The Hack’s Guide to Millennial Comedy

by Warren Wright

Edited by Al Bahmani

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The public’s idea of what a hack comedian is seems to be set in the 1980s. When we imagine a hack, we imagine the guy in a checkered suit telling jokes about airplane food. Some of the more prevalent hack topics included jokes about how men and women are different, Indian clerks at convenience stores, and fat people eating bacon cheeseburgers with a diet coke. With a vast demand for live performers in the 80’s, a comedy “boom” hit, and hit hard. The 15 + comedy clubs in every America city raked it in off of drink minimums, and still had the cash to pay hacks upwards of  $100,000 a year. Stand-up comedy had become another big economy in the Big Eighties. As all others, the market wasn’t ready for the future and couldn’t sustain itself. The club work dried up, and openers stopped making $1000 a show. Perhaps the market became over-saturated. It could have been the internet, which gave us access to all the comedy ever and thereby raising our standards. Perhaps widely-conceived clichés failed to be funny anymore.With the new Wifi Era  and its’ changing ethos of the day, hack comedy changed. Internet Apps changed the way we talk, and hacks took to the stage with new bits about,

Perhaps the market became over-saturated. It could have been the internet, which gave us access to all the comedy ever and thereby raising our standards. Perhaps widely-conceived clichés failed to be funny anymore.With the new Wifi Era  and its’ changing ethos of the day, hack comedy changed. Internet Apps changed the way we talk, and hacks took to the stage with new bits about, “How mean the comment section on Youtube can be”. Copy and pasted stock lines engulfed the mainstream lexicon. (“Party-foul!” “This is why we can’t have nice things!”). Hacks are now armed with a whole electronic world of easy, safe jokes regurgitated in a “share if you agree” format. The airplane food jokes of old have become “hipsters with smartphones” jokes.

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Describing Millennials

“These kids nowadays can’t change a tire!”

“So I went to (X college) and got a degree in (something useless). So I’m a barista”

“None of us will ever retire!”

Around 2008, the word “Millennial” became the hottest buzzword to describe the new crop of youth with far less money than their parents. According to journalists, they often are described as having useless college degrees or moving in back home with their parents. The journalists of the day described millennials in such generalized and blanketing terms that it seemed everybody between the ages of 18 and 30 lived an almost unanimous narrative. When they write about millennials, you can almost guarantee that the phrases “Skinny jeans” or “App-Savvy” or “Safe space” is soon to follow. “Millenial” had become an insult, and thereby something for hack comedians to exploit. Hack comedians and hack journalists both describe millennials tirelessly as narcissistic , nihilistic, and too sensitive to cope with reality. How many times have you heard the phrase “Everybody gets a trophy” this week? Hack social commentary begat hack comedy. Most of these easy generalizations  eventually find their way to the stage, and easy jokes are written about aimless deadbeats on social media.  So hipsters are known for taking pictures of their meal and putting it on Instagram. Who honestly gives a fuck?

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Lethargic, Self-Indulgent/ self-depreciating , Pizza/Taco Humor

“Have you ever smoked weed all day, indoors for 24 hours straight, and just binge-watching until you’re crying into your Whataburger? So I’m single. LADIES?!”

“I watched Netflix until it asked me ‘are you still watching?’. DON’T JUDGE ME, NETFLIX!”

“Some of my friends are becoming lawyers but pizza is my everything”

Scroll on Facebook for 2 minutes and you’ll come across this breed of humor. This is one of comedy’s lowest common denominators. It is the  bold declaration that binge-eating, laziness,and binge-watching will go on unabashedly. So many memes and comedians follow this formula to great success, as they resonate amongst the general public. The narrative of the everyman eating pizza and watching copious amounts of TV in the face of normalcy works so well because they are, in fact, telling jokes to people living in western society, all of whom are so familiar with this. We all enjoy lazy days indoors as we all have to work such long hours to get by. We all eat a lot of food. Sopranos-style cliffhanger television is as addictive as fuck and we’ve all been asked “Are you still watching?”. Normal, normal,normal. These jokes work amongst younger and older crowds, as sociologists have been warning us against binge-eating and binge-watching since as far back as the 50’s. This joke, however common , can be done in a clever and inventive way by very funny comedians. Honestly, I’d rather hear from the astronaut comedian tell jokes about his day job.

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Taking a Strong Stance on a Safe, Agreeable Platform

“So Donald Trump is evil. More like ‘Make America Hate Again’, amirite? ”

“They’re pro-life but they’ll still bomb an elementary school”

“You don’t beat your wife and crash your car stoned on weed. More like raid the fridge!”

It takes a true professional to get onstage, take a safe side on a sensitive subject, and still get laughs. However, a hack can take a safe side and get an easy “Gimme” applause break. (“Clap if you’re happy the gays can get married”. No shit, this is fucking Montrose). The so-called “Social Justice Hacks” are fairly prevalent, as there is a shit-load of injustice in the world. My college ethics professor had a running joke. He used to joke that “If you’ve read anything about slavery or the Holocaust, hopefully, your opinion on it is a negative one.” This joke always killed the class. The edgy should and always will beat out the safe in comedy. In politics, however, this trend is reversed. Politicians cannot be edgy, they must be voted in. When Obama mentions war, the message is “We need to keep America safe”, rather than “We need to go overseas and put landmines where children play”. On the Drug War, the message is  “We need to keep America safe from vicious cartels”, rather than “I think 15-year-olds should get ten years in prison over a joint”. When I imagine someone who thinks that is an acceptable policy, I imagine somebody very cruel and ignorant.The point being is that it is very, very difficult to elegantly articulate terrible, cruel ideas that will hurt a lot of innocent people. Granted, Hitler and Reagan had a gift. As we remember from the year 2008, Obama used to not be the first President in favor of Gay Marriage. One day at least 55% of Americans were pro-gay marriage, and so was he. What seemed to him taking a stand for truth and justice was essentially Obama taking a popular stance; the political equivalent of pandering. With politics as polarizing as ever, the “edgy” comedian doing a bit about legalizing weed is taking a very safe route as 50 million registered voters agree with him. Plus, Bill Hicks already said all of this shit years ago. Viewpoints on stage seen as cruel or ignorant will rarely yield laughs. It’s probably better to assume the audience you’re performing to is smart enough to know the difference between good and evil.

