“Fans, Friends and Followers” Quotes Part 1/2

I recently reviewed Fans, Friends and Followers by Scott Kirsner. I finally got around to typing up the quotes I found interesting enough to underline in the book.

“The more opportunities you create for fans to participate in your process, the more engaged and loyal you’ll find they become.” (6)

“When someone is getting their first taste of your work, you need to give them a reason – quickly – to dive in deeper. What you’re up to needs to be crystal clear, or so mysterious and bizarre that people can’t help but have their curiosity piqued.” (11)

“I’ve found that educational stuff can attract an audience. Share your techniques, and tell people about the software you’re using.” (13)

“One piece of advice for people is about consistency. A lot of people put out one thing and it’s really popular. They’re surprised, and they don’t have anything else to do. People really want consistent content. You can’t go three or four months without something new.“ -Michael Burns (40)

“The idea that we’re going to hit some sort of steady model is false hope. You’ve just got to keep moving. We’ve had forty business models in nine years. I don’t see it slowing down at all.” -Gregg and Evan Spiridellis (46)

“The Internet is a collection of communities. You need to create a community around your film. That will not happen if you keep things to yourself. You need to open yourself up, show your face, show your production, let people get inside. People do a lot of things when they get enthusiastic about something. They help the production, give money, or run into the streets and scream about your production. You need to allow people to do that. It’s an enormous viral force.” -Timo Vuorensola (47)

“You need to offer different monetization options for different customers. Some people watch it on the Web for twenty minutes and then want to buy the DVD. Some people watch the whole film on BitTorrent, but then want to support us by buying merchandise. We want to let you give us money in any way possible.” -Timo Vuorensola (48)

“The way I meet people and get most of my jobs is offering to help people.” -Steve Garfield (49)

“I email everybody back. I respond to everything. Think about regular TV shows. In that world, you’d never expect to get any sort of response.” -Steve Garfield (50)

“The audience votes with their ‘forward’ button. If they see a video that they think has something to say, they forward it. All the money in the world and all the kings horses can’t get them to do that.” -Robert Greenwald (52)

“We want to have 5,000 people who are video distributors – who understand that they are Paramount Studios, they are CBS. If they take our video and get it to 100 people, that’s hugely important.” -Robert Greenwald (53)

“As fast as someone becomes your fan, they can become someone posting everywhere and saying you suck. But if you respond to them, they become powerful. They’re like bees, spreading your message.” -M dot Strange (55)

Book Review: Fans, Friends and Followers

Fans, Friends and Followers by Scott Kirsner is a three part book about building and monetizing an online fan base.

fansIn the first part, Scott lays out the “new rules” of building an audience such as “Be remarkable and make remarkable stuff”, “Understand the power of the link” and “Help people learn to do what you do”. While artists new to social media may find this section insightful, this section is just a reminder of what the rest of us should already know. After reading Seth Godin and other online thought leaders for the past few years I found myself alternating between a state of “oh yeah, I forgot about that” and nodding along impatiently waiting to get to some new secret formula. 

But a secret formula to get a large following quickly isn’t the point of the book, and thankfully so. The real value of this book is in part two, where Scott interviews 30 creators from diverse fields such as singing, film production and comedy who have succeeded in building an online following (and in most cases, a monetary living) for their work. I found myself getting more ideas from creators that had nothing to do with comedy than I did from the comedians, and I feel this sort of “cross-pollination of ideas” will hold true no matter your medium. 

While the interviews were very insightful, I would have liked to read interviews from the following creators who have built a huge online following: Tucker Max, Hugh McLeod, Aaron Karo and Dane Cook. (Whether you love or hate Dane, he has always been way ahead of every other comic on technology and interacting with his fans.) 

In the third and final part, Scott provides a quick reference guide for getting started on using social media and the internet to one’s advantage. While you won’t really read this section, it will be a handy reference five months down the line when you decide you’re not going to post your new joke until you raise $50 and you want to find out which site can help you implement that technology. 

Overall, I highly recommend this book to any creator or blogger who is looking to establish or increase their online presence. Whether new to the internet or an experienced veteran, the people and ideas in this book will get you thinking about your audience from a new perspective. Be warned, there is no trick or quick way to build a following, it takes time, but Scott’s book will help you develop a more coherent strategy for the road ahead.

(Full Disclosure: As a comedy blogger, I was received a free preview copy of this book. I don’t think that influenced my opinion as it’s always easier to write a negative review than a positive review, but I thought you should know.)

“How To Be a Working Comic” Quotes

I read How To Be A Working Comic by Dave Schwensen and did not find it that useful. Here’s the quotes I found most interesting. If you like the book, buy it here.

