Indie Creators – Part 2

I came across a forum of standup comedians sharing this advice from Comedian Ari Shaffir on some basic tips of how to succeed as a creator:

It’s a 4 hour very rambly (he was a bit high) podcast but I found some interesting tidbits in there.

Part 1:

Fuck my fans?

Not till way later not till way later someone said, I don’t know, Sean G he was telling me once. He’s fairly coming up, he was telling me that he would fuck people he would meet, but then he’s like, I can’t do that, cause then that’s just a bitch that would make angry at me and then that loses a fan. There’s gonna be a lot of fans so it’s like, whatever, if you lose one or two it’s not a big deal. If you’re doing what you wanna do, like if somebody’s mad at you.

There’s two ways to look at your stand up

There is, this is the kind of stand up I do, whatever style you do, and let’s say it’s super dirty, that’s what I always did and I wanna defend why I’m super dirty, and it’s like no, this is more real, people have those thoughts they have thoughts of sex all the time so I should be talking about it but what it really was, was this is the kind of comedy I did, so I was justifying it by saying, whatever I already do is the best way to do it and what’s a way, healthier way to do it, is saying, what would I value in comedy, separating myself from it, and then saying okay, well I’m good in those parts of it and I’m bad in those parts, let me find out the parts I’m bad at, and make those better cause it’s not gonna make you better to say what I already do is the best thing it’s gonna make you better to look at where you’re not good I do some this story teller show, when I started I was just like eh, it’s fine, but after two years of doing a new story every month cause it wasn’t the intention, but I got way better at telling stories on stage it’s just from trying it and doing it over and over again.

And if I looked at it honestly at myself and said like what’s the best type of comedy?

I mean I saw Ralph E. May do a story once about meeting Sam Kinison at a shitty night in the OR once. And I saw everyone just on the edge of their seat. It wasn’t like it was a shitty night, everyone was bombing, but they were all so like in rapt attention listening to him. I was a 17 year old who won some contest and Kinison was doing lines right around him. And he was like, oh what’s going on here? And he’s like really weirded out like everyone’s paying attention. And I thought like that’s a great way to get a crowd like really into what you’re doing. But then I never really took that to heart. I always just said like no, the way I do it’s the best way. It’s not. What did he do exactly to get the crowd? It just sounds like an interesting story. Yeah it was. It was just interesting. That’s why they were listening I think. And he said like you guys are a B-minus crowd, I’m not going to give you A-plus material. He’s like I’ll just tell you the story. And man it was cool. Everyone was listening so hard. And that’s another thing, there’s no like is this the type of comedy you should do? Like you need joke, joke, jokes. Like why? You’re just a performer on stage. So you can do whatever the fuck you want to do. If you want to bring out props, do it. Who cares? But it’s scarier right? Because when you have jokes, like you have like that punchline to like save you. It’s way scarier to do some nine minute long thing. Because you’re stuck in this path that’s going nowhere. Two minutes in, you’re like fuck do I just bail on this whole thing? Do I hate shit for another seven minutes? But if you’re eating shit, you’ll find out one or two things and you’ll get better. And eventually the story won’t eat shit anymore. Yeah that’s something. I should write this down. Go ahead, go to your house.

You don’t make enemies if you’re friends

I run an open mic at Stamford Scottsdale in Phoenix. And do you think running an open mic that gets between 30 and like 50 people like comics, that would be a positive or a negative thing and would it be better to just host it or do a set in the other people’s… You don’t make enemies if you’re friends. The more shows you run, the more enemies you’re going to make. It’s like there’s almost no way around it. When Jeff Ross did The Burn, you could see him like wringing his hands over like how he can’t help all his friends. And let’s say he can help three people, then he goes that fourth and fifth one are going to be pissed at me. And he got a lot more people on the net. He got 10, 12, 15 people, but he goes, if you got 15 on, 16, 17, they’re going to go like what the fuck man? You got her on or him on and not me? And they’re going to be mad at him. The more shows you run, the more people are going to be pissed at you. You’re also going to have people liking you, but I don’t know what to tell you in terms of that. I don’t know.

Can I ask you some auditioning questions?

