Doing new material for a comedy contest

February 8, 2016

Hey Dave – I won a spot in the amateur contest finale show next week. My question to you is this: I used my same set that you saw and it rocked. Should I go back there with that exact same set or a completely new one untested? Can I put in a few new bits and keep the rest the same? Thanks for your time – N.D.

Hey N.D. – That’s great news – congrats! Good things can happen when you “rock” on stage.

To answer your question, I’ll need to rely on what I’ve been told by too many comedians and behind the scenes people over the years. I’ve been involved with many auditions, which are different than contests. At an audition the comedians would do about five to seven minutes to be considered for a booking. When I was in Los Angeles it was three to five minutes when auditioning for most of the television shows, including The Tonight Show and on down the list.

comedy stage

What gets you there?

We didn’t see the same material twice because there were no preliminaries and finals like in a comedy contest. The comic either got the gig or didn’t. If one of one of the talent bookers wanted to see the comic again it meant he/she was interested, but also wanted to see different material.

In comedy contests you have to know “what got you there” and what will keep you around until the end. In my book Comedy FAQs And Answers I asked the same question to an important Hollywood television producer (you’ll have to read the book to find out). His answer?

Always go with your A-Game.

In other words, never do an audition, showcase or (important) contest with untested material. Otherwise just consider it “stage time” (practice) and use it as that. Use it to work on material, delivery, timing, stage fright or whatever you need to improve to get better.

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Comedy Workshops March – April 2016

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The Tampa Improv Comedy Club starts March 5

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But since you’re excited by going this far in the contest you should follow the above advice. Go with your A-Game and don’t do the untested set.

Since this is during a live show and not a repeat performance in front of a small panel of judges you’re going to have a different audience. So don’t worry about people having heard your material earlier. And as for the club staff, the hard workers behind the scenes are there every night and know many comedians do essentially the same act every show.

But now we’ll throw a little variation into the mix…

Comedians – good comedians anyway – are creative artists. I’ve said that many times before because it’s true. They are constantly writing and constantly anxious to try out new material to see how an audience will react. Many of my favorites that I’ve seen dozens of times over the years always have something new to say. But they also know “what got them there” as far as paid bookings and fans. They already know through experience what material is proven to work, whether it’s a great opening, closing or a solid punch to the funny bone in the middle of their set, and they’ll deliver it.

When a comedian does a Comedy Central special, you can bet the material has been tried out more than a few times before the show is filmed. The stakes are too high and no one including the comedian, management, producer, network and beyond can afford a “bomb.” It wouldn’t help anyone’s career.

But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…

You are going up in an amateur contest next week, which isn’t Comedy Central, but it can also be an important step in your career. If your creativity is telling you to try something new, it’s probably a good idea to try it out somewhere else first. Do some open mics and get a feel for the delivery and audience response. It’s what you did anyway in putting together the material that “got you there” and the process shouldn’t stop now.

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When it comes to the contest performance, do the material that really works best. If it’s the same set you did it at the earlier show, the new audience won’t know. And unless the contest judges requested something new – and obviously they didn’t or we wouldn’t be having this discussion – they should make their decisions based on audience response. Of course it doesn’t always happen that way, but your main goal should be entertaining the audience. If you get a great response and don’t get crowned the winner (especially by Steve Harvey) it’s not the end of the world – or your career.

talentYou still win. You’ve had more stage time, which is an opportunity to get better. And as far as I know and from what I’ve been told, that’s what’s important to a creative artist.

Remember what got you there – a set that rocked. You want to rock again and that could be a crapshoot for a newer comedian with untested material. In these situations give them your best – your A-Game. But keep writing and looking for more opportunities to get on stage because in the long run, that’s how you’ll put together the material “that got you there” if Comedy Central ever calls.

Comment? Please use the form below. Thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing.

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Use humor to get corporate gigs part 2

January 24, 2016

I just completed a comedy workshop and also I’m reading your book How To Be A Working Comic. I would also like to learn about humorous presentations and keynote opportunities. – Sincerely, EM

Okay, if you’re following along that’s the same question from our last newsletter. You’ll also remember the answer was getting a bit long and the executive decision was made to break it up into two parts. If you’d like to check out Part 1 just scroll down.

To continue where we left off…

Now, before you shake your head and think I’m nuts because there’s “no way” you could ever relate to corporate event themes, here’s a news update:

Chances are you can.

Identify_Your_AudienceI say that because I’ve worked with and watched dozens of talented local and national comedians turn themselves into corporate comedians or humorists by taking their comedy material and focusing it on the audience and the event.

They’ve done this through simple research. Usually by emailing a short survey to the event planner or a phone interview with the client. They find out the “theme” for the event, the company’s product and the focus of the conference training seminars. Then they can take this information and see how his/her existing comedy material relates.

Stop shaking your head because I’m not done yet. For example…

If you have a family you’re probably an “expert” on communications, team building and customer service. Yeah, it may sound ridiculous because it might only be about communicating with your parents, spouse, kids or other relatives. But since these are important topics within the “business world” and focused on during the conference, your performance would be “entertainment” that is based on the “theme.”

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The topics are the same. You’re just relating to them in a different way as a comedian. Put focus on the conference theme (ex: the importance of communicating) and how you deal with it on a personal level (ex: “I don’t understand how my family communicates“) and it becomes info-tainment.

Still shaking your head? I’ll continue…

A couple years ago I did a breakout session at a medical conference. And here’s a confession – I ain’t no doctor. But one of the conference topics was stress relief. I’m a comedy coach and talk about humor. One of the benefits of humor is relieving stress. I was the only person in the room without a medical degree, white coat and stethoscope – and probably the only one that got paid for that particular hour. I made sure my topic – finding humor in stressful situations – related to their event.

StoogesMy topic, or expertise, was a good example of what the doctors were talking about in their training seminars (info) and we had more than a few laughs (entertainment).

