CBS Blew It! – Craig Ferguson Announces He’s Leaving ‘Late Late Show’

Craig Ferguson announces he'll be leaving the Late, Late Show

The field is totally opening up!

Craig Ferguson announced Monday night that he’ll be leaving the Late, Late Show at the end of this year.  There is a lot of speculation that Ferguson was mistreated and completely overlooked, when CBS passed over him to replace David Letterman who will be retiring at the end of this year.

This after a 10-year run!

He was like a second string quarterback waiting his turn to take over the team.

Imagine if the Green Bay Packers overlooked Aaron Rogers after Brett Favre left the team?

Tragic!

CBS Blew It!

I think CBS completely blew it with this decision. They instead went with Stephen Colbert.

Colbert is very talented, but unproven and untested as a host in a non-satirical, non-character-based environment.

Ferguson is fresh, unique and extremely talented.

The execs who made this decision have ABSOLUTELY NO CONCEPT of the level of talent it takes to go off-script like Ferguson does and riff on a subject and get consistently great laughs. The guy is a genius.

*But Jerry, tell us how you really feel!*

He has an ability to detach from the show and actually make you feel like he’s in your living room; all the while still engaging the studio audience.

Who else does that?!

Answer: Nobody!

I don’t understand their reasoning for this decision. The only thing I can hypothesize on is that they are looking to target the 18-34 male demographic; the demo that is so coveted by advertisers and and already targeted by Comedy Central, Colbert’s current home.

But if that’s the case they blew it, as Ferguson and Colbert are virtually the same age!

Writing Positions Are Opening Up

But what does this mean for my readers, (all 3 of you)?

I know that some of you are really into looking to nail a job on a Late Night Show as a writer. This is a truly historic time with the shake-ups that are happening all around late night. Never in my life time have there been so many changes in the late night line up. in the same year.

With Colbert replacing Letterman and Ferguson leaving at the end of this year, new opportunities will be springing up all over the network.

Time to sharpen your pencils, freshen your pens and get your carpel tunnel wrist braces on and start re-typing and re-writing your Late Night TV submission packets.

Those of you who have taken my workshop on writing for late night know that you should be re-tooling your submission packet every 6 months and sending it in to the shows producers on a regular basis.

You should also be tweeting your daily jokes. Why?  The Late Night with Seth Meyers people plucked an I.T. worker from Peoria, and put him on the staff for the show after reading his humorous tweets.

Now the Dude is earning a $4000 minimum weekly paycheck as a staff writer on the show. Hell Yes!

So even though I’m in disagreement about the network’s decision to overlook Ferguson, I am laser-beam focused on the new opportunities available for writers.

Get writing!

Late Show With Seth Meyers Plucks ‘I.T. Guy From Peoria’ as Writer

Heath Ledger in a Knights Tale

There is a movie out there called “A Knight’s Tale.” It stars the late Heath Ledger as William Thatcher, a peasant squire, who, after his master dies, changes “his stars” by changing his identity and becoming a knight.

It’s a fairy tale. Or is it?

About a month ago, a regular guy from Peoria, Illinois, who tweeted regular jokes as a way of venting from work and the grind of daily life, got picked up by the executives over at Late Night with Seth Meyers, to be a staff writer on the show after they took notice of his funny tweets.

 

I’ve been telling my students for several years now that they need to be tweeting their jokes regularly to get their writing out there, seen by others. Now it seems that crazy idea is paying off.

In the blink of a tweet, Bryan Donaldson a family man, went from a clock puncher for an insurance company to a staff writer on network television.

Is this sheer luck? No! He worked hard everyday tweeting jokes and gaining followers on Twitter. He’s a classic example of opportunity meeting preparedness.

Through his diligent and funny tweeting, Donaldson got an opportunity of a lifetime.

Can you do the same? Maybe so.

The point I’m trying to make is opportunity is out there every single day. But most of us are not doing what we need to do to take advantage of it.

You should be writing every day, generating material. Either to tweet or for practice. Every time you write, you get better. And that’s the goal; to be prepared when opportunity arises.

Then, like Heath Ledger’s character in “A Knight’s Tale,” you too might be able to “change your stars.”

Tonight Show is Not Just For the Old Folks

Justin Timberlake   Jimmy Fallon s  History Of Rap 5  Is Perfect

Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight Show” is just finishing its first week and it has been an experience in engaging entertainment. Fallon has found that “something” that the show has been missing for the last 20 years; FUN!

