Hi-Tech Comedy: Nick Cobb

Today I’m interviewing Nick Cobb. Nick recently filmed “Live at Gotham” for Comedy Central and has done commentary for MTV’s “FN MTV”, the worst show ever on MTV.   Nick was also filmed a “Carmax” commercial that aired during the Superbowl (regionally).  When not performing, Nick is usually obsessing about his last show.

nickheadshotlowjp1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your career?

I was actually reading some of your previous interviews like the one with Judy Carter and I ended up feeling really bad (that I’m not doing enough). I have a website and I use Facebook of course, and there are thousands of little things I do like going on this blog site, that blog site, what have you. But I don’t keep a blog myself (it would feel like homework, and I’ve always considered myself more of a performer than a writer), and I’m not overly concerned with my lack of stuff online.

You’ve really gotta have a lot of time to do that thing, or a web guy that you trust. And, I don’t trust my web guy.  You may be thinking “why is he saying that out loud?” to which I would say “I just fired him,” which is weird, because I also just fired my psychiatrist.  But I digress… I like the website itself, but there are so many updates and so much maintenance. A lot of times, in my head, I go “I can go home, do the calendar, do all the admin stuff for my site, blah blah blah, or I can go do a couple of shows” and 9 out of 10 times I’ll go do the shows.  I’ve convinced myself that’s the key to succeeding.  Working on my act.  Having a really good act that isn’t as well- advertised is better than very well advertised decent act. Of course, I could be dead wrong.  I probably am.  I am constantly hearing I need more internet “presence.”  But, I’m kind of addicted to doing shows.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

I have gotten booked at a few colleges just off of my website.   And, I’ve been amazed that you really don’t need that long of a video.  They’ll call and say “we loved your video,” and find out later they only watched three minutes.  Maybe that’s just the way we’re wired now. We don’t want to sit there and watch a ten minute video anymore. You can put it there, but it probably won’t be watched. Maybe the first minute or so. The beginning of the video in particular really has to be sharp, different and unique.  A lot of comics will say “it gets good four minutes in.” Unfortunately, people don’t watch it that long.

I almost feel like to have a website now, it has to be really nice, or it’s not worth having at all. If you just have an okay site, you might as well just be on Facebook.  But if you have something really nice to reference to people, and they’re impressed by it, it’s really helpful. Something with good, crisp video and an updated calendar.  Great.  When I had just a run-of-the-mill, I think it ended up hurting me.  I would’ve been better off just not having one at all.  I think people will look more favorably on you if you don’t have a site than if you have just an okay one.

I remember I was in Austin, and the club didn’t know who I was. Big surprise.  I asked if I could get up, directed them to my website, and the guy said, “Well, you don’t have any bookings coming up, so we can’t put you up.” I thought I had updated my calendar, but I guess it didn’t work. I probably forgot to click ‘publish’ or something.

3. I noticed your site has a user registration section, do you find that it helps build a fan base?

I haven’t taken advantage of it as much as I should. It would probably be really helpful if I did. It’s unforgivable and it’s laziness. A lot of comics swear by the mailing list.  On the other hand, there are so many options online that it’s just overwhelming sometimes.  There are only so many hours in a day and I would much prefer spending at least a little bit of that time writing and performing, rather than spending my entire day sending off a constant barrage of show invitations from every site imaginable, only to have people come out and see the same material because you never spend time writing or performing.

It’s getting to the point where it’s too much though: I gotta put it here, there, send it to this email list, that mailing list, it’s like I need to hire somebody just to do that. It’s a ton of admin work, and my philosophy is “if it’s between shows and sending emails, I’ll do shows.” In my experience, I have gotten more work from doing a good show (and someone sees me/books me) than I have from online stuff. But, that’s not to say I haven’t gotten anything online.

Plus, I don’t know that bookers really trust video all that much anymore anyway. Now to get booked, video isn’t enough.  It has to accompany a live guest spot. You try to get a gig at a club down in the South, for example, it used to be just a video, then a DVD, then an emailed link, but none of that is good enough anymore. Now you have to send a DVD just to get the guest spot. They won’t book you unless they’ve seen you live, a couple of times, plus referrals. Referrals have been more valuable to me than my Live at Gotham video. I don’t even know what to say about that. Maybe the clubs did try booking acts off the DVDs they were getting in and then got burned a few times.  From a booker’s perspective, with video, you never know if a performance has been sweetened. Referrals and guest spots, you can’t go wrong by that.

