Hi-Tech Comedy: Rick Younger

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hi-Tech Comedy: Hasan Minhaj

Today I’m interviewing Hasan Minhaj. Hasan has appeared on E!’s ‘Chelsea Lately and is a regular correspondent on Yahoo!’s OMG the 411. Hasan won Sierra Mist’s Best Comic Standing, performed at LiveNation’s Comedy Jam, the nation’s largest comedy concert and was a 2009 national finalist in NBC’s Standup for Diversity.

Hasan_Minhaj_Leaning_On_Expensive_Cars_Album_Cover1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your career?

The internet and social media is the tool that has helped democratize the entertainment industry. Now comedians are able to create their own following through their standup and their projects. Now, if the industry ever asks, “What is your voice?” You can always prove it through your numbers. “These are the people following what I’m doing and this is why what I’m doing is relevant.”

I use the same methods as anyone else: Facebook, Twitter, a personal website. Also, the biggest thing I’ve used that a lot of comics use is the blogosphere. I really believe that having people write about what you’re doing, in any capacity on the internet is important. Google sees any site the same as a New York Times article. And if anyone is wondering what you’re doing, that’s the quickest way to find out about you. If they Google my name, an article you wrote might pop up just as high as an article the LA Times wrote about me. Giving comics and their viewers that power is an amazing tool. It can be hurtful if they hate you, but for the most part it’s an amazing tool.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Absolutely. Three years ago I built a destination website, HasanMinhaj.com. The payoffs have been tremendous. In 2007, the digital landscape was MySpace was king. A lot of people thought the destination website (YourName.com) was dead. They said, “you don’t need that. All you need is a web 2.0 site like myspace.com/YourName.” I made the move to use both destination site and MySpace because I feel that even though web 2.0 and social networking are the most popular thing right now, and will continue to be for the next few years, web 1.0, destination websites, are absolutely necessary. The payoff in investing and designing the site and putting all the content there has paid me back tremendously. In terms of people finding my content, booking me and in reality, it makes me seem a lot bigger than I really am.

I look at the internet as my digital footprint, it’s just as important as the mark you leave in real life. You can appear to be as successful and as relevant as you want to. You can’t over do it though, you can’t say “I’m the guy who invented the Nike swoosh”,“I invented the polio vaccine” or “I was on the tonight show with Johnny Carson.” But you can make yourself look real professional and put your best foot forward.. The number of comics that don’t have websites is amzing. I feel you should use your website as the aggregator of all that content. The payoff for that is tremendous.

3. Your debut album “Leaning on Expensive Cars and Getting Paid to Do It” was only released on iTunes, Amazon and other digital stores. What led to this decision?

Well my label, New Wave Dynamics is a digital distribution label. And even the people with major labels push digital downloads because it’s more convenient. The physical medium itself isn’t what it used to be. People are doing digital downloads to more efficiently consume media. That’s why I pushed it the hardest. It minimizes the number of steps people need to do to get your content. If you remember junior high, the means I had to do to get an album involved a lot of steps. I had to convince my parents to get in the car, go to Tower Records, and buy the CD. That’s 3 or 4 degrees of separation. Otherwise, I’d listen to the radio, put in a blank tape and wait all day to record the song. These days, everything is now, now, now. I’m just gonna google it, I’m not gonna wait. Digitally consuming content is the way to go until I can telepathically transport my content to people’s brains into the computer chips that they put in there.

With that said, I’ll still be selling hard copies at the show. Physically having merch in your hand will never be obsolete. I feel there’s no other alternative to that. People after your shows will almost always want to leave with a piece of what you’ve done. But in terms of blasting out to people that I physically can’t be in touch with, digital is the way to go.

4. You have a blog, do you have a set focus on it?

It’s just things I find relevant or important that I want to blog about. There’s no specific focus. It’s for “what is he thinking about? What’s on his mind?” Basically, it’s a longer form version of what Twitter is. I love Twitter, it’s a great brain dropping device that can broadcast thoughts that never make it to the stage.

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

Besides sending clips to bookers, I don’t see that as beneficial, posting entire sets online. You should post clips so people have a taste of what you do. Inherently, the more successful you get, the more people will want to hoc up your entire act on the internet. As comics, we know the downfall to that. A musician can perform the same song over and over again because fans come to the shows wanting to hear the hits. When a comic performs everyone comes to the show and is like “Hey, what’s new? I’ve heard that joke.” There’s something about standup where people assume and expect that everything you’re telling them happened yesterday. Subconsciously, they know it’s an act honed over time, but they want to believe, “It’s so conversation, casual and in the moment. There’s no way he spent the past year honing this act.”

You can have a seven minute set online and little clips. I don’t think there’s value, unless you’re putting out a special, in putting out 45 minutes online. I don’t know who’s gonna watch all that material anyway, unless they’re diehard fans of what you do.