Do you have any tricks that you found help you better with your auditions? Yeah, there’s one for commercials. And do you audition with your glasses because some people just said it turns you into more of a character? Well, I mostly audition for commercials. I didn’t get like a theatrical agent. If you can get one, get one. Those people, in terms of like you need to be friendly with your manager, that’s true. They need to be like friends with you. Agents do not need to be friends with you. They just have to like you and send you out. It’s nice if you have a cooler one, but if you don’t, that’s fine. They’re way more like plumbers. As long as they’re doing a good job, you can hire them. But if they’re not, then fucking get rid of them. Get somebody else. So for commercials, glasses make you more of a character. It’s totally cool. Sometimes they’ll tell you to take it off and take it off. Also, whenever you audition for stuff, especially commercials, if they tell you don’t try to be funny, just do what’s there, they’re not talking to you. They’re talking to actors. They don’t know you’re a comic. Be funny. You don’t have to push or be needy, but if you think it would go better or something else, as long as you say “Eat dryer’s ice cream”, that part’s fine. The rest, they don’t give a fuck about. So if you have a funny way to do it, absolutely do that. They’re talking to actors who are so silly and dumb that they’re fine with it. Here’s some tips, some things you guys should know. When you get to an audition and they say Slate, that just means say your name. A lot of people get lost on that. They’re going, mm-hmm. Just means say your name. And then there’s the other thing, somebody told me once about who I liked. The entire time you’re auditioning, view it as you were on home plate and you should do everything within first to third base. Because if you turn this way, then they can’t see your face. And even if it seems right for an audition, they’re not going to get your reaction. They’re not going to catch you. So even if you’re pulling up at a drive-thru and you’re supposed to talk to the Jack in the Box thing, let’s say you’re the camera and I’m doing it this way, instead of going, yeah, I’ll have one order of this, just fake it and go, yeah, I’ll have one order of this, just always be able to get your face straight forward. If you’re talking to somebody, don’t look right at them. View it as two people in a car. You don’t have to look at them when you’re talking. You can talk and look forward. So let them see your face. Those are little tips. Yeah, first and third, and then not go below. Don’t look too high or too low. Just keep it all so they can see you. And then honestly, a lot of that shit, I booked a lot of things because of these. And this. They don’t actually really matter that much, the commercial stuff.

I’ve heard from people that the best way to get an agent is through a referral.

Would you agree with that? Yeah, if you go up to an agent or a manager and say, hey, you should work with me, they’re just not going to. And you can’t ask somebody for a favor. You know what I mean? But if your friend told you, hey, I know you’re looking to get rid of that Coca-Cola, you’re going to throw it out, that guy’s going to be thirsty. You’re like, okay, here. Terrible example. The agent and manager gets approached a lot. So whenever people say, can you help me, it’s like, leave me alone. Yeah, absolutely. Your friends are a little bit higher than you. Not way higher, but a little bit higher. So what’s the deal with that? You don’t even have to ask them. Like, hey, can you get me a manager or agent? Just say, do you like your agent? I’m looking for one. And then let them say, well, let me call them for you. Let them say it. And some of them won’t. That’s okay. Then they won’t. It’s all right. But just let the people who are slightly above you, who have those people, know and ask them for their advice too. Like, right when I got a commercial agent, that was the first agent I got. Somebody remind me, I’ll tell you how to get one. But that was the first agent I got. But then my friends, like, hey, can you get me in there? I’m like, I’m not really comfortable here myself. I just got in. When I started booking stuff, for every booking I got, I could call Lauren, and I could say, I just spoke to someone, can you look at my friend? He’s funny too. Because then he would be listening to what I said, because I’m making him money right then. But people that are way more in at their place, like I saw someone do it to Leah. They asked Chris to let, how do you like your manager? He said, well, let me call him for you. But it was somebody who was like a few steps below, but not way below him. Someone who he could say, like, yeah, my manager will be happy to have you, probably, or should be happy to have you. And then if they’re not, if their roster’s full, they’re going to say, and so that’s not going to be an in. But nothing to do with you, it’s just they have a full, let’s say they only want 10 people and they have 10, so it’s like, sorry. But just sort of put it out there for them, and they have to help you on their own. They have to come to you. Otherwise, they’re not really going to be into you. A lot of people have gotten managers and stuff that just, they had to sign. Like this manager had to sign them as for a favor of somebody, and then they just never worked for you. And then what do you got? Say you got a manager. That’s the same thing with Lulu’s, with that shitty room in the Valley, where it’s like, just so I could say I got on there, just a spot, just like any other shitty spot. Just booked for it. So yeah, put it out there for them, but don’t worry too much about it. How long have you been doing comedy? A little over a year. Okay, it’s super early for that. Yeah. Just because you don’t really have anything for them to sell you on. Now you definitely do want an agent if you can get that, and I don’t really know the right way.

