Hi-Tech Comedy: Neil Berliner

Today I’m honored to be interviewing Neil Berliner. Neil Berliner has written lines performed on many major roasts for Comedy Central, The Howard Stern Show, and the Friars Club, including William Shatner, Matt Lauer, Flavor Flav, Artie Lange, Pat Cooper, Andy Dick, and Mario Batali.  His material has been featured in many national venues including The New York Times, The View, The Howard Stern Show, The Joy Behar Show, Page 6 and Rush & Molloy.  Neil currently writes monologues and desk bits for the syndicated late-night talk show, The John Kerwin Show in L.A., founded and writes the weekly “Monoblogue” 1-liner column for “Stage Time Magazine”, and will be presenting his joke writing workshop, Anatomy of a 1 Liner at The World Series of Comedy in Las Vegas in September, 2012

1. You write for other performers. What kind of technological changes have occurred in the process from when you started out in comedy to now?

Oh, it’s awesome  My jokes get stolen much more quickly now.  Just in time to still be fresh for one particular network late-night talk show.  Thanks for asking.  No, but, that aside, the methods of getting the jokes to people quickly, like by texting, has been helpful.  Comics hate getting new jokes over the fax machine in the green room while the other comedians are hangin’.

2. Are you able to find more clients due to the web?

The web has undoubtedly helped me to get more clients.  The exposure of my jokes on Facebook, in particular, has afforded me some incredibly high-up connections and clients.  Key people who would not otherwise be seeing my material are definitely seeing it now, and some are acting on it.  Well, if you call vomiting “acting”. No, really.  And I find Facebook to be much more beneficial than Twitter. People are obsessed with the number of Twitter followers they have, but 99.9% of those followers can’t do much of anything for you.  The difference, in my opinion,  is that the bar for being followed by someone influential on Twitter seems much higher than the bar for that very same person to friend you on Facebook.  I interact and have definitely benefitted from influential comedy people on Facebook, but practically never on Twitter.

3. Is it easier to work for international clients with Skype?

Well, I don’t have any international clients, but that’s not a bad idea, like, maybe to trick foreign comics into buying my Montreal Expos jokes.  Thanks.

4. Some comedians who get help with their jokes don’t want that fact well known. Has the internet made this harder to hide?

The internet per se doesn’t have anything to do with making this harder to hide.  What makes it very hard to hide is having a big mouth, just like it’s always been.

5. How do you protect your client’s privacy?

The real issue is how does the need to be professional win out over the desire to get creative recognition.  Well, one factor is that I’ve become more confident in my ability to write jokes over the past few years, so I don’t need to keep convincing myself of that any more.  I’ve also accepted the fact that I’m not the star of these projects, but still get satisfaction in knowing that there would be no star at all if the material was no good.  So I no longer feel the need for people to know that I’ve written a particular line.  Also, when people whom you respect use your stuff, and even tell their comic friends about you, and then they even use your material, it gives you even more confidence. Like for instance, last week, I was down in Florida for a big show, and afterwards we were all hanging out and a very well known comic who’d never met before just nonchalantly asked me if I could write a better punch line for a joke she’d done that night.  She’d heard about me from one of the other comedians on the bill.  So, in general, confidence-builders have taught me to keep quiet.  This issue of using writers and how to deal with it can actually be a double-edged sword for comedians. To some people, having a writer is actually a status symbol, first because most comedians can’t afford to use one, (or think they can’t), so it could be perceived as “having arrived”.  Also, if it’s a roast or award show, or for instance, or for a Conan or Leno, writing all the material can seen as being “below” that person.  And so that leads to guys proclaiming that, “I have the best writers”.  In other words, “not only am I funnier than you, but I can also select better writing talent than you can, and have that talent join my team, rather than yours.”

