All in the Family

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.


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=”500×300″ 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.’


Jerry Corley
Jerry Corley

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian of nearly 30 years, working nearly every venue imaginable.

    25 replies to "Not Everyone Peaks in Their Twenties"

    • Phyllis Pruyn

      Very encouraging! I’m just getting started; the only things that peaked in my twenties were my breasts.

    • Linda Lou

      Just as I tell my clients in the workplace, never apologize for your age. Present yourself proudly; you bring a wealth of experience to whatever you do. Same goes for comedy–the older you are, the more truth-based material you can pull from your life. Aging is a gift. Not everyone is so lucky.

    • DanDebbie Nunez

      You’re my inspiration Linda … truly. YOU HAVE DONE SO MUCH WITHOUT FEARLESSNESS (even though you may have been afraid … YOU DID IT ANYWAY!!!) XOXOXO

    • DanDebbie Nunez

      UGH … WITH Fearlessness! I mean with Fearlessness OY!

    • Teresa Malkin-Wolf

      Agree, agree, agree!! I never deny my age.

    • I love it so much, I’m stealing parts of it for my status….thanks!

    • Regina Sacca

      age sure shouldn’t matter, if your funny, your fnny. he got good response from the audience, they’re loss

    • Gil Martinez

      It’s all about confidence and beliveing in yourself. The other side of “no” is Yes!
      Dreams do come true….
      Jerry Corley is a guy with a lot of heart who shares his words of encouragement.
      Thanks Jerry.

    • Richard Allan Jones

      Just because Moses was my roommate in college, doesn’t mean I can’t still be funny.

    • Richard Allan Jones

      Wouldn’t you like to meet “The Guy” who turned down The Golden Girls pilot because it skewed too old. I heard he’s 65 now, and living under a bridge.

    • Michael Walter

      I have heard it many times before too Jerry, I’m too old, and yet I am consistent, Funny, and a pro. I am working on another approach, leaving behind the alt comedy to the youngsters and going for where the real money is.

    • Steve Barkley

      Right freakin on Wally!

    • Geoff Young

      another point is what could a twenty-something possibly have to say considering they have just started out on life’s journey and haven’t experienced the things that make us old timers funny and ironic with just a sprinkling of bitterness for flavor.

    • Dan Almont

      Come for the irony; stay for the bitterness!

    • Gary Jones

      Amen brother

    • Rory OConnor

      Age is just a number assigned when you are born, it has nothing to do with how good or funny you are. Over the past year I have done gigs with everyone being less that half my age, but when it’s over I get the personal response that I was the one the audience enjoyed the most. Everyone has older folks in their life. Everyone can identify with a favorite Aunt or Uncle, Grandparent or Teacher. With age, you have a much broader audience (and dating pool). Age is a positive, not a negative – from one who knows! Funny is Funny, and it has no boundaries – look at some old comedy and you will see that “funny” only gets better with age, just like fine wine or cheese.

    • Debra Brawner

      I agree Rory, I have a great life…feeling great and great friends to share life with!

    • Ryan Rosenberry

      With all of the media choices available, it’s easier to promote yourself and not give the power to the people that think they know what people want.

    • Tim Bateman

      Jerry. I love you man. Keep them coming, your articles are great but this one really touched me because of my age. Which is just a number I tend to forget often.

    • Lee Sanga

      That was a great article! Reminds me of that old saying, “Age is mind over matter-If they don’t mind, it don’t matter”

    • Paul Miller

      It was great to have this article brought to my attention. It’s great advice and is what I have been starting to do for myself. I will soon be 55 – of which I can’t drive. I’ve only heard once that I’m too old and have had the attitude that NO I’M NOT too old, ever since. So I keep on doing 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 shows a week. And I notice I’m being noticed a little and encouragement and constructive criticism keeps coming my way.
      Thanks, Paul Miller.

    • Gianna Miceli

      Great blog. Confidence always wins.

    • Billy Diamond

      I will be 45 this year. Fortunately I do not look even close to that, but I too find it difficult at times when it comes to age. More than anything Jerry…. thanks for the awesome encouragement to keep on plugging away and gonig after those bookings. Cheers man!

    • Layla Davis

      Ahhhhhh you’re boobies peaked in you’re 20’s or someone “peeked” at them lol

    • Phyllis Pruyn

      Clever, Layla.

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