Hi-Tech Comedy: Rick Younger

Today I’m interviewing Rick Younger. Rick can be seen bi-weekly on NBC’s, “Today Show” and in the upcoming Paramount film “Morning Glory” in Summer 2010. Rick has also been seen on, “Law & Order: SVU”, “Damages”, “Rescue Me”, numerous national commercials including popular ads for Verizon, Staples, T-Mobile, Starburst and McDonald’s and also toured nationally with the Broadway Musical, “RENT”.

rickyounger1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your career?

I got into the social media thing at “the turn of the century.” At first I was on a site called BlackPlanet. My strategy was going on, chatting, getting to know people, making them laugh and then saying “oh by the way, if you’re in town, come check me out.” That has been successful. Even this Sunday, there was a friend I met through black planet that came to the show.

I’ve always tried to jump on what I heard was the new thing. Unfortunately I’ve never been the guy who found the new thing before everyone else. I have MySpace, Twitter, FaceBook, Tumblr, WordPress.

I have two blogs. The Life and Times of a Renaissance Man where I talk about stuff that goes on in my life, my career and inspirational things. The other is for every time I’m on something and I get video, I put it on my WordPress blog which is part of my regular site. I also use Tumblr, I try to post something everyday. It’s been videos of myself, once I run out of those I’ll post something else.

I’m always in search of the next big thing. Everyone on Twitter talks about FaceBook like it’s not cool, everyone on FaceBook talks about MySpace like it’s a dinosaur. Social media is very fickle. It’s like a club, no club stays cool forever.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yes I have noticed the payoff, there’s people who come to shows from the internet. I was just having this conversation with a comic friend, I’ve been doing it for 18 years, there was no social media when I started out and the internet wasn’t what it is now. Only people using it at work had email. The guys who started out when I started have slowly started to realize that we gotta use this. I’m a little ahead of my friends in that manner. We have this fear that we’ll burn out our material if we put it on the internet, but I’ve realized people that follow you on the internet may never come to a show. What is happening is you’re building up your fan base.

I appear bi-weekly on the Today Show on a segment called, “Guys Tell All” and there are people who watch me every time I’m on the Today Show who have purchased my CD and support me in ways other than coming out to actual shows. I feel that’s invaluable, social media and the internet gets you out to a bunch of people at once. Some may reach out to you, some may not. With Twitter, I have people following me on Twitter, I’ll go and look and I’ll notice they’re also following other people I’m on the Today Show with, and I’m like, “Oh that’s where they found me.” Sometimes you don’t know the source of the support. There’s so many different ways people are supporting you that you may not see live at a show.

3. Your album is on CD Baby and iTunes can you talk about that process?

CD Baby lets your fans order the hard copy or get the mp3 version. It’s a website for independent artists. I’m not with a record label and my CD is a self produced project entitled “Come On N’ah”. Some friends of mine helped produce it with me. They own a Christian comedy club. I don’t curse in my act, so I have a nice size Christian fan base. So I’d come to their club and there would be other acts, guys who’ve been doing comedy for five minutes, who were selling merchandise. My friends were like, “It’s a shame you’re this funny and don’t have merchandise.” So they set up a recording session at the club for me. They didn’t take any money for the CD, but I didn’t get paid for that gig. It’s paid off greatly since then. I go to them to get reproductions, but it’s an independent thing. CD Baby is very good because they help push you out there and iTunes picked it up because of CD Baby. And in this day and age, where hardly anyone is buying CDs, being on iTunes is a totally wonderful thing.

4. Why did you decide to have two different blogs instead of combining them?

Rickyounger.blogspot.com is like my diary type blog entitled “The Life and Times of a Renaissance Man”. I’m not necessarily trying to be funny. I’m just sharing a piece of me. What happens is I go and write, and a theme will come up in the writing and that’s what the title will become. I’ll talk about my career and have inspirational words like, “Don’t quit.” I didn’t start out trying to be inspirational but I’ll get emails saying, “Hey that’s really encouraging, I was thinking about getting out of the business.” That’s the therapeutic blog.