6. Tell me about your Stage Time magazine column.

Well, I founded and I’ve been writing a 1-liner monologue joke column I call “Monoblogue” for a few years. I saw a need and the editor went for it. I mean, it’s a comedy magazine for standup comedians that didn’t have any jokes. Leighann Lord has a column in there too called “The Urban Erma” (after Erma Bombeck), but her stuff is well thought-out and with sophisticated vocabulary, not like the throwaway one-off shit that I write.  But I think the general teaching point is to find a need that hasn’t been met. The Stage Time experience actually reminds of when I used to read a journal aimed at pharmaceutical representatives.  It showed them all sorts of ways to convince doctors to prescribe their products.  But the only thing the journal didn’t have was a column by a doctor.  So I pitched it, saying it needs a feature from the customer’s point of view.  They agreed, and I wrote their “Doctor’s World” column for a few years. (Neil is also an M.D.).

7. Do you see all magazines becoming online only?

Of course, as soon as a sufficient number of people who insist on holding paper in their bony, veiny, liver-spotted hands finally die.

8. You’re a writer for The John Kerwin Show. How did that come about?

We’re broadcast on a network called JLTV and we’re seen nationally on Directv, Comcast; and many of the other big carriers. And to prove my point from before, John “liked” some of my jokes on Facebook, so I decided to message him, and flat out told him that I should be writing for his show.  A few months later, former Johnny Carson writer Tony DeSena left the show, so John hired me. I write it with Marv Silbermintz, a 17- year Leno/Tonight Show writer, and Ken Burmeister, a really funny New York City comedian/writer/actor from the Mike Bochetti camp,  whom I brought on board. I’m very proud of this show; you could hand any of our monologues to Letterman or Fallon or any of them, and I guarantee you that you wouldn’t feel any drop off. And we’re just four guys with probably 1/000 the budget of the big network shows. Leno’s actually very aware of us and has been quite encouraging.  We also draw very well known guests. The tenacity of John Kerwin should be an encouraging example to anyone trying to make it in this business.  He’s a total professional and well-focused on our goal.  We’re actually filming our hundredth show later this month.

9. Is the goal to get picked up by a bigger network?

Yes, that’s being very actively addressed.

10. Where do you see the future of online comedy videos?

I think the cream eventually rises to the top, regardless of medium.  It does make the skill set needed to succeed much more complicated and diversified, though.  It’s not enough to just be funny any more. You have to do your own promotion and become proficient at all the technology.  But at least with the Internet, virtually anyone with a camera and a dream can theoretically make a video that’ll go viral. Or at least fungal.

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

Well, besides Facebook, and to a smaller extent, Twitter, I’ve put up a website to promote my writing and punch up services: www.NeilBerlinerComedy.com I spend a few hours a day on Facebook and various news outlet sites.  I’m basically thinking of writing jokes almost constantly.

12. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yes, I actually have a waiting list. I had to tell a few people that I couldn’t immediately take them on.  One guy was kind of shocked, he asked me if it was the first time I’d “rejected” anybody!

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

I don’t post stuff about my family, or bank passwords, if that’s what you mean.  But I’ll put up jokes all day. Jokes on the net are publicity tools; they’re just throw-aways with a two day shelf life anyway.  So what do I care if some open-mic kid uses them, if they also happen to be seen by someone who can actually help me?  I know I mentioned having my jokes lifted by one of the major players, but that’s different, because it’s been ongoing and uncompensated, not to mention unappreciated.

14. What do you think of stand up comics posting their videos online?

I’d recommend short clips or even single jokes to accomplish what I just mentioned.  And only your top stuff. If you’re not sure if it’s funny, then it’s not.

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

Having my old, thick, awful rug pulled off my head on a Howard Stern TV event, and then seeing it posted on the web.  I know, with this state-of-the-art completely natural looking new one, you couldn’t tell at all.

Hi-Tech Comedy: John Vorhaus

Today I’m honored to be interviewing John VorhausJohn is the author of the seminal comedy writing book THE COMIC TOOLBOX: HOW TO BE FUNNY EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT, plus THE LITTLE BOOK OF SITCOM, several wonderful comic mystery novels and a dozen books on poker, including (with Annie Duke) the best-selling DECIDE TO PLAY GREAT POKER. He travels the world teaching and training writers, and creating television shows in countries as far-flung as Nicaragua and Romania. He tweets for no apparent reason @TrueFactBarFact and secretly controls the world from johnvorhaus.com, where he welcomes your visit.