 

 

 

 

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Tim Mathis: Houston’s Loose Canon Tightens Up

by Al Bahmani

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“Tim is a silly, funny and intelligent everyman who has this ability to be to liked by both black and white audiences.”

Theodore ME Taylor

 Houston Funniest Person 2011

So what’s new?

This Sunday I’m going to be in Kevin Hart Presents “Hart of the City” with a few other Houston comics and a Dallas comic. The other Houston comics in it are Crystal Powell and Ken Boyd. Alfred Kainga is the Dallas guy. The episode was filmed at Cafe 4212 which is a little jazz club in downtown Houston.

Where are you from and how’d you get into comedy?

I was raised in Clute, Texas. It’s a smaller town right off of Hwy 288 right by Lake Jackson, Texas about an hour south of Houston. The population was about 8,000 people when I grew up there. It’s very different now. I was homeschooled and then went to Christian school and then I went to the Navy in Pascagoula, Mississippi, which was horrible. I did anti ship missile defense. I didn’t do much there except paint. When I got out of the Navy, I went to Alvin Community College because I wanted to get into radio.

A College radio station in Alvin, Tx?

89.7 FM KACC is a classic rock station. Back then I had my own weekly show that was a mix of politics and pop culture. Radio is where I learned how to write jokes. (On the radio) I was always trying to be funny. Some of the jokes were a little too edgy, so I had to get approval to get them on the air. From there I got a job as a radio producer for KSEV 700 AM, a radio station owned by now Lt. Governor (of Texas) Dan Patrick from 2007-2011.  I had an early morning Saturday show. I was libertarian before everyone else was.

What did radio production involve?

With radio production you do the behind the scenes stuff, like run the show clock, answer calls, run the sound board and if they are a bunch of guests in there, you check the levels. Basically you keep the show on the rails. It’s not totally different from running a comedy comedy show. You still got to deal with different personalities. Comedy is different because it’s a live performance. With radio I can cut mics and go to commercial. You can’t go to commercial in comedy.

The transition from radio to comedy was much easier because I had my own radio show since I was in college in 2007.  I already knew how to write jokes and talk without verbal ticks like “uh, um and like” and all that. It was a really smooth transition into stand up.

What led to that transition from radio to stand up?

I got laid off from my radio gig in January 2011. Lt. Governor. Dan Patrick is actually the guy that laid me off. After two or three month of being depressed, I needed a creative outlet. I always wanted to do stand up so I went to the Sherlocks open mic and did my first set in April 2011.

I don’t know who the host was but Kid (Chris Reid) from Kid N Play did thirty minutes. He was supposed to seven and did about thirty. I was like, “I’ll be here a while”. I went up at one seventeen in the morning. So I was one of the last guys there and it went well for the four people that were there. I kept going on at Sherlocks and there Rich Williams told me about Uptown Hookah. I started going there and from Uptown, Netra Babin introduced me to Ali Siddiq and I became a regular at The Horn which is a room he used to run.

How did you end up booking your own comedy shows?

 I started booking my own shows around 2014. There was a room in Pearland, Texas called Skeets. It was a one-nighter and the guy booking the show didn’t want to book it anymore. He told me the budget and I took it. At one point I was running 5 rooms, which is about 4 too many. If you put together good shows then people are going to ask you to do more shows. If you put together crap shows and then you have to find venues.

What’s the best thing about starting in a place like Houston, Texas?

It’s a city of 4 million people and we have a lot of really good comics. There’s only two clubs and in order to get those spots you gotta be one of the funniest guys there is. It’s that competition that makes you very funny.

The “competitors” kept you funny are?

As far as comics go Jermaine Warren, Bryson Brown, Rich Williams, and then were those that were my mentors like Ali Siddiq, Caroline Picard, Billy D. Washington and All D. Freeman. I’d also like to publicly apologize to Sam Demaris. I drug you into a beef with another comic and I shouldn’t of done what I did. You helped me out early on and I apologize for that. 

And what are the pitfalls of doing comedy in a place like Houston, Texas?

There were times I’d be drunk by noon. In comedy alcoholism is easy because for number one, you’re always in a bar or a club that serves alcohol. A lot of times, you get free drinks and people will buy you drinks. Still to this day, I joke about not drinking any more and after the show people will come up to me and try to buy me more drinks. You don’t want to be a jerk, but you don’t want to break your sobriety. Andy Huggins helped me out a lot when I reached out to him. I’m still an alcoholic but I don’t drink.

Any advice anyone just starting comedy?

Stay in your lane, keep to yourself and don’t worry about other people. And don’t start any unnecessary drama.

So what’s next for you?

Right now I’m prepared for what every comes out. I got my website updated and I got a passport. I’ve been saving money in case I need to move anywhere. Everything is up in the air. I’ve never been on national TV before. I don’t know what’s next.

The Houston episode of “Kevin Hart Presents Hart of the City” airs this Sunday 10:30 PM CST on Comedy Central. A viewing will be taking place at Cafe 4212 for more details click here.

A Rough Personal Guide to Alt Shows & Scene Building in Standup Comedy

By Jay Whitecotton

Very little edited by Al Bahmani

First and foremost – feel free to dismiss everything you read here. I only wrote this as a reminder for myself. Comedy is wide open and an industry built on the illusion that what people do and how far they’ve gone is actually a thing.

Also – whenever something becomes obvious or overplayed – like jokes themselves – audiences become immune to it.

The whole industry is in constant change and nothing is forever. 

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Rule 1:

Only promote things worth promoting.

It’s your word on the line and if you send people to shitty open mics, overpriced venues or blah events – they will never trust your recommendation again and also – think less of standup.

There’s a reason people will walk into a bar show – see the event and say “ugh – its comedy night, are you sure you wanna stay?” – it’s because terrible comics who only care about getting their name out are working in unison with terrible bar owners whose only goal is to con comics and people to go into their shit hole to buy drinks.

Comedy is the greatest thing ever. Laughter, jokes, it’s in almost every form of entertainment. However it’s also the most disrespected. (seriously The Martian wins a Golden Globe for best Comedy? Fuck you too Hollywood)

If you’re approach to doing standup is to ‘fake it, til you make it’ please just go ahead and kill yourself now. You are the salt poured on the earth that stops any real growth.

