Hi-Tech Comedy: Jan McInnis

Today I’m interviewing Jan McInnis. Jan is a corporate comedian who has spoken at hundreds of conferences, training sessions, employee retreats and banquets held by such groups as Anthem Blue-Cross, Merrill Lynch, John Deere, the Federal Reserve, Women in Insurance & Financial Services, and the Mayo Clinic. Jan was featured in the “Wall Street Journal” as one of the top convention comedians whose act is clean.

WEBIMG_9727-new-head-shot2SMALL1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your career?

I’m doing everything from Google Ads to Facebook, Linked In, Blogging, etc. And I’m doing lots of interviews like this and doing blog talk radio interviews. I’ve done several of those. I’m kinda all over the internet, which is nice but a little disorganized.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yes. What I’m noticing is people with actual money are searching the internet. In the past week, I’ve had a major company, that you think wouldn’t search the internet for comedians, find me. That’s happened a few times. Up until a little over a year ago, people that would find you wanted you to do their events for $50. Now, people have actual budgets and it’s big companies searching. I think that’s a big change that happened online.

3. Your main website is TheWorkLady.com, why do you promote that instead JanMcInnis.com?

Because people can’t spell Jan McInnis. I do a lot of work humor so I went with something people can remember and spell – TheWorkLady.com seemed like an easier thing to remember. It also let’s people know what I talk about in my act. I market myself to the convention market so work is a good subject to differentiate me from some of the other comics.  I do own JanMcInnis.com, because I think you have to own YourName.com. I think down the road the internet is the mail way we’ll do business, so owning your own name will be crucial. I’d love to own Jan.com, I missed that one. I also have a comedy writing site, www.Joke-writer.com, to promote my comedy writing services, and an Emcee site. www.ComedyEmcee.com and a couple of comedy blogs: www.ComedyWritingBlog.com, www.JanBlog.com.

I own probably fifty domain names. I’m gonna go broke owning domains. I got my book title’s domain name: www.FindingTheFunnyFast.com and two keynotes speeches I do domain names: www.FindingTheFunnyInCommunications.com and www.FindingTheFunnyInChange.com.

4. How do you think the web is different for booking corporate gigs vs clubs and colleges?

As I mentioned, up until a year or two ago, there weren’t big companies scouring the web, or I didn’t think so. Now they are. The clubs have always been doing email a little more readily. And colleges, I’ve only done a few, so I don’t know much about that market.

5. You have a blog that’s separate from your website, what’s the thinking behind separating the two?

My website is more static, my blogs have different stuff on them every week, you can follow me a little more. I have www.JanBlog.com which started out being comedy travels, fun stuff like that. Then I started putting in tips on writing. I’ve written for radio, greeting cards and I’ve sold to The Tonight Show, CEOs and speakers. And I really wanted to promote my writing service to get more writing clients. My www.JanBlog.com didn’t really fit that blog and it wasn’t on WordPress, which seems to be the most popular hosting site and one that Google likes to search, so just a few weeks ago I started www.ComedyWritingBlog.com and that’s my tips on comedy writing. So I’ve got two blogs going and I need to get better at them. I did put in an entry last night so I’m getting better!

I’m my own technology person, which is a bit of a problem. Until 3 years ago, I had a guy hosting my website and doing a few things for me, but it took him six weeks to put up a video. I got really frustrated, and then he put it up with bad quality. He actually said that it was low quality because, quote, “That’s for people who have dialup.” I’m thinking if someone has dialup, then they probably can’t afford a comedian.” So I took over doing all the web stuff (except google ads) because I want to do it now! I have a flip video camera, I can take testimonials from shows and pop them up on my website and blogs. I can make instant changes. I’ve never thought of myself as a control freak, but maybe I am a little bit when it comes to my career.