1. You’ve previously written The Comedy Toolbox which was published as a real book and became a best seller. Your newest book, The Little Book of the Sitcom, is only available electronically. What was your thinking behind this?

Once I decided to embrace electronic publishing – and I resisted it at first, for reasons discussed below – I developed a strategy of mixing up big “marquee” titles with smaller, more targeted stuff. I plan to roll out novels every six months or so, or however fast I can write them, with smaller projects – 10,000 to 15,000 words – in between. On the big side, thus, we find DECIDE TO PLAY GREAT POKER, and on the small side, its self-spoof, DECIDE TO PLAY DRUNK POKER. I thought that there was a need for a smaller, targeted workbook for sitcom writers, so I decided to fire it out. It took me less than a month from concept to completion, which is the way it should go for smaller projects. Write it, format it, throw it out the window, and see if it lands.

As to why The Comic Toolbox is not available digitally, that’s its own story. I published The Comic Toolbox long before anyone, myself and my publisher included, ever contemplated digital rights. Now that the digital age is here, we both want to do an eBook version – but we simply can’t agree on a royalty split. It’s a shame, but it’s a fact; I’m being asked to accept a smaller share than I feel comfortable with, and until that changes, the venerable Toolbox will be available in print only.

2. Where do you see book publishing in ten years? Will we ever go fully digital?

We’re heading there so fast it’s making my head spin. I myself have grown quite accustomed to reading books on my iPhone, and damn near consider it the default value. But if you’re thinking about the next ten years, I suggest you broaden your time frame. As a writer interested in his “legacy,” I’m not thinking about ten years, I’m thinking about a hundred, two hundred or more. For a long time, I thought that a book wasn’t a “real” book unless it existed between covers. Now I’m not so sure. Granted, eBooks are ephemeral – pull the plug and the book goes bye-bye. Then again, with so many copies and so many platforms out there, today’s eBooks benefit from a multiply-redundant system. If electricity continues to exist – a big if, I grant – eBooks will live on. I won’t bet against them outliving paper ones.

Will we ever go fully digital? I believe we will. Writing, after all, is just encoding information for transmission from point A (my brain) to point B (yours).  Printing on paper is inarguably less efficient than electronic transmission. Within in a generation, eBooks will be the norm, and “kids today” will think it quaint that we ever bothered encoding anything in “dead tree” format. That said, there will always be print books. Motion pictures didn’t kill stage plays, and TV didn’t kill movies. Books and eBooks are viscerally different experience. There will continue to be a market for both.

3. You’ve mentioned you’re currently in Bulgaria helping develop an adaptation of Married… With Children and will then supervise the rest of the project back from the US via skype and email. What are the benefits/frustration of working remotely? Would this project have been possible ten years ago?

Oh yeah, it was possible. I was doing it ten years ago. The fundamental issue is file transfer. If I can look at a script on my computer, it doesn’t matter where it originates. That technology sorted itself out years ago. Know what? I have a colleague I’ve worked with for years, and only just the other day saw her face for the first time – via Skype video. So yes, it’s possible to have fruitful distance-consulting relationships, and it’s possible to work effectively that way. For me, the benefits of distance consulting are obvious: I can work at home, in California, in my underwear (if I so choose), rather than brave a Balkan winter. The frustration is mainly that communication becomes slower and less organic. At best, you have to schedule Skype conferences (rather than just walking down a hall and sticking your head in a colleague’s office). At worst, time zones and language barriers intrude. But it’s all quite doable, and the distance-consulting model is much more efficient than travel; you don’t have to waste time on planes.

But I would never want to switch over to distance consulting completely. For me, the fun of the job – the bliss – is going to places I’ve never been. I describe my business model this way: I travel around the world exchanging information for experience and money. That deal is so heavily in my favor that I would never, ever want to let it go.