“Nothing is better for business than to be good. Your only business decision when starting out is to do your act as often as you can. Take as many punches as you can onstage for free. It’ll all pay off later. But for now, just get on to get on.” (4)

“The whole key to becoming a working comic: be professional and be prepared.” (62)

“Most comedians spend many years practicing and polishing their acts before they actually make a living in this business. Be prepared for disappointments, but be aware of any gradual improvements you make, too. If you can honestly say you’re getting better, then continue to work hard. If not, then don’t be afraid to reevaluate your career choice.” (112)

“You have to write ten clean, non-topical jokes a day. They have to be jokes that can last a couple of years.” -Drew Carrey (116)

“I think being famous and getting all this money frees you to be whatever you’ve been holding back, to be what you naturally are. So, if you’re naturally a jerk, you can stop being nice to people you don’t want to be nice to anymore. You can start speaking your mind like you always wished you could have. If you feel like being a total bitch, a whiner and a complainer, unappreciative of everything that God’s given you, then you can! You can start demanding stuff, like, ‘Where’s my limo?’ because you’re naturally a jerk.
If you’re naturally a nice person, it still frees your ego to do whatever it wants. Well, I’m always nice to everybody, I think. It’s more important to me to be decent to people, because I’ve got to sleep at night. I don’t want people writing articles about me saying, “That Drew was a real jerk today.” I don’t want to name any names, but I’ve heard horrible stories about people who get famous. One was on a sitcom, and all people could talk about was how awul this guy was. He was mean to everybody, nasty and demanding.” –Drew Carrey (117)

“There’s no right or wrong in comedy. I feel if you’re getting laughs, then that’s working.” –Rhonda Shear (161)

“Don’t let anyone discourage you, because everyone will try to, especially in comedy. There is more negativity there than in any other business. Just do your own thing. Get that stage time no matter how laborious, no matter how far the drive may be. It will be worth it. If you really love it, you’ll stick with it. Once the comedy bug bites, it’s hard to get away from it.” –Rhonda Shear (162)

    “The Comedy Bible” Quotes (3/3)

    This is part 3 of 3 of quotes from The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. Here is part 1 and part 2.

    • “I fell into the trap of equating fame with success. For so many years I felt like a failure. It didn’t matter if I got a standing ovation, had a great writing day, or even pulled in some big bucks doing comedy – I wasn’t a household name. It took me a long time to realize that success is a state of mind. My critical voice that nagged, “But you don’t have a sitcom,” quieted down as I started focusing on small triumphs – like finding a great premise, writing new material, having a great set. Today I enjoy my career. Only about 1 percent of comics are famous, yet there are a lot of us out there making a fine living from the road, corporate gigs, TV appearances, writing for other comics, speaking, and of course, writing books. Enjoy where you are – today.” (276) 
    • “Whether you want to write comedy or perform it, getting good is a daily challenge, and you have to work at it all the time. It’s not something you do when you feel creative. It’s something you do not matter what, even when you’re too busy, too tired, or too burnt out from your day job. You even do it when you’re recovering from plastic surgery. Why? Because that’s what it takes to get good.” (282) 
    • “You have to work on new material and new scripts every day.” (283) 
    • “Be willing to throw out material – even if it kills. If you get a chunk that kills and you do it every show, soon you will depend on that piece. You may even become frightened to perform without it. Take a courageous step and toss it out for a few months, to make room for another piece to add to your stockpile of killer material.” (283) 
    • “Comics with smart material but amateurish stage presence are called writers. If you want to be successful as a comic, get on stage, on any stage, as much as you can.” (284)
    • “No matter how talented and funny you are, if you don’t spend your waking hours asking, “How can I improve my craft?” chances are you will spend the rest of your life asking, “Would like to hear our specials today?” (288) 
    • “Whether you are a comedy writer or a stand-up, in order to stand out it is essential that you distinguish yourself by magnifying your brand of comedy – your identity, your image, your persona. It’s not a cerebral decision you make about yourself. It’s who you are—exaggerated times ten.” (293) 
    • “In order to stand out from the pack, evaluate yourself.
      1. What are your signature jokes? (Usually the jokes that get the biggest response.)
      2. What type of audience do you feel most comfortable in front of (corporate types, college students, women, gays, Italians)/
      3. What article of clothing suits you best? Rodney Dangerfield wears a rumpled coat and tie, giving him that “I don’t get no respect” look.
      4. Create an ad for your act that sums up what you do and targets your audience. What name would you give your show? Sandra Bernhard’s stand-up show was called Without You I’m Nothing. This summed up the tone of her show. Six of my students got together and came up with Six-Pack of Comedy and had a clever flyer with their pictures on a six-pack of beer. What kind of pictures would you have in the ad? Can you come up with a one-sentence phrase that sums you up?” (296) 
    • “Not everyone will love what you do, but you need to find the people who will.” (299) 
    • “You are ready when you have developed some depth and character, and you can work any crowd. You have to bomb to succeed. Some comics spend all their time honing a ten minute set that only works in New York. Then they go to Nashville, where their chunk on subways doesn’t work because Nashville doesn’t have subways. You have to know how to work all the states. The road is like college and you need it like an education.” – Rocky LaPorte (313)

    Have you read the book and think I missed something important? Do you want me to try to explain any of the quotes above in more detail? Let me know via the comments. I read all of them and respond to 99%.

