expenses (rent, utilities, inventory, payroll, etc…) under control. The comedian you reminded me of in this week’s FAQ – and I won’t mention his name – actually told club management after the show that he was doing them a favor by going more than an HOUR over his scheduled time on stage. He pretty much wanted a “thank you” for giving the serving, kitchen and bar staff more time to sell food and drinks.

That consideration for the club deserves a bigger laugh than any he received on stage. After all, Dumb and Dumber was a popular movie and now this comic is the live version. Good thinking! (Again – this is written sarcasm so please add a big “NOT!”).

You know why? Because the business doesn’t work that way…

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Shows at this particular club (a world famous comedy club) are timed. Staff arrives at a certain time, the doors open at a certain time, the show starts at a certain time and the comedians – opening act, feature act and headlining act – are given set times. The headliners, of course, are the privileged members of the family, but most know how the business works. As Steve Martin said in The Jerk:

“I get it… It’s a profit deal!”

The behind the scenes business – kitchen crew, servers, food-runners, bars, box office, security, management – revolve around the show schedule. For instance, the box office closes when the headliner goes on so customers won’t complain about getting ripped-off when buying a ticket after the show has started. So that profit opportunity for the club is ended when the headliner walks on stage.

Are you following me so far? Good, because I’m not done yet…

images-9A sad fact about the nightclub biz is that some people like to skip out on their checks. In other words – if they can sneak out without paying they’re getting a free night out. The truth is that in most cases the servers – the waiters and waitresses – are stuck with these checks and have to pay for these uncollected profits out of their own pockets. They foot the bill and end up paying for these jerks (and I’m not referring again to Steve Martin) to have a fun night out.

Not fair – is it?

This is why comedy clubs have “check spots.” Experienced comedians know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s when the checks are put on the tables to be paid by the customers. The show doesn’t (or shouldn’t) end until all the checks are paid – by the customers. That makes it difficult for deadbeat customers to blend in and sneak out with the customers that have already paid. It’s a sad truth about the nightclub business.

So based on the time allotted for the show, last call (for ordering drinks and food) is given when there is still enough time during the headlining comedian’s set to give customers their checks – check spot – and collect the money. No more drinks or food are served after last call because the checks are paid-up and closed. When the show ends and the final comedian has walked off the stage, customers can head to the bar or another club if they want to continue drinking and eating.

This means the final two profit opportunities for the club – food and drinks – has ended.

But what about keeping expenses under control? When the staff has finished serving and collecting paid-up checks, they have to hang around and wait for the show to end and the customers to leave. And while they’re hanging around waiting, they’ve also lost any opportunity to earn additional tips because the checks are closed and they can’t start new ones for thirsty customers because no one knows when the show will end.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

In the case of the comedian referred to above, that meant the staff waited around for an hour – on the clock and getting paid by the club owner – before they could finish their shifts, shut down the club and leave.

Doesn’t make great business sense for a good business plan – does it?

I’m sure you can imagine the chaos this can cause for clubs that have two or three shows on a weekend night. If the first show runs even 10 or 15 minutes late because a comic goes over his time, the audiences coming in for the later shows don’t know this. They’re on time and lined-up to enter the showroom, while the earlier audience is still inside. When they’re leaving the new audience is trying to get in… Well, I’ll refer to another Steve Martin quote that also works from the management point of view when it comes to crowd control…

MI0000162145Comedy is not pretty.

I don’t need to tell you what the management and staff are saying behind the back of the comedian that went long. I’ll just let you know it is not pretty.

The same holds true for corporate and college performers.

These business people and students are usually on a schedule. It could be a class, dinner, cocktail hour / social time – whatever. The contracts I’ve seen for these types of gigs are very strict in their performance times. Go short (leave the stage before completing the time you’re contracted for) and the clients won’t want to pay you. Go long and they won’t even think of booking you for a return engagement since you’ve disrupted the event schedule.

Of course there are other reasons why you must stick to your time on stage. The No. 1 reason for beginning comics and speakers is to prove to talent bookers and club management you understand how important this is and won’t cause a potential nightmare in the future. But in an effort not to take longer than expected when you started reading, I’ll stick to my time and sign off. I think you get the idea.

——————————————————————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing

Editing your promo video

October 6, 2014

Hi Dave – What is considered acceptable when editing your demo reel? I filmed a set last week that’s pretty good, but there are a couple spots where I didn’t get the audience reaction I had hoped for. I also messed up a joke and really don’t want it on the tape. Is honesty the best policy and should I send the whole set unedited? Thanks – D.

