Hi-Tech Comedy: Danny Browning

Today I’m interviewing Danny Browning. Danny has just started his 7th year as a full-time comedian.   He has performed in over 40 states headlining comedy clubs, corporate events, and colleges.

miniflyer1. How are you using the internet / social media to promote your career?

I use the internet and social media to make a name for myself. Facebook and twitter are both excellent ways to gain a following and get your name out there. On Facebook, I might mention that tonight I’ll be in whatever town and then link to my website. I have over 2,000 Facebook friends so when I do that I get a lot of website hits.

I also use Facebook to advertise. I purchased advertising on there, created an ad, and I pay for however many times the ad is clicked on. I’m able to market those ads towards a specific area. For example, last night I was working in Iowa City and I marketed it the ad to 18-24 year olds who lived in Iowa City. That ad popped up only on that groups Facebook page.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

It’s hard to say for certain. The first week of January is usually a pretty hard week to get people out. I used the Facebook advertising and Thursday through Saturday nights were packed. The club managers  said they’d only been averaging 35 people a show and they didn’t even sell out on New Years Eve. During the show, when I asked where all the Facebookers where, I got a rousing response.

So the short answer is I don’t know if it works yet, but it seems like it does. I definitely get more feedback on my website and I have more people who know my name. The thing with Facebook is I’m friends with some comedians who I look up to and there have been times when I might be going somewhere , see that those comics are going there or have been there and I’ll drop them a note. This opens up a dialogue with a comedian that I’d otherwise never get to talk to. And that’s another way to spread your name. There’s certain comedians now who know who I am strictly because of Facebook.

Also, when I ran an open mic in Louisville, Kentucky I always got at least 10 people from Facebook to come out to the show.  I know this because I’d post the info on people’s Facebook page and they’d have to print out the ticket to go to the show. The night before Thanksgiving we had 360 audience members.

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

Overall, it’s good. It’s an excellent way to showcase yourself to fans and anyone who might be interested. People can get a taste of who you are. Bookers and club owners can also get a taste of who you are and what you do. Sometimes, I’m a little bit worried about other people taking those jokes. And once those jokes are out there, they’re pretty much done. You can still use them in your show, but if 25 people went to myMySpace page and they’ve seen my video and they hear the same jokes at the show, then you know… that’s not necessarily good.

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

From a business stand point it makes it a lot easier to get in touch with people. Since I deal with comedy club bookers from across the country, it’s a lot easier to email them. It’s also nice that any comedy club I go to, I can go to their website and see who’s on their lineup, I can get their contact info. Before the internet, all you knew about a comedy club was what you heard other comics say. Now it definitely opens up the world. It makes it easier for comedians. I just picked up a headline week at a club in Michigan all through email. I sent him a link with my video and he sent me back an email with dates. That was the easiest thing in the world.

Back in the day, all comics had was telephones. Ever since I’ve been a road comic, I’ve had the internet. There’s still a lot of phone work, but I can’t imagine what it was like before the internet. When I first hit the road seven years ago, I had to send out tapes and DVDs. In the past two or three years it’s been a migration towards digital video and email. I’ve had clubs watch my link and ask for a full length DVD, and I’ll go ahead and send it, but now, almost everybody wants instant gratification. Here’s his video clip, is he funny? Wham, bam!

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

I usually have one liner jokes up there or I’ll tell them about the road. For example, on my drive from NYC, I left at 3:30am and I had 740 miles to go so I kept everybody updated as to where I was and what I was doing.

That’s another thing, I use Facebook to keep a photo road diary. I use my phone to take photos of stuff I find amusing on the road, and I send it to Facebook to an amusing album called “scenes from the road”. It’s just another way to promote myself. I just put up a photo of a gas station called “Kum and Go” and I have five comments already. Once someone looks at one picture, they usually look at others. It’s just another way to remind people of Danny Browning and what I’m doing. I do try to stay away from super personal stuff on the Facebook and use it as strictly a business tool.