4. You still had to travel to Bulgaria to meet face to face first. On the one hand it seems that a person can get in touch with anyone and be “discovered” or hired. On the other hand, with so many more blind pitches, it seems like personal connections are more important than ever to help the filtering process. Has this been your experience? How do you envision this going forward?

Well, if it weren’t for the internet, I wouldn’t have the career I have. Just as the Comic Toolbox hit print, the internet was emerging, so that people who liked what they read could reach out to me and ask me if a “concert” version of the material was available. That’s what got me started on my international career (27 countries on 4 continents at last count). But as I said, part of the fun for me is going to the place and meeting the people, and I will always try to hold onto that part. The beauty of the modern world is that it’s so much easier to connect with the specific parties who might be interested in what you have to sell. I don’t consider it impersonal. It’s just a different kind of personal, that’s all. As for filtering, without glorifying public opinion by calling it “crowd sourcing,” the fact is that the market wants what the market wants. If you have a product and you have a buyer, you’re in business. That’s true whether you’re selling Jack some magic beans or delivering a sitcom script halfway around the world.

Going forward, I expect to continue striking a balance between building relationships with clients I know personally and selling product to people I’ve never met. But I’m catholic in these matters. To me, “whatever works, works.” I don’t assign value judgments to any of it. Nor should anyone; value judgments are bad, tee-hee.

5a. How has technology changed the book writing process from when you started out up to now?

It must be confessed that I go way back – all the way back to before the dawn of the PC age. My first computer was the IBM PC junior, the Dinosaur of the Computer Age, and it completely remade me as a writer. Once I discovered the delete key, and once I discovered that I could save old versions and go back to them if I wanted to, I became free to explore whatever damn idea crossed my path. Nothing was wasted and nothing was lost, so I became much less precious about my words. As a writer, it’s great to be free to make mistakes, and word processing certainly set me free in that respect.

Within the past three years, though, the publishing model has completely broken down. When I sold my first major novel, The California Roll, my buyer was Random House, and their market was bookstores. Now their market is dead, so my buyer is gone. That’s the bad news. The good news is that I have a new buyer: you; your cousin; your ex-girlfriend; everyone. It’s harder for me to sell to everyone than it was to sell to Random House, but that’s the reality I’m living in now. It’s not a good thing, not a bad thing, just a thing that is.

Consider this, though: The gatekeeper is dead. It used to be that you couldn’t sell a novel unless it impressed an agent and then a publisher enough to take it on. Now, all you need is a PC and an internet connection, and you can self-publish. And by the way, the stigma of self-publishing is dying daily. There was a time when authors looked down their nose at “vanity press,” but you know what? Even big authors self-publish now, because it makes economic sense. My thinking is this: “If it’s good enough for Stephen King, it’s probably good enough for me.”

5b. How has technology changed TV show writing process from when you started out up to now?

Wow. Try writing a TV script on a PC junior. Better not make your file too big; the computer will crash and the file will corrupt. Script writing software? What’s that? Learn to write macros, dude, and don’t give your characters similar names like Dave and Duncan, because your computer won’t know which one you mean by alt+d. When I first delivered scripts, I delivered printouts – printed on dot-matrix printers, no less. These days, every smart show uses Google Docs or something better to manage document flow. Everyone with a need to know, from writers to actors to production, can see the latest revisions on anything at the click of a mouse. It’s SO much more efficient. When I was coming up, we used color-coded pages to indicate revision, and some poor benighted writers’ assistant had to pull out the brads in the script and replace the white pages with the new yellows or blues or whatever.

But guess what? My great-uncle Bernard Vorhaus was a Hollywood writer/director in the 1940s. He worked with carbon paper. Kids, do you remember carbon paper? Primitive…so primitive. And fifty years from now, writers will think we were ridiculously quaint and archaic, too. My advice to any writer of any age is: embrace the new technology, because it’s going to blast past you whether you embrace it or not.

