Nobody Has the Credentials to Tell You “You Can’t”

through-a-wall

It Starts with Rejection.

Rejection. We’ve all had our fair share, right?

Being in the business of entertainment; being a comedian a writer, an actor, exposes you to more than your fair share, I believe.

Some of us are more affected by rejection than others. We take rejection as ostracism and we can do damage to ourselves and our careers if we take it too deeply to heart. I don’t know about you but I know some people who have given up after too much rejection.

The problem is sometimes too much is only once.

But the good news is I think we can learn to smash through rejection and overcome it.

In order to help overcome rejection, it would first help to have a handle on what it is so that it doesn’t seem so ominous and out of our ability to control it.

Understanding the Science of Rejection

Psychologists say that the fear of rejection is hard-wired into our brains and was established as some sort of survival mechanism.

Not to dwell too much on the primaeval science of rejection and the fear of it but for the sake of understanding and overcoming it, here it goes:

Back in the day when we were hunter-gatherers, we relied on tribes to survive. If you were rejected by the tribe it meant ostracism, which meant you would lose access to the fire, the food, etc. Which would lead to your ultimate demise.

Therefore the rejection mechanism is sort of an “early warning system” according to Psychologist and author, Guy Winch, Ph.D. When our behavior might get us ostracised we feel rejection and that feeling is supposed to trigger us to change our behavior so we stop being rejected.

To top it all off we humans are social animals, so the rejection can really be harmful. So much so Winch has actually labeled rejection as a psychological “injury.”

He’s not too far off considering that rejection affects the same brain regions and neurotransmitters as does physical pain. Which explains why during a break up you can actually feel physically ill, get a headache, collapse.

Also during rejection, our brain produces natural painkillers; Opioids, that can help us cope with the pain and continue on… or like me, make me sleep.

How Not to Let Rejection Get the Best of You

I was fortunate to have very supportive parents. They encouraged me to get up and face the day, despite rejection. I grew up in an actors’ family and got to see my Dad go to auditions, not get the part and not let it affect his tenacity, and belief in himself. I was able to witness him bounce back the very next day and book two out of three auditions.

So when it came time for me to audition, I didn’t allow the rejection part of it to knock my self-worth. And without conjuring up visuals of Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley and “Affirmations,” the popular sketch on Saturday Night Live back in the day, I would tell myself that I’m good enough and that the reason I didn’t get the part is not that I couldn’t act, but because I just wasn’t the right match.

Psychologists have a similar approach. They say you can prepare for rejection better by identifying the qualities you believe you bring into this world. Write them down.

Hell, write them down several times! Own them and know them. That way when you do receive some rejection, you can walk away from it a little stung, but with your head held high, ready to tackle the next challenge.

You should really take a moment–right now– and write down five to ten values you bring to this world! No really. Right now!

When it comes to rejection, I like to simply say to myself, “No is not an answer and it’s unacceptable.” Of course this is when dealing with the industry of show business, (getting a script approved or getting an audition), and not when I’m with a woman trying to get to third base!  And why am I still trying to get to third base with my wife? When you’re married, isn’t third base where you start?

But wait, we were being serious in this blog post, Dude!

You are ‘Perfect’

I think psychologists have a point when they say you should write down your valuable traits. I believe it’s something that will help you deal with rejection.

I tell my students and myself that they are ‘perfect.’ I’ve said it so much to myself that I inherently believe it.

Now before you get weird on me on that, let me explain…

What I say is, you must believe you are perfect in all your flaws. I encourage my students to own that of themselves.

I honestly believe that about myself and I have a ton of baggage. There are stores in the mall that wish they had as much Samsonite as I do. I have skeletons and massive failures. But I believe that has made me who I am and I’m pretty freakin’ happy with that because I am constantly trying to learn from my mistakes, sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t.

But that’s okay, because if I take the time to assess and evaluate, I can probably learn.

Your biggest mistakes are your greatest lessons. So when you do screw up and you do fail and you are rejected, you learn valuable lessons and if you walk away from that rejection focusing on what you learned rather than focusing on the rejection and self-talking yourself into depression, you’ll do much better with rejection and succeed more often.