4. You post your cell phone on your website, have you had any issues with that?

No, it hasn’t been an issue.  There are booking sites like gigmasters where comics compete to book a gig. And, when you submit for a gig and put in your pricing and such, the site sends the client an email and sends you their email address and phone number.  Sometimes, if you haven’t booked anything, you think “Oh I’m not getting these bookings, I’m getting beat out by people who have been at it longer.” But the reason might be that some of the more aggressive comics just don’t mind actually picking up the phone and following-up with clients. While a lot of us younger guys are sending a follow-up email, somebody else is already on the line booking the gig.  I think it’s an advantage to be a bit more aggressive. I’m still learning, and forcing myself to do these kinds of things. The best, of course, is when you get a feel for how technologically savvy the client is beforehand. Some prefer not to be called at all, and others will only speak over the phone.

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

I think it’s necessary at this point. I think the question is, does it suffice to just put your videos on your own website? And the answer is no. People aren’t going to spend a ton of time searching for you. So you have to spread the videos around.  That’s what I was mentioning before, it’s a real pain that you have to put each and every clip on so many different sites. You gotta do the event invites in all the different places and videos too. People will say “I saw you online” and I ask “where?” They say “YouTube” and I know it’s an old video, so I immediately start apologizing because I know that’s old stuff.  “On Youtube? No! I don’t do that material anymore!” But if they say they saw my video on my site, I still apologize (“that stuff’s no good either!”), but not as much as if they saw it on YouTube. But it’s not one of those things you think about too much. Generally I think about “I wanna book my next gig” and not about making sure all my videos are being perfectly maintained.  I’m kind of always about the next thing.

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

I still think that comedy shows are best live in intimate settings – those are the best. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen somebody on TV, and I don’t think much of it, but then I see the same guy in a club or a smaller room and I’m just blown away. I don’t think that we’ve come so far that we can replace how much better a live show is. I think that’s the one downside about online videos – when people see them as a substitute for the real thing instead of a preview.

I just hope online clips don’t discourage people from going out. I hope instead of people saying, “Hey, I saw Ben’s video online, let me go watch every single other video he has,” they say “Hey, I saw Ben’s video online; I’m going to go see him live.”  But they might just stop at watching all of your online stuff. Their friend will be like, “Well Ben’s coming to town to perform” and they’ll go, “Nah, I’ve already seen his whole act on YouTube.” Then what’s the point of putting clips up in the first place?  There’s so much upside about getting your comedy online and out to so many, but there’s downside. Because there’s so much video out there, people may only watch 5 or 10 seconds of your clip. At a show they’ll watch the whole thing and really get you.

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

I try not to go overboard with it. I try to only plug big shows for my Facebook profile updates.

Sometimes you can look at your newsfeed and it’s like the boy who cried wolf. “This person put in their 5th status update today about their toes…” It’s constant minutia. Which is fine, but I prefer to just put down a bigger show and not put down shows that there’s no chance people can come to. Like if I’m doing a college in Idaho, I probably won’t put it down there, because you know, who’s gonna see the status update and say “let’s go book some tickets.  Nick’s gonna be in the middle of nowhere”?  But if it’s in The City, I’ll put it down, and maybe people will come out.

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

I had a few in the beginning where people would find me online after seeing a show and email me, which is nice, but I just have nothing to say to them.  Aside from the typical thank you’s and such.  I thought fans were reserved for people who were doing it forever and on TV. It’s so weird to go to a show and hear “I heard you’d be on this so I came out.” It’s really strange.  Of course, that hardly ever happens so I don’t really have worry about it.

I’m always in awe of the number of friend requests you can get after doing some show in the middle of nowhere where you didn’t think anyone was even listening.  The kind of gig where you have to ask the band to stop setting up (or playing).  And you even get friend requests from people who didn’t like the show. “You just wanna friend me to tell me you didn’t like it?” I guess I just wanna control what I put out there, and I’d rather put out smaller amounts in an environment I understand better – stand-up.  That’s why I don’t do that many status updates or tweets. Although perhaps I should.

