The Make-It-Or-Break-It Importance of Remembering a Name

How often do you find yourself in this situation: You’re introduced to somebody, and literally seconds later, for the life of you, can’t recall their names?

Some people instantly chalk it up to their brains not functioning and go as far as convincing themselves that they have a bad short-memory or they’re simply “bad” with names; going so far as to affirm it, saying things like, “I’m bad with names, I can remember faces. I always forget people.”

Does this sound like you? 

If it does sound like you–and I can actually see your head nodding as you read this–then you need to know that this tendency has more far reaching implications than you might think and I can tell you from experience, just read on!

Not remembering a person’s name can interfere with your ability to feel confident in meeting new people, or it can mean the difference between a gig booked or not booked.

Meeting New People

Being a stand-up can be isolating. After all, one of the reasons we do this job is because we don’t have to rely on other people. (I know it’s one of the reasons I got into stand-up). It’s just ourselves and the audience. We can get used to that I don’t need anybody attitude and it can reinforce our inability to remember names of people. 

But we must remember that in this business, a high percentage of all work is gained through relationships. And what I mean by a “high percentage” is “almost all.”

In fact, Steven Spielberg said that “Any movie that ever made got made because of a relationship.”  

I’m going to say that again, A high percentage of all work is gained through relationships and remembering someone’s name and repeating it out loud back to the person you just met can have a big impact and leave a lasting impression. You’ve probably heard examples of business and political leaders and one of the things people say about them is, he always remembered my name! 

That person could’ve invented the printing press or saved the free world from it’s utter demise, that stuff gets recorded in the annals of history, but a person recalls that he remembered my name

Are you starting to see how important this could be?

A handshake is an introduction, remembering someone’s name is the beginning of a relationship!

Confidence in Meeting New People

Did you know that this “forgetfulness” can sometimes cause people not to want to meet new people. They are so afraid they will embarrass themselves when they don’t remember someone’s name that they don’t put themselves in situations to meet new people.

This can totally impede your momentum in the business world of comedy so you can see that having a lack of confidence in meeting people can completely destroy opportunity. 

The difference between remembering a name and not remembering a name is the difference between a stranger and a friend or even a job and no job. 

Keep reading and I’ll address simple ways to fix this.

Take a Moment to Solve the Problem

If you’re one of those people who don’t seem to remember names of other people, take some time to think about why. How many of you, (I mean all three of you who read this), have stopped to ask yourselves, what was I thinking about when she was telling me her name?

You’d be amazed at how many people just accept the fact that they can’t remember names. They just think that that’s the way they are and that’s just the way it is.

But taking a simple moment to consider why you can’t remember names will help you target the problem. Once you do that, you can start to find solutions that work. 

And the solution can be simple.

Change Your Attitude

If you’re convinced that you can’t remember names, then it’s time to change your attitude about your ability. If you tell yourself that you can’t remember names, you’re just affirming that notion and convincing your brain to do the exact same thing each time. In other words, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy!

So start taking charge and stop accepting that you just don’t remember people’s names and start trying.

Stop being embarrassed if you don’t know someone’s name. Take the initiative and ask! 

Don’t worry so much if you forget someone’s name. Everybody does it. But when you have the good fortune to meet other people, don’t leave the scene until you have their name. And if you forget their name,  use humor!

You could say something like, “I need you tell me your name again… you know, because I’m a good listener…

There’s an old saying, It’s impossible to dislike someone who makes you laugh. Besides when you take a moment to ask when you forget, you show the other person that you care enough to ask.

Really listen to a person’s name when they tell you. Imagine the spelling of that name. If you can’t imagine the spelling of that name, then ask them, how do you spell that? 

Ask Them to Spell It

Recently, immediately following a screening for my movie, (“STRETCH,”  available on iTunes and Amazon October 7th; I know, shameless plug), a female producer came up to me to talk to me. She was a really attractive woman wearing Christian Lou Boutin shoes–about $700–so I knew I would have to stay focused. 