Fallon’s ability to do impressions and his talent with music is the driving force of the show. Not to go without mention, the hipness and playfulness of his house band “The Roots,” makes Fallon’s “Tonight” totally entertaining and has turned the Tonight Show from that show than Mom and Dad watch before they go to bed, into a show that could entertain the tweens through the fifty-somethings at least.

I’m fifty (hard to admit it), and I find that show totally engaging.

How does that affect you as a comedian or a writer?

Simple. As a comedian or writer it is always good to reinvent yourself. Update, reboot, rewire, retrofit, restore rehab or renovate. Whatever you want to call it, keeping up to date and staying “now” is what drives engagement.

Now this should not be confused with age or birthdate.

Although Jimmy Fallon represents youth and will help NBC acquire the coveted 18-34 demographic in the late night slot, it doesn’t mean that in order to capture that demo, you must utilize only 18-34 talent.

The biggest draw on cable for a nightly show is still Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. (Stewart turns 52 this year and Colbert 50).

The key to driving engagement, at least where Fallon is concerned is his ability to be recognizable with his entertainment. He engages the audience with stuff they recognize (Ie: Song parodies and impressions). Even in the sketch above with Justin Timberlake, he slips into a Snoop Dog impression, a Dr. Dre, Ton Loc and Beastie Boys.

Familiarity and recognition drive engagement. If we recognize something we react physically to the television with a point a gesture like, “I’ve seen that,” “I know that!” “I remember that!”

This keeps the viewer watching and the ratings high.

It doesn’t have to be impressions. In fact, I would warn against that, unless you really nail the voice.

But doing something that creates an “in the moment” and “now” dynamic like engaging with the audience, act-outs, interaction with the band, keeps it moving and keeps it now.

There’s an old theatre science theory that states: "The audience is in whatever state the performer is in." Watch Fallon and Timberlake below and see just how much fun they are having and ask yourself, Is the audience having fun too?

What are your thoughts?

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?!

Patton Oswalt: “I stole a Joke. Not consciously.”

patton-oswaltIn a recent blog post about joke-thieving, I posted that Howie Mandel allegedly caught a comedian named Greg Wilson “stealing” a joke on America’s Got Talent.

It generated a lot of comments; some agreeing, some disagreeing with my post, some attacked, some complimented. Some people sent private emails to avoid getting into it in the comment thread.

The piece was written in a heightened way to draw attention to a dilemma we always face as writers and comedians; intellectual property theft.

Whether it’s a joke or a movie script or a television pilot idea, I’ve experienced it personally at several levels. And I expect to experience it more.

But the questions remain:

What do you do about it when it happens to you?

How do you keep from doing it yourself?

Who cares if I use someone else’s material?

I think the best advice I got on joke-stealing is from Jay Leno. He said, “Just write faster than everyone else and your reputation will precede you.”

He also says to people that accuse him of stealing a joke, “You keep it. I’ll write more.” Great advice. I highly recommend not only following it, but making it your code.

My Irish temper sometimes impedes my ability to make sound and reasonable decisions in a lot of situations. It can especially get in the way when someone steals a joke.

Temper can manifest itself in many ways. It once manifested in the Comedy Store parking lot with another comedian’s bloody head bouncing off the hood of a Trans Am.

Some of you might be saying, “Oh my God, Jerry! I can’t believe you would do such a thing to a Trans Am!”

Why not? It was the nineties and Trans Ams were so previous decade!

Despite the fact that I’m no longer the guy who reacts like that, I still like to defer to people who are smarter when it comes to trying to sort out an answer to a popular problem…

Patton Oswalt is smart, funny involved and completely dedicated to the business of comedy. I follow his tweets (when I can) and read his “Spew.

I think it’s always a good idea to follow people who are smarter than you, funnier than you and ultimately more successful than you so that you can continue your journey to be the best you can be.

One of the suggestions he gives in his “Closed Letter To Myself about Thievery, Heckling and Rape Jokes,” is to let the joke thief steal. Eventually he’ll reach that point of no return, where the thief will—with the help of other comedians’ material—reach the level of network T.V. as a performer or a writer, then crash and burn because they didn’t get to that level by developing their own creativity.

Because at that level when it’s all on them to ‘create,’ their creative well is a dust bowl. They become the reason for their own demise.

So take some time (it’s a long piece so grab some coffee), and give Patton’s article a read. I think he’s got a better solution to understanding the thievery dilemma than I.

I mean, unless you really hate Trans Ams.