Today I’m interviewing Ben Morrison. Ben has been on “Last Comic Standing,“ the lead on the final season of MTV‘s hit “Punk‘d,“ and is a regular contributor on Al Gore‘s CurrentTV. Morrison regularly tours the country delivering his electrifying act that includes live multimedia and photography. Ben has a new album Theatre Degree as well as a one man show, Pain in the Butt: A Comedy About Chron’s
1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your career?
That’s possibly the biggest part of my career. I have a huge following on Twitter, like 12,000 people. I have a Facebook fan page, group page and normal page. I’m also interested in content aggregators like Ping.fm that’s a one stop shop to all of the social networks. I’ve been able to tie in 13 social networks into one pipeline which makes it easy to stay on top of all of them. I have a mailing list which I’ve had for years. If I meet someone at a party, they go into my mailing list. It allows me to stay in touch with them. A lot has happened this year so it’s great having those networks at my disposable.
2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?
Obviously higher attendance at shows is always nice. I think the payoff is fans genuinely find you funny. I think I read in your other interviews that before the internet, if you had 20 videos, it wouldn’t go beyond the people in your neighborhood and now it can make you an instant star.
In fact, I began a whole company based on this fact. I’ve started a web design company, EZ Web. I’ve been designing websites and online presences for other comedians for a long time. I did LorneMichaels.com and like 40 other comedians. Easyweb helps facilitate communication between artists and designers. It’s a way to put nerds who understand what technology artists need together with the artists and to help them use the right tools. We’ve seen wonderful things happen once we get someone who can translate technology with someone who is inept with technology but really needs it.
I work with New Wave now, who are a wonderful management company. I didn’t have anyone before that, but because I had control over my website I could always make it seem like I did. I did 2 TV shows and most opportunities I was given were because I had control over my website. Image is everything and the internet allows your image to be whatever you are wise enough to make it.
3. How were you doing the photo part of your act before TV screens and projectors became common in clubs?
I actually built my own little portable nerd kit. I have my own projector and maxed out my credit card and bought a portable screen. I’d always get a lot of looks when I’d walk in with the screen and extension cords. But it was important to be able to workshop that material. And the multimedia stuff is one of my favorite things to do. My new show, Pain in the Butt, is all multimedia. There’s a whole science in doing these shows. I have to talk to the AV person at the venue and find out specifics: Is it a DVI connector, component or VGA? I’ve had to learn how to run the booth. At this point, by just using my Mac and a few adapters I can make a whole multimedia experience with just a laptop bag. And I use my iPhone as the remote control.
I’m also using a real time camcorder and synthesizer to hook up with the audience. I compose the song in front of the audience with a wireless mic and iPhone. I wanna push the boundaries of what can be done. Cause I have a magical tool that can do anything and you can have a very fun evening.
4.What kind of comedy videos do you think the internet is best for?
Only cause I watch them all day, I really appreciate when someone is able to knock something out of the park in under 45 seconds. I think the internet fosters quick fix better than anything. I like when someone can give me a whole experience in under a minute. I think the internet fosters no rules. Which when you get the right people you get great things. Autotune News takes newscasts and make whole songs out of mashups with heavily edited cameos by themselves. The whole thing is written into a song and really cool and talented.
5. What do you think about posting videos of your show online?
I think I probably agree with the other comedians on this. Jokes are continually work shopped until they’re not. On my website, I just have promotional videos from my album which I know are the fastest and tightest expression I have. I think however something like twitter and Facebook have allowed the work shopping and writing process to become a lot more organic which I like. I used to my twitter feed constantly to send jokes out. It allows me to get immediate feedback on the quality of the joke in written form, which is good cause it doesn’t have the quality of my nervous performance messing up the joke. I go through my twitter feed before going on stage and I’ll load up on the ones that make me laugh. They’re the jokes I find the funniest from the past two years in chronological order. Or I’ll email jokes to myself with the subject line “ajoke” written as one word, so whenever I search gmail, I get a chronological list of all the jokes I’ve emailed to myself. So I think the internet has been amazing for the development of the process of comedy if you use it the right way. Just posting videos of your jokes won’t do much good especially if you look at it a week later and are like “oh I look like an asshole.” So for video not so much but for writing that turns into standup, 100%. And I guess the internet is the best showcase of the end product of that whole process.
6. How do you think digital tools will change comedy?
The internet is the best thing that ever happened to comedy, I truly believe that. The underlying premise of comedy is “no rules” and that’s the underlying premise of the internet. That’s why they go together so well, hand in hand. I think we’re on the cusp of another major revolution because in the last two years because streaming video is becoming ubiquitous. Now Hulu and NetFlix are operating massive quantities of libraries. As more people move from the TV to the internet, they don’t have cable, they have the internet. I think we’ll see a continued explosion of creativity cause there’s nothing you can’t do online. The oldest rule in comedy is : funny is funny. On the one hand you have people doing crap but at least they’re trying, and on the other hand the best rises to the top. I go to Reddit.com and am addicted to that cause it aggregates the funniest stuff. The internet allows genuinely good stuff to be seen by a worldwide audience that would’ve never happened before. Singing news mash ups are just as funny as what I’ve seen on The Daily Show; the internet is a great equalizer.
7. Did you hear from anyone at Google after your Google Threatens to Kill Users sketch?
No. which is funny because I’m such a huge fan of Google. For easyweb, we use Google’s technology. But I still do agree with what my character was talking about in the video. I think it’s indicative of the internet that there’s no rules. I bashed Google openly on YouTube which is owned by Google and they were fine with that. I respect that. I like how Google doesn’t restrict what their users can do. They’re the exact opposite of Apple. It’s clear the two companies are diverging because of that. Although I am waiting for Google to delete my gmail account any day now.
8. How much information do you tend to share on the social networks?
I’m not too big on sharing just for the sake of sharing like “walking to work” or “eating a donut” although I do like reading other’s status updates, just knowing where they are, it makes me feel more connected. I tend to put out jokes that I think of. I do a lot of tweeting. I think the rule of thumb, if it’s something I want people to know me for or what I find spontaneously funny that I want people to laugh at, I’ll send out.
9. What’s your weirdest online experience involving your comedy career?
While I’m now the #1 Ben Morrison on Google search now, for a long I was getting my ass kicked by the azalea, the flower: there’s a Ben Morrison Azalea which has a huge following. I was unable to get into the Google page ranks. You don’t know young comedy depression until a flower is funnier than you are. If you do a Google images search on my name, it’s photos of me and a bunch of flowers peppered. And those flowers are getting prettier by the year.