Are You Spending Your Energy on the Wrong Things?

Are you spending your Energy on the Wrong Things

I was in between meetings in in Hollywood yesterday and I went to a coffee shop. I remember it clearly because it rained. I know right? Rain in L.A.

That’s like a successful Hollywood marriage. You’re surprised about it and you’re still not sure it’s really happening…

I ordered a latte and the barista was like, “Oh! There’s an open mic going on in the back.”

I seriously thought about going in there and checking it out, but I had some writing to do and I didn’t want to sit in an open mic with my laptop open, not paying attention while comedians are testing their material. I’d immediately be singled out as—well, probably one of the other comedians also not paying attention, (more on that later…).

But I didn’t go in I just sat in the front area, did my writing and drank my latte. After a while, some of the comedians came out and were talking to each other.

The subject: the comedian Carrot Top.

I overheard one of the guys say, “He’s nothing but a hack prop comic.” The others blindly agreed and they started going off on who else was a “hack” comic.

But the conversation eventually came back to Carrot Top and his “stupid” props. And this conversation went on for about 30 minutes.

I could’ve written 10 jokes in that period of time!

And it struck me. These comedians were probably half my age, but the conversations hadn’t changed. They’re still disparaging other comedians.

Which brings me to this question:

Why? Why would any comedian put down another comedian? Especially one who’s reached the level of success that Carrot Top has reached?

Carrot Top is one of the highest paid entertainers in World. He’s got his own theater in Vegas. His shows are always—I mean ALWAYS sold out.

Why would anyone spend that kind of time putting down that kind of accomplishment?

As an artist, isn’t there a more productive way to spend your time?

What if those comedians spent that time exploring Carrot Top’s career trajectory? Or how Carrot Top reached that level of success? Wouldn’t that be more productive, more conducive to one’s own success?

Carrot Top found a niche. He found something memorable, something he could make funny. Something that worked, something the audience loved, and he turned it into a huge multi-million dollar comedy enterprise.

I mean that’s the dream, right?

Find something you love, do it as a career and you’ll never work a day in your life.

It is such a strong show, that one of the main resorts—the Luxor–on the strip in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, felt compelled to give him his own theater.

What’s to criticize?

Normally I take the stance that I only have control over my own behavior and no one else’s but I’m also a stubborn Irish fool from New York…

So I said, “Excuse me. I overheard you talking about Carrot Top. Why would you spend that kind of energy putting down one of the most successful entertainers in the World?”

Wouldn’t you get more benefit studying how he became that successful? Asking yourself how he got there? What could I do better that might help me and my career?

The guy who seemed to be the leader was like, “—you a comic, brah?”

I said, “you might say that…”

He said, “Well, I don’t know about you, but I’d rather keep my integrity than be a prop comic.”

I said, “Dude, it’s Friday night. At this very moment, Carrot Top’s playing two sold out shows in Vegas in his own theater, and you just did an open mic at a coffee shop.  You just spent more time ridiculing a successful comedian than you spent actually doing comedy.”

I left it at that.

The point is. There’s so much work we all need to do on ourselves to get our craft to be the best it can be. There’s so much more work we need to do to jump start our careers.

Why would you focus your energy on the wrong things?

Hannibal Buress Laughed in the Face of Loyola University

Hannibal Buress

Hannibal Buress laughed in the face of Loyola University in a recent performance at the Catholic College in Chicago.

Buress opened his act with a projection image of an email that was sent to him by the university’s show organizers. The email basically banned him from talking about rape, sexual abuse, race and sexual orientation during his set.

After he posted that email and read it to the audience, he launched right into a joke about priests and their long history of sexual abuse. The organizers then cut his mic. The audience booed that his mic was cut and then Buress kept on without the mic. He said, “Bitch ass old people. I can project,” (referring to working without a mic). Then he said, “Ya’ll fuck kids, right?”

That’s when the university increased the volume of the music to the point where Buress walked off stage.

Fifteen minutes later, Buress came back on stage to a standing ovation and went on with his set apparently after students took to Twitter and started requesting refunds.

As a result of this news, I received several questions as to what I thought about this. I want to address the two primary ways I look at this. First the “play-it-safe” way of doing things.