I’ve also had negative experiences where people will book me based on video (let’s say, for the sake of argument, it’s even a video I really like) and I’ll go in and do the gig, and the material is completely inappropriate for the gig they want me to do. I’d be like “oh they like this video, so I’ll be sure to do that material from the video,” and it turns out to be completely inappropriate for the show.  I don’t mean it’s dirty when it should be clean, just that it’s not what they wanted.  Well, why did you book me based on the video then?  Because I did that exact same stuff for you!  A guy actually said once that I didn’t perform “the video material” with the same intensity that I did in the video.  But, in the video, I was in front of a couple hundred people, and his show maybe twelve.  So, you still need to ask questions, ‘cause so many things will be taken out of context, which is why clubs are still based largely on referrals and guest spots. They’ve been burned too many times.  So, I still think word of mouth and reputation are the most important things in comedy.

Clayton Fletcher: Auditioning Q&A

Today I’m talking to Clayton Fletcher about auditioning. Clayton Fletcher has appeared in countless productions for TV, film, stage, and radio over his 16-year career as a comedian, actor, singer, and musician. He headlines The Clayton Fletcher Show at New York Comedy Club every Friday and Saturday at 8PM. He auditions regularly for opportunities across all media, and once in a while, when all the stars align perfectly and the comedy gods are on his side, he gets that magic ‘yes.’ For more info, visit his website.

Who are the different types of people you will audition for in your career?

The three types are jerks, egomaniacs, and wannabes. Just kidding!

The people involved vary depending on the type of audition. If it’s a TV audition, there is a collaboration between the producer, who puts up the money and therefore has the final say; the casting director, whose job is to narrow the talent pool to only those in whom the producer may be interested; and the agents and managers who fight to get the talent in front of the casting director. So as you can see, a lot of people have to say “yes” before you end up on TV.

In a comedy club audition, we audition for the talent booker. It is often done in the form of an “audition spot” in a normal show in front of a paid audience who may or may not know they are watching an audition. Sometimes the talent booker is the owner of the club, as in the case of New York Comedy Club, which is where my show takes place every weekend. Other clubs have a manager or assistant manager act as talent booker, although even in those clubs having the owner on your side doesn’t hurt.

In an audition for a festival, such as the prestigious Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival or Melbourne International Comedy Festival, there is an Executive Director. His or her job is to fill the festival will a wide range of comedians who fit into the themes of the shows lined up. These themes may be “New Faces” or “Alternative Comedy” or even “Hot Gay Comics” to name a few. A festival director typically has a small team of scouts and advisors assisting him/her in finding talent. This team may include bookers, managers, agents, producers, casting directors, and comedy club owners. Many of them also scour the internet and viewing different comedians’ websites.

How do you get an audition?

Getting any audition is much easier with the help of an agent or manager, people who make much of their living through helping comics get auditions! But for comics without representation, there are other means such as contacting the casting director or producer directly for television, submitting a video in the case of a festival, or being referred by another comic in the case of a club.

At New York Comedy Club (home of The Clayton Fletcher Show each Friday and Saturday at 8PM), we have a bimonthly showcase for Al Martin, the owner. New comics who climb the ladder at the club by performing in our Sunday Open Mic and our 8pm weekend shows may be asked to audition for Mr. Martin. Outstanding performers are offered opportunities such as being passed for guest spots and paid spots, entering our groundbreaking Development Program, or even auditioning for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, as two of our new guys did last month!

What do you do different in an audition set vs a regular set? Does this depend on who you’re auditioning for?

It does not depend. Nobody wants to see you improvise or do crowd work in an audition set. Unless you are specifically asked to do improv, you should stick to your material. Generally audition sets are very short, so you need to make an impression. Pick the jokes that show your point of view, emphasize your persona, and most of all make the crowd laugh their butts off. For most things it is best to keep it clean as very few club owners are impressed nowadays with your thought-provoking revelations about your penis. They have heard it all before, so make sure your stuff is absolutely original.

How do you choose what jokes to do for your audition?

It varies based on the genre. I would do a much different set for Conan than I would for Playboy TV. And NYC-based material could work for a comedy club audition in town but nobody in Canada knows much about the F train so I wouldn’t try that for Montreal. You need to find the balance between being yourself and giving yourself a chance to get the gig, so pick the material that is appropriate for the job. It is a business after all, especially when you are auditioning!

I’ve found I’m more nervous when I know I’m auditioning then when I’m doing a regular set, I’m sure others are the same way. Do you have any tips for how a comic could control their nerves?