She introduced herself and told me her name. She then introduced her boyfriend; “Kuldeep.”  

Because the name was one I hadn’t heard before, I almost just let it go. I remembered by mind saying, Aaah! It’s not worth the effort, he’s only the ‘boyfriend.’ 

But I stopped myself and I put a smile on my face and said, “I’m sorry, would you say that again?” He repeated it and I looked him right in the eyes and said, “What an interesting sounding name. How do you spell that?” He told me and that brief interchange took an extra thirty seconds, but that name was now visually cemented into my brain. I could actually see it.

The producer’s boyfriend’s body language actually changed and he now looked like he felt like he was part of the discussion.

And the producer? Wow! She looked like someone just surprised her with her favorite flowers! That little gesture of really wanting to know her boyfriend’s name seemed to impress her. Either that, or she thought I was hitting on her boyfriend!

It was at that moment I felt the entire conversation shift from less of a formal gotta-meet-everyone-here, to a gotta-get-to-know-this-guy-better, type of thing and that’s when she asked the coveted question most writers want to hear at this type of thing: What else do you have?

This producer actually asked me what else I’ve written so can she read it! For a writer that’s huge. That’s like a booker saying, Send me your stuff, I’d love to have you in my club.”

I took her business card, took a moment to actually read her name on the card to add another layer of memory.

Before they left I shook their hands and said, “A pleasure meeting you, Kuldeep.” Then I shook the producer’s hand and I said, “It was so cool of you to come up and say hello, Nila. I will email the Christmas script so you can read it…  I let a beat pass and I said, “Oh, and Nila… amazing shoes!”

Her face lit up, and she did a little pose, rocked her shoe a little bit and let out a genuine, “Oh my God. Thank you!”

Because, really? Nobody wears a seven-hundred dollar pair of shoes and doesn’t want to be complimented on them!

Evaluate and Follow Up

I felt pretty proud of that introduction. It actually went from a “glad-handing” obligation to a real opportunity, in good part to the extra effort of remembering someone’s name.

I took a quick moment to evaluate what I did; I actually took a moment to really listen. It became important to me to really listen and remember their names. Because I knew on a conscious level that I did not want to walk away from that introduction without remembering their names so I did. 

Also because I did that, I initiated conversation, (how do you spell that, etc.), it kind of put me in control of that conversation. I felt like I was sort of running the show. It demonstrated a level of confidence we (including myself), don’t always have in initial greetings. I felt like I was on stage and they were looking to me for the answers.

Does that make any sense? Those new acquaintances looked at me differently and their respect level shifted instantly.

I met several other people that night. I had to remind myself consciously to stay engaged and stay cognitive of remembering their names. Really listening. Actively listening.

I also met a pretty famous director that night. He also asked What else do you have? He also liked the Christmas script idea and actually said, “I would love to direct that.”

I’m not really a big fan of those ‘schmooze fests,’  but I have to remind myself that they are part of the game.  After all high percentage of all work is gained through relationships, as some guy once said way back at the beginning of this blog post.

So what happened with that producer and that boyfriend? When I got into my car to leave that screening, I immediately keyed the contact info into my smartphone, I sent her an email about what a pleasure it was to meet her and Kuldeep. I also attached the Christmas script she was interested in, (I keep all important docs in my phone!).

In the subject line I put: “[Director's Name] said he wants to direct this!”

That script was read immediately by that producer with the great shoes, and the process has begun to get it sold. It has a good chance too, I think, because that guy Kuldeep?  Turns out he’s a millionaire business mogul who finances films!

So when it comes to remembering names… don’t you think it’s time you make it a priority? 

Let’s do this! 

Ira Glass on The Creative Process

Ira Glass on the Creative Process

Do It Again and Again…and Again…

This post was shared by student Patrick Kanehann who’s followed this mantra and has continued to get better and better and better!