  1. The Golden Rule: He who has the gold makes the rules. When someone pays you to perform and gives you the rules you need to follow, you should follow those rules.
  2. M-A-P: When I started in comedy I learned the rule of the writer and followed the M-A-P, Material-Audience-Performer rule. The material has to be right for the audience and has to be right for the performer.

These are the play-it-safe rules to go by. You want to work, so you don’t make any waves. Probably the safest bet for the new comedian.

The other way of looking at it is that Buress is like comedian Paul Mooney. Mooney built his career challenging the rules and breaking the rules. Mooney’s gotten kicked off stage and had his material cut more than once. But that’s what makes Paul Mooney, Paul Mooney. His willingness to be daring and to laugh in the face of the rules.

To some, it’s what a comedian is about, right?, being the ultimate iconoclast and taking on the status quo. Bill Burr is like that to a certain extent. Bill Hicks, George Carlin, Red Foxx, (and we can’t forget Lenny Bruce who made it all possible), all took chances and broke rules.

Buress is known for his outing of Bill Cosby’s rape allegations and injecting new life into those accusations. Some say it was Buress’s video of doing that on stage that gave that investigation legs and led to the ultimate demise of Cosby.

Breaking rules is what Buress does as a comedian. His profanity-laced material is often off-color, challenges society’s supposed norms, and attacks the powers that be by telling his truth, which in the case of the Catholic Church, (sexual abuse by priests) just happened to be the truth.

Also consider the fact that nobody reaches any level of real success without taking big, bold risks. Buress is a risk taker and his career success reflects that. It has become his brand.

If we look beyond the layers of this incident, we have to ask several questions like why did Loyola book Hannibal Buress in the first place? Did they not know the kind of the material he does? A quick YouTube or Google search would’ve given the organizers an idea. Seems to me that the organizers are not accepting accountability.

The other thing about this story that struck me was that it was reported that Hannibal came back on stage after the students started asking for refunds.

What?!

The tuition for Loyola is $40,000 per year. At any school I’ve ever performed the school had a budget for entertainment. Why were the students paying for Buress?

And if the students were paying for the tickets, the “Golden Rule” doesn’t apply to the administrators, it applies to the students who paid to see Buress. The administration facilitated the event, but the students paid for a product and I’m sure they expected to receive the product they paid for.

That’s like hiring the band Rage Against the Machine and telling them they can’t sing “Take the Power Back” or “Killing in the Name” or booking Cardi B and telling her she can’t do “Bodak Yellow.”

In the end, when Buress gave the students what they what they were paying for, the administration gave the order to silence him, thus screwing the students.

Which leads us back to Buress’s earlier statement: “Ya’ll fuck kids, right?”

How to Keep an Emcee’s Horrible Introduction from Tanking your Show

When you get a horrible introduction from the Emcee, what do you next could mean the difference between a great show and a nightmare gig.

In this article, I’ll give you a sure-fire technique to keep an Emcee’s horrible introduction from tanking your show.

Flaws of the Emcee

There are a ton of ways an emcee can ruin the introduction for a comedian. They can bomb a joke then immediately bring you up. They can create an incident with someone in the audience and bring you up on a sour note. They can screw up your name or screw up your intro.

They can do a backwards intro. A backwards intro is where they mention your name first and the audience doesn’t feel the impulse to applaud…

It could go like, “Jerry Corley is a comedian from California. He’s here to entertain us tonight and make us laugh and boy do we need a laugh after they just announced all those layoffs. Here he is…” and they just leave it like that and hand you the mic.

Now you walk on to jaded applause with an audience whose enthusiasm is worse than an inmate who’s just been denied parole, you know?

What to Do?

So what do you do when you get a horrible introduction from the emcee?

I’ve been doing stand-up for 27 years and I’ve played almost every situation imaginable. I’ve played crowds from 4 people to 40,000, (opening for a huge country band). I’ve had some great introductions and some horrible introductions and I’ve learned how important they can be (if they’re framed right) and how inconsequential they can be (if you play it right).

Horrible intros often occur when doing corporate events. The people introducing you are not professionals and situations can easily get awkward.

But I’ll take that any day, because you can make a lot of money doing corporate gigs. In fact, you can make more money at one corporate gig than spending three weeks in comedy clubs!

It’s your job to stay funny

First and foremost, you have to remember that you’re a comedian. It’s your job to stay funny in spite of the situation. They came to watch a comedian who can make fun of stuff, not some twat who gets offended because someone didn’t intro them professionally.