Then I got the one on my website, it’s a “What’s New” page. I came to that because I got tired of having to depend on webmasters to update my news. It can take a while, especially if they have a lot of clients. So I wanted something on my page where I could add things on my own.

I didn’t start doing Life and Times until after I had the blog on my website, and a theme had already developed on the website. It’s pretty much videos. I didn’t want to make it so that, say I was to post three or four inspirational blogs in a row, someone went to my what’s new page, and the inspirational stuff is not their cup of tea, they won’t scroll down to see the videos.

I read an article recently talking about the benefit of a blog over a website. And my website is where I try to get more work, and bookers/producers wanna see: What do you do? Why do I know you? Why do I want you at my club or event? And having video saying, “Oh this guy is on NBC’s Today Show, Law and Order, etc,” that works better for people coming for that purpose. So I wanted to keep the personal blog separate from that. The blog is “Rick Younger, person” and the website is “Rick Younger, this is my business.” You still get a taste of the person, but if you’re there for who the business is, you’ll get what you want out of that.

5. What do you think about posting videos of your comedy sets online?

I’m just opening up to the idea of posting comedy sets online. At first, I was really against it. My CD was recorded five years ago, and it took 13 years of comedy before I made my first CD. Coming up with enough material to make a good album, it takes time. I don’t know if everyone agrees with that. I’ve seen it where people put out album after album. You’re at the club watching someone, waiting for the first good seven minutes of their act, and they have three albums, but I digress.

Your material is like your kids, I think of some of my earliest material that took me years to stop doing because I loved the material so much. It’s like, “These are my first born.” It takes a while to move on sometimes. Now that I’ve had more experience, I find my material is based on my life. So there’s always something new coming, even if I have a foundation of certain bits. If you perform, people might put you in a certain head space like, “Oh yeah, I remember last time he did this.” Or I’ll know the person who books this show, really likes that bit.

Now I realize, when people come to the club to see you, there’s a large part of them coming to see “Rick Younger, the person they like.” So what you say as far as your material, some of it they remember, some they don’t, but they remember the experience of having a good time with you. Sometimes, you need to be able to post some things that gives a person who can’t come to the club a taste of who you are. You need stuff for people who might come to the club so they get a chance to say, “Hey I wanna come see that person live.” Then there’s the cross section that will never leave their house. A lot of people on the internet are teenage kids whose mom won’t let them come out, or the socially inept person that never comes out. But that person could decide they love you and be your best word of mouth just from their computer. So having your presence on the internet is really good in that sense. It’s good to put some material out there so people who never leave the house can become a fan possibly.

I came to this realization really recently, so I’m looking for opportunities to get out and record my sets. I put my opening monologue for The Rick Younger show on the internet just two days ago. And it’s funny because I’m so critical of putting myself out there like that. I feel if you see my live it’s so much better than seeing me on tape. So I’m watching it, and hearing people laugh, but I still feel like, “someone is gonna see this and they’ll hate me.” And once they decide they hate you, that’s where they’re gonna stay. It’s harder to make someone love you that’s decided to hate you, than it is to make someone hate you who had decided to love you.

My inspiration for posting videos on the internet is seeing the person doing comedy for 5 minutes who has 50 videos on the net with hundreds of thousands of views and a Comedy Central Presents. I’ve auditioned for pilots for people who got pilots because of their “internet following.” I’m like, “Who is this person? They got one million hits on YouTube? So did two girls one cup, do they need a TV show?” So time has taught me you can’t beat City Hall. Although, maybe I’m selling out now cause I got a kid, I need to feed him.