6. What do you think about posting videos of your show online?

It’s the best way to get people to find you. I’ve had tons of people find me from YouTube videos. You have to monitor the comments though. I’ve had people put up sex references to my videos. . .I have no idea why – there’s just some weirdos out there. . .and so you’ve really got to be ready to get those off of there and/or not approve them. Most clients don’t want a mailed packet anymore. . .and you can really go broke mailing out packets and DVDS. Plus if you don’t have an online presence people don’t take you seriously. I have a couple friends who have businesses and they don’t even have a website. I don’t care if the website is 2 pages, you need something up there to show that you’re serious.

Some people are worried about people stealing your jokes, but you can’t be that paranoid about it. You can’t stop people from stealing jokes. I think the universe will take care of them. You can tell when someone has stolen material because their act is uneven. I do a lot of setup – punch, setup – punch jokes, really quick like Rodney Dangerfield. When people mix it up with set-up/punchline and maybe some stories, and then some one liners. . .it is uneven. Plus most of us write about what bothers us, from our personal experience. Someone who steals from you doesn’t have the same feelings when they’re telling the joke.

7. How do you think digital tools will change comedy?

I think it’ll be easier to get booked because you get a sense of the comedian instantly online. One thing going on at conventions now is that the audience is twittering in real time about the speaker. I think that will come into play a little bit with comedy too. There will be more real, quick, immediate feedback. Whether you’re in a club or a convention you’ll find out what people think right then. But it also is going to get really annoying. . .we had hecklers in the clubs. Maybe we’ll have Tweklers at the convention. Hey, I just invented a new word. . .let me go buy the domain name quick!

8. How much information do you tend to share on the social networks?

I don’t share personal things like my birthday and stuff because I almost had my identity stolen last year. All the person needed was my birthday, so she kept calling me and asking questions trying to find that out, so I’m real cautious about that. I use FaceBook more with friends and family, so I haven’t put as many business people on Facebook. I use Linkedin for business. And regardless of if it’s friends and family or business people, I don’t talk about what I had for breakfast or the mundane things of my life. Instead I try to keep it more professional and/or tell some funny things that I’ve heard or mention things I’m doing. . . so as to remind people what I do for a living. . .you never know if their company or an organization they belong to will need a comedian. Plus I love my friends but I really don’t care if they’re raising farm animals on some imaginary farm and I don’t really want a bunch of snowballs thrown at me, so I don’t do it to them

9. What’s your weirdest online experience involving your comedy career?

I haven’t had anything really odd other than people will email me whole speeches and say, “Can you give me some jokes?” I’ve never talked to these people, they don’t know what I charge, yet they want me to read their whole speech and punch it up for them, usually at little or no cost and they want it done now. Or they’ll send me their jokes and ask me for my input. I do bounce joke ideas around with my comic friends, but I don’t have time to just drop everything and look at someone’s joke whom I don’t even know.

10. Any other thoughts?

It’s really fun that you can do all the web stuff yourself but I should get some more to help, because it can be overwhelming. Plus there’s just so much to learn. I do have someone doing things like google ads, etc., but there is so much more that I’m sure I’m missing out on. But it’s really cool how that it’s so easy to take comments from a show and put them up that night and have some nice testimonials. That’s really fun.

5 Replies to “Hi-Tech Comedy: Jan McInnis”

  1. Great interview, Ben. It looks like she’s got in early and scooped up some good domain names, and developed her web presence so that it’s contributing to her career in a major way. It’s interesting that her website is actually very basic, few videos and no web2.0 stuff. I think a lot of comedians procrastinate about putting up a site as they want the design to be perfect.

  2. Wayne – thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Let me know if you have any specific questions you’d like me to ask in future interviews.

    Andrew – I agree about the procrastination, but I don’t think it’s limited to just comedians. I had a philosophy professor who used to say, “The enemy of the good is the perfect.” Basically, if you wait around waiting for things to be perfect, you’ll never do anything. Whereas if you start with some momentum and then make iterated changes, you’ll eventually get pretty close to perfect. I know just from my website, I’ve redesigned it about five times in the past two years (and it’ll keep changing as time goes on).

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