I usually deal with a horrible introduction by talking about it. The other night I did a private holiday event for a condo services organization. The event was in like the happy-hour/bar area of the Marriot Renaissance. You know the kind of place where they advertise to their guests that if you get there between 5-7pm you can get “$5 drinks and light snacks?”

It wasn’t best venue or setting for comedy. The ceilings were high, the crowd was spread out all over the place, there was no stage, the lighting was awful and because the ceilings were high, the sound bounced all over the place, filling the room with an echo, which made it difficult for people to hear anything I was saying–especially for the people in the back and to the sides of the room.

And if people have to really work to hear your words, they’ll stop trying and just start talking. Of course their voices will now fill the echo chamber and now you’re trying to talk over their talking.

The good news was that the show started at 5pm, so if the show didn’t go well I could still get the “$5 drinks and light snacks!”

The emcee greeted everyone. She was polite and professional, but just before she brought me on, she read a letter to the audience that a member of the board of directors wrote for this group… Now a letter is meant to be read, not spoken and the letter was 5 pages long!

Every time the emcee went to read the next page, she fumbled with the mic and the pages, creating this awkward gap of silence, that the audience seemed to use to reengage in their conversations.

When people are told that a part of their evening’s entertainment is going to be a comedian, they are not expecting someone reading a 5-page dissertation.

That’s like going to a strip club and before the stripper comes out, the DJ says something like, “Gentlemen, before Mercedes starts peeling off that sexy lingerie, she’s gonna read about 5 minutes of some Haiku she’s written! So get your dollars out and get ready to tip her on her immaculate 5-7-5 structure!”

She could read the most brilliant Haiku in history, but that’s just not what the audience showed up for.

So after she’s done reading this thing, she brings me up to an audience who is now about as excited as someone who just got their assignment for jury duty.

Turn the Dilemma into Comedy

So I decided that I’m just gonna have fun with this moment.

She gave me the mic and I said, “Thanks so much. How about a hand for Kimberly, ladies and gentlemen. Doesn’t she do an incredible job? Boy that’s gotta be tough, but you handled it with such grace, Kim.

First, the boss telling you he’s not gonna be here, then saying he wants YOU to get up in front of the audience and read his letter. The only thing that would’ve made that letter less appealing is if he ended it with “…and by the way, starting on the 1st of January, your homeowner’s association fees are going up a hundred bucks! Happy Holidays!”

Dealing with the audience on the spot with something that just happened, let’s them know that you are with them, in this moment, not just going up there to recite your act.

The audience laughed at that opening and, moving forward, every time they didn’t laugh, I looked at them and said, “Hey you know, I can always have Kim come back up here and read that letter again!” The audience enjoyed the fact that I handled the awkwardness of the moment with humor and that I maintained a playful approach.

I don’t always recommend that you deal with a situation like that the way I did. Audiences at a corporate type function like this one can be very tribal. They know the person you are making jokes about more than you do and they can get defensive and turn on you fast.

So I sometimes will just refer to another event I did where the intro was “REALLY AWKWARD.” Sort of comparing it the one they just experienced.

It might go something like this…

After she’s done reading the letter and then introducing me, I might say, “Thanks so much!” How about a hand for Kim, ladies and gentlemen. Doesn’t she do a great job. As a comedian I’ve got to say it’s tough to follow a 5-page letter, but it’s not the most awkward thing I’ve had to follow…

…I once did an event for the Montana State Assembly and just before they brought me up on stage the emcee said, “Can I have your attention please? We’ve come to the entertainment part of our evening, but before we do that, I would like us all to have a moment of silence. As you know, less than a month ago, Assemblyman Kyle Nance was killed in a fiery crash on I-90. He leaves behind a wife and 3 kids…”

Keep in mind, I’m standing right there, waiting to take the mic!

They all bowed their heads for what must’ve been the most awkward 60 seconds ever!

I actually heard sniffles in the audience!

… then I hear, “and now for your comedian…”

And she hands me the mic.”

The audience at the Marriot Renaissance, was able to laugh at that difficult situation I was faced with and by stating a situation that was much more drastic than the one they were just faced with, they felt like they were off the hook.

It enabled me to tap into the laughter triggers of recognition, embarrassment, superiority and release. Knowing this gave me tremendous confidence that the audience would laugh with me.