Ira Glass, the host of radio’s “This American Life,” shares his insight on doing what you want to do and how to get good at it.

If you truly believe you’re doing what you want to do then do it over and over and over again. And when you feel like quitting, do it some more.

It’s what I tell students in my classes. When you first start, you might not be that good. But when you keep doing it, you get better and you get better and soon you start to realize that your work begins to meet your ambition.

Take a look:

 

Leave a comment!

What are some of your stories about getting started and keeping going?

Stop Thinking Like an Employee

assembly-lineOne of my comedian friends was recently brutally upset by the fact that he had to pay an admission fee to a comedy competition to be considered for it. He failed get into one of the regional prelim competitions so he was told by the organizer that he needed to resubmit in order to be considered for other regional prelims.

He was very upset by this and felt unsatisfied when he vented his frustration to the organizer who runs the festival, so he went public. He vented his frustration on Facebook and Twitter, “exposing” the principal of this festival. In addition, he made various personal accusations and assumptions about the organizer with other comedians in the thread, slinging insults about not only how unprofessional the guy was but also about his clothing and spelling.

WTF?!

The irony being that if you’re accusing someone of being unprofessional while slinging insults about a person’s spelling, clothing, financial situation or other personal attacks, YOU are the one who is being unprofessional.

Pretty ugly.

It all boiled down to one thing. The comedian who was upset spent “seventy dollars” to not even be considered for the competition.

All around; very frustrating. I get it.

This comedian is not alone in his complaint. There are a ton of other comedians who are upset by the results of competitions and the expenditure of real dollars to get into these competitions or to go out on the road, etc.

Let me try to sort some of it out…

This is show-business. Show business is two words, there’s the “show” and there’s the “business.” This business is no different than any other business in that you have to spend money to make money. You have to speculate to accumulate. Sometimes you have to raise the money to be able to invest it in your business. How you raise the money is up to you. But spending money on an administrative fee for a competition is a necessary cost of doing business.

It’s hard for creative people to deal with that, but…

That’s the way it goes.

I remember, a number of years ago, having to pay $25 dollars to a comedy booking company for them to take the time to look at my tape. I’m old school and didn’t believe in so-called PAY-TO-PLAY. So I bitched and moaned to my wife and my parents and any one else who would listen to me about how I thought I was getting “screwed.”

But this particular booker had 25 weeks of work on their schedule. I paid the $25 dollars, didn’t get a review in the time they allotted. I submitted again, paid another $25. Same thing. I sent a letter (remember, it was before e-mail).

They sent a letter back saying that they had so many submissions, that sometimes they just can’t get to a tape before the deadline and that I would have to submit again. I did. Another $25. I was already $75 in the hole! This time they called me and offered me a week of work as a feature act. I thanked them for considering me and while I had them on the phone I said that I would be traveling all the way from Los Angeles to the East coast to do this gig. “Is there any way you could tack on a couple more weeks so I can better justify the cost of travel?” They did. (In business, it’s called an ‘upsell.’). While you have them saying ‘yes,’ get them to say “YES” again!

Sort of like doing your act. If they laugh at the punch line, tag it, top it and do an act-out, to get more laughs from one premise. Same concept.

They gave me 2 more weeks. While on the gig I met the headliner who taught me how to sell t-shirts. I had a great time, gave them solid shows. I showed up early, and I over delivered. I made it my goal to give them the best shows that I was capable of. Then I called their assistant, asked what kind of wine they drank and sent them a “thank-you” case of Merlot; $110. They called me, thanked me for the wine and booked be for 10 more weeks that year.

In total I spent $75 on the submission, $110 on the wine. That’s $185.

That year according to the W-9 I received from them, I made $8250.00. Not a ton of money, but remember I was working as a feature act.

Most Comedians Think Like Employees

Was it worth it for me to spend $75 for the submission, then $110 for the wine? You bet!