The event planner may have hired a big-time keynote speaker or high-priced entertainer for a highlight event during the conference, but to make it a highlight they would probably need big-time doctor credentials (keynote) or television credits (entertainer). If you can compete for those gigs then go for it. Otherwise, start thinking about how your comedy expertise can get you booked for one of the many other (paying) speaker opportunities.

A stand-up comedian who doesn’t customize his material for the event can still get hired as the entertainment. A humorous speaker can be hired for keynotestraining seminarsbreak out sessions – and as the entertainment.

What this means is that you don’t need to work laughs into a strict business training program about… well, corporate stuff such as taxes, law, productivity, networking, increasing sales and all that. If you have experience in those fields and can speak as a “trainer” with humor you should be in demand. But even if you don’t, you might have comedy material that is relatable to those topics. So find a creative way to relate what you already talk about to the audience and the event.

This is another way of saying know your audience.

The topic of the conference could be anything from business techniques such as learning power point or relieving office stress, to more personal topics like juggling a family and a career, to improving your golf game.

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Were you ever a parent, child, golfer, lawyer, teacher, minister, truck driver, bartender or anything other than a comedian? Then you have a business or personal topic you can share. Talk about your business or personal experiences (I’ll bet you already do in your act) while making it funny and entertaining, and you’ll be considered a humorous speaker.

For example…

I’m sure a comedian with teaching experience would have some very funny stories and advice to share if team-building was a corporate breakout session topic. So would soccer moms and dads, military vets, sports fans, frat boys, factory workers, gang members – and anyone else that has ever been part of a team.

This also works if you have a particular message.

Have you or anyone close to you survived a disease, injury or other tragedy? I hate to list those suggestions as moneymakers, but I’ve seen many comedians on the corporate and college circuits turning negatives into positives as humorous motivational speakers. If your story can help someone else – then it’s worthy of telling. And if you can make it entertaining, your audience will tend to listen and “get” your message. The same idea holds true for insights on bullying, alcohol awareness and other important topics. Do you have experience in these fields? Talk, share, motivate, teach, train and entertain as a comedian.

That’s what sells in the corporate market.

The idea is not to be limited to only going for the corporate entertainment gigs that seem to peak during holidays and slow down the rest of the year. If your material and performance relates to the event and is funny you’ll find more opportunities for work.

I’ll talk more about this topic in the coming weeks because I have a lot to share. But here’s another big chunk of advice that I’ve shared numerous times in earlier newsletters.

Keep it clean!

For corporate shows, we’re talking G and PG (at the max) rated. Don’t even try to test that warning in an attempt to prove me wrong. You won’t – and you also won’t work corporate gigs where you can make more money in an hour than you can during an entire weekend at a comedy club.

And if you remember how we started in Part 1 of this discussion, that’s a correct answer to a big-money topic. And now for my brilliant callback…

I guess I should’ve been a game show host.

Comment? That’s what the form below is for.

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing.

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Use humor to get corporate gigs

January 11, 2016

Mr. Schwensen – I just completed a comedy workshop and also I’m reading your book How To Be A Working Comic. I would also like to learn about humorous presentations and keynote opportunities. – Sincerely, EM

Hey EM – First of all, I write these newsletters for a bunch of funny comedians and humorous speakers. We’re not exactly standing up on the top tier of formality in our biz, so “Mr. Schwensen” and “Sincerelywill have to go. Our favorite terms of endearment are…

Well, since I’ve promised to keep this newsletter rated G and PG for our younger readers (and the parents that screen them) I won’t make a list. But next time, “Hey Dave” will work just fine.

Second, thanks for the book plug. Saves me from having to do it myself this week… ha!

“Humorous presentations and keynote opportunities.”

GameShowHost

You win!

If I was a game show host we’d be celebrating right now because you just hit on a big-money topic. It also happens to be one that I don’t think enough comedians are taking advantage of:

Humorous speaking gigs.

Of course there are comedy and speaking gigs available in the club, college and cruise ship markets, but when you mention presentations and keynotes, my mind races to the corporate market (includes businesses, associations and social organizations) where there are a lot of opportunities for speakers that are humorous.

Corporate events will hire entertainers, such as comedians, musicians and variety acts for special occasions, holiday parties, retirement banquets and in general, when they need entertainment. Usually, that will be one big blow-out show as the entertainment highlight of the conference. The entertainer who scores that spot could be in line for a big payday. But you know what? At many conferences there are keynotes (breakfast, lunch and dinner), training seminars and breakout sessions throughout the day – for as many days as the conference runs.

That’s a lot of spots to fill – with speakers.

At corporate functions there are more opportunities for presenters who can inform as well as entertain. And when that info-tainment requirement includes laughter, event planners seem to be more open to hire humorous speakers.

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Speakers bureaus (which operate like entertainment agencies) list more humorous speakers on their rosters than entertainers. Why? Because they get more work in the corporate market and that’s how the bureaus stay in business. And if you look into it (Google a few) you’ll find the humorous speakers have at least a few general topics that could fit into various events.

They’re still doing comedy, but it relates to the audience and theme of the event.

Ludwig_Von_drake_d23

Corporate Trainer?

Most conference training seminars and keynotes consist of the “hands-on” experienced information attendees need for professional development. That’s the reason to have a conference.

For example…

If it’s a conference on law enforcement, the training seminars might teach the best way to bust crooks. If it’s about being a grocery store clerk, they’ll learn new techniques in bagging groceries. Since the majority of entertainers won’t have experience in either profession their best chance to book the gig at either conference is if entertainment is needed.

With budget cuts, time restrictions and other factors dictating how business conferences are planned, hiring someone purely for entertainment purposes is usually the first casualty. Sure, CEO’s and event planners want their events to be fun and memorable for the employees and associates, but they also need to serve a purpose.

Usually it involves training and how to do their business better.

So a big chunk of the budget will be used to bring in the trainers and speakers who do just that. And instead of hiring a high-priced comedian to perform an after dinner show as the highlight entertainer, they might bring in a karaoke machine or local deejay.

Believe me, not only are comics frustrated by that – so are their agents.

But good event planners also know it’s important for conference attendees to have a positive experience. You know what they say about all work and no play… So entertainment can still be a factor, especially if it relates to the event.

For example…

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Even if a comedian or speaker doesn’t have experience or training in a certain profession they can still be booked for a presentation if they have topics pertaining to these services. If we stick with law enforcement and grocery bagging, it’s a good bet there will be training seminars on communications, customer service and team building. Do you have any comedy material or experiences that might even come close to any of those topics?

Then your goal is to customize it for the event.

Now, before you shake your head and think I’m nuts because there’s “no way” you can relate to corporate event themes, chances are you can. I say that because I’ve worked with and watched dozens of talented local and national comedians turn themselves into “corporate humorists” by taking their comedy material and focusing it on their audience and the event.

But you know what? This is turning into one of my longer ramblings, so it might be a good idea to take a break. We’ll “focus” on that topic next week in Part 2. Until then – keep laughing!

Comment? That’s what the form below is for.

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2016 – North Shore Publishing.

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Top 10 Networking Jokes For 2015

December 27, 2015

Another year with more laughs? Sounds good to me. But before we move ahead, let’s take a look back at what made us laugh in 2015. And in case you haven’t caught on yet, that’s a good excuse to list The Top 10 Networking Jokes For 2015.

Though I’ve been doing this newsletter for a lot longer, I didn’t come up with the brilliant idea of sharing your jokes with links to your websites, videos and other marketing sites until the last few months of 2010. Since then there have been 224 jokes shared in this newsletter. If we put them all together (35 pages!) it might make a good Comedy Central special or at least a decent open-mic set – ha!

So to ring out the old and ring in the new, here in no special order are 2015’s Top 10 Networking Jokes for How To Be A Working Comic and Humorous Speaker. We’ll pick up where we left off in 2016, so if you have a website, video, upcoming show, Facebook page, Twitter, LinkedIn or other site you’d like to promote to your fellow readers, send me an email. After all, it’s all about networking…

Thanks for reading and being an important part of this large circle of comedians, humorous speakers, talent reps and talent bookers. I hope you have a very productive and laugh-filled New Year!

Keep Laughing!

Dave Schwensen

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TOP 10 NETWORKING JOKES FOR 2015

1. Three women die together in an accident and go to heaven. When they get there, St. Peter says, “We only have one rule here in heaven. Don’t step on the ducks!”

So they enter heaven and sure enough, there are ducks all over the place. It is almost impossible not to step on a duck, and although they try their best to avoid them, the first woman accidentally steps on one. Along comes St. Peter with the ugliest man she ever saw.

St. Peter chains them together and says, “Your punishment for stepping on a duck is to spend eternity chained to this ugly man!” The next day the second woman steps accidentally on a duck and along comes St. Peter, who doesn’t miss a thing. With him is another extremely ugly man. He chains them together with the same admonishment as for the first woman.

The third woman has observed all this and, not wanting to be chained for all eternity to an ugly man, is very, VERY careful where she steps. She manages to go months without stepping on any ducks, but one day St. Peter comes up to her with the most handsome man she has ever laid eyes on… very tall, long eyelashes, muscular, and thin. St. Peter chains them together without saying a word.

The happy woman says, “I wonder what I did to deserve being chained to you for all of eternity?” The handsome guys says, “I don’t know about you, but I stepped on a duck.” – Brian Luoma

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2. Last night I decided to go out to just hang out and have a beer, then I fell asleep while planning what to wear. This morning I realized, my trash goes out more than I do. – Vernon Davis

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3. I was reading an article last week about Fathers and Daughters, and memories came flooding back of the time I took my Daughter out for her first drink. Off we went to our local Pub, which is only two blocks from the house. I got her a Guinness Stout. She didn’t like it – so I drank it. Then I got her an Old Style – she didn’t like it either, so I drank it. It was the same with the Coors and the Bud. By the time we got down to the Irish whiskey . . . I could hardly push the stroller back home. – Bob Stefani

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4. “It’s not that I’m fat. It’s just that I’m modest and don’t want my bones to show.” – Lynn B. Johnson

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5. A man and a little boy entered a barbershop together. After the man received the full treatment – shave, shampoo, manicure and haircut, he placed the boy in the chair. “I’m going to buy a green tie to wear for the parade,” he said. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

When the boy’s haircut was completed and the man still hadn’t returned, the barber said, “Looks like your daddy’s forgotten all about you.”

“That wasn’t my daddy,” said the boy. “He just walked up, took me by the hand and said, “Come on son, we’re gonna get a free haircut!” – No Name.

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Comedy Workshop at The Tampa Improv

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Includes a performance at The Tampa Improv on Wednesday, February 10th at 8 pm!

Visit TheComedyBook.com for details, reviews & registration

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Winter 2016 workshop dates for Chicago and Cleveland TBA

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6. “Things are so bad in the world, I just started my own Kickstarter campaign for world peace – and now I owe them money. 42,000,000 dollars and a Get Out Of The USA Free card… Oy!!!” – Dave Weiser

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7. “Middle life is not a crisis. It’s a waterslide to old age.” – Marilyn Mandel 

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8. “I went skydiving the other day. It was the most exciting thing I’d ever done and the scariest. Like marriage. Except skydiving has a higher success rate.” – Don Cooper

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9. The shark had punched a hole in the bottom of the boat and we started taking on water. With nothing to plug the hole the Captain said, just sit on it. I did but the leak got worst. Remembering JAWS, I yelled “We’re gonna need a bigger Butt!” – Bob Moher

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10. “A guy walking along the beach finds a bottle. He pulls out the cork, and a genie appears and tells him he has three wishes. “But,” the genie says, “I have to warn you, whatever you receive, your worst enemy will get twice as much as you.”

“Okay,” says the guy, “first, I want ten million dollars.” The genie grants the wish and reminds him that his worst enemy now has twenty million dollars.

“Next wish, I want a thirty-room mansion in the Bahamas.” The genie builds the mansion for him, and lets him know that his worst enemy now has a home twice as big.

“Fine. For the last wish,” the guy picks up a big stick and hands it to the genie, “beat me HALF to death.” – Debbie (my wife who thinks she’s funny telling old jokes..).

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Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing.

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Always ask before you audition

December 14, 2015

Hey Dave – I have a big audition coming up. I’m not going to have any profanity in my (comedy) set, but I’m thinking of having a cleaner version and one that is a bit edgier. I’m thinking of asking the panel of judges what type of set they want before I perform. Do you think this is a good idea? Thanks – DS

Hey DS – Yeah, it’s a good idea to ask the judges at a contest – or talent booker for a club or any other venue you’re showcasing for – about restrictions they might have on material and language. In fact I emphasize this point in my workshops for a couple reasons:

  1. It shows experience. You can adjust your material depending on the audience and talent bookers like that. (It’s a business – remember?)
  2. It can give you an edge over the competition. I know I talk a lot about how supportive the comedy industry is (nothing has changed my mind about that) but the bottom line is they can’t hire everyone so you need to stand-out at showcases. Again – think business.

For an example, there may only be five performance spots available for a television show. But you know as well as I do that a LOT more than five comics will be auditioning. Of course being funny is the No. 1 factor – and face it, sometimes it’s who you know (am I right Hollywood comics?!).

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Comedy Workshop at The Tampa Improv

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Starts Saturday, January 9, 2016

Includes an evening performance at The Tampa Improv!

Visit TheComedyBook.com for details, reviews & registration

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Winter 2016 workshop dates for Chicago and Cleveland TBA

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So let’s assume everyone at the showcase is funny and knows the same people, so those requirements are met. The tie-breaker would be knowing who the audience will be and adjusting your material and performance for that audience.

You’re not going do the same set on The Disney Channel that you’d do on a Comedy Central Roast. Get it?

Family

Sitting in the front row during your early show!

If you’re auditioning for work on a cruise ship and walk out dropping F-Bombs and detailing your sex life, you might as well pack your bags and consider a career on dry land. More than half of the on board comedy shows are early evening family events that include grandparents and their preteen grandchildren in the front rows. Later on the parents will go out for the “adult humor” comedy shows by the same comics in one of the ship’s late night lounges after the grandparents and kids are asleep.

But if you can’t play to both crowds, you don’t get the job.

How would you know this if you’ve never been on a cruise or had a chance to pick the brain of someone who works cruise ships? My strategy would be to ask the person auditioning you for the gig BEFORE you audition.

Of course this advice means nothing if you’re already settled into who you are on stage (your comedy voice) and understand it won’t work in certain venues. Trust me, I’m not trying to push everyone in the same direction or preach work clean at all costs. That would only create comedy clones and make the industry pretty boring.

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Comedy is a creative art and a form of free speech. If you want to be an x-rated comic, go for it. Just don’t go to showcases where you’re unsure if your style will be acceptable for work (like a kid’s show or family cruise). You’re not only wasting your time, but also taking opportunities away from other comics who would want to audition for the gig.

You said WHAT?!

You said WHAT?!

Another example of knowing beforehand what you CAN talk about vs. what you can NOT talk about depending on the audience…

When I booked the television show A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, we had certain “rules” for the performances. During a noon meeting with the comics who were taping the show that night I’d go over the rules…

  1. Don’t make fun of God or religion. Our highest ratings were in The Bible Belt and we didn’t want to lose viewers. Higher ratings attract sponsors (again – think business).
  2. Don’t knock specific products because we didn’t want to be sued. You can’t say a certain car is dangerous or a certain fast food restaurant will give you food poisoning. (Do I need to say it again – business?).
  3. Don’t sing a song parody for longer than (I think it was) 18 seconds. Producers were not going to pay song royalties for television broadcast, which is what would happen if any song was played for longer than (I think it was) 18 seconds. At that time it seemed a lot of comics were singing funny words to The Brady Bunch Theme Song. They could do it, but it would be edited out if it went over the time limit of being “free.” (This time – music business rules).

What about comics that didn’t follow the rules?

If you watch reruns of A&E’s An Evening at the Improv, keep in mind the comedians were each given seven minute sets. But some are on screen for less time, like only four or five minutes.

What’s up with that?

They didn’t follow the rules.

In the business it’s easy to correct these mistakes in an editing room – or in the case of live performances, auditioning the acts first and not hiring the ones that can’t follow the guidelines.

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In fact when it comes to working clubs, I can’t even think of a situation where you wouldn’t have an opportunity before showcasing to ask the talent booker if there’s anything you shouldn’t say or talk about. Even if it’s only in an email or phone call prior to going there. They should be straight with you, since they know their audience and what they’re looking for better than anyone else.

pie-in-face

Talk dirty to me

For any audition associated with television or a “larger than a comedy club” market (think colleges, cruise ships, corporate…) your best bet is to do clean material. Everyone in the comedy biz who knows anything about anything knows comics can “dirty it up” when they have to.

The goal for talent bookers is to find comics that can appeal to the venue’s audience. As a performer, you need to find that out. And unless your talent is mind-reading, the best way I know to do that is to ask.

Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing.

In search of the perfect audience

November 29, 2015

Hey Dave – I think I’m getting pretty good audience response while on stage. Even when I feel most of the crowd is with me I always notice the people not laughing. What would other comics do? Focus on the ones not laughing to get them with me or ignore them and just keep going? Thanks – AJ

Hey AJ – No lie. I was just talking with a comic about this. I’ll share our thoughts (which were pretty much the same), but also want to throw this out to everyone else…

As a comedian or speaker – what do you suggest?