Yes, focus on what you learned, move on, continue believing in yourself. Psychologist have determined that rejection is real. It exists, but how deeply we let it affect us is up to us.

We Can Cower or We Can Conquer.

The reason I wrote this blog post is that I’ve seen people–friends of mine–give up their dreams because they were rejected… even once. Then when they hit middle age, they shoulder this huge burden of regret.

When I first auditioned for the Improv, I was rejected three times by co-owner Mark Lonow. If I let that rejection get me down I might never have continued. But on my third rejection from Lonow, I looked him in the eye and said, “You’re not the only way into the Improv, Mark.”

I don’t recommend ever saying that, by the way! I did it because I was hurt (one of the side effects of rejection) and I stupidly lashed out.

But the very next day, I went into the Improv, waited three and a half hours to see Bud Friedman. When I finally saw him, I introduced myself and begged him to let me audition for him.

He said, “Come down tonight and do twelve minutes.”

I thanked him and came back that night with my twelve.

When I was up on stage, after six minutes, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Bud Friedman walk out of the showroom.

My heart sank.

When I finished my act, audience members high-fived me. I heard compliments. I was confused. Why did Bud walk out of the room?

I went up to the bar and waited for Bud. When he finally showed up, these are his exact words: “Very nice set, Mr. Corley. I tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to start you in Vegas and go from there… Oh, and I want you to do the show.”

“What show is that, Bud?”
“A&E’s ‘An Evening at the Improv,’ of course.”
“Of course.”

On the night of the taping of the show, I was in makeup sitting in a chair right next to Bud… as I looked into the mirror, creeping up to me was Mark Lonow, the co-owner, who rejected me three times before.

He leaned into my ear and said in this disdain-filled voice, “How’d you slip through the cracks?”

Bud Friedman looked at him in the mirror and said, “Mark, the last time I checked, my name is first on the Marquis.”

I did the show that night and had a really solid set and after that set, my first T.V. set, my career changed. I haven’t stopped working since.

I share this with you because rejection is a part of this business. We must learn to cope with it and not let it get us down.

And just like the picture way up at the beginning of this post, when we encounter the obstacle of rejection when can either give up, go around or break right through.

There are few things I love more than this business. One of those things is the artists who journey through it. If this blog post gave you some inspiration, drop me a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts and your obstacles and how you overcame them.

I would also like to share with you the article that inspired this post. It is a post that shows original rejection letters to famous people. The post is very appropriately titled:

“10 Painful Rejection Letters To Famous People Proving You Should NEVER Give Up Your Dreams”

it’s by Averi Clements at Distractify.com.

I hope it inspires. Go get ’em!

What These Two Weiners Can Teach Us About Comedy

What these two wieners can teach us about comedy

What in the world of funny?!

I can’t believe this hack just did a joke on the name Weiner being so much like the hot dog wiener. Oh my God what a hack!

I can just hear it now all the super clever comedians out there skewering me for having the nerve to post such a ridiculously sophomoric statement.

But I have a point to this whole thing… I think.

There’s a trend out there in stand-up comedy land, kids. And the trend is for comics to be Bill Burr or Louis C.K.

The trend is to be clever just like them. You know, tell stories, make a profound statement. After all, wasn’t it George Carlin who said, “Don’t just make them laugh, make them think!”

I get it and I’m with you. I love to do think humor. I love to speak out with profundity and make a daring, yet good socio-political statement. I love to have the balls to “walk” a room.

T.V. Comedy is About Simplicity

But this post is about simplicity and its place in comedy; especially in television.

That’s right Simplicity. There’s a place for it and there’s big money in it.

What? Money you say?

We all want to be the clever Bill Burr or Louis C.K. but realize they started a long time ago and they didn’t start doing the stories you hear them do when they step on stage now .

They started with jokes. Writing jokes and telling jokes. (At least Burr did).

But you’re missing an element in your total game if you just stick to the clever story-teller comedy. There’s an angle you all should be working and that’s the angle of being able to write your one and two liner jokes.

Every comedian out there should be spending some time each day cranking out some solid one and two-liners. Honing that craft and getting good at it. Because one of the ways to be sure that you can survive in this business is to build multiple revenue streams.