What about for like commercial agents?

Okay, yeah, here, thanks. There is a book at Samuel French, this yellow book that costs about 10 bucks. Samuel French is down Sunset on the north side of the street, right next to the Pikey Bar, across from that 7-Eleven there, and some car dealership. Maybe Gardner, yeah, okay. It’s right by Rock Paper. Yeah, there’s one in the Valley too, it’s another Samuel French. So they have this book in the back, it’s yellow, it’s the agent’s book, and it’ll have a list of all the agents. It’s about 10 bucks. You guys can share it. If you all put in a dollar, you can all share it, because he’s the only thing you need it for. You just need to go down that list of agents, commercial agents are the ones looking, because they can have like 200 people, because they go by category. So they want like five people that look like me, not just one, you know, and five tall athletic black people, and five scrawny black people, and five models, and just about everything, they want a bunch of people. So you just go down that list and see which commercial agents will represent non-union people, it should say that in there, and then just send them out a headshot and resume. Or you find out who you know is represented there, and again, if they’re not way, way above you, you can’t ask Jeff Ross for help getting a commercial agent. He’s just like, he’s way busy. He doesn’t know you. But the guys who do sort of know you, talk to them. It’s like, you know, are you happy to commercialize? What’s the deal over there? And let them offer, or just go down that list, send out a resume and headshot, and just say, I’m looking for new commercial representation. And some of, like, I’m talking about 10 to 200 of them, and 10 of them will write you back, five of them will write you back. And they’ll take a meeting with you, and it might be three, four months on the line, and then you see who you mesh with, who you vibe with, and then that’s it. Then you’ve got one of them. They might never send you out on an audition, but hopefully they will. But that’s how you get a commercial agent. Yeah? What’s some of the names of some of the companies that work mainly with comedians? Aqua does a lot, yeah, they had a lot of comedians, and they also have a lot of models, but then sometimes they’re like, we have enough, like, lower level guys. They’ll be like, we already have guys that are just coming up. We need, like, name guys, you know what I mean? But they all will. They all will. Some more than others, but really they all will. And if they don’t, then those are the people who won’t write you back. Lie on your resume a little bit, you know, just tell them, like, that you’re a legit comedian. But you don’t have to say, like, I can do accents you can’t do, you know. But just, I mean, a little bit. Just say, like, I’m a performer in LA, I’ve been doing comedy for years. Because they also will take people that have done comedy five times, and call them sold comics.

Does that book, the $10 yellow book, does that also include, like, writing agents?

Yeah, I think they have different ones. Would you do the same thing for that? I think they have different ones for different things. Or you have to look when you get there. They have a manager’s book, which I know is separate. But for the agent’s book, I think it might be all the agents put together, or it might be, or I remember, like, William Morris was one of the agents, and it said, only looking at union for commercial. Also, I think it said writers as well. So it just lists them all. And then it’s on you to go out and say that no one’s going to find you. No one’s going to be, like, you’re awesome, or they’re going to think you’re as awesome as you do. They’re just not going to find you and pluck you out, even though everybody wants that. So you’ve got to do a little work work in order for them to get you. So physically send them, like, a packet or whatever. It’s going to cost you a little bit of money to get those headshots made up and to get them, although this might be changed too. I don’t know how much people use headshots anymore. Right now, the way they use them is just online. You almost never have to actually bring headshots. I don’t know if people would even look at them that way anymore. You might not even have to get them printed out. Maybe just email them with your picture of your headshot, and all you pay for is pictures. It’s both. I got them both. Half of them, except email submissions, half of them online. Really? Okay.

And then share that with each other.