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Rule 2:

Put comedy ahead of your ego.

If you put comedy ahead of yourself, refuse to allow the self satisfaction that always becomes complacency and avoid pandering to get cheap laughs because you need to feel like a winner – you will get better at it and your act in turn will propel you forward.

If you choose to believe in your greatness, act like you’re too good to talk and thank an audience post show, or treat comics as lesser people or as just avenues to get rides to your merch table event – well – you might get some local success, but eventually you’ll suffocate on your own inflated ego and succumb to the graveyard that is teaching defensive driving.

Allow yourself to suffer a lil bit ya fuck. Entitlement kills art.

Also – Keep this in mind – you deserve nothing, You are owed nothing. People worse and better than you will always get opportunities they don’t deserve. That’s fine. Nobody – no one – deserves anything so just do the work. Take satisfaction in making things better, improving yourself and don’t sweat what other people do on stage. That’s their business. Do that and and you’ll put yourself in way better position to succeed than trying to create substance out of hype. Let hype naturally form from actual substance. Do the work you lazy piece of shit.

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Rule 3:

Venue and atmosphere is everything.

Before producing your own show make a checklist. What is the perfect set up for standup comedy? You’d be surprised how many people don’t even bother to deal with this. The venue is almost the single biggest difference between success and failure. An ok show in a subpar venue would’ve been an amazing show in the right venue.

Intimate room: Find something that can seat 50 people comfortably, 80 people packed to capacity, but if 15 people show up it still feels like a good worthwhile show. Room dynamics affects the quality of shows and future turnouts. It is everything. For instance – if you have 5 round top tables – DO NOT line up the back of the room with them because you think you need more single chairs up front. People instinctively don’t want to be anywhere near the comedy and prefer tables. Unfortunately, sitting far away makes it harder for audience and performer to connect, so put small tables up front as a way to encourage people to be close to the show. This will also insure that they have a great time while making your event feel more full. Trust me – when people in the audience see an empty front row – even if the show is packed – they still feel like it’s a blah event in the back of their head. I don’t know psychology, but I know this to be true.

During room set up try making it a point to sit in every chair. Can you comfortably see the stage?

Separate from the bar: This is hard to find, but if you can get it jump on it. You want a show room dedicated to comedy. It forces the audience to be people dedicated to the show and for those who are not – can leave and drink or fuck around outside the show at their leisure. Putting on bar shows suck because you are constantly having to deal with walk-ins who only came to hang with friends, play darts, etc. Plus nothing is worse than a margarita machine killing a punchline. This drastically kills shows and people’s ability to enjoy comedy.

Staging: sparse, tasteful, cheap. You can do all of these with some cleverly arranged dark king sized bed sheets and Christmas lights. A stage should give elevation, but not uncomfortable to view and a soft LED light positioned close up top can get the job done. You want dark, you want intimate. Watch out for comics who step out of the light complaining they can’t see the audience. Yeah – that’s the point. Hit your mark and learn to tell jokes that don’t require crowd work. If no one is responding to you – focus on the craft and your performance. Not on “What’s your name, what do you do?” Little candles around the room are a nice, cheap, and effective mood maker.

Also – try to avoid long shotgun style set ups. Where the stage is at the end of essentially a long hall way. This creates focus issues and encourages more talk at the back of the room plus isolation from the performer. Set the stage in a way you can half circle chairs around the comic and you’ll be able to insure a better chance of intimacy.

Sound: Holy shit do people ignore this. Yes – you need a mic and a PA. What the fuck are you doing without this? No – it cant be rink-a-dink. Voices need to command and cut through. Rule of thumb I find works best is put your treble up, scoop your mid down a bit – then raise the bass according to the room dynamic. Nothing too boomy, but nothing too tinny either. Take your time and teach yourself the difference. This will save your ass every time.

Walk around the room during the performance. Can everyone hear? Sound changes when  a room is filled with a crowd laughing. Are the speakers placed in a way so the front row isn’t cringing while the back is struggling to hear? (again – intimate room solves this almost always)

Seats: up close. Tables up front. Single chairs in the middle – high tops around the back edges. (see intimate room)

Temperature: avoid warm, avoid hot. Slight chill keeps people alert, laughing, and drinking (ie loosening up enough to laugh)

Location and parking: find a place where people would want to go. Good bar, designated smoking patio, and safe parking. If it’s too far or outa the way people won’t bother to ‘make the trek’. All this is pretty much based on individual cities. Some places 15 minute drives are considered nightmares while other places view them as the short cuts. DO NOT just choose a place because it’s got people always going there. If there’s a mass of people annoyed that a comedy show is invading their environment it makes for a hard time, kills growth and makes you look like a tool.

During shows: Don’t open doors if you can help it til 15 minutes before show time. Let them chill and socialize at the bar (if you have a separate room). Have someone work the door and seat people. Have upbeat music playing before and after the show. Keep it lit, but lower down to dark when the show starts. Basic shit people forget. Play music when the show is over. Do it asap as silence is creepy when the show ends. Other comics – volunteer for this shit. Act like you care. Also POLICE THE ROOM. If someone gets outta hand heckling. Kick them out politely and immediately. Be kind about it – we’ve all been drunk, but use it as an opportunity to train the audience on how to be an audience.

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Rule 4:

Approaching Venues.

Found a place that fits most your criteria? Choose the best night for everyone. Talk to management. Make no promises that you’ll have immediate crowds, but explain what you want to do and willing to spend a year developing it. Don’t look for money and don’t accept a shitty Monday night because most bars will cancel events around Monday Night Football. If you take money out of the equation you have more control and freedom to run your show the right way. However if you prove yourself to the venue over time, you can possibly negotiate some cash to cover your promos. Just don’t expect the bar to help out or do it for you.

Bar/venue management is in constant flux and the greed factor is amazing. Especially when a new manager comes in all ‘swinging dick’ thinking he can tweak things.

It’s important to know that no matter how successful your show is – venues only want the ability to not think about that particular night. The freedom to focus on the chaotic hell that is operating an actual business. If you take all responsibility out of their hands except the night being guaranteed yours for a set period of time – you avoid most of the potential hassles. Far biggest is the one where we expect the venue to support with a crowd and then slack off on our own promotions.