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

One experience was a pain in the ass. I was working in Minnesota, and after the show my girl and I had an argument so I went out to a bar. Then I started taking pictures with these two girls. Nothing happened with them, I was just taking pictures, but they posted their pictures on MySpace, tagged me, and then it popped up and my girl saw it and it looked like I was really partying with these girls, which didn’t look good for me. I had a lot of talking to do to get out of that one.

7. Your website is a .biz instead of a .com, why is that?

When I first hit the road I was broke. I made $9,000 my first year on the road. I needed a website, .biz was $2.99 a year and .com was $9.99.

People have always told me I should change it to .com and I never have. I’ve grown to like the .biz. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about that before. When people Google me, my website is the first thing that pops up. That’s what’s important. So I’m not worried about people being able to find me. Between myspace, facebook and my website, if people want to find me online, they will.

8. You’ve been doing road work for 7 years, how has technology changed the road experience?

With all the traveling I do, it’s pretty convenient to go on the internet and find the map from where I’m going to where I need to be. The Tom Tom navigational system is the best thing a guy with my job can have. I didn’t have one when I started, I got one last year and I could’ve kicked myself in the ass for not getting one sooner. That should’ve been the first purchase I made. Satellite radio is nice to have in the car too.

There’s also no such thing as being off the grid anymore. With webcams you can see and talk to your significant other and family. Text messages, cell phone, Facebook, it’s a lot easier to stay in touch with people. And it’s a lot harder to hide from people…

9. Do you use an electronic press kit?

No but I’ve been told I should get one. I don’t know if they work or not. I know guys who use them who have been successful, and I’ve seen guys who do corporate events have an online press kit. I asked one booker, Eric Yoder at Funny Business Agency what he wanted to see on the screen, and he said he wants all the info right in front of him.  He didn’t want to go through a lot to see who you were. He said, “the simpler the better.” So I always make a link to my video clip and a link to my website. Anything I would put in an EPK is either in the video or on the website.

I don’t think it’s a necessity but anything that makes you look more professional is good. To be a comedian, especially on the road, it’s all about professionalism. When you present yourself to a club or booker, when you get to the gig, when you tell your jokes. Be professional: do what you’re told, don’t get drunk and make an ass out of yourself. And be professional afterwards, a follow up with the booker or the club goes a long way. If an EPK can make you look more professional then do it.

Hi-Tech Comedy: Judy Carter

Today, I’m really excited to be interviewing Judy Carter, Goddess of Comedy — or how she prefers to be called, just “Goddess.” Judy Carter is an acclaimed standup comic, wrote The Comedy Bible and has appeared in over a hundred television shows. Judy also runs Comedy Workshops which trains aspiring comics in the how-to’s of comedy.  Judy has appeared on “Good Morning America”, Oprah, CNN and ABC World News Tonight.


How are you using social media to promote your career?

I use Facebook and twitter, but not to directly promote my career. I rarely write “there’s a class starting” or “I’m performing at ha-ha’s.” I use it to establish who I am and what I offer. I’ll give an insight, write something funny, or offer some kind of advice. Something that is helpful to people who read it rather than tweet about a pimple I got after I ate a donut.

The biggest mistake comics make is being too self-centered. Whether you’re on twitter, Facebook or standing on a stand up stage you have to think of your audience. What do they need? What do they want to hear? I use those mediums to connect to my audience. People who are just obsessed with promoting, rather than sharing are boring. Thank God for the FB “hide” button.

Take Wendy Liebman, she’s a wonderful comedian and she has six or seven Facebook entries everyday that are incredibly funny. I don’t know how she does it. Reading her entries gives you a sense of what it’s like to be a comedian. Then in passing she’ll go “I’m performing tonight at The Cleveland Improv”.

That’s really my biggest secret to success: to think about the audience. Then again, there’s a guy like Larry David. I watched Larry before he was the richest comedian in the world. I’d watch him intentionally perform material that the audience wouldn’t like. He’d play to the comics in the back of the room and developed his own unique brand of comedy that way. He really followed his own authentic voice and you can certainly see that on “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” But people like that are rare, very rare. Most of us get the check at the end of the day because the audience liked us. If you’re a comic and you’re creative don’t turn off that creativity when you put out your press release, or promote your event. Give it some thought: How will this interest people? What kind of title can I give it? Not just another showcase that says “come see me, me, me!”