I think everyone gets those jitters, Ben, but I’ve learned that those butterflies are actually friends of mine! Being nervous gives me focus and energy, improves my concentration, and lets my brain fire on all cylinders. At this point, I accept that I am nervous and just do my best to turn it into a positive. If I am so nervous that I have no fun onstage, the audience has no fun either! But the good news is typically crowds do not see the nerves, they just feel the energy and sense that the comic is really into giving the performance.

If you’re not sure you’re ready to audition, is it better to say “no” and hold off or try the audition anyway? In other words, how bad is it to be seen too soon versus getting that additional stage time and experience auditioning?

This is a tough question. I never auditioned for anything in my first seven years of comedy! I honestly felt that I wanted to hone my craft and have a big unveiling when my act was ready. I have mixed feelings about this decision, looking back. The positive is that when I do finally get in front of people now, the first impression they get is hopefully a good one. But the downside is that I have been around a long time but many in the industry have never heard of me despite my ten years in stand-up. Still, I have a much better shot at booking something now than I would have years ago due to my growth as an artist over time, so I guess I am happy with the way I played it. Time will tell how much it all ends up paying off for me I suppose…

Other Comedy Tips:

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Hi-Tech Comedy: Ray Ellin

Today I’m interviewing Ray Ellin. Ray was honored as one of New York’s “Best Emerging Artists 2009” and “Ten Standout Stand-Ups Worth Watching” by Back Stage Magazine. Ray is a comedian, television host, actor, producer, writer, and filmmaker. Ray is the host of LateNet with Ray Ellin,, the first live comedy/variety show to combine both in-studio and interactive online audiences. The show features A-list celebrities, top comedians, and musical guests including Chevy Chase, Hank Azaria, Leonard Nimoy, Paul Shaffer, Fran Drescher, and many more. You can find it on DailyComedy.com/latenet. In addition to LateNet with Ray Ellin, Ray has also been the host and writer of the syndicated television shows The Movie Loft, Premium TV, and currently BrainFuelTV. Ray executive produced and directed the film The Latin Legends of Comedy. Distributed by Twentieth Century Fox, the movie received the Best Documentary Award at the Boston International Film Festival.

Photo credit: Asylum.com, Bonnie Biess

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

After live shows, there’s always people who add me on Facebook, DailyComedy, MySpace, Twitter or just Google me. They want to find me and keep tabs on me, let me know they liked my show, or see if I have any merchandise available. It’s a great tool to stay connected.

Before social networking, you would have a sheet, and people would fill out their name and phone number or email address if they wanted to know about upcoming shows. Now, mass numbers of people can find and follow you fairly easily. It’s really been an invaluable tool. And it allows you to connect with people globally. I once did a TV interview and within three days, there were hundreds of Facebook requests. That’s incredible. In the past, if you did an interview, and someone seemed interested, hopefully they’d remember your name and if you did a show in their town hopefully they’d come. Now, they can keep tabs on you and to some extent you can keep tabs on them.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yes. I find that now when I’m traveling through a specific city, it’s easy to target the people who live in that area. The nice thing about it, most of the time it’s people who looked for me on the websites, so that means they already have an interest. As opposed to me randomly saying, “Hi I’m a comedian, I’ll be in town.” These are people who saw you and chose to seek you out.

3. How does your show ‘Late Net with Ray Ellin’ use the internet?

‘Late Net with Ray Ellin’ really incorporates social media and social networking really well. We have done it in a unique and entertaining way. I have a monitor set up on my desk, and in real time, whoever has a webcam, can ask questions and communicate with me or the guests. It’s a live video feed – we can’t beam them into the actual studio. It’s not Star Trek (although Leonard Nimoy, the original Mr. Spock, was a GREAT guest on the show). It would be cool if you could teleport people, right? Anyway, my guest is sitting next to me, and on the monitor you see people watching the show from their homes and we can interact with them.

Late Net started as a late night talk show format: monologue, comedy sketches, celebrity guests, performances. I have a live studio audience and an interactive online audience. We have people watching all over the world, literally. I communicate with people from Belgium, Israel and Wichita, Kansas. The audience is really spread out. They can all interact with each other too. It’s a cool way to integrate technology into the talk show format. Right now the show has been airing and is archived on DailyComedy.com. DailyComedy.com has become the largest comedy specific social networking website with tons of original content. When people search for me, DailyComedy pops up. I’ve gotten an enormous amount of mileage from being a part of that community. People go there specifically for comedy; to find jokes on every topic and to learn about different comedians. From a social networking perspective, it’s been super valuable and allows me to showcase my content.

