Look Who’s Doing College Gigs!

Tony Quach & Jason London

Imagine doing stand-up comedy for only a year and booking your first paid stand-up gig at a University…

One year? Can it be done?

Oh yes it can! And it can be done well!

Tonight at Cal State Northridge, the university students put on a comedy show for like Greek week or something like that. Not many Greeks attended the comedy show because the Greeks were doing what Greeks do; party!

But no Greeks were needed. The room was standing room only and my students: Byron Valino, Tony Quach, Joe Dungan, Jason London and Adrian Herrera put on a fantastic show and got the room greased and ready for headliner Brian Kiley, the Emmy-award winning writer for The Conan O’Brien show who batted clean-up and knocked it home!

Some people say that college kids are hard to make laugh, but the show was filled with laughs from the first comic to the end and Jason London got a standing ovation. Sure it was by one person; his mom, but–

Actually it was from one of the CSUN students in the audience. Jason had one of his best sets yet.

You could actually see the structure of comedy pay off time and time again at this show.

The beauty of this whole thing is that these guys (except for the headliner) have not been doing comedy all that long. Some have been in my classes for less than a year, but it proves that when you learn the craft of humor writing and stand up, you can make even the toughest crowds laugh.

The ‘beautier’ part? They all got paid to do the gig. That’s right; PAID… in L.A.!

Whaaaat?! Who does that? Who pays in L.A.?

Uhm… colleges!

I think my guys are on to something. The University event organizers really loved the gig. They recorded the entire show. So now each of them have a solid video clip of them doing a college comedy event.

Now they can organize that and take it to the other campuses and book some more shows.

How Did They Do This?

I’ll just beat you to the punch now, because I know I’ll get a bunch of comments asking, “how did they get this gig?” It’s a comedian’s nature to ask how to get the gig.

They got it because Tony is an advisor on campus. He asked around, pimped and prodded and finally got the ASB to agree to put on a comedy show.

Because Tony had a relationship in place, he utilized it to pitch his show. Most everything in this town is done because a relationship is in place.

Do you have a relationship in place that you can utilize to pitch a college gig? A corporate? A fund raiser?

Some of you might be thinking… “Man I don’t know anybody like that.” And you might leave it at that, never bothering to try to make a connection. But you don’t need to have a connection.

If you don’t have any connections, make them!

 

How I Got My First College Gigs

When I first started doing colleges, I didn’t know anyone, but I had a solid tape.

I purchased Peterson’s guide to the college market and I started contacting colleges via letter and phone. (Yes, I said, ‘letter!’ It was before e-mail!).

I received some responses. I pitched my shows and low and behold (“low and behold” what does that even mean?), I started booking gigs.

My first year doing this, I only booked three college gigs, but after that it was five, then ten; partly because I spoke to some of the same people I tried to pitch the previous year. They remembered me.

See? Relationships!

Each gig was paying $750-$1500.

When I started, I didn’t have any connections and I didn’t know anyone. But I did have a relationship in place. It was a relationship with Peterson’s guide to colleges. Each one of those contacts, became leads. And each one of those leads became relationships.

Then it was just a matter of getting them to say “yes.”

So when you say, “how do you get these college gigs?” There’s an answer: Build relationships!

Relationship to the next power

Tony Quach, who booked this comedy show tonight at Northridge’s campus, took this relationship idea to the next level. Not only did he book his friends (fellow comedians who were also classmates at my Comedy Clinic), he also reached out to Brian Kiley, (head monologue writer on Conan), and offered him the headlining spot.

Prior to this, Tony was not even on Brian Kiley’s radar. Know what he is now?

A relationship.

–Great work guys! Can’t wait to headline your next college show! 

C’mon! I thought we had a relationship?!

Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee” is Available Online

comedians-in-cars-getting-coffee-597x325 One of the things I love to do, (and I highly recommend to anyone in this business), is to read biographies of other comedians. Love to hear their stories.

It’s a great way to understand, first, that they went through similar situations that you went through or will go through, and, second, how they dealt with them.

But what’s better than reading about these comedians? Watching them!

Jerry Seinfeld has put together a wonderful little show called “Comedians in Cars, Getting Coffee.”

And it is a show about exactly that. It’s just a quick distraction that is certain to entertain; especially if you’re a comedy fan!

The beauty is, it’s now available on Crackle.com

You want to tune out? Then tune in to “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Have a laugh and learn something about comedians who have been there, done that; and are still doing it!

BUSTED! Comedian Caught Stealing Another Comic’s Material During ‘America’s Got Talent’ Taping?

America's Got Talent

The Greg Wilson is Accused of Stealing Another Comedian’s Material while recording America’s Got Talent

According to the story that I first read on Slashfilm.com, comedian-contestant, The Greg Wilson, was performing on “America’s Got Talent.” He went to his closing bit which was an act-out of a mimed argument of a couple arguing in a car.