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

Like I’ve said, the internet has democratized the entertainment industry. Anytime someone says something important, anyone can create and say this works or doesn’t work. Any artist can now show what they’re doing can work. The comedy business is just a business, it’s about followers and being profitable. There’s a lot of comics Bo Burnham, Angela Johnson, Russel Peters and Dane Cook that have huge digital followings. Unlike music, I see absolutely nothing wrong with spreading free digital content. In the end, we’re comics and we’re paid through our live performance. If you’re a person with an idea and a following, you can make stuff happen. Even sketch comedy like Derick Comedy and Human Giant, they’ve created content and have people appreciate it because they put it online.

I think the new casting director is a place called YouTube.com. That’s the way everything is gonna go from now. The old formula of people in suits sitting in the back of comedy clubs searching for talent doesn’t need to be done anymore. I’m just gonna go on the net and Google what I want and pluck out exactly who I need.

There’s no better time to be a comedian or an entertainer. We’re seeing a combination of two things: one, the ability and opportunity to proliferate and spread what you’re doing and two, the means to do it have become incredibly cheap. The cameras and equipment are so cheap and readily available in comparison to what they were ten years ago. Now we’re on the verge of seeing the next great Spielberg, Chapelle or Chris Rock via YouTube or the internet. Instead of an agent or manager finding them, the rest of the world will participate in the discovery.

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

Anything that won’t get me arrested.

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

I remember there was a girl who was really into my standup but I never knew what she looked like cause her profile photo was a picture of a cat. She was so supportive of my comedy but for all I knew she was just a cat. I knew it was a girl based on her name, but what you put on the internet, you can be whoever you wanna be. If your profile pic is a cat and your info says, “I love cats,” for all I know, I’m talking to a cat. I have to give her props for untagging every picture that showed she was a human or for limit everyone’s profile access to not be able to see she was a human, that’s commitment. I generally try to not talk to people who have pictures of animals or inanimate objects as their profile photo. A cat, a tiger or Michael Jackson, I don’t understand that. Why would you do that?

Hi-Tech Comedy: Tim Lee

Today I’m honored to be interviewing Tim Lee. Tim wasn’t supposed to be a comedian. A biologist by training, he graduated magna cum laude from UC San Diego with honors in biology. He went on to complete his PhD at UC Davis. He spent years developing simulation and analytical models of population dynamics before he discovered that this bored him to tears. When he tried comedy for the first time the tears stopped.Tim Lee

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

I use it primarily as a place for people to watch my videos. YouTube has been huge for me. It’s allowed a broad audience to watch me perform. Before YouTube I relied strictly on live shows. I also get a lot of private bookings from people who watch my videos on line: Johnson and Johnson, Microsoft and Genentech all watched my videos before booking me for private events.

One important benefit of the internet is it has allowed me to stay in touch with  fans. They write to me and I write back. The people you correspond with become your most devoted fans.

2.Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Yes, the attendance at the shows has gone way up because people can see what the show will be like on line. It used to be people relied on your credits to determine if your show was worth watching. Now, they can watch a snippet on YouTube.

3.Your act involves technology: a projector, a screen, PowerPoint slides and a remote control. Has this kept you out of some standard comedy club venues or do you just bring your own equipment?

It’s amazing to me that most sports bars have a better AV setup than a comedy club. However, I work in all kinds of venues that don’t have a projector and screen.  I just bring my own projector and screen. It’s a pretty simple solution.You’d be surprised how many venue operators freak out over this issue. It’s like some kind of voodoo to them.  I have to calm them down and assure them that modern technology is not inherently evil. Ticketmaster.com just makes it seem that way. (Thank you for those online convenience fees!)

4.Was it more difficult starting out because you had to setup equipment at open mics, or did you build an online following before doing a live show?

I did my first PowerPoint jokes while I was giving talks in grad school. I had seen many professors put gag slides into their talks. I decided to do the same. When I started at the comedy open mics I did straight stand up for a over a year before I brought the PowerPoint back into it. That happened when I found a sports bar with an open mic. They had a better AV setup than any of the clubs. I tried the PowerPoint science jokes there and the audience loved it. I figured if it went over well at a sports bar it would probably go over well other places.

Once I felt I was onto something, I developed most of the act at a hole in the wall in the Tenderloin in San Francisco. We were right in the middle of crack central. There was (and still is) all kinds of drugs and prostitution going on right outside the door. The only people who would come to the show were the tourists who didn’t know what a crappy neighborhood the show was in. I got a lot of positive feedback from them despite the less than ideal setting. At that point I knew that a broad range of people from around the world liked the comedy despite the cerebral focus on science. I didn’t get the chance to do the show at a nice place for several years. It was mostly  the crappy rooms that welcomed me. I couldn’t open for anyone else and use the PowerPoint. No one would allow it.

Finally, I decided to produce my own show. At first I did it at small theaters then eventually I got the Punch Line in San Francisco to let me do my show there. It was a Monday night which is a notoriously difficult night. Despite the bad timing the show sold out and we had to turn people away. At that point I decided to shift my focus to producing my own shows in theaters around the country.

I have to say I get a big kick out of it when people tell me my show wouldn’t work someplace because the venue is too crappy. If they only knew…

5.Did you ever try performing comedy without the PowerPoint? How was it?

