Q&A With A College Student


I recently got an email from a college student interested in working in entertainment/comedy. I figured I’d post the Q&A here too, in case it might help others. If you’re a young person and have more questions, ask in the comments or via the contact page.

(*FYI most of these answers do not take COVID-19 and how it’s affected/affecting live entertainment into account – so pretend I wrote this in February of 2020 or 2022)

What is your current position title and what does it entail?
I’m a stand-up comedian. I live my life, notice interesting things that happen, write jokes about them, then perform them on stage. I audio or video record each show, then listen back and rewrite based on where laughs do or don’t occur and what I riffed in the moment.

Other comedy things I do: write scripts and try to sell them to get a TV show or to get staffed for writing on someone else’s TV show, use social media to gain a following, audition/act, create books, create comedy albums/specials, do voice-overs, write/direct/edit my own short comedy videos, etc.

Also I know you’re copy/pasting this to a bunch of people but  “Current Position Title” is way too corporate a term for my line of work.

What is your educational background and how has it prepared you for this career?

I majored in economics and philosophy. Other than general work ethic and thinking about ideas, it didn’t directly prepare me.

Can you recall any specific academic courses that you have found helpful in this role and why?

The most helpful thing I did in college as relates to my life right now was to co-create and write for a parody website of Rutgers called Slutgers.

We’d write articles like “drink of the week” and “sexual position of the week” and do funny captions for user-submitted photos. We’d also create merchandise like t-shirts, shot glasses and thongs and go around the dorms selling them. It was basically “College Humor” but only for Rutgers.

As a student, were you involved in any outside of the classroom activities (internships, student organizations, research, volunteer, etc.)? If yes, what were they and how were they helpful to you?

Mainly, see Slutgers above. I think I did some other things as well: I might’ve been a new student orientation volunteer one year. I think I had some internships at the museum, and I played roller hockey for a year or two, but it was 10+ years ago so I don’t really remember all my “resume building” details. I guess studying abroad counts as something, because I think I talked about that when I interviewed for “real” jobs.

How did you land your first position?

I went to career services. They asked what I wanted to do. I said “I don’t know. But I’m smart and I like to travel.” They said “How about consulting?” I looked into it, different projects and travel, decent pay. Sounded good. So I did all the on-campus interviews with all the management consulting places that were recruiting Rutgers and got a job offer with Accenture.

What are the more challenging and rewarding parts of your job?

Challenging = building a loyal following that wants to listen/watch/pay money to see you.

Rewarding = the creativity. Stuff like when a new joke starts working on stage, or changing the order, or building your new hour by playing with the order.

Also you get to talk to, hang out with and befriend other lost and funny souls. Way more interesting than the shmucks at a regular office’s water cooler.

What advice would you have for young professionals just getting started in this field?

Stop using the words “young professionals.” Learn a little joke structure. Then write some jokes. Put it away for a few days. Look at it again and edit the shit out of it. Memorize that. Then go perform it. Record it. Listen back. Make adjustments. Keep doing that process.

Also be polite/nice to everyone cause it’s a small community and already hard enough. Or just make a viral youtube video that gets you a loyal following and you can skip being good at the craft…

Also with comedy, especially at the start before you find your voice, you should be pretty familiar with what other people are doing/talking about, so that you avoid those subjects. Once you learn your character/viewpoint you’ll have a unique take on the most common of subjects and this matters less, although I still try to avoid very common subjects unless my joke is very specific.

Have you done any freelance work? Is job security with that type of work a big issue in highly populated areas like NYC and LA? 

It’s all freelance work. Job security didn’t exist before COVID19, now that’s just an oxymoron. If you want “job security” go work in something other than entertainment. At least entertainers know they don’t have job security. Everyone else is pretending that they do – see current global situation and Nicholas Nassim Taleb’s Turkey Story below… Regular w2 wage workers = turkey.


Do you have one piece of advice for someone who has never tried stand-up before but would like to try?

I wrote a blog post about it here.

In this digital and social media age, do you think it is plausible and sustainable to pursue a career solely online?

Yes. You can become a Youtube/Instagram/TikTok/whatever else star if that’s where your drive and passion is.

I take a lot of digital audio classes and am interested in possible producing podcast in the near future. Have you had any experience in this somewhat new and popular media format?

Podcasting isn’t new at this point. It’s a mature medium. I did a podcast for 2 years / 100 episodes with two other comedians. It was fun. I learned the skill of bullshitting for an hour and being funny. We never had huge audience growth, so eventually, we stopped doing it. I’ve also been a guest on dozens of other people’s podcasts.

This is true for podcasting as well as all entertainment, if you’re interested in it and have a passion for it, you should do it. Just don’t expect anything to happen from it other than learning how to do it. (“You’re entitled to your labor but not the fruits of your labor” I believe is the quote.)

Recently with all the institutions closing down, how has the CODVID outbreak affected your field and do you think it will return to normal?