Hey D. – Honesty is always the best policy, but sometimes being too honest is too much. If you normally have great sets, then you honestly want that represented on your video / DVD / demo reel. But if great sets are few and far between, then sending out an edited video making you look like the next coming of Jerry Seinfeld is not going to help you in the long run.

images

Gimme another chance!

In fact, if a booker hires you or gives you a showcase off a great video and it’s obvious during your performance you can’t back it up, chances are you’re not going to get a second chance.

And by the way, it’s easier for me to refer to your demo reel as a “video” since that’s the term comedians, speakers and bookers have been using since Dave Chappelle was an open-mic comic. He was 14 when he started, so we’re going back a way in comedy history. But as I mentioned in an earlier FAQ and Answer, video tape is considered an antique and promotional videos now are either online or on DVD.

Now if you really want to get technical, a sizzle reel is what producers and show-runners (sometimes the same?) use to promote ideas for sitcoms, reality shows and other television projects to potential sponsors (advertisers). But I’m never one to get too technical. Just thought I’d mention that…

Ideally, you want to present an unedited video.

—————————————————————————-

Workshop Marquee 150

Dave’s next comedy workshop at The CHICAGO Improv

Starts Saturday – November 8, 2014

Includes an evening performance at The Chicago Improv on…

Wednesday, December 3rd

Visit WEBSITE for details, reviews and to register now!

———————————————————-

That’s seamless gold – but sometimes seemingly impossible. There’s always going to be something going on in a club that you can’t control like people arriving late, talking in the back, ordering drinks, spilling drinks and yadda-yadda-yadda. There might also be tech problems with the sound system – or even a joke that always kills, but for some reason doesn’t work the night you’re taping. It happens.

Film_editing

My good side has to be on here somewhere!

So when it happens – something in your set that’s not truly representative of what you do on stage – then yeah, edit it out. Almost everyone does. I can’t remember the last time I watched an unedited video submission. But even though I know it and the comedian knows it – the best videos don’t make it so obvious.

Good edits make it look seamless. (Sorry, I feel your pain and will stop with the wordplay).

That’s also difficult to do unless you pay big bucks to a professional editor or have editing equipment and know how to use it. And yeah, I know there are some more youthful computer wizards right now shaking their heads in disbelief. I have a teenage son and he can film, edit and post a music video on YouTube in less time than it takes me to write these ramblings. If you can do that, pocket your big bucks and get to work. But if you’re old school (a term I’ve heard often from my youthful kids)…

There are a lot of editing programs for computers and tablets available and most of them are not even that expensive. In the long run, it would be worth the learning time and investment to do your own editing because your video should always be current and representative of your act or presentation. It doesn’t do you any good sending out a year-old video you’ve paid a professional editor big bucks to fix if you’re not even doing that material any more.

You should also be a better comic or speaker than you were a year ago and need to show that.

————————————————————————————-

Sign up now through this LINK for Dave’s free newsletter

81GJkRCQdZL._SL1500_

Receive 20% off at Amazon.com for How To Be A Working Comic

———————————————————————————

I won’t get into specifics on editing, though I am pretty good at it (if I do say so myself). But here’s a good rule to follow:

Don’t make a LOT of edits and don’t make your video look like it has a LOT of edits.

images-4

The best policy

Make sense? It’s okay to cut out a few flaws here and there, but if it’s a jumpy looking set because one moment you’re standing on one side of the stage and the next you’re on the other side – or if you’re wearing different clothes for each joke (a telltale sign it wasn’t all taped the same show) then no booker will take you seriously. Instead of thinking you’re a great comic or speaker, they’ll be wondering what you’re trying to hide with so many edits. They might also think you did a half hour set just to get seven minutes of presentable material and would not be willing to hire (pay for) the other 23 minutes they’ll assume didn’t work.

So my advice is to make edits – we all do – when truly necessary. In other words, when the parts cut out are honestly not representative of your typical performance. But too many obvious edits will look too suspicious to bookers. The key to remember is when someone is hiring you to perform, they want to know what they’re paying for. Your goal as a comedian or humorous speaker is to show them. Honestly.

————————————————–————————–

An 8-week online course

Topics include business tools, networking & promotion

Corp Program Square Banner 150

7 Day FREE trial - CLICK HERE for details!

————————————————–—————————

Dave Schwensen is the author of How To Be A Working Comic: An Insider’s Business Guide To A Career In Stand-Up ComedyComedy FAQs And Answers: How The Stand-Up Biz Really Works, and Comedy Workshop:Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers.

For details about upcoming comedy workshops at the Chicago and Cleveland Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2014 – North Shore Publishing


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,215 other followers