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: https://youtu.be/ThD8nQA9Vpw
It’s a 4 hour very rambly (he was a bit high) podcast but I found some interesting tidbits in there.
Part 1: https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators/
Part 2: https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators-part-2/
How do you get a manager? What do you have for them to manage?
If you don’t have anything, then what’s the point? Oh yeah, if you talk to the guy people want to work with. If you talk to these people at the improv, the UCB, at Nerd Melt, whatever. I told Bobby Lee once about commercial acting, because he used to get a lot of them. He goes, just be the guy they want to invite to their Christmas party. Anybody can reach into a fucking cooler and go, oh, Bud Light. Anyone can do that. It’s so fucking easy. They spend weeks looking for the right person. But guess what? If you go to a way to a fucking shoot and it’s in Valencia, and you get a flat tire and you just can’t get there, they’re just going to look at the grips and go, you, you’re in. And that’s it, because anyone can do it. So just be the person they want to work with at almost every stage. At commercial auditions, beforehand, if the directors and the cast and the people and all the agencies are all there, say something. You can book stuff before you start the audition. Be cool and friendly.
It’s tough, because you’re going to be really nervous.
And I think she said she always takes this thing called beta blockers. For your heart? What? For your heart? Maybe it’s not that. It blocks adrenaline. It blocks adrenaline, yeah. I don’t know what doses she put it on. Bobby started doing it, too, I think. But because you get nervous. You guys probably still get nervous on stage a lot, right? Yes. That stuff holds you back. So the more comfortable you can get on stage, the less nervous you are. I performed last night. This is not to brag, but I performed in front of 6,000 people last night. This is by far the biggest show I’ve ever done, by like 2,500. But I realized that afterwards. I wasn’t nervous. I was a little nervous, excited, anxious to get on beforehand. But when I was on, my hands weren’t trembling. I wasn’t talking too fast, which is what I used to do when I was nervous. It was just like, oh, whatever. Only experience will get you there. Those beta blockers might be a good help. But anything that limits the amount of nerves you have is better, because then you can be the funny person you are. That’s probably the only thing holding you back on stage now is your nerves, is not allowing yourself to fail freely. When you know you’re funny, when Bobby Lee goes to an audition, he knows what he does. He knows where his jokes are going to come from. Not like he hasn’t planned them all out ahead of time. But he just has that comfort. Pat Nozzol says about Zach Galifianakis once that he has, more than anyone he has ever seen, he has an understanding of his own style of comedy. Zach knows what he does. He might not be able to write out every word and describe everything, but he knows what kind of comedy he’s into and how it would be funny to look someone like this close to their face. Whatever he does, he just knows. And he trusts himself because he’s not nervous anymore. So if you go into these places, if you meet a manager or an agent, don’t try not to be nervous about them. Just try to forget who they are and just think of them as another comic. It’s tough because they’re a lot older than you now, but at some point they’re going to be the same age as you, and then later they’re going to be younger than you, which I haven’t really gotten yet a lot, but a little bit. And then they’re going to look up to you because you’re just going to be, have been around.
You’re going to have developed something for 10 years, and you’re going to be pretty good.
You’re not there yet. I know the tendency is to want this all right now, but really enjoy the fucking road. That’s what Ralphie said. This time is all just fun. Just really have fun with this. Just going to open mics and then going to fucking Jerry’s afterwards and just talking with a bunch of comics, that shit goes away after a while. And then everyone comes here, they do their spot, and they leave. They go back to their fucking wives and children. And it’s like you don’t get to… Mitzi said this once. We all had a meeting upstairs and she goes, they used to pay the comics in cash, 15 bucks, 50 bucks, whatever it was. Back then. She goes, yeah, we used to pay them in cash. They would spend it right there on cocaine. The drug dealers would hang out. They would just trade their money before going. And then she goes, nah, everybody just goes home and watches TV. And she was bemoaning the fact that they’re not doing coke. But it really is because it was the social part of it where everyone’s out and friendly. And that part is like you’re not going to ever have that like you guys do right now. It’s like telling fucking high schoolers, I know you’re not going to take this to heart. It’s like telling high schoolers, you guys have it easy. But you know they do now, right? You know when you’re in sixth grade how fucking easy you had that. But at the time you were like, this sucks. I have to do math homework. You get recess. You don’t ever have that again. But your experience is so limited. You guys are having a great time now. So really enjoy it and just try to get better.