We also recently licensed the show to AOL. So it’s been broadcast on AOL’s Asylum.com. It definitely grows the audience.

We’ve had up to 100,000 people watching the show at once without it crashing. It slowed down, but it kept going. DailyComedy has crashed – when Michael Jackson died, it went down because everyone wanted Michael Jackson jokes. Tiger Woods jokes. Billy Mays jokes. Yesterday people were looking for Sandra Bullock jokes, and that brought the site down for a few minutes because it was huge traffic. But as far as Late Net goes, it didn’t crash yet. And when people watch the show archived, there’s no danger there.

4. How did you use the internet for The Latin Legends of Comedy?

In the past, before the web, you would make a movie, try to get it in the theatre, hopefully get a DVD deal, get it on TV, and that’s the end of it. Which is fine, it worked for years. With the web, just having a website is incredibly valuable. When people are searching for Latino comedy, having a MySpace and being able to interact with fans, it was incredible. And it was helpful with DVD sales. Just going on message boards, it helped. You could go on the message boards and let the people who might be interested in the movie know about it. It’s social and it’s networking, you meet people with similar interests and let people know about you or your film. You don’t just have to hope the studio will do a big marketing campaign anymore, you can take it into your own hands and spread the word. Even if it’s just with your friends, “My movie is done, take a look at the trailer.”

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

I think it’s okay to put some of your set or material online because you want people who might not really go to a live comedy club to learn about you and discover a little bit about you. And you want others to come out and see you in person. But you don’t want them to think, “I’ve seen him, there’s no need to come out.”

I don’t think you should put everything you’ve ever done online. At the end of the day, stand up is best when experienced live at the club. I think it’s the same with music, but especially with comedy. It’s best in a group setting in a theatre or comedy club. Hands down. But having a presence on the web is really great because someone can become a fan from watching some of your clips online. And by the same token, when someone goes to see you live, they then look you up for more. Let’s say they see a clip of something you just did at the live show, it’s like they have a souvenir from that. “Oh yeah, I love that bit, that’s so funny.” In some ways, for people who saw you live, it’s like a memento from the show. It’s additional material for them to reinforce why they enjoyed you.

However, online videos can also be very misleading, you might have someone post five decent minutes of stand up online, and that might be all they have. In those five minutes you’re like, “Wow this person is funny.” Then you go see him live and are like, “From minute six on, this is just awful.” It can really trick people. That’s why a web based following can sometimes be like the emperor’s new clothes.

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

I think comedy is best live, in person. I think at some point, people will start doing more stand up experiences where it beams live into people’s homes. I don’t think that will be really popular though. At the end of the day, people want to experience it in person, not as a hologram. Late Net is actually a great example. We have a way to reach people who can’t make it to a show because they live in the middle of nowhere, so they can tune in and become part of the audience through the web. It’s an example of how it can expand your audience and bring them together at the same time.

I think digital tools will change comedy more in the sense of letting people keep tabs on you and allowing the artist to stay connected to their fans even when they’re not doing a show. With twitter, people can stay connected to their fans just while sitting on the toilet. They can sit there and send out a tweet, brush their teeth and send out a tweet. You can keep your fan base entertained and engaged from your living room.

But it’s a catch 22, because you also have to get people to know you’re on Twitter. They might see you live or on TV and wanna follow you, but they gotta know about it.

Digital tools are a great way to further the relationship you already established. I’ve had people who came to New York, and then they continued to see what I post on Facebook, and are always coming on Daily Comedy and seeing what new jokes or videos I put up. That’s incredible, to maintain that relationship, the comedian-fan relationship; that doesn’t exist in the club. That being said, if you post something really stupid, you can sorta bomb online. But you can send out links to stuff you did.