In addition to Facebook and twitter, I noticed you have three different websites. Can you spread yourself too thin by being on too many social networks and having too many different sites?

Yes, you can spread yourself way too thin, as I’ve done right now. If I’m doing my twitter update, my Facebook update, my blog update, when will I have time to write new material? The answer is, I don’t. Comics can get caught up in the minutiae of social networking and forget that what they’re supposed to do is write new material and make observations about life. The problem is – most comics don’t have a life.

I read George Carlin’s autobiography and reminded myself that he did 13 HBO specials. That’s a 13 hours of material, not an hour of comedy club material but 13 hours of double-A-rated-top-material. There are a lot of people doing an hour in a club, but if they were doing an HBO special and had to take out their “padding” their material would condense to twenty minutes. Carlin had 13 hours of HBO plus his all his albums plus all the other things he did. He had time to put it all together because he wasn’t so busy answering emails and twittering. We have to be careful not to be so seduced by technology that it gets in the way of creativity.

How do you find the balance between making time for the creativity with responding to people and building a fan base? You can’t just ignore everyone’s email, right?

There are other ways to build a fan base. I’ve always believed building a fan base is really important when you do a show. Gather people’s emails and when someone tells you they like your act, rather than giving your card to them, which is a good idea, it’s an even better idea to take their card. When I do a show sometimes I’ll speak to 2,000 people and I’ll make sure they get something for free by giving me their email that I’ll send to them. I try to make it compelling for them to want to be on my mailing list.

Ever since I was 8 years old doing magic shows, I’ve had a database. Although then it was on 3 x 5 index cards at the time. At our office we use SugarCRM which is a web based database system. There’s a free version. We had it customized for our business, which was expensive. It’s very easy to setup a business, maintain a database and send out mailings.

I believe in being direct. I won’t mask the fact I have a class on Facebook, instead I’ll send an email to my list. Even when I’m promoting a class or product, I still give away free information. I’ll tell them, “we scoured the internet for job opportunities for comics and we’re listing them for you for free. And here’s some advice on how to talk to an agent on the phone.” We always send out a newsletter where there’s one product that we’re selling and everything else is free. The truth? I actually do care about others and it makes me incredibly happy to see my standup students on TV.

This doesn’t relate directly to technology, but do you still do comedy clubs?

No. I did that for 17 years. When you’ve stayed in the roach infested comedy condos, there comes a point where you want to move on to something else. But I certainly learned so much from working the clubs. I know how to work when there’s three people in the audience and they make you go on. I know how to work when they’re totally smashed, heckling, and throwing things.  Well, there I’ve learned to duck.  A lot of comics complain about those gigs, but it gives you your chops.

Now I’m a motivational speaker. I show companies how people can use their sense of humor to get out of stress, problem solve and promote creativity. I made my switch to speaking when I realized that making drunks laugh was what I did at the dinner table growing up and I decided I didn’t want to work that way anymore.  I’m a teacher and a comic and motivational speaking let’s me combine both of my talents.  Speaking is awesome, I wish I discovered it earlier.

How has the internet changed how you find students and clients?

We don’t have take post cards and lick stamps anymore.  That’s nice.

We have a website ComedyWorkshops.com that has a lot of content: it lists clubs, agents and job opportunities for comics. And we want to have more content on it. We try to make it so people can use it, before they’re famous.

At ComedyWorkshops.com we have online groups where comics help each other write material. I find that’s really valuable. People to post material, then I’ll come in and start punching up jokes. Then everyone else comes in and starts punching up jokes. If you want to get good at comedy, write jokes for someone else. It’ll give you confidence. It’s so much easier to write jokes for someone else than for yourself. When I write material I pretend I’m writing it for someone else. It gives you more distance and doesn’t have your ego in it and all your insecurities; it makes it a lot easier.