But most comedians don’t think this way. In fact, most comedians lack even basic business acumen. Because most comedians think like EMPLOYEES.

How many comedians know the average profit margin of the average business? How many know the definition of cost-basis? I’d bet that there’s not many. Because traditionally our experience is as an employee. Why should I have to spend money in order to get paid?

But you’re not an employee, you’re a business. So it’s time to start thinking the way businesses think. And that’s profit margin and cost-basis.

A quick “ALT-TAB” over to Yahoo Finance, will tell you that the overall average profit margin of all the industries listed is 7.8 percent. What?! 7.8 percent net profit margin?!

After investing $185 in the booker, (all tax deductible, don’t ya know), I made approximately 45 times what I spent. That, by the way, puts all industries listed on the stock exchange to shame in terms of profit.

Would I have earned that if I just bitched about it?

So suck it up, guys. You may have gotten into comedy to skirt the system or not do a nine-to-five or get out of the “rat-race,” Not participate in the business world.

But here’s the reality: You are not only in the business world. YOU are the BUSINESS!

The beauty of it is, is that the business is COMEDY! Hell yeah!

Tune in, tune up, and kick ass!

Have any ideas you can share with how you make a living? Love to hear them!

Not Everyone Peaks in Their Twenties

About six years ago, I was at the famous Friars Club in Beverly Hills. It was showcase night. One of the main bookers from the Montreal Comedy Festival was in L.A. to scout comics for “Just For Laughs,” the biggest comedy festival in America.

All the comics were buzzing about it.

“’The Guy’ from Montreal is here!”

Each comedian was supposed to do 10 minutes. I was sixth in the lineup.

When I was announced, I went up there and knocked out my set.

It got a really good response.

It had a socio-political flavor.

It was fresh and edgy and funny.

When I was done, I felt great about it. I was sure I would get a nod.

‘The Guy’ talked to other comics, then approached me. He had those tired eyes, but he looked friendly.

In a kind and authoritative voice, he said these words, “Hi Jerry. I want to thank you for one of the best showcases I’ve seen this week… Really. I’ve seen maybe two-hundred comics…”

In that moment, I was absolutely flabbergasted. (And I didn’t even know that people still got ‘flabbergasted.’)

That’s a pretty powerful statement,’ I thought to myself. I also thought, “Holy shit. I’m in!”

Then the booker finished what he was saying. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “…but you’re too old.”

You know what I wanted to do at that point? I wanted to punch him in the head and say, “Well, now you’ll have to go back to Canada and tell everyone that you got knocked out by an old dude.”

I felt defeated. But it’s not the first time I heard “No,” and it’s not going to be the last.

I wanted to argue with him, but I learned a long time ago that when a decision has been made, “No” means “No.” And not just in dating!

I heard that same answer two years prior with the Aspen Comedy Festival, for the same reason. ‘The Guy’ for that festival had said that to my manager.

‘The Guy’ for that festival was a Gal!

But in the years following that “No,” I made more money in this business than I had in any of the priors years.

It’s because I decided that I’m wasn’t going to depend on ‘The Guy’ to decide the fate of my success.

I got out and I got to work. I booked my own gigs, made my own calls in the corporate comedy world and built a reputation within that national environment.  The wonderful thing about corporate is so many of  ‘The Guys’ know all of the other ‘Guys.’  So much of my work eventually came by referral… and still does.

Network & Television

Executives and Talent Coordinators with the Networks and Festivals are skewing younger and younger.

Why?

It’s money. This is a business driven by money. The networks and festivals are looking for sponsors; the sponsors most coveted demographic is the 18-34 male.

That’s who they want as their audience. They tend to be more spontaneous buyers and if the advertisers hook them at the younger end of that spectrum, they can build brand loyalty and have a customer for life.

In their business world, it makes sense. I get it.

But here’s where their “algorithm” falls apart:

The talent coordinators and executives who are responsible for booking the talent, equate the 18-34 demo with 18-34 talent. That means that they believe that the 18-34 male audience they want so desperately to watch their shows, will watch the shows if and when the talent is also 18-34.

