I’ll Scratch Your Back, You Stab Mine


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Okay, okay, maybe the title of this blog goes a little too far. What I wanted to blog about today is the common courtesy that should exist in a business like stand up comedy. As any stand up already knows, stage time is king, and if you have trouble getting the stage time you’d like, it would do you well to help others get the stage time they are looking for too. In stand up, we are all connected with a show producer, a comedy club, a promoter, or anyone else that has the ability to book someone on a stand up comedy show. If you find it difficult to get stage time at other clubs, bars or venues, you have to find a way to network with other comedians who have those connections that will help you help you get your foot in the door.

It’s been my experience that not every comedian will play by these rules. I’ve been asked, “Hey, if you can somehow get me connected with the owner of (such & such club), I can help you get booked at places I perform.” Then, what sometimes happens, you help them get booked, then you go back to them to see if they’ll return the favor and you’re either ignored, or told that there’s not much the can do for you right now. Sometimes, they’ll even direct you to contact a booker or producer they know, who has absolutely no idea who you are. Most of those contacts will ignore you long enough for you to just give up.

There are times, however, when the process works as smoothly as it’s supposed to. You’ll help a fellow comedian with a booking and they will immediately return the favor. That’s the way it should work! Now, maybe some of these comedians don’t have the “pull” they need with a club or booker and they’re really promising something they can’t deliver on? Whatever the case is, the intention should always be to return the favor. One of the hardest things to do is to stick your neck out for someone and take the risk that you might even burn that bridge for yourself! The following list will give you things to consider when helping a fellow comedian out:

  1. Promise to return a booking favor ONLY IF you have the ability to do so. Don’t make a promise that you are not in the position to make. NEVER assume that by the time the other comedian helps you out, you’ll have made some connections along the way. Make sure you are able to deliver on what you promise after your fellow comedian delivers on their promise.
  2. Understand that you take a risk every time you suggest a performer to a booker or club that you do business with. Having said that, make sure that the comedian you are asking help from, is a comedian that you feel would do well at the venues you will be putting in a good word for them at. Don’t just pick someone that has the connections but no act. In that case, you both bomb!
  3. Offer to help them FIRST. Look at this way; if you already have the connections, your offer of assistance puts the ball in their court. In this instance, trust can be blind. Make sure you have a good rapport with the comedian and take the calculated risk that they can return the favor.
  4. If you do not have a quality booking to offer in return, DON’T EVEN BOTHER! There is nothing worse than offering someone a quality booking, that pays well, then in return, get booked at a place that pays nothing or next to nothing. I don’t think I need to elaborate further.
  5. Remember that stand up comedy is a business and THERE ARE NO FRIENDS IN BUSINESS.

Stand Up Comedy Inspiration From an Unlikely Source


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This past weekend, my beautiful better half, took me to a Tegan and Sara concert. Tegan and Sara are a Canadian sister group who started out simply as a guitar playing duo. Now that they have achieved a certain level of mainstream success, they are certainly poised to get even bigger.

During the concert, which we attended in Flagstaff, Arizona, Tegan took a moment to speak to the audience and reflected on their last trip to Flagstaff, pointing out that they were so happy to be in town playing for a sold out crowd. During their last stop there, they were touring with a more well known group and performed for 10 people, as the opening act. She continued to speak about how they were able to sell enough merchandise at each show to continue to tour from city to city. At the end of their tours, they would often go home in less than perfect shape. Often heading home, skinnier than usual, malnourished, diarrhea plagued and financially broke, they appreciated every minute of it and could not imagine that life could get any better. After all, they were doing what they loved, performing across the country and gaining more and more fans along the way. Tegan and Sara have been playing together for over a decade and are now achieving the level of success they never dreamed of.

Rather than go in to specifics on how this applies to performers in stand up comedy, I will leave you to apply this experience to your own life. The road to success comes at a heavy price and is never an overnight occurrence. The question is, how long are you willing to wait? How far are you willing to go? How long are you willing to hang on while your efforts are recognized by only a few people?

There are no short cuts..

After telling their tale of the long, hard road, Tegan and Sara performed the following song, written about coming home to a less than enthusiastic partner, who refused to hang around during their musical journey. Enjoy!

Stand Up Comedy is not Always Funny


ImageAside from the technical aspect of stand up, and the boring, mundane process of writing, the least funny side of the business is watching other comics stop performing. There is a side to every comic that thinks, “Cool, that’s one less comedian I have to compete with.” Then, there is that other side that is truly disappointed that someone has quit in their pursuit of doing stand up full time. But, life happens. And it happens to all of us. Young comics, who have only begun to experience life on their own, have yet to experience life to its fullest. Before you know it, they have to set their stand up aside to tend to things like, a new marriage, kids, college or career. For them, the decision to leave stand up is one that is naturally made. They can either pursue a career path where paid gigs are far and few between, as they are starting out or, pursue a life with a spouse and kids and a promising, lucrative career. They promise themselves that they will be back to stand up one day, then life continues to happen, bringing separate twists and adventures.

Then you have the comic that quits from discouragement. No matter how hard they try, they do not feel like they are getting any better. They constantly go up on stage to the sound of silence and get off the stage to the same murmur of crickets. Those comics fail to realize that stand up is incredibly inconsistent. A beginner typically starts out hitting the open mics around town, held at local bars. No one at a bar expect to see stand up comedy and are usually there for the drink specials or sports on TV. They will perform for an audience that is far too drunk and sees themselves as the center of attention. That is very hard to compete with. But, even in all that chaos, a beginning comic must realize that this is where the blood, sweat and tears must be shed. This is where they must hone and perfect their material. If the comic manages to get at least one laugh, just ONE, that is the joke that survives until the next performance. This process is time consuming and tedious, but well worth it if it is repeated on a regular basis.

I have seen a lot of good and promising comics come and go and I am always hoping to see them on stage again. Some will come back, yet most will never hold that microphone again. I have personally decided to do this for the rest of my life. The world may never know who I am and a national audience may never get to hear of me, but to those audiences that I have had the pleasure of making laugh, I can assure you, I’m not going anywhere. Life may still happen, but for me, it won’t happen without stand up…

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Get It Done!


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Mike Tyson was the youngest Heavyweight Champion of the World at the age of 20. His past may have overshadowed his career, but I’ll never forget what he said when asked why he gets up at 4am every day to run. His reply, “Because I know the other guy is not doing it…”