I also have JudyCarter.com which is my personal speaker website where it shows what I’m doing as a speaker. Right now I use that exclusively for corporate speaking bookings. It’s working really well. Clients now will be directed to that site, watch a couple of videos then they actually book me right from that site. Sweet, as no need to send out DVDs.  Mostly what I send out are Electronic Press Kits (EPK). You can create an EPK for free at www.ComedyDemo.com.

EPKs are better than directing a booker to your website. Nobody has time to go to someone’s website and look for the right video. An EPK allows you to send your press kit to a booker and it looks like an email but has a graphic interface and your videos, bio and credit are all right there in the email. It’s a one page sales promotion.

Here’s a big secret: If I get a call from a Healthcare Hospital looking for a wellness keynote, my EPK will have quotes from similar gigs I’ve done for healthcare, recommendations from other hospitals, in the bio it says I’m a “healthcare humorist”, it gives topics just on healthcare and the video is just healthcare jokes. So when someone is looking for a healthcare speaker and they get to my EPK they go “this is exactly who I’m looking for” and I get booked. And if it’s a financial company the EPK will be similar but say I’m a “financial humorist”. These EPKs can be created on the fly and are the most valuable tools to send to the booker because boom, your materials are right there.

I do a lot of research on the company who is booking the show and I have 25 EPKs I send out and I tweak each one to make sure they look like exactly what the client is looking for.

I’ve gotten so many enquiries from comics looking to break into the motivational speaking market, so I’m  going to be releasing a three DVD program called “Speaking Career in a Box” It will be available in March at ComedyWorkshops.com and it will contain everything anyone wants to know about how to make money as a motivational speaker. Motivational speakers certainly get paid a lot more than stand up comics. It’s a challenge to be really funny and edgy and yet clean. I still try to push the envelope.

When you’re working a comedy club, you can refine a joke night after night. You don’t have that luxury when you’re doing a one time speaking gig. How do you go about getting it right on the first time at corporate gigs?

When I started out doing corporate gigs, I sucked, but after 10 years at it, I got better.  I also have a great support team.  I’ll be ready to go on and calling for a comedy lifeline to a friend and say “they just had the SWAT team perform before I go on, I need to write a quick joke about it.”

What do you think of posting videos of your sets online? A lot of comics are paranoid and don’t want to even post their good sets online because of material getting stolen.

I’ve had people steal my material, and now that time has passed I’ve seen where they’ve gone with it: nowhere. If you’re stealing material you’re not going to get far. I care if someone steals my material but mostly, I just feel sorry for that person.

If you’re not posting your jokes online because of a fear of theft, you’re an idiot. What are you doing? Hoarding it to show to your grandma on Passover? You gotta put your stuff out there if you want to be seen. I put all my stuff out there because it’s my calling card — it’s how I get gigs.

But I don’t put anything bad out there. I would never put a bad gig on the internet. That’s how people see you and decide if they’re going to represent you and book you. Be careful with what you put on the internet. Everything I put on tape I’m careful too. Everything I put on the internet I ask myself, “Is that okay for a corporate client to see?”

How have digital tools changed comedy? What’s the future?

It’s changing so quickly, as soon as I tell you how it changes, it’ll change again. There seems to be more places to work but at the same time less places to work. The problem is now, because of union busting with SAG, we’re not being paid as much. We’re not getting money for residuals. I don’t know about the contracts for downloadable material, if you’re in the union you get paid something, but not enough.

People will always need comedy content. Sprint was paying people $25 per minute of material that they were using as content. Some of our bits take five years to come up with, and to sell it to Sprint for $25 for forever so someone can hear it on their phone, that’s pretty cheap.

On the other hand, I’ve found certain technologies invaluable. I‘m a big user of Jott.com. Every time I have an idea, I say it into my iPhone which connects to Jott.com. Jott transcribes the voice memo and emails it back to me. It’s already in written form so I can add on to it. I find that really valuable. You can see all your Jotts on the website so you never lose them. I find that to be really great.

There’s also program The Journal Software by David Michael. It’s really cheap. It’s a way to keep a journal. I have stuff all over the place, all over my house, I write on open mail envelopes. This program lets you publish blogs from it, but it’s not on the internet. I like my very private material to be on my hard drive and not anyone else’s.