So next time you’re faced with a horrible introduction from the emcee, just remember: don’t blame them, and always stay funny!

25 Ways to Make Money with Your Comedy

25 Ways to make money with comedy

Every now and then you see an article on stand-up comedy and how much money comedians make–or rather don’t make.

Then there’s this article from the New York Times which portrays a not so dismal outlook for comedians.

What are we to believe?

I can only give information on what I’ve experienced as a comedian and a writer. Bottom line is that once you can write and perform comedy and you’re able to work clean, you can make a very decent living.

The problem is that most comedians (especially the new ones) see comedy through a very small lens and they don’t look at ALL the opportunities that are available to them.

Most don’t even know these avenues of revenue exist.

When I started out as a comedian I wanted to learn all I could about the business. And watching my father go through his ups and downs financially as an actor, I looked at comedy, not as frivolity, but as a business. Once I did that, I saw all the possibilities and I focused on the ones that would give me the best return.

So I put together a quick list called 25 Ways to Make Money with Your Comedy.

All of the concepts are viable and most of them I’ve actually utilized with varying levels of success.

But this is a quick list to give you an insight and help motivate you to get good at comedy so you can start to make money doing what you love.

Keep in mind the money varies. I just put down what I have earned in my experience from these events.

  1. Stand-up. Perform in Comedy Clubs or One-niters on the road.
  2. Do college comedy shows (Pay $800-$3500 per show)
  3. Work Cruise Ships ($1500-$4000 per week)
  4. Perform at Corporate Gigs ($400-$5000+ per gig)
  5. Do Comedy shows as Fundraisers for non-profits or schools ($600-$2500 per event)
  6. Work as a T.V. Audience Warm-up Comedian ($1500-$2000 per gig)
  7. Emcee Events in Vegas ($1000-$5000 per week)
  8. Host Trade Shows in Vegas and other cities
  9. Become a Radio D.J.
  10. Write for Late Night TV or Variety Talk Shows ($4187 per week min. ((network))
  11. Write Humorous Greeting Cards ($ varies)
  12. Write Humorous T-Shirts or other gifts
  13. Write fluff pieces for magazines or internet sites
  14. Be a commercial copywriter in advertising with a humorous twist. (Some of the most memorable commercial campaigns are humorous spots (Progressive Insurance, Geico, Discover Card, DIRECTV)
  15. Write Joke Books
  16. Do a comedy spot on T.V. (Comedy Central, Late Night TV, Netflix, Showtime Special)
  17. Write a humorous blog or podcast, build a following sell advertising or get a sponsor
  18. Have a humorous YouTube Channel. Develop a following. Sell Advertising or Merch
  19. Go on tour and open for a band on the road. ($3500-$10,000 per week)
  20. Write humorous speeches or jokes for politicians, CEOs, corporate presenters. ($500+- per page)
  21. Punch-up comedy scripts
  22. Punch-up or write sitcoms
  23. Punch-up or write copy for Animated explainers.
  24. Write comedy movies (I wrote “Stretch”) which reached Critically acclaimed on Netflix. Still receiving residuals
  25. Create a humorous Theme based assembly show for schools, (ie: Prevent bullying) ($1500-$2500 per assembly)

So there you go. 25 ways to make money with your comedy.

The purpose of this post is to give you an idea of all the ways you can create revenue streams if you get good at your comedy.

If you’re thinking about a career in comedy you can drop in and take one of my upcoming stand-up classes.

Or if you are already working professionally and want to learn how each of these revenue streams really operates you can stream my course called “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Ever Heard Of.” Which is a blueprint for how I was making a $250,000/yr. in comedy without being a household name and without an agent.

In the meantime, use the list to motivate yourself and open your eyes to the cool ways you can make a living in this awesome business.

How the ‘Broke Artist’ Mentality Keeps many Talented Comedians Broke

think-broke-stay-broke-post-pic2

Business guru, Napolean Hill wrote a best selling book (over 100 million copies sold), called “Think and Grow Rich”

Comedians should have a book called “Think Broke and Stay Broke.”

A large percentage of comedians today have that ‘broke-artist’ mentality. They actually think their way into staying broke.

It’s exactly that mentality that keeps them broke.

Reality vs. Perception

I think part of the problem is reality vs. perception.