That said – finding a place that will treat you right from the start with food and a tab is a goddamn treasure.

Build it first then get the bar/venue behind it. If you can’t build it without their help you probably weren’t ever going to anyway.  Be honest, direct, and make sure you get a lot of time to make it a thing.

It takes forever to do this proper.

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Rule 5:

Know Your audience. Have Good Taste.

People want to drink, fuck, and possibly smoke. That’s the first thing you have to accept. Seeing a comedy show is rarely first. There’s a reason it’s called Netflix and Chill as opposed to ‘See sad people talk about their failings and Chill’. There’s a lot of competing forms of entertainment and if you want people to see comedy (especially local) you’re going to have to make it special and worthwhile. It also requires like minded people and talent. This is where taste and direction is absolutely important. You’re going to have to decide what your goal is.

What I write here is purely my own tastes and may not measure up with yours. Please keep that in mind. My personal view is not booking shows where comics are screaming nigger, cunt, and rape as if they’re making a statement (this falls into ego ahead of comedy category for me) I don’t have any qualms with those topics in comedy, but most the time the people doing it are just covering up the fact they can’t write jokes and criminally boring and cliche. Demand better for yourself and earn the right to tackle those subjects.

That said – if your goal is to do a no rules, metal af, slayer themed comedy show – then you’re attracting a specific crowd that won’t be turned off by those subjects. However – this one rule applies across the entire spectrum – the jokes still have to be funny and performed well no matter. Do you, but develop some goddamn taste.

I also avoid ethnic themed shows for the same reason. “Oh cool, let’s do an hour on Mexican stereotypes.” These shows can attract full crowds and can be very rewarding – crushing with ‘been there done that’ jokes that play on stereotypes, but most comics who get sucked up in that start believing they’re anything other than a future Jeff Dunham puppet. Develop taste, demand better, kill your pandering ego. Plus – if your audience is made up solely of people looking for basic bitch racial jokes – no one will grow on stage and you paint yourself in a corner unable to book better and more original acts. Well done – you created a bad place to do comedy.

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Rule 6:

You Can’t Do It Alone

If you are a comic looking to create a space that allows you to get better on stage, develop an audience and more – know that you can’t do this by yourself. You can do it once for sure, twice, maybe even up to 6, but eventually you either stop crafting new bits or get worn out doing all the promos for your event. Know this. Get a group of comics together who will think like you do or trust you enough to follow through. Everyone will have to work together. Assign simple promo/show duties divided up. That will free up time for all to handle their own personal writing and be able to knock out their small share of the promoting. Does this mean get the funniest people in your town? Maybe not.

Open Mic Sign Up by Paul Oddo

“Friday Night Hot Chicks Open Mic” at UCB East. Photo by Paul Oddo

Rule 7:

Lineups

What if you’re new to comedy, but still want to produce shows you can grow on? Great – that’s how I started, but instead of promoting my name – I came up with a name for a monthly show that presented comics I loved to watch. Funny people I could introduce to an audience I felt would appreciate seeing great acts. This is how you build substance. Nobody trusts your constant hype of yourself, but promote a show that’s about the comedy first, that’s about a good time, in a good venue for the sake of good comedy – and you’ll earn a good name and better act for it. People will trust your word and thank you for it.

Your host has to be a good comic who can keep a show together. Don’t throw up the rookie open micer to run the list because he can bring a crowd or isn’t smart enough to know hosting is actual hard dedicated work. When you pull this kind of shit you’re creating a clunky atmosphere and a bad show. Care about the event you stupid self entitled fuck. Comedy before yourself or lose a good thing.

Start on time and lead off with the best comics you have – then mix up the acts for variety sake. Towards the end you can mix in whoever you know is taking chances that week or someone new with potential. By then the audience is on board loose and hopefully in a supportive mindset. 

(Doing the opposite of this trains your crowd to show up late and not respect the show thinking the start is just filler crap)

Creativity over Funny: You got to be funny yes. Absolutely, but anybody can pander for laughs. Farts are goddamn hilarious. Being creative is a challenge that should trump all. Its what gets you to write more. It’s what pushes you to get better. Being funny isn’t always the issue, but it’s the first thing comics attack themselves for not being. More often the idea is funny, but you sucked at getting to it, or communicating in general, or digging deeper into what the actual point of the joke is, or coming up with a creative avenue in the bit that would make you excited to say it on stage (or maybe you weren’t comfortable yelling at 30 drunks who just got done playing trivia now trapped in your comedy show while three different margarita machines squeal through your setups).

Anybody you book should have the freedom to fail. If you book a 15 comic showcase of short sets – give a few performers the chance to fail around the 9th -12th spot. Let them feel trusted to take some chances and grow. This will pay off huge down the road for everybody.

Everybody performing promotes: Make it a must. If you want good shows it requires community effort. I have a comic friend who actively says he refuses to promote any show he’s on. I won’t book him. If he doesn’t think he’s good enough to promote people to see, why would I ask anyone to see him either?

(All this still coincides with the very first rule btw – only promote good things worth seeing)

Avoid Poison: I know a lot of funny people who kill on stage, but create the worst atmosphere to hang or work around. They’re negative for the sake of being negative, treat new comics like lesser people, and shit on every crowd for not being exactly the way they think they should be. Don’t make em’ apart. All it does is kill momentum and make people not want to come back. Don’t get me wrong – I love negativity – it can be a blast! But if you’re trying to build something positive you won’t get far surrounding yourself with these types of comics who refuse to allow themselves to care. They bring everything down. Ask them to go. You don’t need that shit. It’s not helping.

Social anxiety: Let’s just get this out of the way. 99% of you DO NOT have intense social anxiety. You’re just an asshole. Oh you mean interacting with people is hard and uncomfortable? Yeah – suck it up you self absorbed piece of shit. Hang after the show and thank people for showing up. Go out and talk to people you meet about this ‘cool thing you’re apart of they might like’. Support comics on stage by watching and clapping as opposed to talking, interrupting, or other poisonous self involved bullshit.

