Food for Thought : Note to New Comedians
Time and time again, I get questions from comedians just starting out in need of a little direction, which is great—I always LOVE to help when I can…But when open mic comedians ask when will they start making money and why aren’t they featuring less than a year into the game; well, a piece of me dies on the inside...
If you are in this for quick cash and over night fame, strap in for the long haul. And the most disturbing part is that when I try to talk to them, they tend to have that attitude and look about them, as if to say, "Not me, man." Yes, YOU. Pay your dues. Work the craft, and love the art. Seriously, love what you do and work hard. It will pay off, and those connections will happen when its time.
I feel the need to write this, because lately, more comics I meet are asking the same questions, and its sad. It used to be that you did comedy because it was in your veins, your blood, and you couldn’t shake the feeling. You’d caught "the bug;" and now, you cant live without it. But nowadays, it seems like Joe Nobody that works at the Kwiki Mart and does open mics once a month, has a website, blog, podcast, Twitter, t-shirts and a mailing list…but the one thing he doesn’t have is AN ACT!
Anyone who knows anything about me will tell you I’m no stranger to marketing. It has made me a lot of enemies and gained me a few friends—I am the king of "Hey, look at this shiny thing with my name on it," but I also work 45-50 weeks a year all over the country, and I’ve been doing it nine years now. Another thing they’ll tell you is that I choose opportunity over money every. single. time. Hell, I just got back from a trip where I made zero dollars, but gained priceless exposure and networking. I had a full week of shows Thurs.-Sat., got home from my gig at 2 a.m. and caught a plane to LAX by 6 a.m. on one hour of sleep. I rented a car, caught some sleep and did a showcase at the Improv in Hollywood for ZERO MONEY! I paid for the plane, car and several hours of sleep, but guess what? That’s one step closer to my goal. So, when I meet guys who’ve been doing comedy less than a year asking about feature work and how to make money, it makes my head spin. Do it because you HAVE to; do it because if you don’t get on stage you will go insane. Do it for the love of being in the fucking moment. I honestly can’t go more than four days without being on stage. Ask any of my close friends or family—I get cranky, snappy, and sad. It is a disease for me.
This is a hard job—not manual labor wise, but it requires a lot from you. I can’t tell you how many birthday parties, weddings, graduations, baby showers, etc. that I’ve missed. Let the dream take over, and if you’re serious, you’ll have no other choice. Chasing down lady luck wins every time. Your social life goes on hold. Nothing happens over night; and if it does, then expect it to end just as quickly.
My advice to young comedians is always this: Work your craft, get up every chance you get. Stage time will only make you stronger. I’ve done pizza places, bowling alleys, comedy clubs, theatres, moose lodges, bingo halls, casinos, and guess what? I learned something from every show. I am also a firm promoter of improv lessons. In fact, I cant preach that enough. Improv increases your comfort and control on stage tenfold. It makes you ready for—literally—anything that happens.
Don’t do it for the money. Do it because you cant live without it. It is an art, please treat it as so.
"...And he kept askin me, what kind of car you drive, I know you paid
I know y'all got buku of hoes from all them songs that y'all done made
And I replied that I had been goin through tha same thing that he had
True I got more fans than the average man but not enough loot to last me
to the end of the week, I live by the beat like you live check to check
If you don't move yo' foot then I don't eat, so we like neck to neck.."
- Outkast : "Elevators" -