Especially at your stages. There is no competition. You guys are all, you guys are just being shit on left and right. You’re like the lowest rung. So there’s no like, I’ll get ahead and then he won’t get ahead. It’s not that you can just all get better together. A bunch of you can get represented by the same agency. But you’re in the same category. They’ll look almost exactly the same and get represented. It’s not me or them. It’s more like a candle, where it’s like if you light another candle with your candle, your flame doesn’t go out. You both have a flame now. It’s a zero sum cost is what people say. It’s not like a money in my wallet where if I give you $100, I have $100 less. It’s not like that. It’s like I’ll give you a job, now we both have jobs. Yeah?

If you have an agent, but like say with your movie they came to you, do you have to pay the agent still if you booked it yourself? You don’t have to.

But Sonny Joy Diaz told me once that when you get an agent, if you have something on your own, it’s just bring it to them. You give them 10%, which is not a lot of money, or you give them 10% of this thing, which I don’t show you a good example of this. So let’s say somebody offers you $100, say $5,000 to do this thing. Just bring it to your agent and say, do the deal for me. Here’s free money. And what it does is, one, it convinces them that, hey, you’re working. You’re somebody who has value. Because they can’t see you as someone who’s just not doing anything. It’s just an open mic-er and they don’t value you. But the more you’re doing stuff, this is how people get booked too. If you just get booked on a lot of festivals and things, people without seeing your comedy, they will just assume you’re better. If you’re on a show, they’re like, oh, that guy must be good because somebody else picked him. So everybody’s booking the same people. That’s how shitty people get ahead. You’re like, how’s that person on TV 10 times? Just because they’ve been on TV and nobody watched the nine other sets. They just know they’ve been on this show and this show and this show. Nobody watches Conan. They just know who’s been on there. So you get bombed there and nobody gives a fuck. They’re just like, oh, you did Conan, I heard. How’d it go? And you just say, great, thanks for asking. Wait, what was I just talking about right now? I want to finish that. Whether or not you give them a question. Oh, yeah. So this is what Dia said. Bring them something. So one, they think you’re working. They think you’re a professional and you actually have worth. And two, they get embarrassed that they didn’t bring it to you. That’s a very small thing. Yeah. So it’s worth the 10% of this thing, whatever it is. It’s worth that to make them now let’s start going. Three, this is the thing I did. Me and Kirk Fox and Ian Edwards did this Holly Shore some DVD, some sketch DVD. God, it was so bad. So I brought it to them. I think the offer was like $1,400 to go down there for a week to Miami and shoot these things. I’m free hotel. I’m pretty. I’m 50 bucks a week. Great. Sound good. And I was like, I’ll just bring it to these people. It’s $140 that I’m giving up. I could definitely use that. But I’ll just try it. And she looked over the contract, this agent or manager, whoever it was, and she goes, oh, this is actually wrong. This is not paying you on this category. This should be paying you for I think over three characters, whatever it was. And she goes, no, they owe you $3,500. And so the me and Ian and Kirk all got $3,500. And so then that’s way worth the $120 we were going to give up. And the $350 I ended up giving her was way, way worth that. So yeah, bring that shit to them. And they’ll protect you. My instinct was always like, well, they didn’t do this. I don’t want to give it to them. Just give it to them. Let them be your partner in what you’re doing. And then when they’re no longer pulling their weight, at some point, when you get good enough to where you’re like, dude, you’re not pulling your weight, that’s when you treat them like a plumber. You’re like, if you don’t fix this shit, then why am I hiring you? There’s this weird thing where we all think, and at the early stages, it’s like this. We all think that we’re getting a manager or an agent, and they can fire us. They can drop us. But really, we’re hiring them. We’re paying them to do these things. They’re not paying us, but it seems like we’re the ones trying to get this job. And it’s only at the very beginning stages because you need somebody. But pretty soon, it’s like you will get to the point of making a living, and then you can say, well, you’re not pulling your weight. There’s a bunch of shitty people in this town, managers and agents and all that sort of stuff, and producers and network people. It’s a bunch of people who are just bad at their jobs. So you’ll work with them. You will. And then you’ll realize, oh, you’re not good at your job. And then you’ll just drop them. If they just continuously bring you nothing, like, what are you doing for me? Ralph, he had to drop his manager. He was in the car with him. He dropped his manager on the speakerphone. And I was quiet. But he was like, dude, you’re not doing, I’m only in the road. I don’t need you. I don’t need to give you 10% for this road booking stuff when I have an agent that books me on there. I was like, I’ll be happy to pay, he said, I’ll be happy to pay you for like Hollywood stuff that you get me. But right now, none of that’s coming in. So there’s no reason I’m paying 20% on this as opposed to 10. If you want to just do a deal, I can just pay you on the Hollywood stuff, we can do that. And the guy was like, well, I can never do that because that’s just a bad precedent. And then Ralph E. May, who makes 50 to 100 grand a week on the road, told this guy, like, okay, well, then I told you how it is. So I don’t need you. I don’t need someone to do nothing. So he’s like, there goes your 5 to 10 grand a week. And he just held pocket that. And he should because the guy’s not doing anything for him. But the agent who’s getting the road work still pay them because they continuously get him road work. So you have to keep thinking about it.