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

Social media lets me connect directly with people who have a pre-existing interest in my work. I write about poker and I write about writing; I also write comic mystery novels. Each of these areas is of interest to some people, and social media lets me reach them all so easily, just by broadcasting my noise and news. It’s direct marketing, really, without the hassle and expense. But you need to “sell between the lines.” If my Twitter feed weren’t generally amusing, I would have no audience for when I use it to promote stuff. So for me it’s part narcissism – look at me, world! – and part target marketing.

7. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Oh, yes. I’m selling on Amazon and receiving literally tens of dollars every month from that source. Behind this joke is the reality that I can afford to sell small amounts of many products, and this is my model. I write what pleases me, try to let people know it’s out there, and hope and trust that the quality of the work will create its own demand.

8. You have a twitter link on your website, but not a Facebook fan page or any other social network links, what’s your thinking behind that?

Not thinking – laziness. My website is already an artifact of an older technology (WordPress! Yikes!) These days I put my energy into Facebook and Twitter – and will put new energy into whatever comes next. But you know, I was an HTML early adopter. I taught myself HTML in 1995 and posted my first website then. I thought it was “one and done.” What did I know? Frankly, I’d rather just write than do any of that other stuff, but it’s not practical: If you don’t promote, no one knows you’re out there.

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

I blather about my life a little. I especially share when I’m in exotic places like Bulgaria. Mostly, I try to be witty and entertain, with stuntwords, TrueFact/BarFact and other affectations.

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

I don’t know if it’s the weirdest, but it’s the most recent weirdness. Just last week I was trying to determine the provenance of a quote I love – and my Google search led me to a webpage at bigbencomedy.com, where The Comic Toolbox was heavily quoted. In other words, my search led me to me, via you. And because I promote at every opportunity, I reached out to you and, well, here we are. You know, my philosophy is pretty much this: Go off in all directions at once; you’re bound to get somewhere eventually.

Hi-Tech Comedy: Andrew Schulz

Today I’m interviewing Andrew Schulz. A comedian, writer, and actor, Andrew has collaborated on several TV pilots, including The Rewind, The Blog Report, and American Depravity. He wrote and performed in the web-series Rise of the Radio Show, and acted in Strangers in the Snow, a short film awarded best romantic comedy at the 2011 Mountain Film Festival. Most recently, Andrew helped usher in the new year as a panelist on MTV’s New Year’s Eve Bash, and he’s a regular panelist on Music Choice’s hit TV show Certified.

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

Besides being on stage, the internet is the main way I interact with fans, friends and bookers. I post about shows and promote shows online. I don’t know how I’d be able to do it without the internet. I have a good website, I have a twitter account, Facebook and keep in touch with everyone there. I also have a Facebook fan page, but I don’t focus my energy there, right now. I focus on the regular page because I feel I can interact closer with the people who are interested in seeing me. It’s easier to say thank you for coming out to the shower personally. There comes a time when you need a fan page, which is when you can’t say thank you to everyone.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yeah it’s been great. I can’t compare it, but it’s easier to book and promote. When I did the Canada tour, people came to the tour because they saw clips on the internet. And people have messaged me, “Hey I saw your clip, when are you coming to Ohio?” and they’ll even reach out to clubs like, “Hey when is this guy coming here?” I’ve benefitted greatly from other people posting my stuff.

3. You tweet like 20-30 times a day. Are you one of those comics that actually enjoys it or are you that bored?

I like it. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t like it or didn’t want to say it. If I have something funny to say and there’s nobody around for me to say it to, I just throw it on twitter. It’s like that friend that’s always there. And I imagine all my twitter followers laugh at it.

