2021 Comedy Goals

For the past twelve years, I set goals publicly at the start of the year and then review how I did at the end of the year [see 2020, 2019201820172016201520142013201220112010 and 2009]. I’m not sure if this is actually useful, especially as the COVID19 pandemic of 2020 made all plans laughable, 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. The ones in grey are not fully in my control.

I’m down to 12 goals (it was 14 goals last year, and 15 the year before). And instead of a top 5, I’ve made a top 3, because so much of this past year has been outside of everyone’s control.

Stand-Up

  • Write 20 new minutes of “album worthy” material
  • Do 100 live performances (and actually enjoy being on stage each time)
  • Do my gameshow 20+ times (virtual or in-person)
  • Perform at 50+ private events (virtual or in-person)
  • Double my TikTok account to 350,000 followers and 14 million likes (yes in the year 2021, this counts as standup)

Writing and Producing

  • Complete the TV version of the gameshow sizzle reel
  • Pitch our newest scripted idea to 3+ networks/production companies
  • Pitch our gameshow to 3+ networks/production companies

Learning

  • Read 12 books
  • Take one class or self-learn one new creative software

Financials

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

Misc

  • Average weight under 180 pounds

 

My Top 3 Goals

  • Complete the TV version of the gameshow sizzle reel
  • Do my gameshow 20+ times (virtual or in-person)
  • Double my TikTok account to 350,000 followers and 14 million likes

2020 Comedy Goals Revisited

On January 1st, 2020 I posted my goals for this year. Since it’s the last day of the year, it’s time to go through them and see how I did. Although given the global pandemic this year, this is more of an exercise in “Man makes plans and God laughs” then it is an actual review of goals.

Black text is the original goal and bold text is how I did. 

Stand Up (3 out of 6 accomplished)

  • Perform at least 500 times
    Nope. This was the first thing to become impossible in March 2020.
  • Create 40 new minutes of material that I try on stage, turn 20 of those minutes into “A” jokes
    Nope. Once live performance shut down, I turned my writing focus onto other projects.
  • Write 5/7 days of every week
    Yes. This I did. Whether journaling, working on scripts or something else, I wrote most days.
  • Have Amazon Prime Video stream my new comedy album on their platform (as well as an abridged version of my third album)
    Yes. My special went live on Amazon in April.
  • Get my new comedy album “Don’t Shake Your Miracle” to #1 in the iTunes Comedy charts
    The audio album got to #1 on Amazon Music and #2 on iTunes, so I’m counting this as a yes.
  • Do a stand-up set on TV or Netflix that airs in its entirety (not a stand-up clip show)
    Nope.

Writing/Producing (non-standup) (3 out of 4 accomplished)

  • Publish my second book
    Yes. The book came out in November.
  • Create and release 3 new sketch videos
    Yes. I created more than 3 new sketch videos, mostly at the start of the pandemic.
  • Develop and film a sizzle reel for my gameshow idea
    Yes. This is now a virtual show that has been booked at colleges, corporations and non-profits. Technically it’s different than the TV version, but I’m counting this as completed.
  • Sell a TV show and get it on air
    Nope. Wrote a new show but still in the process of pitching.

Learning

  • Take at least one class (0.5 out of 2 accomplished)
    Did not take a class. But I did self-learn OBS Studio and GarageBand. I also picked up how to properly use TikTok and greatly improved my Photoshop skills. So I’m giving myself half credit.
  • Read 20 books
    Read fewer than 20 books. No more travel + small child always around = less reading.

Financials (0 out of 1 accomplished)

  • Earn $50,000 from entertainment-related business income
    Hahaha, no, hahaha.

Misc (0 out of 1 accomplished)

  • Average weight of 176 pounds or less
    Hahaha, no, hahaha.

 

Top 5 Goals (2 out of 5 accomplished)

  • Publish my second book Yes
  • Create 40 new minutes of material that I try on stage, turn 20 of those minutes into “A” jokes No
  • Perform 500 times No
  • Average weight of 176 pounds or less No
  • Develop and film a sizzle reel for my gameshow idea Yes

Overall notes: This was the second year I separated “things I can control” vs “things I can’t control” except the pandemic changed some of what was in my control. Considering how weird a year it’s been, I’m quite surprised that accomplished 6.5 out of my 14 total goals, and 2 out of my top 5. In a regular year, this would be so-so achievement, but in 2020, grading a curve, I’m giving myself an A+ 🙂

Ben’s Newest Book Now Available!

I’m excited to announce the launch of my and Michelle Slonim’s new book!