Is there any benefit to having the same financial and commercial agency?

No, I think that’s a detriment. Okay. I look at Rogan, who’s William Morris across the board. A lot of people want to have you across the board. This is all way later stuff, by the way. Somebody told me this advice once, Dave Rapp told me this, whereas like at the early stages, you don’t want a manager. You want anybody helping you who can help you. So unless some manager is really going to work hard for you, it’s not going to be good for you just to have this one guy being the only guy that can help. Because if he’s not working at it, then you won’t get anything. Be friends with all those people. I got an audition for Punk’d once. I saw the girl who was auditioning people for it. She was here one night. Not looking at people, looking at someone else. What was her name? Fuck, I think Nick Youssef is working with her now, or somebody is. But just saw her. I was like, oh, how you doing? How you been? That’s it. I met her on an audition for Punk’d. She was around here and there. I just talked to her a little bit. Totally fine. Punk’d was done. Didn’t want anything from her. Just friendly in the front. Then the next day or two days later, I got an audition for her for casting something else. I wasn’t pushing for that. It was just another person that was like, oh yeah, that guy, he’s nice and he’d be right for this. Just because you see them. That’s what I mean when I talk to people, be friendly with people. Those would be the ones who have you in mind. Not like they’re going to pay you back for being friends with them, but they’ll want to help you. With managers too, it’s like just be nice to all of them and let all of them think of you for some low level thing. If it’s star of a show, they’re not calling you. They’re calling Sarah Silverman or someone like that. But if it’s just some small thing, maybe they’ll call you. Be friendly with them. Be around them at all times.

Do you have to keep – I know you change your appearance sometimes and shave your beard and stuff. Do your agents get mad at you because you’re not the same as your head shots when you do that?

Yeah, occasionally, the casting directors will. I’ve had someone say this, it wouldn’t have brought me in if they knew that my beard was real long, my hair was real long. You’re not the category anymore. This is office professional and this is just not you. I’m not mad at you for looking like this, but you’ve got to get new head shots. So yeah, they’ll get mad here or there. Fuck it. It doesn’t matter. Who cares? Just be funny. That’s what you should be worrying about. I mean, obviously, don’t shave your head right before you shoot your first TV show. I try not to cut my beard too much in between auditions and callbacks. But once I know I don’t have any callbacks that still might be coming, then do whatever you want.

I had a question about – I think you were talking about this kind of like, people who you worry about that don’t do their job well, kind of like show idea theft.

I was talking with the general manager of our club and we were just going over writing stuff and I pictured this treatment idea that I had for something. She actually thought it was really surprising, really well, and she told me, I’d like to get you in touch with somebody. They’re going to come and I guess they’re connected with some big production company. She told me to look up the name and just take a look at it and see if I think it’s interesting and if I can talk to someone. And the first thing I did when I looked up the name was it wasn’t a recognizable production company, but the first three things I saw were they were in three different lawsuits kind of showing some people like, hesitant, so what would you go about if you were to meet with someone who’s like – – a person helping you? I don’t think that’s your idea though, like to make sure you pitch it and you don’t want to like, pitch to them like, oh, we’re going to pass and then it gets – Well, if you register it, that’ll help. Like what’s the quickest – I mean like – Writers Guild of America, Writers Guild East or Writers Guild West, it doesn’t really matter. You have to be in the union to register. The way it was when I was in college, it was 17 bucks, you could register a script for I think 15 years. Same for treatments and stuff? Now some of them you’d be surprised how you really can’t copyright like an idea like doing a reality show with comics. Let’s just say like that’s not – Yeah, no – Like people just have that idea. I mean if there’s like a full treatment – Yeah, you protect yourself with that, but then again it’s like also think of it as like your ideas now are probably not going to be as good as you think they are, so don’t worry about someone stealing it. Just go forward with it. Try to just push and keep moving and don’t let that hamstring you go, fucking what’s his name? Steve Pearl would always talk about how Rob Williams stole his act, Rob Williams stole his act. That’s all he would say and all these people would say about Rob Williams stole their act. But all these other people wrote new acts and Steve Pearl just stayed complaining about it and now he’s just a joke. So it’s like adversity is going to happen. That’s another thing to tell you guys.