I still perform without the PowerPoint regularly. I enjoy it. I’ve been training in martial arts for many years. It’s been drilled into my head that you must be good at wrestling, muay thai, and jiu-jitsu if you want to compete on a national level. For me the same holds with my comedy, I need to be good with PowerPoint, stand up, sketch comedy, and acting if I want to compete at a national level. Of course the PowerPoint is the strongest part but I constantly work on the other parts as well.

6.Besides yourself, I’ve seen Demitri Martin and The Stand Up Economist do their act with video screens playing a big role, do you think this is a trend?

It’s a medium that can be used to get a lot of information across quickly. However it’s most common use is to stretch 3 minutes of useful information into an hour long torture session. Demitri and Yoram are demonstrating how visuals can be used for good. Will that spread into a trend? No idea.

7.How do you think digital tools will change comedy in the future?
Anyone can make professional looking comedy videos now on the cheap. That’s a big plus for the small time comic. The challenge is getting people to watch them.

8.What do you think about posting videos of your performances online?
Great idea. How else are people around the world going to see you perform? I get people writing me from the Middle East, Indonesian, Australia and Europe because they’ve seen me on YouTube.  Do people steal your jokes? Absolutely they do, but people steal your jokes from live performances as well. If you are worried about people stealing your jokes I recommend Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

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

I share what I think is interesting… sometimes I’m wrong.

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

The head of the Church of Satan wrote me to compliment me on my act.

11.Any last thoughts?
Is that a threat?