One of those revenue streams could be writing for Late Night T.V.

The key to writing for Late Night T.V. is not the deep-meaning, clever, iconoclastic comedy. It is the simple association, simple surprise, short-form comedy concept that can play not only in New York and L.A. but in Middle America too.

One of those simple comedy structures is Double Entendre or wordplay comedy.

I took the pulse of my readers recently (all three of you) regarding wordplay humor and I got back some interesting feedback regarding the state of wordplay in comedy.

Most of it was like, “Dude Wordplay ain’t dead but it’s certainly on life support.”

I respect people’s opinions, even when the opinions are retarded. (See I can say “retarded” because I’m referring to an opinion–a thing, not a person… besides I know a lot of retarded things).

I jest, of course and I wouldn’t blame you for unsubscribing for that “retarded” comment, (but if you did you’d be retarded), because I’m about to show you why wordplay is alive and well–even a crucial skill you should refine, if not as a comedian, then as a writer.

Wordplay is Alive in the T.V. Comedy Writing Scene

Wordplay and double entendre is used in comedy writing on television like it’s nobody’s business. Late Night is chewing it up. It’s in commercials. It’s in Sitcoms.

Most of the successful shows on T.V. are using the Double-Entendre or wordplay comedy technique to get audiences to laugh and with great success.

You might not think that it works, but there’s an old saying in comedy and it’s “know your audience,” and I hate to be the bearer of bad news but Late Night isn’t playing to you.

If you’re reading this blog then you probably have at least a passing interesting in stand-up comedy or comedy writing and YOU are Late Night’s last target audience.

The audience that Late Night T.V. targets is the middle America audience. Mostly the male demo between eighteen and thirty-four.

They are targeting people who are tired after a long day of work and feeding the kids and dealing with the day’s errands, tasks and chores.

Late Night, for the most part is about simple humor. Don’t believe me? Check out this little bit from “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”

Steve Higgins and Jimmy do Scat. (As in scatological humor).

In the middle of the Pros and Cons desk piece, they go on a “fart and shart” riff that lasts an entire two minutes. Now two minutes is nothing in real time but in T.V. time is a good chunk.

Listen to the wordplay and tell me that it’s not funny. But remember. It’s not up to you and me. It’s up to the audience. And the audience is loving this stuff!

You’ll also find a ton of wordplay in “Arrested Development” and “How I Met Your Mother” two rather successful television shows.

And not only that, also in commercials. If you look at some of the funny commercials you’ll find that wordplay is used and used often.

Like in this ad for Discover Card.

Frog Protection – Discover Card

Consider the silliness of both. Consider how “hacky” either could appear if you did an amalgamation of either on stage in your stand-up at the Comedy Store.

But remember television writing is not necessarily about being clever, it is about being silly and getting the laugh.

Also consider that a Late Night Writer makes a minimum of $4000 per week and a copywriter for a huge marketing firm could be making upwards of $700k per year.

So while I dig doing clever, solid story-telling, stand-up, it might be wise for me financially to also hone my simple comedy skills like Double-Entendre and Wordplay. Because that kind of money doesn’t sound like it’s on life support.

New Comedy Club Opens in Lansing Michigan

trippers comedy club

Hey Road Dogs!

A new comedy club has opened in Lansing Michigan. Woo-Hoo!

According to WLNSNews.com in Lansing, Trippers Comedy Club has opened it’s doors.

For those of you out there and working the road, it could be a few days that you can fill in a long road schedule.

Manager Jason Burkhart says that the club is going to be having shows on Thursdays at 9pm and Friday and Saturdays at 8pm and 10pm.

Great News for Lansing

That’s great news for that area of the country. As they were lacking in a club since Connxtions closed their doors last year.

Also good news, the club is going to be booked by the folks at the Funny Business Agency. So for those of you who already know John and Eric Yoder and the rest of the family, you already sort of have an “in.”

Those of you who don’t, I suggest getting an intro so you can have another club to add to your Contact Sheet of Clubs and Bookers.

And what I mean by that is this: Drop what you’re doing right now. Click those links and get those guys into your file system of bookers and clubs, then schedule a time to call or find a way to drop into the club, say to say hello.