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Rule 8:

Actually promote. Then do it again. And Again…

Let me let you in on a little secret. No one for sure knows what they’re actually doing. Producers are the biggest con artists in the fucking business. So much so that they often con themselves into thinking they’re competent. Look – the only thing that works 90% of the time is booking acts people want to see. Established names with valid credits. Can’t afford that? Then specialty gimmick shows often do the trick (to an extent).

Not one promotion tool works by itself 100% of the time. You have to do all of them – in advance – and then lather, rinse, repeat.

Here’s the checklist: Start with the name of your show.

Facebook: Create an event. Create a meme you can tag performers in. Post both – rely on none of it. Encourage shares and likes. Facebook has an algorithm that pushes popular posts ahead of posts with one or two likes. If you decide to create a page dedicated to your show, insist all the comics you collaborate with to invite people to like the page thru wall posts and instant messaging. This way you’ll have a large dedicated pool to promote events to. Do not invite out of town people to events or to like the page. Avoid getting bands, or old parents, or other comics to like the page. These people rarely actually go to shows and if they want to they can like the page on their own. If comics don’t want to help with this, don’t book them.

At the start I liked to make these events secret. I never made posters with a shit load of strange names with no credits. Sure it’s nice to see your name on a thing, but nobody knows or cares who the fuck you are so be good on stage – promote the show as a whole instead and people will figure out real quick who the fuck you are if you get good enough.

Text and Instant Messaging: Be polite, be sincere, and don’t just be ‘Promoter Person’. It turns people off (especially friends) – makes them feel like cattle to your ego. Yes you want your friends to see a great show, don’t hound them about it. Be a fucking friend and keep up with their lives. Ask about them. Actually give a shit and they’ll give a shit about you. (Life Hack: Being a person will also make you a better comedian) Also – don’t keep inviting your dead friends to your events stupid. Again – no –  you do not have social anxiety. 

Alt Weekly: Most cities have them. Look what they’re announcing. Look up the editor in charge of show announcements. Message them. Start a polite relaxed dialogue. Invite them out. Don’t be needy. Buy them a few drinks it’s a tough job they have to do trying to satisfy everyone at once. Don’t take it personal if they give you nothing back – they’re busy and paid like shit. Just stay in touch and be cool. If you develop great things they’ll go to you more and be there for you.

Flyers: Make a small number. Make them look like professional tickets or make them look cheesy on purpose, there’s a wide selection of taste to draw from and just so long as they’re simple and not filled with the names of a bunch of people no one gives a shit about – you’ll do fine. Don’t just hand them to strangers. Go to bars or popular spots you can talk to people in idle conversation and offer them info on this ‘cool thing you do if they’re down to check it out’. Again – You don’t have social anxiety. Go with friends and performers on the show. When you do it alone it feels weird and 9 times outa 10 – you give up on it. DO NOT just stash them on cars or in alt weeklies. That’s lazy and also rude as fuck.

Suck it up and be a person.

Meetup groups: there is a lot of them online join or start one.

Instagram and Twitter: good to have, but if you don’t have a pool of people working them together they don’t get you that far. Take pictures of the shows, post them on your pages. Let people see that people are attending your shows and liking it. This is huge and builds community.

Talk to people, get emails, Facebooks, whatever. Follow up. This is the number one thing that works – THAT NO ONE WANTS TO DO. Suck it up. Do it or watch everything fall apart.

All of the above – every week and forever. By themselves they will not work, but together you give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.

Big vs. Small Market: If you’re in a big market you have the luxury of a lot of talent, but the handicap that they probably can hit up some shit mic the same night without having to do any of the above work. If you’re scene is small then you have the luxury of comics who will be eager and excited to see growth enough to do the work, but probably not enough to sustain a weekly show. (ie – If you have 20 comics doing 4 minutes you can have a nice showcase and opportunity to work in more new sets, also 4 minutes prepares you way better for tv late night auditions. You can make this show weekly, but if you only have 7-10 comics in your scene– you can probably pull off a monthly at best)

Jokes repeated bore and wear out an audience. Constant new jokes that aren’t ready do the same. Hit all the shitty mics you can and save the above type of work for one show worth promoting. That way you can develop material and stage chops, then test it out when it’s mostly formed in a good creative and trusted atmosphere. This will also make you look good to the audience that naturally builds around you.

The problem here is a lot of comics will get better, stop going to the hard mics, get lazy, dwindle out, or worse – get better – move forward and do nothing for the scene coming up to support them and teach them to do what they learned. Things will eventually fall apart and many involved will put their egos ahead of their comedy and think they’re above doing the work anymore.

Entitlement breeds complacency. Complacency kills art.

Try to avoid that or at the very least be conscience of it cuz it happens to us all no matter what level you are at.

Jay Whitecotton

Rule 9:

There Is No Money.

Like none. The money’s at the end. To get to it – you have to do the work. If there’s no environment to do the work right – you have to make one. Everything above is a helpful suggestion on how. Take it or leave it.

You can do free shows, $5 shows etc, but if you’re goal is to cover gas money to pursue becoming a standup comedian. You rarely get it for years.

If you’re a promoter looking to capitalize on talent by using them for the promise of ‘exposure’ and taking a $10 cover for your ‘trouble’ – well you’re a piece of shit and like the ‘fake it, til you make it’ people – Kill yourself. Radiation is something that also requires exposure and yours is about as worthwhile you charlatan.

If however you just want to cover printing and promotional etc – ask for donations. Let people pay what they want, be cool, or work as a collective with the emphasis on becoming better at comedy – so you can eventually be badly paid unappreciated touring comics. It’s about comedy first, ego second. There’s a reason why I didn’t make money a thing when looking for a venue. When you take money out of the equation – it becomes about the art. When you throw some nickles in, everything seems to get fucked up.

If you do this right – you’ll eventually be able to create networks with national acts and opportunities you never would’ve had by grinding out the same bullshit bar shows and no taste open mics. If you’re lucky enough to make a career out of it – honor these shows whenever you get a chance and be supportive. It’s real easy to fall off the high rung and have to do it all over again as many comics often do.

Do the work right. Avoid paying Lip Service. Follow through on your Word.

Arg

 

Jay Whitecotton is a Stand Up Comedian from San Antonio, TX now living in Austin. He’s written columns for magazines without any journalistic credibility – toured professionally as a guitarist, despite no lessons – and sold a script that was never made into a movie… – He likes dragons

Originally posted with permission of Jay.