Hi-Tech Comedy: Ali Farahnakian

Today I’m honored to be interviewing Ali Farahnakian. Ali is the founder and owner of [LINK www.thepit-nyc.com] The Peoples Improv Theater (aka The PIT) and [link www.SimpleStudiosNYC.com] Simple Studios. In addition to running a theatre and school Ali is a teacher/actor/writer/comedian. He was a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a writer on Saturday Night Live and has appeared on all the Law and Order’s, All My Children, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and 30 Rock.
1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your personal career?
Honestly, I’m not using it as much as I should. I don’t have a website, I probably should. I don’t do the twitter, I probably should. I wish I had someone who was my tech person. I think folks at a higher level probably have people. And some folks coming up now, grew up with technology, understand it.
I recently started on Facebook because a friend from high school sent me photos of his kids and I had to join Facebook to see them. I didn’t realize I’d get inundated with friend requests. However, since I’ve joined good things have happened. I’ve connected with people. I think I should be more earnest about using it because it’s a great tool. When I first started doing comedy, you called people. That’s how you told people about your show. You put up posters. When I did “Word of Mouth” in 2000, the whole show was no posters, no programs, it was all through me calling or emailing people and word of mouth. I still think that’s one of the best ways: call people or email them personally. People are so inundated with requests, you can just check them and go through them and click, click, click and they become white noise. You need to find a way to make it personal.
I heard a story once about how when the internet first came out, Steve Jobs was asked how to explain the internet to people, and he said, “When humans are placed against other animals in their ability to traverse large expanses, humans come in 31st and the condor comes in 1st. But when you put a human on a bicycle, they are 3 times as fast as the condor. That’s the internet, a bicycle for the mind.” The internet lets you get on your bike and go, “Hey would you like to come to my show?” It lets you get in touch with a lot more people than you’d normally be able to get in touch with.
However, if you really want to get people to come see something, I still don’t think there’s anything like the human touch.
2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?
There’s this website called “Linked In”. Someone said, “Do you want to join?” I said yes, because I try to say yes to things. A friend of mine from DC who I took my first writing class in 1990 reconnected with me on it, then he said, “Hey they want someone to teach writing and improv at the DC Improv.” And he connected me to the DC Improv because of Linked In, and I’ve been going there twice a year to teach writing  and Improv workshops. Social media has helped me go to different cities and teach, which I really enjoy doing. When I did a show, “Extemporaneous Ali,” it was all through email and Facebook. I did 3 shows and they all sold out.
Nowadays, I’m mostly running Simple Studios and The PIT. I do a show every Wednesday night at 10pm with “The Faculty” of The PIT that always sells out. So for me there’s nothing to be gained to send out a show invite. And I’ve been doing comedy for twenty years, anyone who wants to see me has seen me. There’s not as much of that “eye of the tiger” that there once was.  At this point I do it for the love, I enjoy teaching, performing and cultivating small businesses.
3. Speaking of The PIT, how are you using the internet and social media to promote your theatre?
Social media is being used in both businesses, I’m just not the one overseeing it. We have a webmaster, someone doing twitter, Facebook and Google Ad Words. Whatever is out there, we do all that. It definitely benefits us. At the end of the day, what has gotten The PIT and Simple Studios to where they are is word of mouth. It’s about maintaining quality control of our product, which is our classes and shows. So when people come and they have sacrificed blood and treasure to take your classes or to use your space, you want to make sure they’re getting the best experience possible.
Twitter helps for Simple Studios, because if we have a room available in the evening, we twitter it and it sells out. Or for example, Fridays were a day we weren’t getting the same amount of traffic, so we changed our Friday deal to “Freaky Fridays” and made all the rooms bookable at walk in rates and all the rooms sold out. I don’t know how else you could do that without taking an ad out in the newspaper. Having a website, Twitter, email lists and Facebook allows all of that.
Without the internet I don’t know how you’d promote the theatre. In Chicago, they did it with phone calls and leaving messages on answering machines. People talked to each other more, you actually read posters.
4. Do you think the PIT would be as successful as it is without the internet?
It would depend on what city it’s in. if it was New York, I don’t think it’d be as successful as quickly. Things happen a lot faster with the internet. If you have something that’s good and you put in time and energy and believe what you’re doing, it just gets to people faster. It catches like wildfire. People can go on the internet, see your website, find out about shows and classes.
However, at the end of the day, people still call before they sign up. With Simple Studios you still can’t book via the internet because we want to maintain a human touch. Someone may want it every Wednesday from 7 to 10, but this Wednesday they need it 7 to 9. At this stage, it’s easier for us to make sure there’s a human touch with booking the space.
5. How do you think digital tools will change comedy?
The internet is making the world more flat. It allows people in the middle of nowhere with nothing to create videos and movies that would normally require an editing system and cameras. It will allow those people to create content like anyone else. It will level the playing field. In comedy, there’s live versions and internet/movie/television versions. In stand up, you’ll always be getting up with some kind of mic. You’re still gonna be one person talking to people. In improv, you’ll still be one group of people talking to people. Digital tools are making it easier for people to make content, I personally don’t have a TV at home. I watch all my TV on my laptop. That would’ve been unheard of five years ago. Do I watch less? I don’t know. I don’t watch shows with the regularity I’d watch when I had a TV, but now I know I can just go there and watch it when I want.
6. What do you think about posting videos of your performances online?
I think whatever benefits the performer. Why not? An artist is really doing what they do for an audience of seven or eight, and everything else is cake. Whoever else benefits great. It doesn’t matter what level it is. For me it’s hard for me to watch a lot of stuff on the internet. I don’t have that kind of time to be looking at videos. But why not? Like I say about my writing classes, it gives you a reason to write and place to bring your writing to have it looked at by someone who’s been there. If posting your videos helps you go out there and do shows and create a record of it for yourself, then great. Everybody’s technique and craft is different, so whatever works for you.
7. You used to do a show called “Virtual Reality” that used interactive multimedia to put the audience in different scenes. More and more comedians are using projectors and visuals as part of their act. Do you think this is a trend that will really take off, or remain the domain of a few specific comedians? (Dmitri Martin, “The PowerPoint Comedian” and “The Stand Up Economist” to name a few.”
You can’t do something that’s not you. I don’t think it will become a trend. You can’t become a guitar comic if you don’t play the guitar. In 1972 there were 50 great stand ups in the country. In 1992 there were 50,000 stands up in the country, but still only 50 great stand ups. There’s only gonna be the same number of people at that level, but there will be more people trying. I really believe if you want to teach and perform you can do it. You may not be able to do it in New York, you might need to go to a smaller town. But if you really want to, you can, you just have to find the right market or level that accommodates your level of talent and work ethic.
8. How much information do you tend to share on the social networks?
I’m at the base minimum. I put a picture of me up there, a date of birth, I don’t share much. If I had someone who was my technology consultant, I’d do it. I focus on The PIT, The Studios and life. I think for those who can and know how to do it it’s a great tool.
9. How closely do you monitor what people say about The PIT on YELP, Twitter, etc? How important do you think that stuff is?
I don’t monitor it at all. I’m not one for personally going to message boards or chat rooms. I have built this living in the world of bricks and mortar. I believe you do good shows, good classes, treat people with respect and dignity and create a nice community. I’ve come from different communities, tennis, second city, fraternities. To me, not having come up in a world of computers, I’m more accustomed to being out there and playing. So there’s only so much I can do with looking at the online stuff. I know there are message boards, time is limited for me. If I’m doing something theatre or rehearsal space related I’d rather be teaching, performing or dealing with the details of running a small business.
10. Any last thoughts?
I’m just amazed you’ve been typing this up on a laptop this whole time. That’s amazing. Knowledge is power and tools are power and using those tools can benefit any business. To some degree, with people looking to have a comedy career, or a life in the world of comedy, they are their own individual businesses. It’s a matter of, “How do I get the word out about my business?” At the end of the day, the American public (and further) decides if they want to buy your product. You can create an airline and have it fail even if you had planes and pilots. Or you can create an airline that does very well and gets profitable.
Comedy is like anything else, just because you have the tools, if the product isn’t there at the end of the day, the product will deteriorate. I think more people get shots than they used to, and are able to make things more than they were before. Which is fine if it’s artistic and making yourself sane, but if it’s making money off it, someone has to deem it worth enough that they’ll benefit from paying for it.
Currently, the only way to generate revenues in media is: advertising dollars, angel funds or ticket sales. That’s the only way to make a living doing this right now. I think moving forward, the barrier between the advertising dollars and having a middle man of either a network or a studio will change. The advertising dollars may go more directly towards the people creating the content. You have a great website, you have comedy content, a company comes to you and says “we want to give you money to put our ad on your website”. You’ve cut out the middle man. Otherwise, you go to a network, do your show for them and they get you advertisers during your half hour or hour show.
At the end of the day, The PIT is built on 3 C’s. Craft, community and career. Work on your craft your career will come. Work on your community, your career will come. But if you just work on your career, you won’t have a craft or community at the end of the day. Nobody climbs mountains alone. You need other people. It’s a real team effort.