The crowd loved it, the first two judges loved it. When they got to Howie, he asked the contestant, (The Greg Wilson), “Did you write this, or are you performing someone else’s material?”

OUCH!

Right there in front of the audience and the cameras at the Pantages in Los Angeles, he gets asked if he stole material!

DOUBLE OUCH!

To top it all off, Howie says that he knows the comic that does the bit in question. Then he reveals the name of the comic: “Frank Nicotero.” Some of you may say, “Who the hell is Frank Nicotero?” Well, Frank is a comic who has been around for quite a while. He’s smart and funny… and he also just happens to be the warm-up comedian for… (drum-roll please)…

AMERICA’S GOT TALENT!

So The Greg Wilson is being accused of stealing a bit from a comedian who (unbeknownst to him) is in the SAME ROOM!

DOUBLE OUCH with an “OH SNAP!”

Being accused of stealing material is a big deal in this business. It’s scummy. It’s pathetic. And it can ruin a reputation and possibly a career… isn’t that right Carlos Mencia?

But to be snagged while doing it for a television show that gets to broadcast out to tens of millions is epic!

Here’s where it gets a little gritty:

I watched both comedians performing the bit:

Here’s Frank Nicotero:

Here’s The Greg Wilson: (The Bit starts at 3:43)

See The Differences?

When I watched both of the videos my initial reaction was this:

This bit is a high concept bit that could easily be performed by two different comedians. We’ve all seen couples fighting in a car and I could see that two comedians could come up with similar bits on that concept.

Based on the two versions, I thought that Greg Wilson did a more concise job defining the different characters and acting them out, but…

Jay Leno said to me: “There are no ethics in this business. You have to write faster than everyone else and your reputation will precede you.”

[gn_quote style=”1″]Your reputation will precede you…[/gn_quote]

That’s where this conflict begins to sort itself out; and we can begin to answer the question of if the idea was stolen.

If we consider the fact that Frank Nicotero is a seasoned professional who has hosted a television show called “Street Smarts” for 5 years and has had additional success and has a reputation that is super solid in this business, the origination of the bit in question starts to become clear.

But this is what settled it for me…

According to people who know both guys, It’s said that The Greg Wilson KNOWS Frank and Greg has SEEN FRANK PERFORM THAT BIT for years. I mean the bit goes back to 1993 for Frank Nicotero. It has been Frank’s closing piece for a very long time.

That’s where it’s No Bueno.

It boils down to this: Having a reputation for being a solid writer and comedian with fresh ideas by actually doing the work and writing on a regular basis is crucial in developing your reputation.

By doing a comedy bit that is known to be a signature bit of another comedian, The Greg Wilson has created a dilemma for himself that he now needs to overcome. He has seriously tainted his reputation and that is now being spread via the internet and social media.

If this story continues to have legs, it could really have an impact on his career and what other people in this business think of him.

Also consider this: America’s Got Talent is a reality show. It stays on the air as long as the ratings stay high. Much of the ratings are driven by conflict and drama on the show and although Frank was told that The Greg Wilson’s bit will never be aired…

A decision might be made by the show’s producers to air the segment just for the sheer drama and conflict. It’s bound to drive ratings and new blog posts, shares on Facebook and tweets on Twitter.

This story doesn’t die here. It reanimates when the show airs in about 6 weeks for potentially tens of millions of viewers watching on T.V. and potentially millions in the blogosphere and social media all pointing to the headline of The Greg Wilson allegedly stealing Frank Nicotero’s routine and performing it on Television.

Your reputation precedes you, indeed.

Love to hear your thoughts on this situation pro or con…

“This Audience is Mostly Mormon”

[gn_spacer size=”20″]
mormon-note

So one of my favorite students Skyped with me today.

He was upset about a comedy show he did.

It was a show he produced.

It was a show he emceed.

And it was a show that he didn’t do as well as he wanted.

“It was especially rough because I put the show together and I didn’t go over as well as I would’ve expected.

What gives?”

There’s no ‘magic’ solution to knowing how an audience will respond but it helps if you understand a little bit about comedian/audience dynamic.

There are a lot of reasons to why an audience doesn’t respond well to certain jokes.

In front of one audience one night a joke might rock, the next night, in front of a different audience, that very same joke might get groans or nothing.

That’s not uncommon and it happens for a reason.

Fortunately we can get a handle on the reasoning.

We might not be able to solve the problem all the time but we can at least understand why so we can make an adjustment, either during the show or at another show.

Sometimes the reasons are right in front of us. Sometimes the reasons are not visible.