Should you focus on the people already with you, or throw your efforts towards the ones not laughing? Let me know and I’ll share your thoughts or experiences in an upcoming FAQ And Answer. And as always, please include your name and a website because after all, this is all about networking and I’ll recommend everyone check out your site.

The conversation I had earlier was about connecting with your fan base – both in performances and with marketing. Since you’re talking about being on stage, I’ll save the marketing thoughts for later.

AudienceWanted1I think most performers understand they’re not going to get 100% of an audience.

Okay, maybe if you’re a cult leader or a maniacal dictator. But even then I can imagine there would be someone in the crowd thinking he’d better pass on drinking the Kool Aid and get his passport updated for a permanent location change.

Unless you have the perfect audience (as rare as the perfect storm?) there will be someone who won’t think you’re funny. It’s the nature of the entertainment business. You could be the most popular and highest-paid performer in the world and there will always be someone, somewhere, that wouldn’t have any interest in going to your show.

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I gave an example last week about how an audience might react if Justin Bieber opened a concert for The Rolling Stones. They don’t attract the same audience and there’s nothing (I can think of anyway) either act can do to change that.

Another example from last week was about Jerry Seinfeld. I’m still shocked about that one. If you missed it, just scroll down…

Even though it’s not impossible, the odds are you’re not going to “get” 100% of the audience. So what should you do? Continue to entertain the ones enjoying your show – or concentrate on “getting” the ones obviously missing out on all the fun?

As a talent booker and club manager – in other words, working for a club owner and doing my best to keep him/her happy and profitable – I’d want as many people as possible to have fun because they will hopefully become returning (and paying) customers. So that means I wouldn’t want the comic to stop performing for the already-satisfied customers.

The comic might risk losing them in an effort to “get” the not-laughing people.

There’s also a risk the comic will never get the not-laughing people no matter how hard he/she works on entertaining them. This could cut the fun factor or even ruin the show for everyone else.

Teenagers-Talking-Back-How-to-Manage-It-Effectively_ArticleHow?

The comic and audience would be focused on the people not laughing. They’re obviously not having as much fun as everyone else and their attitude could change the “feeling” in the room. I’m sure we’ve all experienced times when an “attitude” can ruin a good time. If you’ve ever been a parent of a teenager (or remember being a teenager) you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

Comics and speakers know within a few minutes of going on stage what members of the audience are “with them” based on their response. They also recognize the ones that are not. It could have to do with someone’s taste in humor, language, topics – or even the way the comic or speaker looks.

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Some may be laughing from the moment you start talking while others are others are waiting to be “won over.” Unfortunately, there’s also a good chance some won’t like you no matter what you say or do.

It’s like a roller coaster at an amusement park. Ask everyone to get on the ride. A few won’t want to. Are you going to delay the ride and try to coax and convince them they’ll have a great time while everyone else is sitting there – possibly getting bored while waiting for you to show them a fun time on the ride?

Nope.

Take them on the ride and leave the few non-riding (non-laughing) stiffs behind. Not everyone wants to ride the roller coaster, just like not everyone is going to think you’re the next Jerry Seinfeld. So don’t waste your time or efforts trying to force them. Have fun with the ones who want to go with you.

As Steven Stills once sang: “Love the one you’re with.”

If you have the majority already laughing and a few not really with you, my thought (as a talent booker, manager and someone wanting to keep a club owner happy and profitable) is not to waste your energy and entertainment value on what might be a no-win situation.

To give it another perspective I’ll refer back to the conversation I mentioned earlier…

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This was with a comedian friend concerning marketing. He told me there’s no reason to send his promotional material to someone – in his case a corporate event planner – that has made it clear she never hires comedians. What is he going to do – change her opinion?

Chances are he won’t.

So instead of spending the extra time and extra effort on a long shot, he feels it’s best to go right for the people who already like what he does (comedy). Then continue to find others, which should lead to more work.

I think this is good advice both in performing AND marketing.

Again, if you have any thoughts about this, please use the contact form below. I’d like to hear from you. And believe me, I don’t expect 100% agreement.

Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing.

Same show – different audience response

November 15, 2015

Hey Dave – You talked last week about audiences giving objective feedback. I did a five minute open-mic at The Improv that killed! People were coming up to me telling me I was the funniest of the 20 comics by far and that I was hilarious. Fast forward to last night at a different open-mic… Exact same set from The Improv – no change at all and NOTHING!! Not even a snicker or two. I was shocked. I thanked them for being so quiet while I practiced my comedy. Those nights are painful, but I know they are part of the process. I’m just amazed at the change from one crowd to another. – M

Hey M. – Every group of people has its own personality, just like individuals. Sometimes that personality will like what you do on stage and other times it won’t.

bored audience

Wake me up when it’s over

It’s just like the old saying: “You can’t please everyone.

That’s one thing comedians and speakers need to realize. They’re not going to have 100% of the audience love everything they say or do on stage. It just won’t happen – and I don’t care who the performer is. An example I use about this in my comedy workshops involves Jerry Seinfeld

I consider Seinfeld to be one of the top comedians not only of our time, but in the long history of comedy. Right up there with Richard Pryor, George Carlin and the other legends mentioned the most as influences by the working comics I’ve interviewed for my books. Seinfeld’s name starting creeping in during the success of his TV show and it’s stayed there.

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I’ve been fortunate to see Seinfeld perform dozens of times. Mostly it was at the LA Improv when the TV show Seinfeld was still in production and he would stop by the club to work on new material. I was in the audience at The Cleveland Improv during the filming of his movie Comedian and have also seen him do a few theater shows.

Excellent!

Excellent!

The last time I saw him (theater show) he was GREAT!! He KILLED and it was positively the BEST show I had seen him do, at least in my humble opinion (do I really possess such a trait?). I laughed from beginning to end.

BUT on the way out of the theater, there were two couples walking behind us. One of the guys turned to the others and said:

You should’ve seen him last time. He was a lot funnier than this.