New Parent Smell book cover

New Parent Smell: Funny Thoughts On Pregnancy, Newborns & Tots is an illustrated humor book that helps ease the stress of parents-to-be.

New Parent Smell is the book to read after you’ve read one of those “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” type books, got hit with anxiety and could use some laughs.

Learn more or buy a copy here


Book Press:

NJ Stage

Rise Up and Write

Rise Up and Write screenshot

Humor That Works Interview

BOAST: Best Of Astoria

Comedy Network Live

No Disrespect Podcast #150

In Hot Water #565

Love Gurus Podcast

Drew Wanna Know Podcast #17

How I Got 100,000 TikTok Followers In 51 Days

Intro

I recently hit 100k followers on my TikTok account. A bunch of my friends started asking me how I did it, so I figured it’d be more helpful to write out my methods in one post.

My follower count as of July 6, 2020

While my method worked for stand-up comedy, I’ve tried keeping my advice general where possible so you can apply my ideas to whatever your talent/interest is.

 

Background

I started focusing on TikTok on May 13. I had about 200 followers. By June 3rd I had 1,000 followers.
By July 3, it was over 100,000.

July 3rd followers went over 100k
Compare with early June when followers are 1.3k

I’ve been on the other social media platforms for 10+ years and never got much traction: My twitter has 3,700 followers, Instagram 1,300 followers and Facebook page 750 followers.

I made a TikTok account and posted about 15 videos in Jan/Feb for my album release. One clip got 10,000 views which was great by my standards, the rest got a couple of hundred, so I stopped.

In retrospect, my square format of the videos with a large ad up top was not the proper way to create TikTok specific videos. I was trying to be efficient and reuse content that I’d created for Instagram, but it didn’t make sense here.

This clip is a terrible format for TikTok: Too much blank space up top and the captions are too low that they overlap some of the TikTok app text. And my face is too small to see. In spite of all that, this was the one early clip of mine that got past a few hundred views and all the way to 10k views.

I’d heard of TikTok for at least a year but didn’t understand it and didn’t really use it or play with it although I should’ve because:

My college agent kept mentioning I needed to figure out TikTok because all the college kids were using it.

My friend Chris James kept bugging me to get on TikTok.

The final inspiring catalyst was when my friend Dave Nihill wrote a very helpful post “TikToking From 0 to 300k Followers in 60 Days.” In fact, before you read this further, read Dave’s article. It’s super helpful and better than this post of mine.

My main takeaways from Dave’s article were

  1. Create in the 1080×1920 native vertical format
  2. Have text titles on your video for the first 2-3 seconds
  3. At a minimum, reply to all comments for the first 30-60 minutes after posting
    (which I now batch by checking 10 minutes after posting, then 45 minutes after posting)
  4. Enable and use TikTok Analytics to see what times of day your followers are most likely to be online.
    For me it was in the 2pm to 10pm range – so I posted like 3pm and 6pm, but sometimes 5pm and 9pm, etc. Depending on my day. I didn’t stress about the exact timing, I just used the heuristic of “morning bad, late afternoon and early evening good.”
  5. It helps the algorithm if people watch your whole video – aka it’s better to have two shorter videos that people might get through rather than one “long” 58 second video
  6. Don’t put important information in the top , bottom and right edges of the video frame because TikTok specific icons take up those parts of the screen

    Make sure nothing important of your video is in the top and right 10 percent of the screen as well as the bottom 25 percent as TikTok text appears there and it will look weird / be hard to see.

After reading Dave’s article, to make myself accountable, I told Chris, “Okay, I’ll post for 30 straight days and text you every time I post since you’ve been annoying me about getting on TikTok. At least now you’ll be annoyed back.” (This is my Russian Jewish way of saying, “Thanks Chris James!”)

30 days in, I was at about 5k followers. Which was more followers than in all my years of Twitter/Instagram/Facebook usage. I was happy that I was getting interaction and that some videos were getting 50k-100k views, so I decided I’d keep posting every day for at least another month.

My process

I subscribe to Scott Adam’s theory of focusing on process, not goals.

If I was gonna do this every day for a month, I wanted to think of something I could

  • Easily do twice a day, that would take a half-hour total per day or less
  • Repeat constantly without stressing out about ideas

Also I was sick of video editing my last comedy special into small clips, so I didn’t want to do anything that involved a real  time commitment for editing.

So I decided to film myself doing some of my stand up jokes with a white wall behind me.