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Too Soon? Or Einstein’s Theory of Relative Coward Pussy

Too Soon

by Jay Whitecotton Edited by Al Bahmani

No one here is a good person.

No one here is without some sort of hypocrisy. Faster and faster we are going down the rabbit hole of social outrage – it’s just that in this case – the rabbit hole is up our own collective asses.

There is no such thing as ‘too soon’. No amount of time can lessen your emotional reaction.

Especially if you’re the supremely empathic pronoun you insufferably insist to be.

There is no ‘Comedy Clock’. No universal unit of ‘Joke Time’. Humor and the concept of ‘Too Soon’ doesn’t operate on Einstein’s Theory of Relative Coward Pussy.

Check my privilege? Check your hypocrisy.

Especially people mad at jokes considered “too soon” and in “poor taste” – who were JUST celebrating Charlie Hebdo as “courageous” months ago.

And also you – the people pissing on the French flag filter as “bullshit because the company didn’t manufacture the feelz over Beirut, Syria, Africa or any other country that didn’t send us a Statue honoring Liberty or supplied an army and resources during our own revolution…” Yes, fuck you people too.

Our obsession with identity politics has painted us in different corners of the same house, unable to communicate more than shrieking at each other across the dripping pool and stink of social media.

Yes – most of these people’s attempts at humor are an absolute atrocity. No one is defending their ‘quality’.

But shouldn’t you be defending their right to be said? Or did you already forget your saccharine ‘Veteran’s Day’ shout outs from just a few days ago.

For the record – I think these jokes are in bad taste too.

I also think your ability to point out how bodies blown up in the name of Islam isn’t actually Islam – it’s radical Islam – then immediately posting videos of shitty cops abusing their power with your own headline “FUCK ALL COPS! SHOOT THEM ALL!”

Is just as much in poor taste as these jokes.

Either way, so what? Facebook likes and shares don’t equate change or value. Even this post I write knowing it will be forgotten in a week or dismissed as TL/DR (because what’s the value of reading, right?!).

Maybe you should try getting your hands dirty. Do something about it for once. Stand up and follow through on your convictions.

You know – like Isis.

Bloodthirsty extremist cunts that they are – they definitely posses some follow through.

What are you doing, judging shitty jokes?!

Well at least Comedians do it through jokes. Our bombs are only self inflicted and you can easily unfollow their explosions.

Keep in mind for every ten to a thousand bombs, someone writes the perfect joke – and that’s worth suffering some bad taste for, isn’t it?

Maybe we can try to all just live our lives and stop stepping over our own feet to be publicly ‘right’. Maybe we can allow ourselves a few wrongs in an effort to do some actual growth.

Maybe we can try leading ourselves first before amassing some retarded Twitter army pushing an agenda of insubstantial change.

Maybe there’s both a way to respond to violence with peace and kindness, while also recognizing some cunts need to be drone bombed to whatever hell they’re willing to believe in.

Maybe we can accept and celebrate bad tasteless humor for what it is, while not ignoring the disadvantaged and underprivileged living in our own back yards.

Maybe it’s ok to not give a shit about the Sudan and worry about the rent or the final score of some sports game or whatever.

Maybe we can have our freedom and eat it too? I don’t know. I’m still growing and striving to make new mistakes.

That all said – here’s the box score for Friday the 13th’s Soccer Match.

France – 2
Germany – 0
Isis – 129 and counting…

Viva le France!

Jay Whitecotton is a Stand Up Comedian from San Antonio, TX now living in Austin. He’s written columns for magazines without any journalistic credibility – toured professionally as a guitarist, despite no lessons – and sold a script that was never made into a movie… – He likes dragons

Originally posted with permission of Jay.

Meeting Jon Lovitz

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Written by Aaron Aryanpur Edited by Al Bahmani

When I discovered SNL for myself, “my cast” included Dennis Miller, Dana Carvey, Jan Hooks and the power-duo of Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz. Growing up as a fan of the show and almost everything that that crew would go on to do – I was the kid who dragged his poor family to the theater to see ‘Mom and Dad Save the World’. I never thought I would ever get a chance to meet any of them.

I got my opportunity when Jon Lovitz headlined the Addison Improv five years ago this very week.*

When you start out, it’s enough just to get work at the club. You don’t get much say in who you work with. You don’t get much work, period. Sometimes the headliners bring their own supporting acts, but mostly the club matches up who they think would make a decent fit for a great show. As a newer comic, your job is to be the best version of you you can be while somehow also being as “decent a fit” with as many different comics possible (more flexibility gets you more stage time, and more stage time makes you a better comic which gets you more stage time and so on).

I didn’t campaign for many specific headliners (again, I just appreciated the booking), but I campaigned for Lovitz. You want to meet your heroes, and you hope that they’re not dicks.

I got the booking and was super-psyched. Without sounding too much like a fanboy, I was hoping for ANY kind of interaction (some headliners keep pretty guarded). I was also hoping I could get him to sign my NewsRadio caricature (already signed by Dave Foley and Stephen Root). It featured Phil prominently, and I thought he might appreciate it.

Mr. Lovitz was a bit aloof when I first met him, and I worried that he was going to keep his distance the whole weekend. I quietly introduced myself, told him that I was looking forward to the shows, and left the green room.

After my first set, I was surprised to see him waiting to talk to me in the back. While the host was making announcements on stage, he was excitedly whispering some heavy-duty compliments. Some headliners don’t even watch the show, and I took for granted that he wouldn’t have watched me. I nodded politely on the outside. On the inside, my inner-fifth grader was jumping up and down. Between shows the next few nights, we talked about comedy and art. I shared my caricature with him.

You know, Phil did both too.

“Yeah, I did.” and I almost cried.

It was a great weekend. When it’s gone well, there’s sometimes an awkward “end of the date moment” after the last show…something along the lines of, “Well, this was fun. We should do it again sometime.” The hope is that a headliner takes SUCH a liking to you, recognizes your comedic genius, and decides that you NEED to be their permanent opening act on the road.

The reality is usually a handshake. Maybe exchanging email addresses.

Jon Lovitz asked for my card.