Today I’m honored to be interviewing Ali Farahnakian. Ali is the founder and owner of The People’s Improv Theater (aka The PIT) and Simple Studios. In addition to running a theatre and school, Ali is a teacher/actor/writer/comedian. He was a founding member of the Upright Citizens Brigade, a writer on Saturday Night Live and has appeared on all the Law and Order’s, All My Children, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and 30 Rock.

Aliheadshot1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your personal career?

Honestly, I’m not using it as much as I should. I don’t have a website, I probably should. I don’t do the twitter, I probably should. I wish I had someone who was my tech person. I think folks at a higher level probably have people. And some folks coming up now, grew up with technology, understand it.

I recently started on Facebook because a friend from high school sent me photos of his kids and I had to join Facebook to see them. I didn’t realize I’d get inundated with friend requests. However, since I’ve joined good things have happened. I’ve connected with people. I think I should be more earnest about using it because it’s a great tool. When I first started doing comedy, you called people. That’s how you told people about your show. You put up posters. When I did “Word of Mouth” in 2000, the whole show was no posters, no programs, it was all through me calling or emailing people and word of mouth. I still think that’s one of the best ways: call people or email them personally. People are so inundated with requests, you can just check them and go through them and click, click, click and they become white noise. You need to find a way to make it personal.

I heard a story once about how when the internet first came out, Steve Jobs was asked how to explain the internet to people, and he said, “When humans are placed against other animals in their ability to traverse large expanses, humans come in 31st and the condor comes in 1st. But when you put a human on a bicycle, they are 3 times as fast as the condor. That’s the internet, a bicycle for the mind.” The internet lets you get on your bike and go, “Hey would you like to come to my show?” It lets you get in touch with a lot more people than you’d normally be able to get in touch with.

However, if you really want to get people to come see something, I still don’t think there’s anything like the human touch.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

There’s this website called “Linked In”. Someone said, “Do you want to join?” I said yes, because I try to say yes to things. A friend of mine from DC who I took my first writing class in 1990 reconnected with me on it, then he said, “Hey they want someone to teach writing and improv at the DC Improv.” And he connected me to the DC Improv because of Linked In, and I’ve been going there twice a year to teach writing  and Improv workshops. Social media has helped me go to different cities and teach, which I really enjoy doing. When I did a show, “Extemporaneous Ali,” it was all through email and Facebook. I did 3 shows and they all sold out.

Nowadays, I’m mostly running Simple Studios and The PIT. I do a show every Wednesday night at 10pm with “The Faculty” of The PIT that always sells out. So for me there’s nothing to be gained to send out a show invite. And I’ve been doing comedy for twenty years, anyone who wants to see me has seen me. There’s not as much of that “eye of the tiger” that there once was.  At this point I do it for the love, I enjoy teaching, performing and cultivating small businesses.

3. Speaking of The PIT, how are you using the internet and social media to promote your theatre?

Social media is being used in both businesses, I’m just not the one overseeing it. We have a webmaster, someone doing twitter, Facebook and Google Ad Words. Whatever is out there, we do all that. It definitely benefits us. At the end of the day, what has gotten The PIT and Simple Studios to where they are is word of mouth. It’s about maintaining quality control of our product, which is our classes and shows. So when people come and they have sacrificed blood and treasure to take your classes or to use your space, you want to make sure they’re getting the best experience possible.

Twitter helps for Simple Studios, because if we have a room available in the evening, we twitter it and it sells out. Or for example, Fridays were a day we weren’t getting the same amount of traffic, so we changed our Friday deal to “Freaky Fridays” and made all the rooms bookable at walk in rates and all the rooms sold out. I don’t know how else you could do that without taking an ad out in the newspaper. Having a website, Twitter, email lists and Facebook allows all of that.

Without the internet I don’t know how you’d promote the theatre. In Chicago, they did it with phone calls and leaving messages on answering machines. People talked to each other more, you actually read posters.

4. Do you think the PIT would be as successful as it is without the internet?

It would depend on what city it’s in. if it was New York, I don’t think it’d be as successful as quickly. Things happen a lot faster with the internet. If you have something that’s good and you put in time and energy and believe what you’re doing, it just gets to people faster. It catches like wildfire. People can go on the internet, see your website, find out about shows and classes.

However, at the end of the day, people still call before they sign up. With Simple Studios you still can’t book via the internet because we want to maintain a human touch. Someone may want it every Wednesday from 7 to 10, but this Wednesday they need it 7 to 9. At this stage, it’s easier for us to make sure there’s a human touch with booking the space.