Not so.

Especially in comedy.

The #1 Late Night show in television for the first quarter of 2013 was “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Jon Stewart (The King of Comedic Irony) turns 51 this year. That’s almost twice the average age of the networks coveted demo.

Stephen Colbert of “The Colbert Report” is the #2 Ranked Late Night show. Mr. Colbert turns 49 on May 13th.

But it doesn’t stop there. If we look back at the highest rated shows in television (even if you adjust the numbers for new channels and cable), the average age of the talent is nowhere near the age of the executives coveted 18-34 demo.

Let’s take a look. These are the top 10 rated series in the U.S. of all time:

[gn_nivo_slider source="post" link="image" size="500x300" limit="10" effect="fold" speed="600" delay="6000"]

Since the slider does not show it, here are the shows in order of most successful:

  1. M*A*S*H*
  2. Cheers
  3. Seinfeld
  4. Friends*
  5. Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson
  6. The Cosby Show
  7. All In The Family
  8. Family Ties
  9. Home Improvement
  10. Frasier

*Friends of course DID fit that demo. But if we were to list the top 20 shows, residing at number 17 is “Golden Girls,” where the average age was just short of  Hospice. That show would negate the demo of “Friends” three times over.

Count in Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and you’ll probably agree that the age of the talent is not how the business should be skewed if you want to attract your coveted 18-34 demographic.

It boils down to “funny.” If it’s funny, they will watch.

So, as those of us who have been called “too old” still make them laugh in the clubs and in corporate and cruise environments, maybe ‘The Guy’ will finally pull head out of his ass, look at the evidence that is right in front of him and start booking more talent, based on talent, rather than when they were born.

What does this mean for you?

Well if you’re feeling over the hill, (past 34), keep working, keep making them laugh. Opportunities are everywhere and if you light your own fire, you can work til you drop and love it every step of the way.

In the famous words of Frank Sinatra “I did it my way…” and I would add: And I didn’t have to depend on ‘The Guy.’

 

Tom Hanks Drops An “F Bomb” on G.M.A.

tom hanksWell, I’ve been saying it for years… ‘Good Morning America and Elizabeth Vargas could use a good F*ck."

That would definitely help with the ratings! And what better person to deliver it than the always lovable, Tom Hanks. Yep, ‘THE’ Tom Hanks. The one that all of America adores.

He was making an appearance to pimp his new movie ‘Cloud Atlas,’ where he plays like 75 characters, (Awesome trailer, by the way).

Host Elizabeth Vargas asked him to do one of the characters from the movie.

Tom actually warned that it is mostly "swear words," but Tom is a man of action–and evidently fatigue–because he lit into the accent and within seven words BAM! The F-Bomb drops right dead center in the middle of G.M.A.’s morning broadcast!

All I have to say is that the entire Eastern time zone (viewing it live), needed one less cup of coffee to launch their day.

T.M.Z. and all subsequent broadcast points got the feed with the offending word bleeped out. (Watch the UNEDITED VERSION below).

And it even feels weird calling the word ‘offending.’ Tom Hanks can make anything sound charming.

Comedians deal with this dilemma all the time. On radio, on T.V., we’re asked to give the audience a slice of our act and once in a great while, there could be a slip-up.

Normally, I know exactly what I’m going to do when I appear on radio or T.V. I actually outline techniques for radio interviews for comedians. But I remember it happened to me while we were live on the radio. It was actually a comment about President Bush and I was in Arkansas. Who do you think got hecklers at the show that night?! Smile

What do you do when you slip like that? You do exactly what Tom Hanks did. With charm and shock, apologize to the people who were listening and be sincere. Watch and learn because Tom Hanks teaches a valuable lesson.

America will forgive Tom Hanks and if you handle it right, the listeners or viewers will forgive you too.

Watch the video here: