One of the most popular questions I receive on my YouTube Channel or Twitter is “When do you think it’s too late to break into this business?”
Each time I get that question I take a deep breath, because–okay no reason really–I just like doing breathing exercises!
See, I was trying to make it sound all dramatic like one of my favorite Fed-EX commercials where the two businessmen realize the package they sent is not going to arrive in time and they sit there in the office saying, “We’re doomed!” “Doomed!” “Doomed!”
The commercial made me laugh, but the commercial also made me think, If your entire business is doomed because a couple of packages arrive a day late then you should diversify your business plan!
I’m going to use that perspective to give you my best answer to the question, “When do you think it’s too late to get into this business?”
I addressed this issue in one of my YouTube videos entitled Ageism in Comedy is No Joke, but let me address it from a fresher perspective.
I think anyone can get involved in this business anytime they want. I mean that totally seriously. Any. Time. You. Want.
In comedy, there’s only one requirement; get laughs, and do it consistently.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t have a couple of jokes that don’t resonate once in a while, (I mean SNL does that… A lot!).
But that’s just talking about “getting into the industry of comedy.
If you are talking about the bigger picture. Show business. The Entertainment Industry. The machine. And then having some level of success in it…
That level of getting into the industry has some other requirements.
You Need to be Able to Sell Soap
After you have a level of confidence with your ability to be humorous or funny consistently, these are the next two requirements that most of us comedians, rarely, if ever, consider.
You hear comedians say, “I killed it!” “I crushed it.”
When we first start out in this business, all we’re thinking about is making the audience laugh.
But if you want to reach the level in this industry where you’re actually achieving some success, (and of course, I’m talking about making money), the next requirement is the ability to develop an audience.
You have to have people who want to see you. To watch you. To listen to you. To stop what they’re doing and listen or watch what you’re doing.
The third requirement of this business is you need to be able to sell soap.
And when I say “sell soap,” I mean attract viewers who want to buy products that companies advertise. Because that’s what keeps shows on the air.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being able to sell soap.
Show business is two words. There’s the show and there’s the BUSINESS. And “BUSINESS” is always in ALL CAPS.
But, here’s the good news…
In today’s world, all the potential is in the palm of your hands… literally. Especially if you’re reading this blog post or watching this video, right now, on your smartphone.
It’s Time to Think Differently
I think most people have a this vision that getting into comedy means that you have to go to open mics, where you may or may not get on stage, but before you do get on stage, you have to sit through a sea of jokes about dicks, or jokes about smoking too much weed, or jokes about dicks who smoke too much weed.
If you’re over 40, the thought of having to slog out to do that several nights a week is not pleasant.
But there’s another way…
Doing comedy isn’t only about performing at clubs like the Comedy Store or the Improv. Doing comedy can and should encompass a lot more.
There’s a lot that can be done with comedy that most comedians don’t think about.
You can crush an audience with your humor at colleges and universities, cruise ships, corporate events, service organizations, (Optimists, Rotary, Soroptimists), or trade associations and so much more.
School assemblies, Trade show hosting, Convention Entertainment, Audience warm-up, Private parties, Opening for bands, Executive Roasts, Grad-night shows, Assisted Living Facilities, Book Launches and the list goes on.
These are just few avenues a comedian can pursue in performance-based comedy. In fact, many of these events prefer more mature performers.
There are a lot of other avenues a comedian who gets into the game later in life can pursue. Too many for me to get into in this article.
I go into a ton more in my course “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Ever Heard Of.”
You Can do This at Any Age
The bottom line is, there are so many niches in comedy that I truly believe you can get into comedy at any age.
But it doesn’t stop there. Any comedian can develop a niche audience at any point in their lives. They just have to be willing to be consistent and do the work to develop an audience of raving fans.
You know how you can do this?
Social Media. Specifically, YouTube.
Before you go all tech-phobic on me, here me out.
I have a student named Charlie Berens, who did this exact thing. He built a following of raving fans on YouTube and he’d only been doing comedy for a couple of years.
In one of my classes that Charlie was attending, I mentioned developing a niche by creating a character or having a well-defined point-of-view and publishing short videos on YouTube.
So Charlie started a YouTube Channel called the “Manitowoc Minute.”
On the channel, his character, who is a Wisconsin yokel, delivers short bits of news and commentary with lots of local references, while adding jokes along the way. He also has interesting giveaways and philanthropic opportunities.
How Effective is His YouTube Channel?
Well, when I first found out he had a channel last fall, he had 77,000 subscribers. That might not sound like a lot, but that 77K allowed him to sell out comedy rooms for one-night special events all over the country!
[UPDATE]: As of 12-19-21, He’s now at 639,000 subscribers!
Including selling out 280 seats in the main room at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank, CA on a Saturday at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
I mean who’s selling out comedy shows at 4 o’clock in the afternoon?!
How many comedians who have been in comedy for such short time are doing that?
As of this writing, Charlie’s “Manitowoc Minute” Channel, has earned 217K subscribers. He literally tripled his subscribers in 9 months!
Charlie has also been getting a ton of traditional media exposure, so don’t be surprised if you see him on Netflix sometime soon or hear about a show being developed for network starring this quirky, funny dude with a very noticeable Wisconsin dialect.
To be candid, you might check out Charlie’s channel and comeback at me with something like, “Yeah, but he’s young!” And you would be right.
He’s younger than me, but then I would just send you over to my friend Cowboy Kent Rollins on YouTube, who started with a “How to Make Cowboy Coffee” video and now has (at the time of this posting) 2 million subscribers.
He’s not only making coffee, he’s making bank!
So What’s the Secret to Their Success?
If you took a moment to really take a look at the videos I so carefully embedded on this page for you, (Hint, hint. Go take a look), you might notice that these two guys have a couple of things in common.
They both provide solid entertainment enmeshed with well-refined personas.
There is some really cool science underlying how powerful a well-refined comedy persona can be for those of you who are looking, not only to get into, but to succeed, in this business, that will just blow your mind.
It gets a little deep, and I don’t have the space to cover it in this article.
It’s a proven science. Jeff Foxworthy the “Redneck Comedian” has sold more comedy albums (CDs, DVDs,) than any other comedian in history.
The reason? A well-refined persona.
The bottom line is, a well-refined persona attracts a niche (focused) audience. That audience has an almost unavoidable tendency to become raving fans.
And raving fans have an even bigger tendency to buy soap.