@bigbencomedy

Part 2 of my #russian #dad talking to my #teachers after I got in a #fight at school. #fyp #tiktokcomedy

♬ original sound – bigbencomedy

And I knew TikTok skewed to a younger audience, so I started with the jokes I’d do when performing at colleges. I made the first few jokes in the shorter 8-12 second range on purpose, to increase the odds of people watching the whole thing as I was told that helps the discovery algorithm.

I paid attention to the videos that did best. It quickly became obvious that when I was doing my parents’ Russian accent, people enjoyed that most. So I started putting out those jokes more often. But not exclusively. Because I don’t want to be pigeon-holed as “the Russian voice guy”

My Tactics (That Will Be Quickly Outdated)

  • Captions. From having been doing a lot of video editing for my special, I was used to captioning all my jokes. So in addition to having a 3-second title, I decided to caption the rest of my jokes, 2-3 lines at a time. It’s a little more work, but it made my video look unique compared to others I’d seen
  • Different text colors. On a lark, I decided to use a different text color for every video post. It was accidentally quite useful, for when you go to my profile page, it looks fun and you can easily tell that each video is different.
    Using different text colors made my profile page look more fun

    A lot of comedians have all their posts look very similar visually in the profile grid, and that might confuse people. My different colors may have made people more likely to follow me because it’s visually pleasing and easier to understand exactly what to expect from my account.

  • Respond Funny In Comments.  I tried to be funny when responding to comments since I’m a comedian.
  • Tag users that comment in a related video. At the start, if someone asked something that was related to a different video, I’d tag them in the comments for that other video. I don’t know if this actually helped, but I liked that early followers would feel more of a connection
  • Weird face. Without overthinking it, I’d often add a weird facial expression at the end of my clip as an additional silly thing.
  • Avoid perfection. I’d mostly do one take of the joke, unless I flubbed words, then  I’d try again. My key was not obsessing about any of this.
  • 6-8 hashtags. 7 seemed to be the sweet spot for me. #fyp and #tiktokcomedy were the 2 I always used. I have not found that #jokes #standup or #standupcomedy help me at all
  • Filmed it the same day as posting. For the first 40 or so days, I was filming it new each day – so if you go through my page, you can see my hair and beard lengths changing each day, as well as a different colored t-shirt. I think that helps the profile view look fresh and interesting
    Although now I film a few days of content at a time, changing t-shirts every 3-4 clips, just because it’s easier to track what jokes I’ve done and faster to film in one chunk. Plus I have to spend more time replying to comments after posting than before and still want to limit my TikTok use to 30-60 minutes a day.
  • Don’t obsess. The most important tactic – I didn’t obsess about the numbers or spend too much time on this. I did jokes that I thought were tested, replied to comments for a little, then went about my life.
  • Track what you post. Knowing I was gonna do at least 60 posts in 30 days, I started a simple text document tracking the title of my bit, how long it was, day/time posted, and how many views it had in the first day – this was mostly to make sure I didn’t repeat any material and to see that sometimes, a clip that doesn’t do great views-wise right away picks up steam a week or a month later.

    A very unscientific way to track my posts and not repeat jokes by accident. It helps that I previously named all my bits.
  • Don’t delete clips. Once you start, keep all your clips up for at least a month. The second video of mine that got over 100k views barely had 5k views for the first two weeks.
  • Delete/private old content that doesn’t match. I  deleted or set to private my 15-20 pre-May-experiment TikTok videos except for the one video that had 10k views.
  • Good grammar and spelling. I made sure to use correct spelling and punctuation for all the text captions, as not doing so personally bothers me. I also would hit enter in places so it was easier to read. Not sure this makes any difference.
  • Text timing. I made sure the text captions sync up decently with the words I’m saying.

Why My Method May Not Work For You

At the time I started to focus on TikTok, I’d been writing and performing jokes in front of live audiences for nearly 12 years. I’d recorded four comedy albums. In other words, I had 4+ hours of tested and edited material that I could turn into 15-25 second bits at a time. I could not write a new joke for at least a year and have enough in the backlog to put out two new jokes per day. If you haven’t done the work and you’re doing brand new, untested jokes every day, the odds that enough of them are funny enough to build a following are lower.

I posted usually 2 and sometimes 3 videos, every day for 50 straight days. I did not take a single day off. Allegedly algorithms like consistency.

TLDR

  • Post at twice a day, at least an hour apart, preferably three or fours hours
  • Respond to comments for the first 30-60 minutes
  • Use 6-8 hashtags but also have normal words in the description
  • Post a couple of shorter (8 to 15 second) videos that you know will be well received by college-age kids first as your first 5 videos are most important
  • Figure out a format you can post easily and often, then do it twice a day for a month without focusing on results