What’s your weirdest online experience involving your career, that you’re willing to share.

Nothing – that I’m willing to share.

How much information do you share on Facebook and twitter, what’s your level of detail?

I don’t think anyone is interested in what I ate for breakfast. I don’t understand why someone posts something like that. Unless it’s something funny I had for breakfast. Coco puffs – funny. A lot of times I’ll share stepping stones of life: trips, where I’m at, insights. Sex?  I put that on my journal on my hard drive.

Any other thoughts on comedy and technology?

It’s really important as a comic to stay healthy. A lot of us don’t. I have an office treadmill computer, so when I’m on the phone or something, I’ll do my email on it, etc. It’s easy to put a monitor and keyboard on it. I love the iPhone app “Couch to 5k”. They guide you into running a 5k. It tells you “walk” then “run!” We also have a whole room in our house devoted to the Wii because the Wii Fitness is the most fantastic thing ever.

Hi-Tech Comedy: Bobbie Oliver

bobbie-Las Vegas RivieraToday I’m honored to be interviewing Bobbie Oliver. Bobbie has been doing comedy for over twenty years and has performed all over the country, including eight straight years of road work. Bobbie has done the Las Vegas Riviera and been on The Nashville Network and Entertainers with Byron Allen. She currently performs, teaches and resides in Los Angeles, CA.

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

I have three websites, a blog, an online newsletter called The Rubber Chicken gazette and of course I use Facebook, MySpace and email.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Totally! I think my individual websites have been most helpful, and after that I’d say Facebook. When I got my website up for my class, my business increased exponentially. And I’ve also noticed that Facebook creates a lot of recognition. When I go to different places, people come up to me and go, “Oh hi, you’re Bobbie Olivier, we’re Facebook friends.” It helps keep you on people’s minds, plus I post videos on my website.

Every time someone signs up for my comedy class, I ask how did you hear about me, and it’s getting more and more where people are saying “I Googled comedy classes, and your name came up.” I pay to have certain search words come up for me. And Chuckle Monkey — I can’t say enough about what a huge resource that is that we didn’t have available to us in the early 90s. You can find out about open mics and bookers, and I also advertise on chuckle monkey. I get way more people from my internet ads than from my print ads. A lot of newspapers write about me, and when they do, they always say go to standupacademy.net for more info.

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

I put videos of myself on my website but I don’t utilize YouTube and I don’t put videos on Facebook or anything — I prefer to have my own control over it. I know a lot of people use YouTube and I think that’s great but I think if you use it you should dismantle the comments or set them so that you have to approve them so you don’t have a video full of people dissing you online. With the internet people love to go online and make mean comments about people’s acts. Plus, if they’re on my website then I own them, and I know that some web sites (like Facebook and MySpace) have changed their regulations and what they actually own.

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

I can tell you how much they’ve changed comedy already. Comedy now versus comedy then is like a doctor putting leeches on people versus all the medical technology we have today. It’s night and day.

When I started in 1989 there was no internet. I mean it existed but not for the common people. So technology has completely changed everything. When I first started, there was a yearly book that would have the names and contact info of comedy clubs and comedians. I was in the book, but if you moved during the year, you couldn’t update that information until the following year. It was very antiquated and a very cumbersome way of finding out about people.

Also, it used to be that we had black and white headshots as people didn’t have easy access to affordable digital cameras. We always had to find an expensive photographer and pay for the negatives. Now you can have your friend take a headshot of you and get it online in minutes. It used to take weeks or months to get anything sent out and the cost would really add up, and you’d have to print photos in bulk. Now you can print your own pictures real cheap and one copy at a time. It’s the same with your resume. If you get something great on your resume you don’t have to wait until you get more resumes printed.

We also used to work in VHS which is real expensive to mail, and there was no place bookers could go and look at you except your press kit. You’d have to physically mail them a big VHS tape, which if you’re sending a lot of, got real expensive. Now you can send a DVD or let someone look at you online. Technology has completely revolutionized standup comedy and the way you can promote / pimp yourself: it’s easier, cheaper, more accessible. Like I said, it’s night and day.