I was actually just in the Bahamas at Treasure Bay in Freeport, and this national uproar existed because I had people in the audience and they were infamous in the Bahamas for some illicit activities, and I didn’t know who they were, I had no idea, and it ended up being really funny. That show was taped and clips were spread digitally all over the Bahamas. People stopped me at bars, at the casino, at the airport – the customs official asked me about it. Totally serious. Now it’s been posted to my Facebook page and I did follow up interviews in the Bahamas about it. Because of the internet, Daily Comedy and Facebook, people who weren’t even at an event can suddenly experience that event. And now people will say, “Oh wow let me keep tabs on this guy and see what he’s up to next.” That’s how the internet works, people are gonna Google me, and the interview on BigBenComedy will come up. They’ll be like, “Wow let me read what Ray had to say when he was talking to Ben. Ooh, that Twittering in the bathroom thing was fascinating insight.” And now people looking for me also discovered you, and we might share the same magnificent fans.

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

It’s a mix. It irks me when people write completely boring minutia. Like, “Just flossed my teeth.” I doubt anyone will go, “Wow, I didn’t know Tony flosses his teeth. Look how hygienic he is. That is riveting.”

People wanna be entertained or given some valuable information. If someone posts a news story about a medical breakthrough or a funny anecdote, I think that’s what people enjoy the most. I post real things about my day, but put a funny spin on it. I never put, “Just bought a new pillow,” and that’s it. Why would you do that? No one gives a shit about your bedding. For some people it works for them, because they want to feel connected with the rest of their friends and that’s how they do it. But for the most part, people want to be entertained, interested, engaged. And a new pillow story isn’t gonna do it, unless it was a pillow filled with cash and you are giving it all away.

You want to post something ideally that will be interesting or informative or funny. In the Bahamas I posted something about swimming with dolphins, without anything funny, just how much I enjoyed it. But to me, that certainly was interesting, coming from an NYC boy. And the follow up posts and photos were funny and fun. It’s not just, “About to turn off my lights and go to bed.” I tend to share some humorous stuff that’s based on my own life or an observation about something else. Like healthcare, I’ll post something funny about that. Or maybe about a good charity or cause. I’ll also let people know what’s going on, if I have a certain show, or where I’ll be performing. I just posted, “Doing 3 shows at Dangerfield’s Saturday night, stop by if you want.” It’s both self promotion and an invitation. Basically, I probably do it the same way as every other human being on the planet does it. Except that people in Bombay aren’t promoting sets at Comic Strip.

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

Once I did a show, and someone who had been in the audience looked me up on DailyComedy and posted a couple of comments to my wall on DailyComedy. I replied “Thank you.” Then from that, she learned about Late Net, so she started tuning into Late Net. One night we had a contest, a “Send in a funny video” thing. And this girl proceeded to make the dirtiest videos I’ve ever seen in my life. Like filthy. And in the videos she’d hold up hand written signs like, “This is for you Ray.” The videos were totally pornographic. This girl could’ve made a fortune in amateur home videos. It was bizarre. I’m getting these emails thinking it’s just another video entry, and she was basically getting fully naked and had an arsenal of not just sex toys, but also various household objects that she incorporated into this video. Like a dildo, a flashlight, and an ice tray. Unreal. And every once in a while, the handheld sign would say “Hey Ray” then another sign would pop up, “Do you like this Ray?” It was so bizarre yet fascinating and entertaining at the same time. I never realized a clock radio had so many filthy purposes.

I read somewhere that the number one purpose for the internet is for porn, and even when it comes to a comedy show, that purpose can also creep up and happen. That experience was pretty out there. I get plenty of emails but that was by far the most interesting one I ever opened. I was flattered but slightly unnerved. I’m thinking, “If this girl is willing to do this, what will she do if she ever comes back to NYC and goes to a show. What will happen in the show room?” But as long as it’s not violent, it will be an interesting and welcome addition to the show. And at the end of the day, people are more comfortable doing outrageous stuff on the web, from the comfort of their own home. They can pull a candle out of their butt without anyone yelling at them or throwing them out of the club. Exactly the purpose Al Gore had when he invented it, right?

Hi-Tech Comedy: Jeff Civillico

Today I’m interviewing Jeff Civillico. Although Jeff is now technically a Las Vegas headliner with the show “Amazed,” you won’t recognize him as he is yet to become famous or even moderately well-known. You have not seen him on The Tonight Show or Comedy Central, but you may have seen him at the post office or Target.  He is currently holder of the least-used Georgetown degree in school history.  For more info on Jeff and his corporate and college shows, please visit his site.


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

Well, I have JeffCivillico.com as a splash page that links to my 2 separate sites – one for corporates and one for colleges. I created targeted promo for the two different markets I mainly work.