And at some point you will start seeing people taking you seriously.
As you start getting better. And then later. You ever see somebody who is a fucking worthless cunt? Man or woman? Just an awful bitter person. And then they sort of get nicer. It takes a few years for everyone to catch up to that. They want to be like, well I’m nicer now. I want you to know that. Well you weren’t an asshole for five years. And if you’re nice for two weeks, we’ll still see you as an asshole. But after two or three years, and compare this to your open mic level of comedy, that’s the asshole cunt. After a few years of not being an asshole, people start going like, you know, they’ve been actually pretty cool lately. And new people come in that only know you as cool people. And then the tide will change and people won’t see you as an asshole anymore. It’s the same thing with your comedy. You guys aren’t technically sound yet. But you will be. Some of you are different levels than others. And then people will start seeing you for what you are. As a talented artist. The fact that you want to do this means you have something worth offering. Oh, here’s another thing.
There’s no such thing as making it.
That idea that we all had, like, well, you’ve got to make it how long it takes to make it. What is making it? You guys have all heard that, right? But what do you think making it means? What do you think making it is? Earning a living. Earning a living. That’s a good one. That’s a solid one. I used to say, like, if I could just be Argus Campbell, if I could just make 60 grand a year doing comedy, that would be a win. But eventually you’re not going to be happy with that. Shandling, I always heard, was really bitter that he wasn’t Jerry Seinfeld. And he had a great career. He had a great money standup. He had two really amazing shows. And just jealous that he’s not Jerry Seinfeld. Like, you never will ever feel that you made it. Let’s say you’re on a sitcom, you’re the lead of a sitcom. That seems like making it. But there’s a bunch of those people that I later saw, 10 years later, in commercial auditions with me. I feel bad for them. I’m like, what happened to you? You were like a guy. It was known. You were on some show for like five years. Well, that goes away. It just becomes a job. And writers always trying to get on writing staff. That would be ugly me making it. But really, I’ve seen these writers. It’s just a job for them. Like the guys who joke right for The Burn and for Jess and the Show and for all these other things, Roast and all these other things, they’re just looking to get their next job. They’re doing this job for a while. They’re getting paid as much money as they can, $3,500 or more a week. And then they go home to their wives. And then that job ends for the summer or whatever. Now they’re out of a job. They’ve got to find another job. There’s no making it. I mean Brad Pitt, obviously he’s made it. But at what stage did he make it? When he got Thelma and Louise and he just had like a breakout role in that? No, he still needed to get his next thing. There’s no real line of like making it. And it all goes downhill. Who’s that guy from Heathers? The movie Heathers. Rob Lowe. Christian Slater. Yeah, he made it and then he was a nobody for about ten years. And he couldn’t get a job. And he? What? Tripple is another one. Yeah. And now they’re back to having made it but there’s no making it. They’re just getting jobs from people. So you can earn a living doing the thing you want to do. Hopefully it’ll be good. Like I said Aziz Ansari makes a lot more for his dick jokes than we will. But we’re all just trying to do the same thing. We’re just trying to make a good joke. And hopefully, yeah, you win the lottery. You get paid a shitload for it. But like there’s no such thing as making it. You just keep going. Just keep going until you’re fucking out. Until you’re selling matches somewhere. Because it couldn’t go on anymore. Yeah. At some point it’s so easy right now to be broke. When you hit like 45, 50, you can’t stay in youth hostels anymore. It just doesn’t feel right anymore. So fucking be broke now. You can’t. Do it now. Have your roommates and do whatever. Eat shit. Eat awful food. Like it’s okay but just work on getting better. And then making it, like you said, will just be that you will continue to earn a living and continue to be able to do this. Because at some point the drags of like family and I haven’t gotten it yet luckily, but the drags of family and responsibility will weigh on you. And your parents will start going like, how much longer are you going to do that? And you start feeling somebody’s going to offer you a job. Like a legitimate regular job. It doesn’t sound that bad. And you’re either going to take it and be out of, you know, Hollywood and stand up or you’re not going to take it. You’re going to stay in it. So my feeling is as long as you can stay in it, then that’s a win. Yeah. At one point when you make like the money, when you think you have made it, like what consistently would you hit a peak of money where you would just get a financial advisor and hopefully be able to coast if you don’t get the next job. Oh yeah. I don’t know. What is it? I always say if I made like a million bucks you can get like a CD that paid 3% a year and get like 30 grand a year off that. I’m like that would be enough, 30 grand a year. But then the problem is you wouldn’t just live off 30 grand a year if you had a million bucks in the bank. You wouldn’t do it. So everybody coming up, when I booked my first commercial, all these people told me like, oh, you should get a car now. I was like what? They’re like yeah, spend it on yourself. But I met some guy in my apartment building, he’s like oh cool, a commercial. Yeah, you have to do that. I work at a liquor store now. They sell fine wines. And I was like oh. So you got to like in between the first and the second one or the second one or the third one, you got to like coast off whatever money so fucking save it until you’re making shitloads. Like save it because once you’re out of money, then you’re back in a job.