5. Do you think this “ease of pimping” has led to more bad comedians?

Not necessarily: I started the tail end of the comedy boom when everyone and their brother was a comedian. It’s still like that in LA now, but it used to be like that everywhere. I don’t think that when a person is deciding to be a comedian or not, they think about promoting themselves yet. I don’t think it’s affecting how many people become comedians, I think it affects a comedian’s ability to look better than they actually are because of a slick promo kit, and maybe they can pimp themselves heavier and faster than they could before.

By the way, if you’re a comedian reading this, you can get a nice electronic press kit: It’s not really a website, it’s about $100 a year, and it has everything that goes into a press kit but it’s online. There’s a place for video, headshots, a calendar, press reviews, but it’s more compact than a website. I think it’s easier for people to view the video and it’s cheaper. Some people use those to submit to NACA and all that. You can view one such place here. However, if you can afford your own website,  do it!

I also think it’s much easier to create a fan base on the internet. I was on the road full time from ‘91 to ‘98 and I know a lot of comics would collect fans’ mailing addresses and send them post cards when they were coming to town next, which is difficult and costly. Now you have Facebook, email lists and Twitter (which I’m not on) and fans can find out much easier when you’ll be there.

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

I use my Facebook for multiple things. One is to communicate information with a large group of people like “I’ll be out of the office today and email you tomorrow.” I also use status updates to say witty things throughout the day so people will comment on it, see it or respond — and it keeps you in people’s minds.

I have pretty much an open book policy. Being a comedian I try to make myself vulnerable and share personal things about myself. I think whatever you try to hide the internet will bring up anyway. When I Google myself I’m amazed where I show up. I’ve seen people who have done blogs on me that I never knew existed. I was mentioned on someone’s blog and the blog said they’ve seen me perform and worked with me, but had never taken my classes but recommended my class. I saw another blog that named my blog a top ten blog. Just a lot

of different things I never knew were out there about me. I’ve also seen some comedy contests I’ve won and that they’re using my name in advertising. One last example was a story in the University of Laverne: I would’ve never known was there without Google.

7. What’s the weirdest stuff / “perks” that you’ve experienced due to your combination of technology and the internet.

People are constantly offering to pay me to pee on them for some reason. I don’t know what it is about me that makes people want me to pee on them. But, I do have to pee a lot, and I could use the money!

A lot of times someone will have seen me on a show and friend me on Facebook. But comedy in general can always get you drugs and laid. I mean I’m married so I don’t go around getting laid on Facebook, but you so could. I got contacted by the Myth Busters people the other day, they had to have heard of me somehow and I’m sure having a strong internet presence helped a lot.

8. A majority of comics are males. Have you noticed any differences in how male and female comics use the internet to promote their respective careers? Is there some information you’d feel comfortable sharing online if you were a man that you don’t feel comfortable sharing as a woman?

I think that as a woman, I would never put my home address on the internet. I ended up getting a PO Box because I needed a public address for deposits and registration.

I think the biggest difference, isn’t male and female but age and experience. I think the younger people, you guys, grew up on computers so you’re very familiar and very savvy, whereas us older people can be kinda late to the game on that.

I have so many stalkers, and I’m not sure it’s a problem men have. When I say I’m gonna be somewhere on Facebook, there’s always people showing up I didn’t know were gonna show up. I have a few people who follow me around that I’d rather didn’t but you can’t really exclude who gets what information. Although, I’ve had to go in and block people from my Facebook, but you have to make info public if you’re a comedian. So people know where I am. If you wanted to kill me it would be easy to find me. And I don’t think men are thinking about that when they’re walking to their cars after the show.

9. Why do you think there’s so many fewer female than male comedians?

Women aren’t raised to be what you have to be in order to be a comedian. You have to be tough, ballsy, and vulnerable. Women are raised to be sweet. And audiences can take things from a man they can’t take form a woman. Men can be dirtier. Women in our society aren’t taught to be outspoken and boisterous and give their opinions on everything like you have to do with comedy. It’s definitely a man’s game but I definitely prefer women in it.