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

The internet is making the world more flat. It allows people in the middle of nowhere with nothing to create videos and movies that would normally require an editing system and cameras. It will allow those people to create content like anyone else. It will level the playing field. In comedy, there’s live versions and internet/movie/television versions. In stand up, you’ll always be getting up with some kind of mic. You’re still gonna be one person talking to people. In improv, you’ll still be one group of people talking to people. Digital tools are making it easier for people to make content, I personally don’t have a TV at home. I watch all my TV on my laptop. That would’ve been unheard of five years ago. Do I watch less? I don’t know. I don’t watch shows with the regularity I’d watch when I had a TV, but now I know I can just go there and watch it when I want.

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

I think whatever benefits the performer. Why not? An artist is really doing what they do for an audience of seven or eight, and everything else is cake. Whoever else benefits great. It doesn’t matter what level it is. For me it’s hard for me to watch a lot of stuff on the internet. I don’t have that kind of time to be looking at videos. But why not? Like I say about my writing classes, it gives you a reason to write and place to bring your writing to have it looked at by someone who’s been there. If posting your videos helps you go out there and do shows and create a record of it for yourself, then great. Everybody’s technique and craft is different, so whatever works for you.

7. You used to do a show called “Virtual Reality” that used interactive multimedia to put the audience in different scenes. More and more comedians are using projectors and visuals as part of their act. Do you think this is a trend that will really take off?

You can’t do something that’s not you. I don’t think it will become a trend. You can’t become a guitar comic if you don’t play the guitar. In 1972 there were 50 great stand ups in the country. In 1992 there were 50,000 stands up in the country, but still only 50 great stand ups. There’s only gonna be the same number of people at that level, but there will be more people trying. I really believe if you want to teach and perform you can do it. You may not be able to do it in New York, you might need to go to a smaller town. But if you really want to, you can, you just have to find the right market or level that accommodates your level of talent and work ethic.

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

I’m at the base minimum. I put a picture of me up there, a date of birth, I don’t share much. If I had someone who was my technology consultant, I’d do it. I focus on The PIT, The Studios and life. I think for those who can and know how to do it it’s a great tool.

9. How closely do you monitor what people say about The PIT on YELP, Twitter, etc? How important do you think that stuff is?

I don’t monitor it at all. I’m not one for personally going to message boards or chat rooms. I have built this living in the world of bricks and mortar. I believe you do good shows, good classes, treat people with respect and dignity and create a nice community. I’ve come from different communities, tennis, second city, fraternities. To me, not having come up in a world of computers, I’m more accustomed to being out there and playing. So there’s only so much I can do with looking at the online stuff. I know there are message boards, time is limited for me. If I’m doing something theatre or rehearsal space related I’d rather be teaching, performing or dealing with the details of running a small business.

10. Any last thoughts?

I’m just amazed you’ve been typing this up on a laptop this whole time. That’s amazing. Knowledge is power and tools are power and using those tools can benefit any business. To some degree, with people looking to have a comedy career, or a life in the world of comedy, they are their own individual businesses. It’s a matter of, “How do I get the word out about my business?” At the end of the day, the American public (and further) decides if they want to buy your product. You can create an airline and have it fail even if you had planes and pilots. Or you can create an airline that does very well and gets profitable.

Comedy is like anything else, just because you have the tools, if the product isn’t there at the end of the day, the product will deteriorate. I think more people get shots than they used to, and are able to make things more than they were before. Which is fine if it’s artistic and making yourself sane, but if it’s making money off it, someone has to deem it worth enough that they’ll benefit from paying for it.

Currently, the only way to generate revenues in media is: advertising dollars, angel funds or ticket sales. That’s the only way to make a living doing this right now. I think moving forward, the barrier between the advertising dollars and having a middle man of either a network or a studio will change. The advertising dollars may go more directly towards the people creating the content. You have a great website, you have comedy content, a company comes to you and says “we want to give you money to put our ad on your website”. You’ve cut out the middle man. Otherwise, you go to a network, do your show for them and they get you advertisers during your half hour or hour show.

At the end of the day, The PIT is built on 3 C’s. Craft, community and career. Work on your craft your career will come. Work on your community, your career will come. But if you just work on your career, you won’t have a craft or community at the end of the day. Nobody climbs mountains alone. You need other people. It’s a real team effort.

Danny Browning: Working The Road

Today I’m interviewing Danny Browning about road work. I previously interviewed Danny about how he uses technology in his comedy career. Danny has been nice enough to share his seven years of road experience.

 

miniflyer1. Do you book road work yourself or do you have an agent who does it?

Up until recently, I’ve done it all myself. Now I have a management company that helps point me in the direction to get more work.  .

There’s comedy booking agencies across the country and those agencies book clubs and one nighters. Other clubs just book themselves. You just find these agencies, you find the clubs, then it’s a lot of phone work, emails and rejection.  And you just slowly but surely get in with these bookers and clubs. My first year I made $9,000. That’s definitely gone up. Every year has gotten better. That’s due in large part because with every passing year I’ve picked up two new clubs, or got in with another booker. Now, I’m at the point where I’m in with the 3 or 4 major booking agencies. So the work comes a lot easier now.