Like how much money you make off of like commercial work or TV or like road work?
Like do you have to set aside a certain amount for taxes or does it work for. Oh yeah, for independent contractor stuff. If you ever get a commercial or a sitcom or anything like that, what I do is I fill out to have on the taxes take out the maximum they’re allowed just because I don’t want to get stuck at the end of the year having to pay like a thousand bucks, you know, that I’ve spent because I was like, yeah, I got whatever I got. I could spend all this. I’d rather than take out a bunch and just get a hundred dollars back at the end of the year, you know, but for standup work, that’s all independent. You got to pay all that and you can not you can hide it. But who’s the guy from Blade? What’s the price? Yeah, he didn’t pay. There’s a lot of companies that get paid in cash. If you can get paid for cash and not sign any paperwork, do that every time. But if you sign paperwork, you’re going to owe money on that. If you get shitty, skeevy club owners like, I just pay you off the books, you don’t sign anything. Fuck yeah, both you take the benefit from that. I usually claim enough standup income every year that I write off a shitload of stuff. Oh yeah, you can definitely write off a lot. Your apartment, a ton of tax cut. You can write off your apartment, you can write off your car and all your gas. Definitely every plane trip you take. Internet or cell phone. Some of it. That’s what you do your work. You do your writing. Not all of it, but some of it. TV. TV. Absolutely. Any movie you go to, those are, here’s what I did. I don’t know how easy this is, but I got a second credit card or I have a debit card for my spending cash for just meals and stuff. And then a separate card where I say anything here would be tax deductible. And then at the end of the year I pay five or ten bucks and they give you a year in summary. And it just shows you all the stuff. So you like travel, it shows you all the fucking flights. Anywhere I’m on the road, if I’m out of LA, that’s all deductible stuff. So if you get somebody, even if you’re opening for somebody, making fifty bucks a show, making two fifty for the week, and you spend a lot more than that. Just, you’re a comic so you can deduct all this stuff from your other income because you’re a comic. Even if you’re not making money at that, it’s overall, all these jobs leave your total income so you can deduct all of it. So if you’re in Texas on any sort of trip, anything you buy at a comedy club, that’s all deductible. So that’s what I do. I use that second credit card just for that so I don’t have to keep receipts and shit. But absolutely take all that stuff off. Rent your phone, you have to use. Any headshots you get, clothes, that’s all wardrobe. If you might wear it on an audition, that’s wardrobe. Do you pay like your phone bill? If you pay your phone bill, so you guys are poor and can’t go shopping a lot. But if you do get a shirt at a thrift store or whatever, that’s fucking wardrobe.
When do you recommend incorporating this stuff?
I don’t know. I haven’t done it. Honestly, that’s like a two or three percent difference from what I gather. It’s like when you’re dealing in millions, it’s like a large amount of money, but percentage difference is like not really worth. When you have a business manager, you can get into that. But that’s like six, seven, eight years away. That’s like a major money away. I have a question about, you know, oh sorry. Oh, just, did you deduct the weed as well? What? Did you deduct the weed? I think as they said last year, they said you can start deducting medical expenses. Oh, boy. Yeah. Because the state of California, not in your federal taxes, but in your state taxes, California views it as medicine. And you can deduct, I can deduct my depression medication. It should be the same as that. I mean, tell your tax guy. Tell him like these are my medical expenses. Can I deduct? You’re not getting over on them, you know. So they’ll just help you deduct as much as you can. But yeah, if you save your receipts, that’s medicine. That’s how they view it. They don’t view it as recreational. You can’t deduct it in Washington state. You can’t get a look who gets up as soon as I mention weed.