Until there’s a vaccine that gets distributed to the whole population, all live performances are fucked. My guess is that will be the next 6-18 months minimum. It ain’t gonna be pretty.

Ben’s Fourth Comedy Album Debuts at #1 on Amazon / #2 on iTunes Comedy Charts

Buy or Stream Now

“A cleverly dark tapestry of jokes… packed with humorously thought-provoking moments.” -Comedy Cake

“A shroud of joke bits woven into a heavy cloak of black comedy that simultaneously weighs you down and gives you hope.” -The Family Farce

“Continuously clever cocktails of dry wit… takes us on a journey through absurdly sick premises and sharp punchlines.” -Rise Up and Write

“A poster boy for his émigré generation.” -The NY Jewish Week

“Ben can communicate his superior intelligence, mock you, bring your political and social and relational discomforts right to the surface, and become your friend, all in the space of a few lines of setup and payoff.” -Seth Kabala

The album debuted as the #1 best selling album on the Amazon Comedy and #2 on iTunes

Reviews and Writeups

Broadway World

Comedy Cake

Family Farce

Rangley Moose Album Review

Rise Up and Write Review

The New York Jewish Week

Album Press Tour

Broken-Tailed Dog Podcast with Josh Accardo

Crime Report with Pat Dixon

Disney Movie Stack Podcast with Ray Gootz

Faceblind Podcast with Jeff Waters 

I’m Just A Kid Podcast with James Camacho

In Hot Water with Aaron Berg and Geno Bisconte

The Interrobang – Top 5 Russian Dashboard Cam Videos

Koppen With Comic Podcast with Brian Koppen

The Mangina Dialogues Podcast with Greg Alprin and Nick Scopoletti

Mornin’!!! with Bill Schulz and Joanne Nosuchinsky

The Fake Outrage Report Podcast with Sandip Sen and Phill Causey

Trophy Dad Podcast with Matt Azark

What’s Going On Podcast with Santi Espinosa

Official Press Release

Comedy Dynamics has announced they are releasing Ben Rosenfeld’s new stand-up comedy album, Don’t Shake Your Miracle, through Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Pandora, SoundCloud and more on February 7, 2020.

Fresh off of his last album, The United States of Russia, which landed at #1 on the iTunes comedy charts, Ben Rosenfeld returns with his fourth live stand-up comedy album. Join Ben as he makes light of being a Russian Jewish immigrant in today’s America, his experiences as a new dad and surviving two car crashes

Ben Rosenfeld is a quirky comedian who is playfully dark yet seriously smart. Ben has appeared on Fox’s Laughs, CBS This Morning, Nat Geo’s Brain Games, Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the MuseumNPR Weekend Edition, Buzzfeed Video, TimeOut, The New York Post, Sirius XM and more. Ben also co-wrote and starred in a viral video (1.5 million views) called The Slice where he showed his wide acting range by playing an annoying hipster.

“I’m really excited to release this album as it’s my best comedy yet,” said the comedian and new dad. “But I’m even more excited to take a nap.”

“It’s always a pleasure to work with outstanding up and coming comedians like Ben and we’re sure that you’re going to love his new album,” said Brian Volk-Weiss, CEO of Comedy Dynamics.

How To Quickly Create Cool Video Captions

Posting good looking stand up video clips seems more and more important every day. You never know which one will go viral and help you get that booking or additional exposure. And the clips that seem to do best always have the captioned text at the bottom. I used to painstakingly go into iMovie or Final Cut X, add the text effect, type out 3-5 words at a time, adjust the length of time it was on screen so the timing worked, copy and paste the text effect, then edit the next 3-5 words and on and on. A single 90-second clip would take me up to an hour, and I’m quite good with technology.

So after I edited together a 3 camera shoot of my new comedy album and learned that in order to submit it to Amazon Prime Video, I had to get the whole thing closed captioned, my first words were, “No fucking way! I’m not captioning 71 minutes of text. I would rather nobody ever see it.” Then I calmed down and thought, “Who can I pay to do this?” I did some googling and asking around in real life, and eventually, a friend put me onto Rev.com which charges $1 per minute of video closed captioning and does a pretty accurate job with fast turn around (under 24 hours for short videos, 3- 4 days for long videos). You get an .srt file which you can upload to Amazon Prime / Youtube / Facebook video, etc.

Once that issue was solved, I decided to chop up my 71-minute special into short 1-2 minute clips to use for promo. I able to import the captioned .srt file into Final Cut X without issue but no amount of Googling was able to get me the answer of “How do I increase the font size of closed captions?” Apparently, that option doesn’t exist.

I wanted to hack closed captions and turn them into “cool captions” and I wasn’t about to start retyping everything on my own. That’s when another friend put me onto Kapwing’s Subtitler.
Kapwing Subtitler saved me hours of manual labor. It lets you import .srt files (or type captions as you go along, which render way faster than FCPX does) and then you can choose your font, font size, font color, location on the screen, background color, video aspect ratio (square, 16:9, etc) and other options. It’s really powerful and pretty simple to use.
Kapwing Subtitler in action

If you’re a comedian or content creator, Kapwing will save you tons of time and make you look more professional and polished while you do it.