2. How did you get your first road gig?

I was the house MC at a Funny Bone in Evansville, Indiana. There was a comic working 3 hours away in Farmington, Missouri, it was a restaurant called Spokes Bar and Grill. He asked me to open for him. I remember it like it was yesterday. That was my first road gig. I had to do 30 minutes I didn’t have close to 30 minutes. I had 20 minutes. I ended up stretching and doing 25 to 30 minutes. I wish I could see a video of it because I’m sure it’s shit. But I was able to do it, and I got $100. That was the first time I drove somewhere and got paid to tell jokes.

When I first started, I was desperate to be a comedian. I would take work anywhere. I remember I took a gig in Wilmington, North Carolina. It was a 12 hour drive. The gig paid $150. I knew I was going to lose money, but it was all about the experience. The experience of getting used to the road, going somewhere new, getting paid and learning how to be funny.

That’s one advantage New York comics have. You guys can go to a club and get on stage 3-5 times a night or more. And that sounds like a lot of fun. As a road comic, we can do open mics in our home club, but beyond that any experience we get has to be on the road.

That said, being on the road, I learned how to do 30 minutes. I learned what it takes to do an hour, and I learned pacing and timing and crowd work, everything that’s involved in being a comic.  That definitely helps. Doing those short 7 to 15 minute sets like in NYC, it would be cool to start the night with 5 minutes of new material and by the end of the night have it half polished.

Jerry Seinfeld talks about that in Comedian. He develops his new act in NYC. Then he says, “now it’s time to get out on the road, tighten it up and learn what will be funny on a much broader level.” If you do the road right, that’s what happens. You develop an act that is funny to everybody, no matter where you are. The same jokes I told in NYC, I will tell in Sioux Falls, SD and Macalister, Oklahoma. You learn what’s really funny to everybody.

Some Chicago comics have mentioned that road comics have a stereotype of having really hacky material because they’re working for drunks and end up having material fit for drunks. And there is some of that, and if you’re not careful you’ll fall into that, but if you do it right and you constantly try to be original and find material that will work, the road is very beneficial.

Then again, any comedian that does one thing too much, whether it’s colleges or corporate events or strictly bar shows on the road, doing only one thing makes your act get weaker in other venues. If you work thirty colleges a month, and do nothing but colleges, then your act will become very college friendly and a lot less club friendly, I think. I knew a guy who used to be an excellent club comic, then he started doing corporate comedy, now there’s certain clubs that won’t hire the guy because he’s become so crisp and corporate clean. There’s no sharpness or edginess anymore. Working in NYC could be the same way. If you do too much New York work, you might develop an act that works in New York City: you might have seven minutes of riding the subway which would kill in NYC but not in Indianapolis. People in North Dakota wouldn’t give two dog shits about the New York Subway experience. Once you get out on the road, you have to find something else to talk about.

3. Does road work progress slowly where you have 10 weeks the first year, 20 the next until you’re up to full time, or what’s the process?

Yes. It’s slow. Ideally you get in with a booker and they throw you some road work. Then you get in with other bookers. The best case scenario would be to hook up with a big name comic that can take you on the road. And work at the best clubs, The Improv’s and the Funny Bones. For most guys though, it’s a slow process. The first year I had 15-20 weeks of work. That’s light. But with every passing year, the clubs increase and the work increases, hopefully.

4. What do you like about the road? What do you dislike?

I like traveling, I’ve been in forty states. I’ve got to see a lot of this country. I like meeting all kinds of other comics from all over the country. I like being able to tell jokes to an audience one night in one town and the next night I’m in a different town entertaining those people. No show is ever the same. Now that I’m headlining more I like that I can try out more new material and stretch my legs a little more and find myself. Especially with the smaller venues, the road is a great place to work out your material and work out what’s funny.

As much as I like the travel, I dislike it too. Take this weekend for instance, I left home yesterday after I’d only been home for one day. I got home Tuesday night, was home all Wednesday then I left Thursday. I drove 7 hours to the University of Iowa and did my show there. Then I got up at 5am this morning for a ten hour drive to my next gig tonight, a corporate event at a military base. Then early tomorrow morning, I drive 7 hours early to Omaha. After that, I’ll be driving 10 hours home. I’m logging 35 to 40 hours in the car in a period of 72 hours.

This weekend is a little extreme though. A lot of times, these clubs are weeklong events. I may drive 6 hours to get to a club, but once I’m there, I’m there. I don’t have to drive. But there are a lot of times when you’re doing a lot of driving. You might be going to a different venue every night. Now that I can pick my schedule a little more, I try to keep my drives between 5 and 7 hours, but you have to go to where the work is. If I get offered a headlining week in Minnesota, I gotta take it.

Another advantage of the road is that I’m cutting my teeth and nobody knows who I am. The next time I go to NYC, or when it’s time to get my chance in front of someone important, I’ll be ready. I know Jeff Foxworthy headlined the road for 12 years before ever going to LA. Then he moved to LA, by then he hit the ground running.