My jaw dropped in disbelief, but then I slammed it shut. Every individual has his own personality and opinions and obviously, this guy’s was different than mine. It’s the same when a group of people get together.

An audience develops a personality.

You mentioned The Improv. It’s a known comedy club (for over 50 years folks!) and people go there to see comedy. They are more supportive audiences than what you would usually find at an open-mic in a stereotypical neighborhood bar. You know the type I mean – the kind of place where the bartender shuts off the televisions and announces to his customers:

It’s time for a little comedy.

To put this into classic television perspective, imagine Sam Malone pulling that on the gang at Cheers in the middle of a Red Sox or Celtics game. Let’s just say that a bar-crowd audience will not be as supportive of a comedy night as an audience of comedy fans at The Improv.

Different audiences have different personalities.

Can you play both? An experienced comedian has a pretty good chance. A beginning comic needs to look at it as real life on-stage experience.

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Sometimes you can’t do anything about it. Certain audiences (like people with certain personalities) will not like you no matter what you do. They’re not your crowd and it happens to everyone during the course of their careers. Imagine if you produced a show and your co-headliners were complete opposites when it comes to performing styles. Off the top of my head, I’ll go with Bill Maher and Carrot Top. Depending on who has the most fans in the audience, that comic will get more laughs than the other based on the comedy tastes of the majority of the crowd.

In other words, a big chunk of a performer’s success depends on the crowd’s personality.

justin and Stones

Not pretty…

Another off the top of my head example (for classic rock music fans) would have Justin Bieber opening a concert for The Rolling Stones. Let’s just say it wouldn’t be pretty…

From watching more comedy shows than rock concerts, but also learning from both, some good advice when you’re having a difficult time is to try and engage the audience in your set more than you might normally do. I’ve talked about this technique in earlier FAQ’s And Answers, but here’s a quick rerun…

Years ago I saw one of the best comedy writers in the business perform his regular set at the Los Angeles Improv. From past experiences watching him many times before, his material was guaranteed to get laughs. I had never seen him bomb or ever had any expectations of seeing him bomb, but for some reason on this particular Friday night the crowd wasn’t laughing – at all.

So instead of chalking it up to a bad experience, or blaming the audience and hoping his next crowd would be more receptive, this “material” comedian took the microphone out of the stand and starting talking to the audience. He used all the old comedian tricks:

Where’ya from?” and “What’da’ya do for a living?

Next thing you know, he had engaged the audience. They were suddenly interested in what he was saying.

He had related to them.

Then (and this was the cool part) he stepped back, put the microphone back in the stand, and went into his usual material that I had seen work many times before. And this time – it worked again.

The audience laughed all the way through the remainder of his set.

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After he got off stage I talked to him about it (I was the talent booker and allowed to do that). He said – like every comedian – he had started out as an opening act. It’s what you have to do to be a good MC. You must learn how to relate to and engage the audience. I hadn’t seen him do it before since he was already a headliner when we met. He hadn’t needed to rely on his MC / opening act skills at The Improv (the only venue where I had seen him) in a long time because his material was practiced and usually works. But when it doesn’t, he goes back to what he learned at the beginning of his career, which is relating to the audience, and continues until they’re with him.

Make sense?

You may not kill at every open-mic because of this great advice and the audience may not like you no matter what you do. But this will at least give you a fighting chance. Talk with the crowd, relate to them, find out what they’re interested in – and play off it. It’s almost like you’re the host of a party and it’s your job to greet everyone and make sure they feel involved. Make them feel like they’re a welcomed guest.

Once that happens you can kill them with your comedy. If not, then you might have to admit they’re not your audience and move on. It’s sort of like being Justin Bieber at a Rolling Stones concert, or the guy walking behind me after the Seinfeld show. We definitely had clashing personalities that night, but you know me. I kept my (humble) opinions to myself… ha!

Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing.

Self-evaluating your performance

November 2, 2015

Dave – In addition to putting together material and preparing a solid five minutes (stand-up), what is the process of objective self-evaluation? If I go to the open-mics with my girlfriend and my brother, I’ll never have any idea how good or bad I really was. You know what I mean? – DB

"Thumbs Up, Bro!"

“Thumbs Up, Bro!”

Hey DB – Yeah, I know what you mean. Your girlfriend, brother, or anyone closely connected to you (relative, friend or enemy) really wouldn’t be an objective audience. They have preconceived opinions because they know you.

Of course this statement is not always true. There are exceptions, as there will be in just about anything that involves creativity. Your girlfriend or brother might eventually become a writing partner. But for the partnership to be successful they would need to be honest with their feedback and possibly get over a lot of their preconceived opinions of you.

I also think someone close to you should have an understanding of the writing and performing side of the business. Otherwise, this could turn into an annoying nightmare

I have a pal who thinks he knows all there is to know about the comedy biz, even though he’s never tried it or been involved behind the scenes, and doesn’t really know any comedians outside of the ones I’ve introduced him to. But he never hesitates (annoying) to offer his opinions on what’s bad in someone’s act and how to make it better. At least 99.9% of the time the comics will stand there and look at him like he’s nuts (nightmare).

And in my opinion, he is. He’s giving advice (acting like a writing partner) in a field he has absolutely no experience in. It could be the same thing with your girlfriend or brother. They think they’re helping, but they don’t know how it really works.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here. You want to know how to get objective opinions about your act…

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A stereotypical girlfriend or boyfriend will usually say anything to make you feel better. For instance, how funny you are and that you’re destined to be a big success. Don’t get me wrong because it’s great to have that moral support. But when you have a fight or break up they’ll (probably) say you’ve always sucked and they were just being nice (more than an annoying nightmare).

A stereotypical brother might grab you around the neck and give you a “noogie” while saying how funny you are – or will never be as funny as he is.

Again this is stereotypical profiling based on my wasted youth spend sitting in front of a television screen watching sitcoms. In fact the characters and what I just described was probably an episode in every long-running comedy series from the 1950′s to today.