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

I think it’s good. You should put up a few videos. I just throw up a few videos that showcase what I do. I have a couple videos of me doing crowd work, a couple where I’m doing jokes, letting you know I can write a joke, then another video is persona heavy. You need to be strategic with it because almost no stand up clip is going viral. Unless it’s a video of you and a heckler. People don’t make things go viral that are intentional. Standup humor is intentional. I thought this was funny, I said it and you laughed. What’s viral is unintentional humor: fat people doing regular things and us laughing because they’re trying to be normal like us and go jogging or someone hitting a nail and it going awry. There’s ego attached to sharing, you share a video because you found funny in it. If I share a stand up clip, even if my friend sees it, he knows that the comic thought it was funny and he gives all the credit to the comic. If I share a video of a kid doing a stupid dance, then I get the credit for showing it to my friend because my friend goes, “Hey, you’re so funny for thinking this is funny”. Stand up clips are still good to put up there just to showcase what you can do. Then again, maybe one good joke, some people made it based off of one good joke, like Angelah Johson’s nail salon clip. For whatever reason, that resonated and people shared the shit out of it.

5. Do you notice you get more fans from standard TV appearances or from online presence?

I would say the majority of my fans are from live shows. If we’re comparing media, I’d say I get more from MTV or Music Choice because you’re touching millions of people. I’ve gotten lots of twitter fans from retweets, but it really depends on the medium. The great thing about the internet is that anyone who sees you on the internet will be internet savvy and follow you on the other things that you have on the internet. They can go from your Youtube to your twitter and then Facebook friend you. Someone who sees you on TV is less willing to breakout their computer or phone and search for you.

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

I think it’s empowering. It puts the power in the artist’s hands. If you have a fan base, you can say “fuck you” to everybody. There’s certain comics like Doug Stanhope who can tweet “I’m gonna be here” and 300 of his fans will show up, and then you don’t need to kiss anyone’s ass. No bookers or Hollywood. The only people whose ass you gotta kiss is Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter because without them, you’re fucked. But with them you have the ability to get in touch with your fans and pack out shows and make a living. Before that, you had to be really nice to the venue and promotional company. People used to come out for the venue, now they come out for the comic.

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

I’ll share what I had for breakfast if I had diarrhea because of it. There has to be something funny or passionate attached to my tweet. Anybody who’s gonna be on twitter or Facebook has a grandiose idea of themselves. You have to if you think people care about you in the moment, and I have that, but I at least know that people shouldn’t care what I had for breakfast. If I have a scrambled egg and I farted later and it smelled just like that scrambled egg, then maybe you need to know that. I post if it evokes a reaction. Or if I’m watching TV and wanna make fun of it and nobody is there, then I can post. Like I remember watching the Miami Heat game alone, and I noticed that Big Baby looks just like one of the monsters from Space Jam, and it would’ve been a great thing to say with my friends, but I was alone like a loser, so instead I got to working my thumbs and getting it on twitter. And all for one measly retreat from a friend of mine! It sucks how much that little red number means to me when I go check my twitter.

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

I’ve met girls and we’ve hung out. The other night I was with a girl who saw me at a show randomly, she lived in Miami and we talked randomly on the internet for a few months, then we ended up fucking, thank you Mark Zuckerberg. Everybody owes Mark Zuckerberg 10% of their pussy in the past five years. People talk about how many relationships he’s broken up, think about how much extra vagina you’ve gotten because of Facebook. Or how many girls you knew not to get involved with because you saw their beach photos and saw their weird mole that you wouldn’t have otherwise known about until after you got emotionally invested.

9. You just had a Canada Tour, how’d you promote it online? Which ways were most effective?

I had my website and people would check the info there. I also had ticket links on Facebook. People who saw me could see me at other shows. People who liked me promoted my future shows to their friends, it was great. The whole community came together and other comics supported. You can really start a movement quickly now. Back in the day, it was hard to get people together. You had to really care about a cause. The internet has made it really easy to pretend to give a fuck. You can really seem like a good person just based on the shit you like. For example, I can like saving starving kids in Africa, I’m not gonna give money or time, but I’ll click “like”, whatever that does for them, and hopefully it’s a good thing.

Hi-Tech Comedy: Ray DeVito

Today I’m interviewing Ray DeVito.