5. In my interview with Judy Carter, she mentioned getting sick of the “Comedy Roach Condos”. What are they?

Some clubs you do put you up in hotels, others put you up in apartments and some put you up in a condo. A condo is usually a house with 2 or 3 bedrooms where you stay with the other comics for the week. The nicer clubs keep their condos nice and the comics keep them nice. But there are some places where they’re not kept nice, they’re very dirty. I don’t know a comic who looks forward to having a condo.

I stayed in a condo somewhere in Arizona and it was so dirty, it looked like they had changed the motor oil on the condo floor. I was afraid to walk barefoot through there. I would always wear shoes. It was a horrible, horrible place. I’ve stayed in one condo in Colorado where I had to share a room with the MC. That’s okay, but the MC was a female comic from LA. That was just a weird situation because we had to be roommates all week long. We were sleeping in a room that looked like Dick Van Dyke’s bedroom: there were 2 beds with a lamp shade in between. I’m sure it was weird for her, it was definitely weird for me. So I could totally see where a woman would get tired of the condos real fast.

Although there are some clubs that keep the condos real nice. For example, in Nashville, TN last summer, this condo was two floors, two bedrooms, each bedroom had its own bathroom, hardwood floors, wireless internet and a private deck. It was much nicer than my house. If you have to stay in a condo…that’s the way to do it.

6. Where is it harder to get in for road work: colleges or with clubs?

For me it’s been colleges because I’m trying to go through NACA, the college booking agency. I’m trying to go through NACA just like 3,000 other comics and musical acts. The competition is fierce and it’s hard to get face time. So That’s been the hardest.

Some of the bookers, like The Funny Business Agency and Heffron Talent, when I first hit the road I was half way in with them. Then it took 2-4 years before I really established myself. Now I’m in and I get work.

The key to getting in with bookers and clubs is to have a headliner reference. If you can get that and have a decent video clip, it might be easier. When I started out, I didn’t know any headliners. I was just some kid trying to be a comedian. It takes a little bit more of a time investment when you do it that way.

7. Anything else comics should know about the road?

I’ve had several New York guys express how boring it would be to be out on the road and not have anything to do all day in a hotel. It can be boring, it doesn’t have to be. No matter what town you go to, there’s always stuff to do. You might have to look for it, but there’s always stuff to do. Unlike NYC, if you go on the road and work a town you’re the star. Tonight in Macalister, Oklahoma, I’m the man. People are coming to see me. It’s going to be a long time before that would ever happen in NYC. It’s a good feeling. It gives you a certain confidence on stage. I would encourage NYC comedians to start working on their road connections and start getting out on the road as much as they can to learn how to be funny for 30+ minutes and to get the life experience.

I worked with a New York City comic who has every TV credit a guy can have, HBO, Comedy Central, 2 national TV commercials. He’s done it all. And the questions he was asking me about the road were questions that a beginner would ask. He didn’t have any idea about bookers and how all of that worked. That really surprised me. I’ve noticed since then, a lot of guys are like that. It’s one of those things where living in The City, the comedy is always right there. It’s not a necessity to find other places to work.

Here’s another example: On Monday, I stayed with a comic in Astoria, Queens. There is a comedy booker named Linda Rohe who runs Coastal Entertainment. She books clubs in Pennsylvania, New York, and San Antonio, Texas.  She literally lived two blocks away from my friend in Queens, and he’d never heard of her. And she’s the type of booker, if you do live out in New York, you can walk in her office and introduce yourself. And plant the seed. It might be 6-12 months down the road, but then she’d be able to throw you work in PA or even San Antonio if you could do it.

For you New York guys, just go to Google and type in “comedy bookers”. Off the top of my head I can name five: Funny Business agency, Heffron Talent, Summit ComedyHysterical Management and Linda Rohe, because she books in your area. Between those five, they could get you 20-30 weeks of work a year.

Keith Alberstadt is a good guy to talk to. He’s a former road comic from Nashville. I was doing the open mic at the Nashville Zanies when I was 21 and I met Keith down there. He’s was a hard working road comic. Then he moved to NYC and has been on Letterman and gotten some writing credits. He’s really thrived in NYC, and a lot of that is really because of his road training. He knew how to be a comedian well before a lot of guys who’d been in New York.

And when he got to NYC, he was instantly getting road work in PA. On Friday and Saturday he’d drive 2 hours away and make $600. Take that list of bookers and start investing your time. Think of it as planting seeds for the future. You might not get any work in the next 6 months, but if you get it in a year that’s great and then in 3 years you might be their main comedian.

There’s also some great websites, I don’t know if you have websites where NYC comics go, but there’s a site, RoadComics.com. RoadComics.com is a forum created by a former comic, I’d recommend everybody get on that site. It’s basically a lot of road comics posting on there and it’s a wealth of comedy information. Anything you want to know about being a comic, I guarantee someone has already asked the question on that forum. That’s the perfect site. You don’t have to talk to anybody, but there’s been tons of questions asked about comedy, clubs and bookers. Anything you want to find is on there.

There’s also ComedySoapBox.com where you sign up there and you get to see every club in America and who books it.

Other Comedy Tips:

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