And in case you didn’t get it, the hidden meaning is that the girlfriend / boyfriend or brother was not being as honest as they could be.

Voted "Best Looking" by his mom

Voted “Best Looking”- by his mom

Another example. I remember watching the very funny Al Lubel doing a bit that he was “The best looking guy in the world.” Why? Because his mother always told him that – and mothers don’t lie to their children.

Right?

Wrong, because I just talked with my mom and she says I’m the best looking guy in the world.

So who’s right?

To know for sure, you need an objective opinion. And when you’re trying out stand-up material, I’m talking about an audience of more than your relatives and best friends.

In addition to writing, comedians will tell you to get as much stage experience as possible. This means in front of different audiences. It would be great to have your support team with you, but they’re not the best ones to tell you what works and what doesn’t.

So how would you know if your set was good or bad?

Easy. You record it and listen to the audience reaction. Yeah, you should know while you’re on stage if you’re getting laughs or not and if they audience is enjoying your set. But the way to really put it together – enhance the good stuff and weed out the dead spots – is to listen to it.

Objectively.

I know I’m repeating myself because the comedians I’ve interviewed for my books talked about this. But it’s worth saying again when answering your question because if it didn’t work why would they continue to recommend it?

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I’ve spent a lot of time in NYC open-mics. Some were a lot of fun and many were just brutal. I remember a place called The Eagle Tavern on West 14th Street that would would be packed with open-mic comics every Tuesday. You’d have to arrive at 6 pm to draw a number for a time to perform and either sit in the audience waiting for your turn, or go to a movie or dinner (that’s how many spots there were!) and come back just before you were due on.

The audience? All the other open-mic comics waiting to go onstage.

Evaluation

Got one laugh – YEAH!

No one ever seemed to be really listening. They were writing, preparing to go on – or just hanging out and talking with their friends. But we all said if a joke got a laugh from that tough crowd you knew it was a good one. It was a keeper.

Even though it wasn’t the best barometer (a room full of comics), if it got a laugh you could be pretty sure it was a good joke or bit.

So there really is no other answer. It’s great to have people you’re close to come out to see you and enjoy what you’re doing. But if you’re worried they’re not being quite honest in saying you’re the best (or even best looking), then listen to the recording of your set.

An objective audience won’t lie. If it’s funny – they’ll laugh. If it’s not – then fix it.

Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing.

Thinking on your feet

October 17, 2015

Hi Dave – I’m going to Los Angeles to take an Improv Intensive Workshop at Second City. I’ve been planning this for a few months and feel this is my next step in finding my calling. I’d like to get more into TV, rather than just stand-up. I hope this workshop will not only add to my resume, but will help me define a more thorough path for me in this crazy comedy career. LOL! I was just wondering what you think and what advice you would give, if any? Thanks – E

Hey E – Good luck on your learning adventure to LA. I really hope it’s a great one and you find laughs and success. In fact, I’ll even improvise around that thought…

  • Find laughs – by working with one of the best improvisational comedy schools.
  • Find success – by improving your comedy skills and ability to “think on your feet.”
medium

“But this IS my business suit!”

Improvising (thinking on your feet) on stage can seem almost impossible to many aspiring performers. It’s one thing to be quick-witted and toss out ad-libs at work or hanging out with friends, but it’s a whole different ballgame to do it in front of an audience at a comedy club or speaking gig.

Some comedians and speakers memorize, prepare and rehearse their material so they know exactly what they’re going to say. But if something happens to distract them – for instance an audience member’s cell phone rings or a server drops a tray of drinks – they’re lost. They’re speechless. They don’t know what to say because they haven’t prepared for this.

It’s not in the script.

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True story. When I first started working at the LA Improv there was an earthquake during a show. A bunch of us that had just moved from New York ran out to the middle of Melrose Avenue and were, like… “What the heck was that?” BUT the comic on stage didn’t miss a beat. He was quick thinking (on his feet) and adjusted his act so when we walked back inside the club he was talking about the earthquake.

It wasn’t in the script, but it didn’t matter. He had reacted to what just happened (an earthquake for cryin’ out loud!!).

Many performers have told me how important improvisational training can be if you’re interested in doing anything on stage, but not confident in your ability to think fast on your feet. If you lack the knack to ad-lib, one of the ways to improve is to get into an improvisation class.

Spill drinks

“I got it – I got it!!”

When you’re skilled at improvising, almost nothing should faze you or throw you off your set when doing stand-up or a speaking presentation. It will give you more confidence on stage. The best comics and speakers I’ve worked with all seem to have the ability to talk with an audience (conversational) and if something happens in the room that’s unexpected – a server drops a tray of drinks or even a (gulp!) earthquake – an ability to improvise around the situation will help the performer stay in control of the show.

During the first session of my workshops I emphasize the importance of expecting the unexpected while on stage. We do this by playing an improvisational game I learned while performing with an improv group in LA (I didn’t spend the weekend nights sitting behind my desk at The Improv!). Two people are on stage having a conversation. At various times during this conversation, one of them is selected to choose a card (from a basket, hat, etc…) that has a song title or line from a movie written on it (suggestions by the audience). He reads that as his next line in the conversation – and usually it has nothing to do with the subject they’ve been talking about – and the other person has to respond in a way that keeps the conversation moving ahead.

It’s a standard improvisational game and one many of you probably know. It’s the type of exercise that helps performers learn to “go” with whatever is happening on stage and a way to practice thinking on your feet.

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Second City and other good improvisational workshops teach many different games and exercises. A lot of these techniques can also be helpful in stand-up and speaking. After all, you never know what might happen or when it might happen while you’re on stage.

Advice? Remember – you asked…

Living on the edge

Living on the edge

Just go with it and have fun. Keep an open mind when you’re exploring your talent. Really learn and don’t be afraid to go out on the edge and take a risk.