What do you think about like union versus non-union?
Stay non-union for a while because that lets you do both. And then when you have to join the union, join up. When they say, in that agent book, when they say only looking for union people, only looking for, you know, both, they say only union just to weed out the fucking boon-shaka-lockers of the world. You know what I mean? Because like if you’re union, you probably are at some level. They don’t know you individually, but they figure you’re at some level. You know, if I say I’m a paid record at the comedy store, that puts me in, if nobody knows who I am, that puts me in some sort of category. It narrows it down a little bit. So if you can get in the union, if you’re trying to get an agent still, then yeah, but if you’re not, then it doesn’t matter. If you still get a job, they’ll just write you in. They’ll pay a little fine, the company, if they really want you. They won’t care. But that’s the agent’s way of not looking at people that are homeless. Because like we’ll just weed those out. Someone was telling me once that when you write off like travel like gas expenses, is there a difference like money-wise going by the mile or versus like a receipt where you spent 30 bucks on gas? Yeah, I don’t know. That’s all tax guy stuff. But I know that stuff is deductible. So keep them all, like your telephone, absolutely your cell phone. It’s the only thing you’re doing business on is your cell phone. And he’ll tell you what percentage you can take off of that. You don’t have to make like a TV log of like the things that you watch or anything like that? No, just your cable. I mean honestly, if you’re only watching Game of Thrones because you’re trying to watch some, you’re trying to write some, you know, ye olde show, but you still got to pay for all of HBO. So it’s how much is that, 30 bucks a month? 50? Whatever HBO is. Like you can deduct the whole thing. You have absolutely every movie you watch. And then sometimes if you go to dinner with like friends, you can count that. But now you might be deducting more than you have.
You said the game is kind of changing
There’s been a few comics that have jumped the ship from getting albums out on Comedy Central and comedy labels to Eric Griffin’s On Side One Dummy, which was a punk rock label I used to listen to when I was in high school. Dave Cross was on Sub Pop. And these are indie labels that already have a precedent of a booking agency that can put you on the road. It might not put you in a comedy club, but it’ll put you in an 18-neurover venue. And they also cut 50-50 deals where they’re going to give you your merch, they’re going to put out your CD, but you’re basically cutting it in half. Like they’re going to put you on the road. Everything you sell and you make, half goes to the label, half goes to you. Is that like a good spot to start out? Any merch you sell? Huh? Any merch you sell goes to them? Yeah, any merch you sell because they buy your merch outright so you don’t have to pay for it. And when you’re on the road, you’re basically getting all your merch for free, you just need to keep half of what you sell. Oh, well that’s not a good production cost. I mean look at each one and see if it seems fair or not. I mean is that a good start out to like, okay I want this other indie label that’ll get me little punk rock scenes. The labels don’t really get you that much exposure anymore. So like with all these people, with managers too, when you meet with them, you can ask them, I don’t like labels to anything, just like, what are you going to do for me? That’s what I mean, like don’t look at it in terms of like, they’re hiring you, look at them as a plumber. So like what are you going to do and how much money are you going to take to do it? You know, that’s what you would see with someone fixing your sink. So managers and agents, those guys, same thing. Like okay, well are you going to print all that stuff out for me? Okay, well that saves me this much in upfront costs, which you need probably if you’re poor. You know, depends what they’re going to do. Like Louis CK wanted to sell his special after, as an HBO, he wanted to sell it online for $5 afterwards. And HBO was like no. And he goes okay, well I just won’t do it this way. And then he just decided what I want, what he doesn’t want, what he can live with. And then eventually HBO was like well we really want you to do it, so okay we’ll let you do it. They wouldn’t let me do that. They wouldn’t let you do that. So I mean see what’s necessary for you and just be able to walk away from something you don’t want. Not about like come on, please be better. It’s like a cheating girlfriend. You can have her not be cheating all you want. You can want her not to be that, but that’s what she is. So like, just like deal with it. Do you want this or not? Based on this now, that she might fuck your brother. Do you now still want to go out with her or not? So this guy offers you this much as a manager, he’s like I want to get you into these places and these places. And ask him like well how do you plan to do that? What do you need from me? What do you see me going in the next five years? This is what I want to do. Can you get me there? How specifically can you get me there? Talk to them. And if it’s really you don’t find it like something you want to do, then just fucking say thank you and that’s it. It’s not going to help you.