    “The Comedy Bible” Quotes (2/3)

    This is a continuation from yesterday’s quotes from The Comedy Bible by Judy Carter. 

    • “There are no funny ideas. It’s what you do with an idea that makes it funny. Steven Wright: “As an exercise I pick unfunny topics and see how I can make them funny.”” (172) 
    • “If you want to have a career as a comedy writer or performer, being funny isn’t enough. You have to have a unique point of view.” (179) 
    • “Mind Mapping topics: Write your topic in the middle of a page and draw a circle around it. Then quickly draw other balloons containing elements of this topic until your entire page is covered with words having to do with your topic. Then focus on each balloon and write offshoots containing the specifics of that topic. Don’t judge, just draw as quickly as you can.” (183) 
    • “If you try to make your act fit into a predetermined box you’ll end up limiting yourself. Instead, create the best material you can and let your persona evolve from that.” (189) 
    • “Honing Your Act:
      1.      On each card, circle one topic.
      2.      Make sure the topic is relatable.
      3.      Write an attitude word on each card.
      4.      Is that attitude expressed by any of the following words: stupid, weird, hard, bugs me, scary?
      5.      Does each topic have a premise that is written out?
      6.      Does that premise answer the attitude-topic question? (“Do you know what’s weird?)
      7.      Do most topics lead to an act out?
      8.      Does the act-out have the same cast of characters as the setup?
      9.      Does the act-out exaggerate the attitude?
      10.  After some act-outs, do you have a mix?
      11.  Do you follow the mix with another act-out?
      12.  Do you have a lot of hits on most topics (topic run)?
      13.  If you have a list of three items, is the third one a turn?” (191) 
    • “To get the spontaneity back into your material, picture what you are talking about and feel the attitude as if the event just happened and this is the first time you’re mentioning it.” (192) 
    • “There should never be even one moment when you are onstage and attitude-free. It’s the kiss of death because audiences respond to emotions, not words.” (195) 
    • “When a mishap occurs, such as the mike stand breaks, the lights go out, or there is a puff of smoke from the grassy knoll, acknowledge it. When you call the situation, it puts the audience at ease.” (198) 
    • “If it’s a small crowd, less than fifty people, talk to them because they’ll tend to laugh more in their heads than out loud. That’s especially true if they are spread out in a room. Involving the audience in a conversation reminds them that they aren’t watching TV – you can hear them, and it’s appropriate to laugh out loud.” (198) 
    • “Audience members can feel very uncomfortable when the comic talks to them. Most people in an audience do not want to be the center of attention. Therefore, try not to talk to one person immediately. Talk to the audience as a group, then maybe address a row, and then a table, and finally one person. This way you have slowly gained their trust as you worked your way down to one person.” (198) 
    • “I sit down and write crap for forty minutes. Everybody thinks that they have to write funny, every line. All you have to do is pick a subject and write about that and then pick another subject and write about that. I guarantee you that at the end of forty minutes, you will crank out a funny line because it takes forty minutes for your brain to click over from the dealing-with-life side to the creative side. Then go back to what you wrote and fix it. And the more writing sessions you have, the quicker your creativity will click in.” – Chris Titus (204) 
    • “Technique can carry you only so far. Passion and soul have to take you the rest of the way.” (211) 
    • “Don’t write in the past tense, such as, “I was standing on the street corner and I saw this woman.” It should be, “I’m standing on this street corner and I see this woman.” When you write in the present  tense, your whole emotional system shifts to the inside of the story. If you work in the past tense, not only do you distance yourself from the material, but you distance the audience from it as well.” (219) 
    • “What often keeps a script from becoming great is that the writer is married to things that are just OK. Just as in writing stand-up, you must be willing to dump not only the things that don’t work but also the things that are just adequate. Adequate won’t get you a job. Only brilliance will.” (261?)
    • “Not every line can be a joke, but you can punch up even the straightest of lines doing what the pros call adding color. That means saying something in a clever way rather than a straightforward one. So, instead of, “Where were you? Getting a manicure?” your character would say,” Where were you? Getting those claws filed?” Adding color is an offbeat way of saying the same thing.” (261) 
    • “Carter’s 3-step comedy business strategy.
      Step 1: Get good.
      Step 2: Get noticed.
      Step 3: Get paid.” (275) 
    • “Putting yourself out in the marketplace before you’re ready not only can hurt your career, it can even prevent you from ever having one.” (275) 
    • “Many people don’t know who veteran stand-up Paula Poundstone is, but almost everyone recognizes the name of penis slicer Lorena Bobbitt. Cutting off someone’s penis is quick and easy. Spending years perfecting an act, writing scripts, and waiting three hours to do three minutes at an open mike is long and hard. So, if fame and fortune are your only goals, start a pyramid scheme, live with O.J., rob a bank.” (276)

    The last batch of quotes are coming tomorrow. If you want me to try to explain any of the quotes above in more detail, please let me know via the comments.