Also if you have the opportunity, check out the LA stand-up comedy scene. As always the BIG names will be at The Improv, Laugh Factory and The Comedy Store. But also find out where the smaller clubs are – and even the open-mics. Then go watch and…

Network.

Talk with LA comics and learn about the comedy scene. Ask about performance opportunities – if it’s easy to find stage time or a nightmare. How often can they expect to get on stage every week? Maybe you could even sign up for a few open-mics and do sets. It always helps to get stage time.

And since you’re there for improvisation, also look for those types of clubs. Second City will have some great shows for you to see – and maybe even perform in.

There are also smaller troupes put together by comics and improvisers that are not as well known, but also very skilled and funny. These comics perform in the smaller clubs, hotels, bars and anywhere else they can find an audience. You might even be invited to go on stage if you tell them what you’re doing – you never know.

Which is what improvisation is all about. You never know, but as you’ll learn through training – just “go” with it. And since we’re talking about comedy – have fun.

Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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, Cleveland and Tampa Improv Comedy Clubs, and private coaching by Skype or phone visit www.TheComedyBook.com

Copyright 2015 – North Shore Publishing.

Prepare for your first time on stage

September 27, 2015

Hi Dave – First off, I am not a professional comedian. That being said, it is my dream to be one. I know that I am a funny person and I realize what it takes to pursue a career in comedy. I guess my big problem is that I’m afraid of taking the first step. I am afraid of going onstage and everyone just absolutely hating me. I am aware that bombing is a learning experience. But, I always want people to like me. So, as you can guess, I haven’t really done much stage time because I’m scared to do so. I guess my question is, and this may sound stupid: Is it OK to be scared about taking the first step? Thanks for your time – SM

Hey SM – Let me give this some thought… (I’m pausing for dramatic effect)… YES – it’s okay to be scared about doing comedy the first time! It’s public speaking and to quote the much over-quoted Jerry Seinfeld bit:

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According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.

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There’s a great example of truth in comedy – and why Seinfeld is a master at it.

Explosive Experience

Explosive Experience

Another fear factor for a lot of people thinking about going into this crazy biz is, as you so eloquently put it:

Bombing.

You’re right in saying that bombing is an explosive learning experience. Every time you go on stage should be a learning experience. Once you accept that, it shouldn’t be a goal-stopping event.

Another thing to remember is that anyone who wants to be a performer (and not just comedians) needs to develop a thick skin. It’s not always going to go as perfectly as you might imagine.

When (notice I didn’t say “if”) you bomb, you need to use it as a learning experience. It’s like going to school. Record your set, listen to it and figure out how it could have been better. Make changes, continue to write and try it again.

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Chicago Comedy Workshop

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At The Chicago Improv starts Saturday, October 3, 2015

Includes a performance on Wednesday, October 21 at 7:30 pm 

*

Visit TheComedyBook.com for details, reviews & registration

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All the comedians I know have gone through this process starting with open-mics and free shows. If someone tells you they haven’t then they’re not a great example of truth in comedy. In other words, they’re lying.

It takes nerve and determination to walk on stage the first time.

It’s not easy. If it was, then just about everyone would try it because… well, it sure looks like fun, doesn’t it? Standing on stage in front of an audience and making them laugh seems like a pretty good job. If all it took was to fill out a job application and lie about your work experience during an interview, a lot of people would be asking where they could sign up.

But it’s not that easy.

Along with nerve to go on stage and determination to continue, it takes a lot more to be successful. It takes talent and experience, and an understanding of how the business works. But that’s not what we’re talking about today. We’re talking about taking that first step on stage.

That's what they told me!

That’s what they told me!

The advice I’ve heard from a many of the comedians I’ve interviewed for my books is that the best way to get started – and to get over being nervous or scared – is to be prepared.

Know what you’re going to say before you go on stage and don’t just try to wing-it; hoping you’ll just open your mouth and something funny will accidentally fall out.

If you only have three to five minutes on stage, which is the amount of time beginning comedians are usually given at an open-mic, have what you are going to say – three to five minutes of material – prepared in advance. Write it and be familiar with it. Practice it and get used to saying the words out loud.

Memorize if you have to. BUT as you continue to develop through on stage experience, the key is NOT to ever sound memorized. But again, we’re just talking about taking your first steps here, so the goal right now is just to get on stage.

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To help calm your nerves, it’s also acceptable to take notes with you on stage so you don’t forget what you want to say. There’s nothing wrong with that because doing comedy is a step-by-step learning process that doesn’t happen overnight. When you’re just starting out, the first step is to get on stage and learn how to converse with an audience. That’s enough pressure, so you don’t need to add more pressure by worrying about memorizing your material word-for-word.

Like your stage presence and delivery, your material will also change as you get more experience. Doing an open-mic is not auditioning for Last Comic Standing, so don’t be afraid to rely on your notes while you’re still learning what to do.

I’ve seen many big-name comedians take notes on stage when they’re working on new material. Want names? George Carlin and Jay Leno to mention only two – and you can’t argue with their success.

So don’t let anyone say you can’t do that. You can.

There's only one way to go - up!

There’s only one way to go – up!

Another way to make that first step is to have help in being prepared.

I don’t know where you’re located. But a lot of comedy clubs offer workshops. Pick the best club in your area, call and ask if they have workshops and who runs them. Look at their experience, credits and whenever possible, what other comedians in the area are saying about them. If they have positive reviews you should find them posted on a professional looking website. If not, then keep looking.

In a good workshop you should get experience on stage and helpful feedback about your material and delivery. Also to ease the fear factor, make sure you’re given an opportunity to work with a microphone and in front of the spotlights before facing a “real” audience. It’s all about preparation.

The first step will always be a BIG one. If you’ve prepared it will still be BIG, but hopefully more fun(ny) than scary.

Comment? That’s what the form below is for. In the meantime, thanks for reading and as always – keep laughing!

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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 2015 – North Shore Publishing.


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