There’s always going to be someone who gets it easier than you.

Do not compare yourself to them. Everyone’s on a different road. So if you compare yourself to somebody who’s making it right away, you’re just going to be fucked. There’s going to be so much unfairness here because it’s not just about who’s the funniest on stage. I mean you’ve seen television and movies, they put a track of people on there. Most comics are fucking trolls. So like we’re behind the eight ball that way and you want to say like well I’m funnier than that guy. Well guess what, it’s not about that. We have this guy here named Peter Chen, this awful, awful Asian comic. And he would complain that people got spots and he didn’t because he had been here ten years. And I was like yeah, I know, Bob Osher doesn’t get spots either, barely ever gets spots. He goes no, but he’s only been here eight years. I’ve been here ten. And I was like oh dude, it’s not about that. It’s not about who’s been here the longest. People just want to take their own category and say this is why I’m deserving of whatever. Who cares? Just move on. There’s going to be hurdles. Some people, their parents didn’t pay for college. Mine paid for as much as they could and I got jobs for the rest. It’s like you can say like well I have to pay for college and you don’t have to get a job like I do so it’s harder for me. Yeah, so it’s harder for you. So you’re going to quit? There’s not a ton of reason to not do anything. So if somebody steals your shit, it’s like yeah, it sucks and you complain about it. But complain about it as you’re moving forward. There are going to be people who have it way easier than you. I was dating a female comic. We passed by the open mic out here once. And she goes why are they all lined up out there? And I was like because they can’t just get in a spot because they’re pretty. It was so frustrating. How many women are here right now? Is it close to zero? They’re going to have it easier than you do because they’re pretty and because people in the back of their heads want to sleep with them a little bit. Okay? But in commercials, it’s not. Commercials, they don’t have that. Every guy is different but the girls are all the same. In commercials, it’s bad. You have to be super hot. That’s when it’s the best time to hit on hot girls. When they’re at a hot girl audition. They’re like no, I’m really vulnerable. But like yeah, it’s easier for women. That girl never had to fucking wait in line here. She would just have people put her on. And it was like that sucks. But me complaining about her being able to get on places was not going to get me on places. It was not going to do what I wanted it to do which was get on. So yeah, everyone has their own hurdle. Like maybe you have depression or someone else can’t, whatever reason they can’t write. But it’s because their parents have to work a lot and they’re too tired. When I had day jobs, I couldn’t get up on Wednesdays. I was just too exhausted. I would do my day job. I would come in here. I would go to the back there and sleep for an hour. Call the phone guy and say hey, there used to be a phone back there. Call me at exactly 8:22. I could just get up and go straight to the cover booth, work there until 2 a.m. and go to sleep. By Wednesday, I was just exhausted. I would finish work at 6 o’clock and I would just go to sleep. And it’s like yeah, Aaron Kader had it easier. His parents bought him a car every year and that was way easier. But that doesn’t do anything for me. See what your end results are and what is going to get you there. So TV, managers, those things might help you. But if they’re not going to be a fucking help to you, then whatever. Then keep moving forward. The tendency is to complain about everything that holds you back. I did it too, but it’s not helping you. Yeah, at the comedy festivals in Montreal, they only see people with managers. That sucks. You could all use that to get ahead. But if it’s not there, then it’s not there. There must be some other way in. Let me see some of the stuff that I wanted to say.

Read On

Part 3 –

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