And if you don’t have a file system for your bookers and club owners, start creating one.

Do you have a method for keeping track of your bookers? If so, leave a comment below. I’d love to hear how you keep your contacts organized!

Go get ’em!

Jon Stewart to Step Down From The Daily Show


jon-stewart-leaving-daily-show

Oh Snap!

If things weren’t explosive already when it comes to Late Night T.V. and variety T.V.

If you remember, the middle of last year I wrote about the changes in the Late Night T.V. scene are unprecedented in T.V. history with changes in The Tonight Show and Late Night on N.B.C.

Now things are heating up even more with the news of Jon Stewart announcing that he is stepping down from The Daily Show!

What? Say it ain’t so!

Jon Stewart has been the most trusted name in news and comedy for the last twenty years, while also developing and introducing some of the most talented people in comedy, like Stephen Colbert, who’s now replacing David Letterman and of course John Oliver, who now has a show on HBO.

And now the landscape in Late Night is changing drastically. This spells opportunity.

What This Means For You

This is epic news because when hosts change, writing staffs change and movement means more opportunity for comedy writers like you.

On top of that, how many new shows are going to attempt to pop up to replace Stewart and Colbert?

Other networks competing with Comedy Central may decide to try their hand to be the top hosted comedy/interview shows on cable.

With that in mind, how many of you have been continuously working on your Late Night Comedy Writing packet?

How many of you just wait for one opportunity and how many are writing every day with a goal of putting together two to three fresh packets a year or more?

How many of you know how to put together your sample packet?

How many of you look at it a such an overwhelming task that’s too big to tackle?

Anyone interested in this field of comedy, and those of you who have been to my seminars know that Late Night Writing should be a part of your arsenal to create your multiple-revenue-stream approach to the comedy business.

Here’s a couple of things you should be doing right now:

  • Watching and Recording the Late Night Show line up, including
    • Ellen
    • David Letterman
    • Jimmy Fallon
    • Jimmy Kimmel
    • Late Late Show
    • Seth Meyers
    • Carson Daly
    • Tavis Smiley
    • The Talk
    • Kelly & Michael
    • Ellen DeGeneres
    • Wendy Williams
    • Meredith Vieira
    • Queen Latifah
    • The Real
  • Study the hosts and learn their rhythms, persona and style.
  • Pick a few hosts to “write for”
  • Write down their jokes exactly as they say them
  • Write at least 10-25 jokes a day on headline news, celebrity culture, and trending news. If you can’t do 10-25, start with three jokes, then set goals each week to increase your production by one. In a couple of months, you’ll be up to 10 jokes a day, then 25. Trust me. This works. This is exactly how I did it, until I was writing up to 120 jokes per day. Boom!

Remember, this should be a process, not a one-time shot sort of thing. You just keep moving, keep writing and keep submitting. If you’re applying yourself and constantly testing your material against those already on T.V., soon the doors will open and you might actually find yourself on staff on one of these shows.

Get to work!

NBC Needs More Women Comedy Writers

Late Night Writing Needs More Women

late night comedy writers in writers room

And an NBC exec says it in the video below.

This is exciting! From the mouth of the source!

You’ve heard me say countless times that network is looking for diversity and looking for more female writers.

I also know when you hear me say for the hundredth time, you probably start rolling your eyes. Whatever, dude! Blah, blah… who’s saying it, etc. 

Not that you all say “whatever” or “blah, blah,” but my point is this. Here’s some proof. Here’s an exec from NBC stating that.

… and we got her on video, so there’s not turning back!

So, ladies… let’s start setting goals to put together your writing samples and late night packets.

It might be too late for this month’s submission, but this is an ongoing process.

If writing on staff for Late Night TV is part of your overall plan, then you need to be writing jokes everyday and planning to write one or two packets a year.

I’ll be teaching another Late Night Course this year and I will be re-releasing the updated ONLINE video Late Night Course with additional modules and updated tricks & techniques.

In the meantime, take a look at the quick video below just to light a fire on your super creative butts!

And of course, do me a favor and leave me a comment. Let’s up the conversation a notch!

NBC Needs Women In Late Night TV Writers Rooms