Pro Talk: Becoming a Full Time Comedian

I recently caught up with Clayton Fletcher to get his thoughts on the process of becoming a professional comedian.

claytonClayton Fletcher is a national headliner who performs all over the USA in various clubs and colleges. He has been seen on MTV, Sex & the City, and Rikki Lake. His live comedy show, The Clayton Fletcher Show, takes place every Friday and Saturday at 8PM at New York Comedy Club. For more, visit www.claytonfletcher.com

1. Can you discuss the transition to professional comedian? Is it a gradual process where you make more money each year until you can start doing it full time or is it more like a “zero to sixty” process?

Becoming a professional comedian is definitely a gradual process. I remember the first time I got paid I made $50 for a twenty-minute set in a restaurant. I only had twelve minutes of material so I tried doing crowd work for theother eight. It was the second-hardest fifty bucks I ever earned.

After that restaurant show I didn’t make another dime from comedy for about a year. But that little taste of getting paid drove me to work harder almost as much as bombing at my first professional show did. It doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen.

2. I’ve heard that most of the money is in road work / college work and not from working the clubs in NYC or LA. Is this true? How big is the difference?

Oh, definitely. If you are not a superstar comedian like Chris Rock or Lewis Black the payscale is much lower in the two major markets. The reason is quite simple: the law of supply and demand. If someone offers me $100 for a spot in New York and I demand $125 they can just hang up the phone and call one of the other six million comics and offer him or her the hundred. In Flint, Michigan, I am usually the only comedian in town when I show up so it is easier for me to set the price. Supply in New York is at such a surplus that if half the comics moved to L.A. today, the competition for every spot would still be fierce.

Although if that happened I would not mind at all…

3. Besides performing, what are the various (but related) ways a comedian can try to make money? Are these other streams significant?

The first other significant revenue stream that comes to mind is writing. I have written for film and television, usually as a “punch-up” artist. Punch-up just means that the script is complete except it could be funnier, so they hire comedians and comedy writers to try to add some more funny moments, to punch it up! Typically comics who do punch-up do not get writing credit but the money is often about what you would make on a weekend of performing.

I have also written for corporate projects such as award ceremonies, ad campaigns, and in-house films. Obviously the rates for anything in the corporate world are always higher since a company that is hiring a comedian as a consultant can afford to compensate him. When these opportunities come up, I am happy to be a sellout!

Other ways to parlay your comedy skills include doing commercials or voice-overs, working as a live event host, and teaching. I find that my comedy background gives me a huge edge in all of these endeavors as well. So often on a commercial audition they want me to improvise, and the comedy skills really come into play although stand-up in particular does not.

The other side-business I must mention is producing. There are countless opportunities in New York for self-driven comedians to take responsibility for booking a club on a certain night and then putting a show together. It is a tremendous amount of work (finding comedians, promoting, filling seats, finding a host, negotiating with headliners) but someone skilled in these areas can make a good living doing just that if (s)he wants to. In fact, many comics I started with nine years ago are now full-time comedy producers in New York who hardly ever get onstage themselves. Personally, my need to entertain people is so great that this path would never work for me. I would be like the alcoholic who owns a bar. But for them it has become a niche so I am happy they found their path.

4. At what point do you think someone should quit their day job?

Moving to full-time is a very difficult choice. For most it is terrifying. Once you quit that job, you lose your steady income, your health insurance, and the respect of your parents. I have never had a full-time job so I have no idea what it is like to have any of those things anyway. But if a comic is hungry and her act (not to mention her budget) shows that she is ready to take the training wheels off, I usually advise her to go for it! If things do not go according to plan then she can always hit up monster.com later. A good guideline is to walk away from the desk once you are making (or think you can make) at least 50% more from comedy than you were at your regular job. If this sounds high, remember that being self-employed is very expensive as no human resources department will show up to take care of your basic needs.

5. I read Norm McDonald earns $40,000 to headline a weekend in Vegas. (He then proceeds to gamble away $50,000.) What’s the highest headliner fee you’ve heard about?