Also, I’m very active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Myspace, etc.  I’m always sending out where I’ll be performing and keeping in touch with fans from past shows. I have 15,000+ Twitter followers and I’m maxed out on my Facebook page. A couple years ago, fans from past shows would correspond with me via email. Now, it’s almost all done exclusively through sites like Facebook and Twitter.  It’s a different way of interacting.  I get a ton of wall posts and direct messages.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yes, I am seeing a big increase in my bookings from separating my two sites. Corporate event planners and producers want to see someone who’s clean cut, wears a shirt and tie, and speaks intelligently and articulately. College kids want to see someone in jeans and t-shirt that looks like them. Same material pretty much, but a different style.  It makes sense when you think about it – people want to connect with the person they see on stage.

Neither my college site or corporate site link to the other.  That way when my manager is pitching me for a corporate show, he sends them to JeffOnStage.  If he were submitting me for a college showcase, he would send them to the college site.  Of course if they Google me they’ll find both sites, but doing this at least allows for some separation.

3. You’ve published articles in differently themed magazines (online and print) that focus on parenting, business and technology. Have you noticed a response from that?

I really don’t believe in “one for one” thinking. I think too many entertainers are looking for payoffs from specific actions like doing one showcase, going to one conference, reading one book, etc.  That’s not how it works.  I’m a big fan of the Johnny Carson philosophy.  When people asked him how he became so successful, he said “My success just evolved from working hard at the business at hand each day.”

Back to the articles…so yea, I’ve never had someone call me up and say, “Hey I just read your article on planning a memorable event—I’d like to pay you 5k to perform for our company!” That’s not what I’m attempting to achieve by writing articles.  It’s about positioning yourself as an authority. And I believe being published helps establish that presence in the market.  It all contributes to who you are, your brand, your development as a performer and a business person. It’s consistent work over time.

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

I understand why some entertainers don’t put any of their work online, but that’s just not my philosophy.  I’m an open guy.  Sure you’re gonna get burned sometimes when somebody swipes some material, but I feel if you’re always charging forward creating new content, people will always be playing catchup.  That being said, I wouldn’t post my entire show online… I don’t really see the point in that.  I post teasers just to get bookers to bite and then I send them more info directly.

There’s also the idea that if you’re creating your content, it’s naturally going to be done with your style, energy, and voice. That can’t be duplicated.

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

It’ll change comedy just like it’s changing all of entertainment, and many other industries as well. The gatekeepers are pretty much gone now. You can do it yourself, and people now expect you to do it yourself.  You don’t need a film or production company to buy into who you are and give you the tools to make videos.  Video editing is user-friendly now.  So is web design.  Social media is free.  Blogging is free.  It’s cheesy to say, but you honestly can let the world know who you are pretty easily now.

It takes time and energy of course, so the lazy guys aren’t gonna do very well as the mediums continue to grow and change. You gotta keep up or you’re going to become irrelevant.  Every so often I hear guys saying, “I’m not really into the internet thing… I don’t do computers… I’m not a tech guy.” That means you’re gonna be a not working guy! You don’t have to be a tech guru (I’m certainly not)… but you need to recognize the importance of it in growing your performing business.  If internet marketing is not your thing, outsource it.

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

I always post my performances, where I’ll be, new stuff I’m doing, newsletters and announcements. I try to keep really personal stuff off there.  I like to maintain a level of privacy with my inner circle of close friends and fam.

I think you have to be careful. A lot of performers don’t realize when they post online, they are posting it to the world. I know guys who have lost gigs on cruise line or for companies with family reputations because of cursing and pictures on their profiles.  As everybody knows, gossip spreads like wildfire online.

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

I’ve had weirdos and creepers who write some pretty inappropriate or just bizarre comments on my wall. I’ve had to unfriend some people because of that. I try to keep a professional reputation and some people just don’t understand that.  They don’t realize that I’m friends with past and future clients, speakers bureaus and other performers, etc.  I don’t know if there’s one particularly crazy experience, but this idea comes up on a regular basis.

8. Any other thoughts?

I guess regarding the use of technology with comedy you just have to find the balance that you are comfortable with—both creatively and on the business side as well.  If you don’t put yourself out there at all, nobody will know who you are or what you do.  That’s not good.  If you are constantly tweeting and blogging about your clips and travels, you’re not developing yourself as a performer… and that’s not good.

Find the right balance, develop your philosophy, and stick to it!

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.

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