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Ray has been on Lifetime Network, where his performance at Gotham Comedy Club aired on “How Clean is Your House?” That performance led to appearances on the E! Network and Entertainment Tonight. His ‘Laundromat Sketch’ was featured in the New York Times and his ‘The Tudor’s Henry the VIII: The Real Story’ was the featured video on Comedy Central’s sister site Atom.com. He currently has his own web series on AOL’s men’s website Asylum.com. Ray also frequents the Bob and Tom Show, he’s been the featured comedian of the week on SIRIUS Satellite Radio, he’s also a regular guest on the very popular award winning podcast Keith and the Girl, and clips off his first full-length comedy CD entitled “1647 Waterbury” can be heard on SIRIUS and XM Satellite Radio.

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

I use it a lot, it’s weird because I wasn’t sitting around saying “oh I’m gonna use this internet” it was more that the internet found me and it really has helped me reach an audience that I otherwise would never have tapped into. The ‘Keith and the Girl’ Podcast has been great, they have such a great fan base, that’s tens of thousands know all the details of your life. I was doing shows in Scotland and a fan from the podcast was asking me about baseball cards I bought on Ebay over a year ago, and that really hit me. Here I am on the other side of the planet and some kid was noting a small detail in my life, it was surreal. Wow people pay attention to what I do. They have listeners all over the world. Also, I have a web series on Asylum.com.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

The internet is like a crutch that helps you walk ten times faster and I’m like, “Well walking is my business so sure.” A lot of the media that I’m featured on are internet based and those fans seem to find me via Facebook or they’ll email me or buy tracks of my CD on iTunes. (Ray Devito: 1647 Waterbury) I have a web series which is cool, the internet is a big deal, so I’d be a fool to not let the people who follow me know when my shows were and stuff. You can even follow me on twitter.

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

It’s good and bad. I’m at the level now where I don’t wanna put too much up because I understand a lot of networks want to be the first to expose you to the world.  If you put a comedy video (non-standup) online and it does well, Atom.com or FunnyOrDie they don’t want it from you, cause it’s already out there. However you have to throw some stuff out there for people to know who you are. If it wasn’t for my Laundromat Sketch video, Comedy Central’s Atom.com would never have known about me and then I never would have done the Henry the VIII for them.

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

It’s gonna make it easier to make videos look really professional. With Photoshop, iMovie and Garage Band, anyone can make a video look amazing now. Also I co-produce a show in NYC Sacapuntas Show on the first Monday of every month at Bowery Poetry Club, it sells out every show, and we sell most of our tickets on line through eventbrite.com

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

I let people know what shows I do but I try to keep it humorous. I gotta start treating fans like fans, I think I’m too laid back. When people think I’m funny after I show, I’ll be like, “Yeah lets hang out.” I’m the only dude I know who’ll hang out with his fan base. And that’s not always the best. I was in Sioux City, Iowa and I did some jokes about smoking weed and afterwards, this guy goes, “You wanna go get high?” and I’m like “Sure.” It turned out he just got out of jail that day. So it’s me, him , his buddy and his buddy’s girlfriend and while we’re back there smoking weed at the Best Western, the guy’s buddy starts giving my ex-con fan a hard time about how he’s a fuckup and isn’t paying his child support, and my fan is trying to impress me, so he pulls out a knife, in my hotel room! I diffused the situation, and then the dude’s girlfriend goes, “He’s right you are a fuck up.” Now there’s a casino boat across the street, so I’m like, let’s go there. And they all go out to do that, and as they start walking, I stop and sprint back to my hotel room and bolt the door.

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

Back in the heyday of MySpace, I put up the Laundromat Sketch and it was the MySpace video of the week. There was a lady in Albuquerque who was into it, and I was playing out there. But she wasn’t into my show, she just wanted to show me how interesting she was. She had piercings down her back spine, and this is a G rated video I did, what makes you think I’d be into that? She was weird, cause she had no interest in going to a show, she just wanted to show me how weird and different she was, I was turned off. By the way, please don’t put this on my MySpace page, I mean I haven’t checked it since 2004 but she might still be monitoring it.

Hi-Tech Comedy: Ben Morrison

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

ben morrison

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.

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