Here’s the reality: If you can get laughs consistently and work in almost any environment, you are a valuable commodity.

Here’s the perception: It’s an art, so you shouldn’t think about money.

The problem with that approach is that if you’re not thinking about making money, you ARE thinking about being broke.

When I ran an ad on Facebook for my comedy business seminar called, “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Heard Of,” where I drill down 20+ ways to monetize your comedy, either in writing or stand-up, one comedian actually commented with, “Don’t even expect to make any money in comedy until you’ve been doing it for 10 years.”

Like somehow 10 years is the magic number?

In other words, “think broke until the end of the 9th year.”

Sad part is, he’s not the only comedian that thinks like this. In fact, I sometimes think that more comedians think this way than not.

This is a bullshit belief system. Why do I say that? Because these comedians love to make these big, broad claims when all the evidence to the contrary is right before their very eyes.

Seinfeld

From the first time Jerry Seinfeld took the stage in 1981 at Catch a Rising Star in NYC, it took him only 5 years to get on the “Tonight Show.” After that, he was made.

Letterman

Letterman was in Indianapolis watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He kept hearing that comedians were appearing at the Comedy Store. He saw an association between the Comedy Store and The Tonight Show, so he moved to L.A., got into the Comedy Store and within 3 years he was on The Tonight Show. He was made.

Both of those guys were making money in comedy before that. Not a lot of money but they were getting paid gigs.

My Own Experience

I was making money less than 2 years into doing comedy and many of my students are doing it just 2 years in as well.

At 27, I had just started dabbling in comedy. I left L.A. to go back to school and finish getting my degree. I wanted to get a degree so I could have something to fall back on just in case my career went in the toilet.

While at college, to make a little money, I got a job teaching comedy traffic school.

At the end of one of my traffic school classes, this student in class approached me. He said, “Hey Jerry. I’m the president of the local Chamber of Commerce. Every year we have an annual dinner where we swear out the old officers and swear in the new. Every year, every Chamber in the country does this. I was wondering if you could emcee that event then do like 30 minutes of comedy. We’ll pay you $800, feed you and give you beer.”

I thought Wow! Beer! 🙂

I did the gig. It was a lot of fun. I hired a videographer to get the event on a broadcast-quality video. I got my check for $800, ate the food and drank a beer.

3 days later, I got a call from the neighboring Chamber of Commerce. The gal said, “Hey Jerry. We hear you did a great job with the Chico Chamber of Commerce. I was wondering if you could do the same for us?”

I did the gig. It went great.

Then I thought how many Chambers of Commerce are there in the country?

Turns out, there’s 7,650.

I mailed out flyers to 200 of them. I booked 28 gigs in a 3 month period, all at $800. That’s $22,400. Or close to $7,500 a month. Not bad for a college kid with no agent, right? And that was in 1991!

Here’s the killer. At that point, I hadn’t done one single club gig yet.

I knew right then, that I had a business. I WAS the BUSINESS.

Note: I don’t say any of this to brag or anything. I say it to point out the possibilities.

Leveraging My Comedy Business

I sent out more fliers and booked hundreds of Chambers around the country.

But, there’s more…
One of the tricks I use to write comedy is to look up definitions. Definitions give you a starting point. When I looked up the definition for the Chamber of Commerce it said, “A local association to promote and protect the interests of the business community in a particular place.”

I thought to myself hmmm… an “association…”

How many associations are there in the U.S.? According to the IRS there is 1.53 million and most of them want a comedian at one of their events.

They just don’t know it: yet.

I recently did a gig for the Northwest Regional Tow Truckers Association, (who even knew they existed?!).
They paid $3500 for one night, flew me in, paid for my hotel and fed me.

And with 1.53 million associations out there, the available gigs is endless.

So when another “broke-thinker” says to me, “you can’t make any money in comedy until you’ve been doing it 10 years:” I say, “No. YOU can’t make any money in comedy. I’M doing okay.”

When you learn how to treat comedy like a business by learning how to create multiple revenue streams, how to scale and how to take advantage of something called “idle capacity,” not only can you learn to make money in comedy, but you can learn to build a comedy enterprise and create a great living.

And this is why I share this information. Because comedians have to get it out of their heads that they are competing with one another. There are enough gigs for everyone. You just have to know where to find them.

All you have to do is stop thinking like a broke artist and start thinking like a business
person.