I have heard that one A-list celebrity comic earns over $200,000 per corporate personal appearance. Although in these times of corporate scrutiny I would imagine those days are over.

6. I’ve also seen a “headliner” get $60 to do a 45 minute set (in Virginia). What’s the lowest fee you’ve heard? Is there a “standard” rate?

That $60 you just mentioned is an insultingly low price for a road headliner. Hey, who books that gig? Can I get his information? What, I like Virginia…

There is no standard rate but generally comics have a bottom line. Kidding aside, I know how much I would charge to do 45 in the South and every comic has his own number in mind. But it is almost like the number of girls you slept with: you keep it a secret and you might embellish one way or the other depending on who you’re talking to!

7. Anything else about the financial aspects of comedy you think aspiring comedians should know?

Well, I come from a theatrical background and a show business family so my attitude was always if I do what I love, the money will come. Now that I am in my thirties I can tell you that such romantic idealism is for suckers! The money only comes when you work extremely hard at your craft AND your business. I made a lot of mistakes in the financial area when I started out, viewing myself as an ar-teest. But now I see myself as a performer AND a shrewd businessman. And that is the reality for anyone trying to make a living as a comedian.

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Hi-Tech Comedy: Greg Aidala

Today I’m interviewing Greg Aidala.


Greg is a National comedian who has performed from New York City to Los Angeles with comedians such as Colin Quinn, Nick DiPaolo, Kathleen Madigan and Charlie Murphy. In 2005, Greg formed his own entertainment company, Radial Gage Entertainment. Aside from performing around the country, he teaches stand-up comedy workshops in his hometown of Albany, New York. Greg is a regular at the New York Comedy Club in New York City and has been featured in commercials and short films. Learn more about him by visiting his website.

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

Aside from having my own website, I use Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn. Over the past 8 years of performing, I have also amassed quite a large e-mail list. At shows, if people are interested, I ask for their e-mail address to be placed on my mass e-mail list.

2. Have you noticed the payoff yet?

Absolutely. Aside from my e-mail list and website, the other networks have given me great exposure. Every time I post a show on the social networks, people come out to the show(s). They have proved very valuable to my career.

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

I do post sets online, but not the entire set(s). You don’t want to give too much of your act away – I find its good to pique the interest of the comedy fan, in order to have them come out to a live performance.

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

I feel they have helped legitimate comedians spread the good word of the comedy community. I have seen a great growth of awareness even within the past 8 years of my career. Although I must say, that sometimes there are people out there that claim to be comedians and they are far from it. With the new technology, almost everyone can post a “funny” clip and consider themselves a “comedian”.  This dilutes the comedy community – but the cream rises to the top. I’m not a hater, I’m a supporter of anyone who is willing to attempt stand-up comedy…anyone who is willing to work hard and realize that it is indeed a business too.

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

Honestly, I use the public network’s for comedy business only. I only post when / where my next performance is. As much as I dig the world of the Internet, I feel one must be careful how much information is divulged. There is some crazy folk out there!

6. What’s the weirdest stuff / “perks” that you’ve experienced due to your combination of technology and the internet.

Well, I’m not into drugs (not against them either) and I’ve never had anyone one send me naked pictures of themselves (although I’m not opposed to that…wink, wink to any women reading this). But I have been threatened via an e-mail. I was performing at a show and there was this “gentleman” at a table with his friends, and they kept talking during everyone’s set. I asked the manager if they would please quiet him down prior to me taking the stage. Now usually, a manager will do that, which this one did – but manager’s don’t usually point out the comedian who asked this person to be quiet. My set went well – and after the gig, I was checking my e-mails and received a death threat from this patron. He had visited my website and left the message there with a phony e-mail address. For the next three weeks of my shows, I seriously scouted the audience for this wacko thinking he may show up in any city in which I was performing. I learned later on that the guy was banned from the club because he was trying to sell cocaine to other members of the audience that night! I’m glad this douche bag does cocaine, because I think he forgot about me – I haven’t received a threatening e-mail since.

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