My Summer, Part 1 (The Business of Comedy)

"I'm in the business of making people happy.  Including myself."
  It has been a long summer for me.  Lots of transitions.  New venues, new fans, new hopes, new fears, new expectations.  Each summer, like a professional athlete, I try to get better at a weakness in my game.  Whether it be writing more up-to-date material, subject matter, appearance, venue selection (Yes, just like an athlete can waste his prime signing a long-term contract playing for a garbage team, comedians too can lose their best years performing for the wrong audiences), I have tried to keep my career on the correct path.  It's very hard with the amount of free time a comic finds himself with to stay on task, so in order to do that, I have developed a routine that I use to help myself right the ship daily.

Every morning, I wake up around 8am, send my avails out to 10 contacts (new bookers, or follow-up emails) and whenever I'm done, I stop.  I have a tendency to be OCD, so this is how I control the beast: 10 emails a day 5 days a week = 50 emails per week = 200 emails per month...I'd say that's enough don't you?  Of those contacts, just like any business that works in direct mail will tell you, only 2% on average will respond.  Meaning of the 200 emails I send a month, only 4 will contact me back per month.  Sounds sucky right?  Not really.  See, 4 contacts a month = 4 weeks of work = 1 full month of bookings.  So that month I spend searching for work gives me a month of work in return.  This explains how I'm booked through the rest of the year and into next year already.  Not luck.  Not "timing".  Not an agent.  Just persistance and simple math (new comics, I hope you're paying attention). 

Now here's what separates the working comics from the ones who give up:  To get those 4 paid weeks means I have to go through 196 experiences of people ignoring me, telling me they have no openings (when I know they do), asking for a different video (when I know they barely watched what I gave them), telling me they don't think I'm ready for their "A" room (when they're in Cleveland...yea, I said it), or in some cases, a little bit of all of those.  Now for the most part, I'm a super laid-back, non-confrontational guy.  But if you don't think I go nuts, you're absolutely wrong.  I go nuts DAILY.  The only thing that helps me get through my days is the confidence boost that comes with actually being on stage.  The more you're on stage performing, the less time you have to think about the places that don't want you.  Plus, you really start appreciating the HELL outta the places that gave you a chance.  So what happens when you're NOT working?...Mental Chaos.

"Why don't they like me?  Am I not original enough?  Maybe I'm too cookie-cutter.  Do they know it's only like that in the video?  Maybe I'm too raunchy.  Nah No way...Well, who are they booking?...THAT F**KIN GUY?!  Come ON!"...and that's all before breakfast.

Most people tap out in the early stages of their career.  Some hang on for a minute then decide it's just not worth the grind.   No judgement there!  But a few, like me, were blessed enough to have a support base that never let us quit even when everything in our mind tells us otherwise.  Believe me, I am JUST at the point now where I can take care of myself financially.  I am the recipient of many-a-car note, phone bill, or student loan payment in my career.  That's just the truth of this business.  You don't make money starting out, and you can't build your career to it's highest level unless you quit that "real" job some day.  That's why a lot of my early material was about being broke.  I still talk about it now even though I'm not really broke anymore...but the jokes are still funny, so I ain't stoppin'!  It's like I tell people who ask me why I still use those jokes if they're no longer true: If Adele had to change the lyrics to her songs everytime she got a man and got knocked up, she'd be one broke bitch! (No offense Adele.  I love your work.  But I had to find a way to reach those 8th-Graders that morning with my speech before it was too late).

 I used to be embarrassed to tell people I needed help, because I thought it would make me look like a loser who couldn't take care of himself.  I was so blinded by pride that I didn't realize that the people who were reaching out to help me didn't pity me, or think I was a failure.  They saw me as a future success, and they wanted to be a part of the journey.  If I made it, THEY made it.  That's how my family felt.  That's how my girl felt.  That's how my friends felt.  Geoff Brown once told me "Kid, if you're gonna make it in this business, you gotta pick a vice!  Women, Weed, SOMETHIN'!  Comics have struggles, that's what makes us funny."  Well you may not fall into the vices of gambling, sex, drugs, or alcohol, but don't think pride can't bring a man down just as quickly.  Don't be a prideful fool, be a humble genious.  If you are on the same page as the person who helps you, it's ok to take the gift.  They're just clearing a path so that you can let your skills breath without being suppressed by your doubts.  You'll know how to pay it back when the time is right. 

I've heard many people say when something bad happens: "Hey, it's just business.  Nothing personal."  Like business is this awful thing.  Business in and of itself is not an awful thing.  It's a transfer of goods and services used to make a living for the seller and make life easier for the buyer.  A lot of good things come from a business if it's run well.  Plus business can be personal and still work.  Especially a business that revolves around basic human interaction like a family-owned soul food restaurant, the neighborhood barbershop, or in my case, comedy.  Comedy is nothing but Tragedy with a new hair-do.  Without proper framing (or facial structure to keep the hair reference goin') a comedy can become a depressing drama, like a bad day at the salon.  That's where I come in.  I'm like a bald-black Vidal Sassoon.  Always trimmin' up a masterpiece.  Framing you in a way you never saw yourself, making the bland appear beautiful and relatable.  And just like any stylist, I'm in the business of making people happy.  Including myself.  That tears of a clown shit is for the birds.  Unless your motives are unjust, there is NO reason everyone involved in a comedy show can't benefit without someone being on the short end of the stick.  Why can't I have fun too?  I don't wanna be another "misunderstood artist", so I MAKE myself understood onstage.  No reason not to.  I know in my lifetime (comedy lifetime that is), I've been responsible for some couple that was on the rocks having such a great time out that they fell in love with each other again, or someone who lost their job feeling like it's gonna be alright if only for a moment.  So here's how I look at it:  Of those 196 contacts who don't accept me that I have to sift through on a monthly basis...how many people have I gotten to accept me when I'm on stage those 4 weeks?  For example: In a 100 seat venue: 100 people per show x 4 shows a week x 4 weeks a month = 1600 people who know I'm funny as hell by week's end (give or take a drunk bachelorette party sitting in the front row.  They don't know anything.  Here's what I know ladies:  If you like wearin' tiaras with a bunch of little rubber dildos on top of your head, you probly won't like marraige.).

See, my Yes's will always outnumber my No's.  My family, friends, and fans will always outnumber my enemies, haters, and naysayers...mainly cuz I got a big ass family, but also because the numbers don't lie.  I'm always gonna win!  Now, some of you out there may disagree with my logic, or disagree with my math.  That's cool.  If you don't like how I presented the numbers, or you think I fudged 'em up to make myself look more successful than I am...Ummm, YEA?  It's a business isn't it? :)

Next week: "My Summer, Part 2 (My Return to the Desert)"

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