That nobody’s going to fucking help you along the way and tell you what you need to do.
Just seemed like they were going to. But like you know how there’s a difference between grade school, how much your teachers coddled you, and then high school, where it’s more like you’re on your own. And then if you went to college, even more, the teachers like they didn’t give a fuck. They’re like, what are you going to do? You know, I don’t care what the papers do on Tuesday at 3 p.m. I don’t care. People fail out. It’s even worse in comedy. No one’s going to tell you what to do. No one’s going to like help you and say you need to be doing this. If you get a good manager, they might like stick on you. That’s really just to bother you. But look at guys like Aziz. Everyone. But he sold he sold three scripts to. Yeah. And a lot of my friends like fucking Aziz. How do you sell that? It’s just he’s brown. What are you complaining about? You’ve never even done anything. You couldn’t be in that position. My friend, my roommate, when I moved out here, he wanted to be a screenwriter. He told everybody he was a writer. He’d never written shit. He’d written 12 pages. And like he’s waiting for this opportunity for someone to come and like snatch him up. Like he’s waiting to get into a cab. And at the same time, Steven Spielberg gets in the back the other way. Like, oh, we’ll share it. And they start talking and he’ll be like, what are you doing? I’m a screenwriter. Oh, let’s see what you have. Oh, we have nothing. Even if you had that magical moment, you still have nothing to give him. So just get shit done. Like no one’s going to tell you to do it. Steven, if you were in that moment, Steven Spielberg, and you’re like, oh, I don’t have anything yet, but it’ll be done like in a month. He’ll be like, oh, okay. Well, cool. Here’s a fake number. Call me when you fucking have something. He’s never going to help you. You just have to do it on your own. You will fail to the bottom and do nothing. Here’s the deal. Comedy is so easy in terms of the amount of work you have to put in. Let’s all be honest with ourselves. What do we work? We work about 10 minutes a day besides getting on stage. Not kind of like going down to an open mic. Like actual writing and sitting there working. Like legitimately, I tried to write once for an hour a day and I couldn’t do that. People work for eight hours a day in real jobs. Some of you do. It’s like that we can’t put in a little extra time is embarrassing. But it’s also nice because if we do just put in half an hour a day, we’re way ahead of everybody else because nobody’s working hard at all. So just work a little bit. No one’s going to get on here. We’re all going to party and have fun and have time with our friends. That’s all sweet. That’s all great. And it’s fun to be at open mics and talk to people. But it’s like work. Do something. Make yourself do something. It’s not like hard work will pay off because I don’t think it will. It’s not a one to one. Hard work will not equal paying off. But you can do a little bit of work and start getting ahead. None of us do it. Jeff Ross does a lot of work putting a show together. Most of us just go on stage and then the rest, I’ll think of a joke in my car. So you can be way ahead of that if you just do yourself a little bit.