Puzzled, he tried reading my name, “Aryanpur?”

After all of the shows and our conversations, I guess things like my name and my background didn’t quite sink in yet.

Yeah, my dad’s Persian.

Then he dismissively, Lovitz-ly handed my card back to me with a fake disgusted “Oh.

He was messing with me, and I played along. Out of mock-desperation, I protested, “But my MOM is Jewish.

And he just as quickly took the card back with a delighted “Oohhh” as if to say, “That’s better.

Then he clapped a little Lovitz clap and said, “Okay. I’m going to ask for your card, and you’re going to hand it to me, and I’m going to say, ‘Aryanpur?’…”

He was giving me direction for a conversation we JUST had.

“…and you’re going to say, ‘My dad’s Persian.’ And I’m going to give the card back and say,

‘Oh.’…”

There was no one else in the green room.

“…but then you’re going to say, ‘But my mom’s Jewish.’ And I’m going to say, ‘Oohh.’ Got it?”

So we replayed our conversation, and it was still funny. After the third time – just us in there, mind you – it was downright surreal.

I realized I was rehearsing and then performing a “sketch” with Jon Lovitz for no one but myself and Jon Lovitz.

There were some other remarkably wonderful and bizarre things about that weekend, but the business card exchange is what I’ll always remember about my time working with an SNL alum.

And maybe because he always seemed like a such a Simpsons/Critic cartoon of a personality to me anyway, I thought the story could use a visual.

You really need to hear the story in his voice, but the comic strip might help a bit.

Aaron

Funniest Comic in Texas 2012 Winner, Aaron Aryanpur was also recntly voted one of the Top 100 Creatives For the Dallas Observer, and just recently made his national TV debut on FOX’s Laughs. And he’s currently headling the Hard Rock Cafe this weekend August 28th & 29th with Houston’s own All D. Freeman. 

 

*Originally Posted July 17th, 2015

What Kind of Stand Up Are You?

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What Kind of Stand Up Are You?

By Jay Whitecotton 
With so many different POV’s entering the world of stand up comedy, it’s getting harder and harder to describe what kind of performer you are. Not sure yourself? No problem!

Here’s a quick list of the many budding new genre’s in Stand Up Comedy you can typecast yourself as!

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Comedian: A person of any race and gender who cares about the art. Wants to build an act that will carry them forward based on originality, but still relatable. Prone to taking themselves too serious on occasion, but only in the hopes of getting better.

“I need to start opening with my closer so it doesn’t become a crutch.”

Comic: Usually a failed musician or former “funny” guy at work. Can’t wait to hit the road. Constantly dismisses themselves, but secretly desires to be seen as a true ‘comedian’.

“Where you from? What do you do? Who’s dating?”

Open Micer: Novice. Trying to figure it all out. In the middle of losing all their past friendships, while forming new one’s in the open mic community. Has immediately posted photos of themselves holding a microphone as their social media profile pictures.

“Anyways… um. Do we get paid?”

Comedy Show

Hack: Unoriginal, but safe. Gets work quickly, but doesn’t move past host or ‘that guy who can drive us to the gig’. Commonly introduced to the stage as “heard on XM/Sirius satellite radio.” (Not true.) Teaches a ‘Comedy Workshop’.

“It’s a Honda Civic… (waves middle finger to the crowd)”

Road Hack: A Hack with their own car payments and the ability to talk for 45 minutes. Notebook filled with jokes that could sell T-Shirts.” Commonly introduced to the stage as “Seen on Last Comic Standing.” (Waiting In Line) Occasionally teaches a ‘Comedy Workshop’.

“Is that a Tribble run? I can totally work an alternative audience!”

Boat Hack: The crowning achievement for the Hack. All the atmosphere of a good Road Gig, but with none of the wear and tear on the car. Commonly introduced to the stage as “Seen on Last Comic Standing.” (Was on the show, but you didn’t see it) Considers themselves too good to teach a ‘Comedy Workshop’.

“The only thing that sucks is they won’t let me sell my “Fuck It Bucket” shirts because their too ‘edgy’.”

Hobbyist: An Open Micer who occasionally hits the stage to do a contest or an open call network audition. Self-described as ‘aged out of the business’ when they reach 30. Repeats what Road Hacks say as if it were the industry standard.

“I submitted for that, but they probably want a young woman or a minority.”

Fraud: A Hack who works every angle of professional comedy accept the actual working on their act portion. They instantly have TV credits out of nowhere, thousands of “fans” on Facebook, and an endless array of egg shaped people following their twitter accounts. They take pictures with random people and post them as “hanging out with some fans after the show” – even when not performing. They always “just killed to a packed room” on every status they’ve ever posted. Complete with a picture of said crowd, but at angle that does not show the 300 empty chairs. They had merch before they wrote their first joke and a store on their web site if you want to ‘support their comedy’. A Fraud has never failed on stage or any audition ever. The crowd was always “crappy, but I turned them around despite” and the network show “wasn’t a good fit for me at this time and even though they LOVED me, I decided I’d rather not be seen by millions on some TV Show that doesn’t give me creative control. I’d much rather keep it real and do my OWN thing right here in (Who Carestown, USA)!”

“Tickets are going fast! Near capacity already, but I have a block of 100 tickets for sale only $20! HURRY!”

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Goon: Formerly known as an edgy comic. Act filled with references to Rape, Racism, and Sex. Gets unreasonably upset when a sexy female musician gets too much “undeserved” exposure on the radio. Also gets upset when sexy women get too much “undeserved” exposure on TV. Has strong feelings about comic book movies casting black actors. Can’t handle it when people don’t get the ‘joke’.

“Can you believe that Cunt? What a Faggot!”

CHUD: A Goon WITHOUT the imagination and DOUBLE the addiction to meth. Often homeless. Would be banned from performing if everyone wasn’t scared of being murdered.

“You have a smoke? Can I get a ride?”

Prog: A progressive comedian who takes stands against white males. (99% of the time is usually a white male) Seems to develop strong beliefs on Facebook immediately after reading a Salon article.

“When are we going to have an African-Latino Gay Transgendered President already?!”

Proggo: Same as a Prog, but way more focused on women’s rights issues. Immediately was offended because I used the word ‘Guy’ in the above description for Comic – instead of something gender neutral.