Indulge me with a quick scenario:

In the middle nineties, I was doing a gig in Utah for a little known company called Hewlett Packard. We were at a restaurant, upstairs. The audience was well-dressed, some were keeping the bartender at the open bar busy, so I figured, This is going to be fun!

I started my show and I figured since we were in Utah I did a riff of jokes about Mormons that culminated with…

[gn_quote style=”1″]…for years I thought RV’s that had those bikes on the front of them… were Mormon hunters… is that wrong?”[/gn_quote]

It received a mediocre laughter at best, but it was nervous laughter and that was only from a select group of people– If you guessed, the ones who were drinking… you’re right!

I couldn’t understand why the audience wasn’t laughing. I mean I just did this round of jokes the night before and got screams and applause!

In the eighth minute, someone in the audience handed me a note.

It said: “This crowd is mostly Mormon.”

That explained it!

They had a background, experiences and an understanding about being Mormon that wasn’t going to allow them to look at my point of view about Mormons and see it as “funny.”

According to Dan O’Shannon in his book, “What Are You Laughing At, these are called “Reception Factors.”

Other ‘Reception Factors” might include:

  • Physical Health
  • Social Situation
  • Feelings about source
  • Method of Communication

There are others, of course but this spreads a vast umbrella over the “Reception Factors” of an audience.

Once I received that note, I was able to adjust. But I don’t just adjust, I acknowledge. I’m about transparency on the stage.

One of the things I learned is that complete candor can save you in moments of discomfort–like this one.

So I read the note out loud and then said, “Wow did I just step in sh–” then I stopped short of saying “shit,” giggled, looked at them as coyly as I could, and said “Poop,” in an overly cute way.

And although that doesn’t sound funny, the situation was funny.

In fact, the audience didn’t just laugh, they applauded…and for different reasons…

The people who were Mormon laughed at my embarrassment and candor, while the people with the cocktails laughed, because the way I delivered it could have been read as a sardonic mocking of the Mormons’ strict adherence to not using profanity.

Or I’m pretty sure that’s what was going on…

Bottom line is this. Use the simple formula of M.A.P. Material-Audience-Performer. The material should suit the audience and should suit the performer.

And when you don’t know what’s going on acknowledge then… ask…then…

Make a joke about yourself, switch gears and do some material that’s not designed to insult the intelligence of that particular audience’s “Reception Factors.”

What are some of your worst experiences with material and audience?

How To Be A Famous Comedian | The Rise and Fall of the Dana Carvey Show

Before I begin, it’s important to reiterate that “How To Be A Famous Comedian” is a series in my comedy blog dedicated, not to show how to be a famous comedian, but to show the path to getting work, which includes learning the craft of humor writing and comedy performance along with the trials and tribulations of the business that surround this art form. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re goal is only to learn how to be a famous comedian, you’ll have much better luck getting press by knocking over a string of 7-11’s, than doing stand up comedy. Comedy requires hard work, persistence and a bit of luck, but with the right combination of having a firm grasp on writing comedy, developing your comedy performance skills, as well as navigating the business, you can make a pretty darn good living pursuing a career in an incredible art form.

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Wow! I am always amazed at where I find information that teaches me lessons that I can continue to apply as I move through this amazing business. I was reading an article on the rise and fall of the Dana Carvey Show, a show that was cancelled after like 3 episodes, (It taped 5). You might ask yourself how does this teach anything? It failed! And how does it apply to the theme of “How To Be A Famous Comedian?”

As comedians or we have to remember that show business is two words and we have to emphasize both words. Writing great material and learning to master performance are key skills, but the famous comedian (and Dana Carvey certainly fits that bill), also knows how to navigate the business. Do they make mistakes? Sure! This article helps us all learn from the mistakes that were made in getting The Dana Carvey Show on the air and why a show that could have survived, died a certain death. It also teaches us about the people involved and we get to hear their thoughts. It makes it a more human process and helps to light the fire in all of us.

We spend a good portion of our careers thinking that the executives and the stars are above us. So far that they are out of reach. Reading articles like this one will help to assure you that everyone started somewhere. Did you know that Steven Colbert was Steve Carell’s understudy at Second City? Did you know that Saturday Night Live often holds auditions for their show in the Summer?

This information is important to read. You get to see that some of the famous comedians that did make it also went through periods where they didn’t make it. They got passed on for roles. You get to understand that it happens to everyone. That’s all part of how to be a famous comedian. Try then fail. Back to work. Try then fail again. Back to work. Try, then succeed.

When you read the article, make notes. Learn from the article. Learn the names. These are important people to be familiar with. You should do this with every article you read. It will help in your journey to learn how to be a famous comedian. Or have fun and success trying.

Read the article here: http://tinyurl.com/3kgntrn