Check out how Kapwing Subtitler looks:

Upsides of Kapwing Subtitler:

  • 95% of the features are free
  • No watermarks!
  • You have full control over the look and feel of your captions
  • It lets you quickly resize videos for different platforms.
    (God how I hate that every fucking social media platform has it’s own video guidelines. And why is IGTV video different dimensions than Instagram video? You suck Instagram! Okay, I’ll stop ranting. Sorry.)
  • There’s a lot of other useful-looking tools on their site that I’ve yet to play with
  • $20/month feels reasonable for the pro features
  • The auto caption generator is actually pretty accurate and fast (although it crashed the first 3 times I tried it, but I blame the Google Chrome incompatibility, see below). Had I learned about Kapwing sooner, perhaps I could’ve saved all the money I spent at Rev.com getting my .srt files

Downsides of Kapwing:

  • It is not properly compatible with the Google Chrome browser on Mac OSX. I had an hour of work get wiped out because the video preview did not work properly. But once I loaded up Safari, everything worked much better.
  • Tech support is slow to respond. I left a voicemail that hasn’t been returned for over 24 hours. Sure I called on a Monday of a three-day weekend, but who in Silicon Valley takes days off without having some overseas support staff in place? Especially for paying users. (I was so excited about how this was going to save me time, that I upgraded to the paid version within a half-hour of using it.)
  • Once you complete your captioning, it takes a while to render longer videos before you can use them. For a 35 minute video, it takes 30-60 minutes before I can download the file. And then if I notice an issue and have to make a small change like just adjusting the background color, that whole process starts all over. For a 40 second video, the rendering process still took 10 minutes.
  • Kapwing didn’t show up in my Google searches for “increasing caption text size.” It took a friend mentioning the site to me. Spend some money on Ad Words or PR or something to get it in front of people who have the pain point right now and are willing to give you money to solve it!
  • They seem like a tiny company with few employees. I hope they stay in business for a long time. Or at least get bought out by a benevolent conglomerate.
  • Their workspaces feature is confusing. I created a second workspace after my Google Chrome issues, just to have a clean slate and I couldn’t figure out why they kept trying to upsell me to a paid account when I already did that! Turns out, they charge you per workspace. That makes no sense. I’d think once it’s an upgraded pro account, what difference does it make how you separate your workspaces?
  • I don’t see where I name each separate video. It seems like I can only rename once it’s in workspaces, and the workspace doesn’t list how long each video is, so I can’t tell what’s what very easily.
  • Command+Z doesn’t work as a shortcut for edit->undo / I can’t find the undo button easily

Overall:

If you want to create cool looking captions for your videos, Kapwing Subtitler is the best tool around. (It’s also the only tool I found that has the amount of control and flexibility I want.)

 

*Disclosure – Kapwing offers bloggers a free pro account if they write a review about the software. I don’t think this influenced my review too much, but it’s always possible.

2020 Comedy Goals

For the past eleven years, I set goals at the start of the year and then review how I did at the end of the year [see 2019, 201820172016201520142013201220112010 and 2009]. I’m not sure if this is actually useful, as the goals have been pretty similar the last few years and I only look at this post the first and last day of the year, but I like traditions, and maybe it helps subconsciously, so here go my goals for this year.

For the second year in a row, I’ve separated “process goals” (aka things I can control – in black), and “goal goals” (aka things that depend on other people as well as me – in grey text). But this year, I made all my top 5 goals things I can control.

This year I changed my categories so that all things related to stand-up are one category, and then all other comedy-related goals are separated.

I have the same number of goals as last year (15) and then whittled down my top 5. Since I can control all my top 5 goals, success is doing all of them this year.

Stand Up

  • Perform at least 500 times
  • Create 40 new minutes of material that I try on stage, turn 20 of those minutes into “A” jokes
  • Write 5/7 days of every week
  • Have Amazon Prime Video stream my new comedy album on their platform (as well as an abridged version of my third album)
  • Get my new comedy album “Don’t Shake Your Miracle” to #1 in the iTunes Comedy charts
  • Do a stand-up set on TV or Netflix that airs in its entirety (not a stand-up clip show)

Writing/Producing (non-standup) 

  • Publish my second book
  • Create and release 3 new sketch videos
  • Develop and film a sizzle reel for my gameshow idea
  • Sell a TV show and get it on air

Learning

  • Take at least one class
  • Read 20 books

Financials

  • Earn $50,000 from entertainment-related business income

Misc

  • Average weight of 176 pounds or less

 

Top 5 Goals

  • Publish my second book
  • Create 40 new minutes of material that I try on stage, turn 20 of those minutes into “A” jokes
  • Perform 500 times
  • Average weight of 176 pounds or less
  • Develop and film a sizzle reel for my gameshow idea