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

I’m hoping there will be some positive effects. But right now I think it’s totally changed who is popular. It’s like, the cool guy who has no knowledge of the internet is lagging behind. In the amount of time I’ve been a comic, I’ve seen how, for lack of better description, “the nerds have taken over”. It used to be the “cool, hip comic” was the guy everyone liked, like Eddie Murphy in the leather suits. Now, with the internet you got Aziz who’s real popular. And he plays that Randy character, but overall, he’s not your Eddie Murphy cool guy. Rich Vos, who’s popular cause of Last Comic Standing, he doesn’t have the biggest internet presence, but he’s been doing it longer. Any internet stuff by way of Rich Vos is his people and not Rich Vos, but you get the feeling that Aziz is personally interacting with his fans. Kevin Hart has over 200,000 twitter followers and he’s literally tweeting. He’s young enough where doing that is fun for him.

I’m 41, I tweet, but it’s still more of my job than it is a fun thing. I do it, but I’m aware that my wife will be like, “What are you doing, can you play with us now?” It’s kinda making it so there’s a different type of person who’s moving to the forefront of comedy. I’m hoping what will happen is, people who have been doing comedy longer and deserve to be seen, will take notice and do what they have to do.

It is cool that a person can develop a fan base and support system without having to work the road. I hate the road, I got off the road after a while because I felt miserable being out there. I was like, “Why do we have to do the road?” With the internet and social media, we don’t have to do the road. I stay in NY, I do The Today Show twice a month, The Joey Reynolds show once a week, and I do my own show that I produce, “The Rick Younger Show” and I’m on shows for my friends. Every once in a while I’ll go out of town and do something, but that doesn’t happen a lot.

Because of the internet, I’m in constant contact with people from all over the world. I have my Swedish fan, she saw me at Stand Up New York when visiting from Sweden. She bought my album, she blogs in her native country and she mentions me on the blog. I have people in England too. All these relationships have been nurtured form social media. Whenever they come to NYC, they let me know, and I’ll call a club or two, or a friend, and get on a show so they can see me live and I’m getting out there just as much as if I had gone to Sweden or England. My people from England, every time I’m on The Today Show, I send them the link. They’re not even in America and they watch The Today Show at least three times a month because of me. Even yesterday, I posted stuff from my most recent Rick Younger show, and YouTube has those related videos on the side, and I noticed another guy had posted from The Today Show, and someone had started “A Guys Tell All” YouTube page that I have nothing to do with. And I don’t think NBC has anything to do with, there’s no NBC logos, and the page was recently started. So once again, the internet is getting it out there.

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

I do a combination of self promotion and comedic insights. On Twitter, I post what I’m doing performance wise and then I’ll post my daily interactions with my son. I’m his daycare, cause I don’t have a day job. I refer to him as “The Youngest Younger” and I say what we’re up to. Like this morning, I said “The Youngest Younger just turned 17 months, by the time he’s 5, he’ll say his favorite artists are Marvin, Stevie and Earth Wind Fire.” I’ll also respond to what other people tweet. Sometimes it’ll be funny, sometimes it’ll be angry forty year old dude stuff that makes people laugh. It’s a combination of self promotion and insight into who I am, without getting into too much of who I am. Some people fill up your stream with “I turned the corner,” “I need to go to the bathroom.” I think that’s a bit much.

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

It’s all been pretty unweird. I have people who reach out to me from other countries and it was a little weird because, I thought I was being Punk’d. Once I realized they were serious and they proved they had actually seen me, it was okay. Sometimes, things get lost in translation. Even when people put “LOL” after stuff. I think maybe they’re being sarcastic. Like you write something and they reply “Hilarious LOL” and I hear it as a sarcastic, “Hilarious LOL, you’re not funny.”

People reach out to me that I didn’t know had seen me. There’s a thin line between cyber stalking and stalking. There’s a certain part of me, the old school part of me, that is so aware, because of the fact that I put dates and locations to where I’ll be, I’m leaving myself wide open to the crazy person. There’s a part that’s always afraid of people recognizing me. “Hey Rick Younger” and I’m like “Yes…? Who are you?” That’s the weirdest thing about the internet to me, people getting to know you that you’re not getting to know back. And when they say, “How are you doing?” and you’re like, “Wait you know a whole lot about me. Who are you?” Then I remember I posted all that on my website.

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