“Check your privilege! This blog/post/comment is part of the problem!”

Drunk Slut: Self-described “Hot Mess”. Topics usually cover: Self-Esteem, Semen, Vodka Soda, and Parents not liking her Facebook posts.

“People want to fuck me, isn’t that weird?”

The Status Girl: Started comedy 6 months ago. Already has 450 mutual friends on Facebook and liked all their statuses. Saved a collection of dirty desperate messages sent from half the Comedians, Comics, Hacks, Road Hacks, etc that talk bad about her publicly.

“Comedian Jane Doe Comedy likes your Post.”

The Not Anonymous Enough Alcoholic: Former Drunk Slut, Goon or Prog, but finds that by insufferably talking about their ‘struggle with addiction’ they can create a false sense of empathy with the audience and still get to do their ‘party bits’.

“I had a beer when I was 17 and broke curfew, but now (fights a tear) now I’m 7 years sober (breathes deeply waiting for applause break).”

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Nerd Comic: Standard variety comic book and movie references. Not making it in the clubs because the ‘audiences aren’t cool’. Does a great Werner Herzog impression, but its “cool even though it’s an impression”. Wears hoodie to look slim and youthful, but everyone can tell they’re chubby.

“You know what’s weird about Batman?*

(*Werner Herzog voice)

Hipster: Nerd Bully. Aggressive entitlement. Constantly pointing out how it’s everyone else who’s the Hipster.

“Val Kilmer was the superior Batman, if you weren’t a Hipster you’d KNOW that.”

Bloggo: A Hobbyist, but with a blog. Has strong “heroic” opinions about Dave Chappelle not being sensitive enough towards gender issues, but completely ignores Jeff Dunham’s blatant awfulness.

“I’m offended.” (Presses Send)

The Actor: Uses comedy as a way to either develop their one man show, as a window to get into Hollywood, or a last chance to regain notoriety after the sitcom is cancelled.

“I’m also taking an Improv class!“

The Cleaner: A hack who insists on their importance by their ability to be completely ball-less and uninspired. Half start out as Goons, but transition over in a desperate plea to get opening work. The other half start out ball-less and go to great lengths to let everyone know they can “work clean”. They are also the absolute creepiest people off stage and their web browser history is filled with German Sexual Nightmares.

“You don’t need to say ‘fuck’ to be funny.” (inserts ball gag)

The Chosen: A Clean Hack who calls himself a ‘Christian Comic’. Replaces ‘Fuck you’ with the far more pretentious “Blessed”. They’re constantly doing it for the Lord, but by doing it – they mean trying to market themselves to Church’s so they can get that easy non-taxable money. Also – its easier to have a shitty act if you only perform to audiences brainwashed into thinking of judgment as a sin.

“I’m like… God Bless it, man. We’re all trying, but sometimes…. IT’S HARD, RIGHT?!” (points upward)

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Sit-Down Comics: Whole act centers around their handicap. Lots of puns. Has an original point of view about the current state of… no… wait…yeah no, it’s right back down to their handicap.

“Look Ma, No Hands!” (Waves Nub)

Pimp Walk: Same as a Sit Down Comic, but with some sort of Palsy.

Sweat Stains: Same as a Sit Down Comic, but Fat and “has to move the mic stand away so you can see them better.”

Uptown: Black Comic who doesn’t need the “white clubs” because “they aint ready”. Expert use of graphic arts to create flashy flyers. Often accompanied by slam poets, a DJ, another DJ, a photographer, 32 Sponsors and 27 more Uptown comedians on the same bill.

“Nah man…It’s pronounced D-Ray. You thinking of Dray. He’s on another show.”

Black Comedian: Just wants to be known as a comedian, but does only jokes about what its like being Black so white audiences will laugh.

Black Nerd: Same as a Black Comedian, but Nerd.

Latino Comic: Same as a Black Comedian, but Latino.

Asian Comic: Same as a White Comedian, but Asian. (sometimes Black)

Filipino Comic: Same as a Black Comedian, but Filipino. (sometimes Asian)

African Comic: Same as a Black Comedian, but not that kind of Black.

Woman Comic: Same as a Black Comedian, but won’t shut up about it.

Gay Comic: Same as a Black Comedian, but sometimes a Woman.

Terrorist Comic: Same as a Black Comedian, but Middle Eastern and insists they’re not actually a Terrorist.

The POD: A Hobbyist with a Podcast. Finds validation easier by staying at home and making the “audience” come to them.

“It doesn’t pay, but you’ll get exposure!”

The Stay at Home Dad: Used to write and perform jokes, but now owns a club/room or runs a festival to be closer to their roots and family.

“We don’t need New York or LA, we can do it right here in (Who Carestown, USA)!”
Also
“It doesn’t pay, but you’ll get exposure!”

Jay Whitecotton

The Coward: Anybody who writes a list of labels, but at the end turns it around on themselves as if to say ‘Hey, I’m not immune – see I can turn the joke on myself! This way you’ll think I’m self aware and don’t mean any actual malice towards anyone what-so-ever!’

“I’m Drunk. I’m Lonely. Fuck You.”

* CHUD coined by Andrew Rosas. Drunk Slut category pushed hard by Mike MacRae. Fraud demanded by Andrew Polk.

Jay Whitecotton is a Stand Up Comedian from San Antonio, TX now living in Austin. He’s written columns for magazines without any journalistic credibility – toured professionally as a guitarist, despite no lessons – and sold a script that was never made into a movie… – He likes dragons

Originally posted with permission of Jay.

House MC Part 1

By Billy D. Washington

The story of a man held hostage in a small town by the worst possible mistake a comedian could ever make..

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Part 1

Benny woke up that morning with the smell of the one last cigarette on his breath. He’d vowed to stop on numerous occasions but this time he was sure this was it, not only because of his heart palpitations but because he was in a non-smoking room and was too lazy to take the extra 2 minute walk past the lobby in order to give in to the urge. As he lay still he recounted the night before.

He regretted the money he spent on booze and not having seen the cripple lady on the 4th row before he launched into his bit about fucking a handicapped chick. The joke murdered on stage at Laughers but he remembered the nasty look from the man who casually wheeled her out of the door and the cripple who shot him the finger.

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