This is something Damon Wayen said once and I liked it a lot. And it helped me a lot. He asked, how much do you stand up? And I was like, you know, every night, but mostly just open mics. And he’s like, why do you say it like that? Like, it’s not embarrassing. I was like, you know, they’re shitty. And he goes, I know, because I did them for four years. They’re awful. But like, that’s what you have to do. So this is what he told me. He goes, if you can every morning, if you can take 10 minutes, just 10 minutes out of your day in the morning before you drink coffee or whatever it is and just write. And he said, set an alarm. If you have an iPhone, have the countdown for 11 minutes, start it, and then like go in front of your computer. So just 10 minutes. At the end of the 10 minutes, just stop and get up and go do your work for the day. Go to your job, do whatever. He said two things. One, almost everyone can spare 10 minutes. That’s just taking a quicker shower, you know, doing something less. Stopping for donuts on the way, whatever it is, you can spare 10 minutes. But two, one, it will get your mind moving to something. And just freestyle. Don’t worry about like, well, I got to write something good. Just continuously write for 10 minutes. And he goes, you’ll come on to something, and at the end of the 10 minutes, you’ll still have a thought that’s not completed. Like mid-word, you can stop. And then the rest of the day, you’ll be thinking. You’ll be writing in your head of like that thought. But it just gets you going. Nothing gets you going. I knew this guy used to be a door guy. He wasn’t on stage ever. And he goes, oh, I’m waiting to write some good new joke, then I’ll get on stage. And then five years passed, and he’s waiting for a new joke. Just get on stage, and you’ll force yourself to write a new joke. Yeah, just don’t, just don’t, just do a little bit of work. Just a little. You’re never going to reach the levels, I’ll get to you next, you’re never going to reach the levels that fucking Whitney is. The amount of work she does, we’re not going to be there. She’s not mortal that way. She works so fucking hard. But just a little bit, and you’re way ahead of the curve. Most people, when I was doing open mics here, most people were getting on like two or three times a week. And so if you got on five or six or seven, you’re way ahead of people. And there’s always room for improvement. Everybody can work harder, but you’re not going to. Let’s be honest, you’re going to enjoy yourself a little bit. Just put a little time in. Meet with your friends, and just try to write a script. You’ll get better at it by having done it. It won’t go anywhere. Just know it won’t go anywhere. There’s this quote that I love by Ernest Hemingway. It says, the first draft of anything is shit. And if you just go into things with that attitude of like, what I’m making right now is probably not going to be good, but it’ll get me to a place where I’ll be making good things. Just like when you pick up a basketball for the first time, or a golf club. Tiger Woods was not Tiger Woods when he picked up a golf club. He was two. And he couldn’t hit that well. He was sucky at golf. But he’s not going to be like, well, I’m good. I should be on the PJ tour. He waited 18 years. And then he got on. What were you going to say? You were touching on writing 10 minutes a day. Say you do that, and then you write something that you feel is good, and you want to go and take it on stage. How long do you usually wait? Or do you think a proper amount of time is to wait from the moment you think of something? This is the kind of stuff that I mean when I say, some people don’t think that any advice to new comments. This is one of those things. It’s like you feel what feels right to you. Everyone’s got a different thing, and every joke has a different amount. There’s no set time. There’s some things that will toss around in my head for years. And I’m just like, it’s not funny, but I know there’s something there. And there’s some stuff where it’s like, you know, that you’ve done on the way to whatever open mic, you thought of something, and you try it, and it works. Other times it doesn’t work. Just try shit and get better.
This is just a means to an end, just to get better at standup or writing or producing something, some short, just getting comedy out there.
That’s what you want to do, and you’ll get better at it in every form. That’s what Maron said, and that’s why I agree with it. It’s like don’t just do standup. Just see how many different ways there are to get a joke out. There’s tons of different ways. You know, just like you can be a prop comic and get a joke out about George Bush, or you can be like a political comic, or you can do black comedy, or you can do alternative comedy. It’s all you can make the same pretty much joke about George Bush. But you come to it from different ways, or you can write a fucking, like Jonathan Swift did. He wrote stuff about how you should eat the poor, and that would solve the poverty issue. And that’s not real, but that’s the way he did it. A comic could do that same thing in a standup line instead of an essay, or someone could do that in a movie. So yeah, there’s no exact right time. Just try it when you want to try it.
If you’re in front of someone important, that’s not the time to work out new stuff.
If you’re in front of Jamie Masada for the first time, or whatever important is to you, that also means like your parents, who are either going to continue to support you emotionally or not, because you’re going to fucking fall in front of them. It’s going to be tough for them to say like, yeah, you should stick with this dream if you’re terrible in front of them. So those are important sets too. And that’s when you whip out all your A stuff, and just try to like take the reins off and just unload for those important sets. Every other time, it’s like you’re just getting better, so it’s okay if you fail. If you look at it that way, then it doesn’t matter. Once I started looking at jokes of like, I’ll just bomb with a new joke, and I have to do this like five or six times, and that’s the way the joke gets better. Once I started looking at it like that, then it became easier to bomb. Then it’s like, this is just going to get me there, so it doesn’t hurt as much. And the agents we got to.
Have some of the dark worker jokes, and when they work, they work well, but I know that I could make it less edgier, but more tolerable. So does it help me to compromise in that sense, do something that I know it’s going to get more people laughing?
I know Dennis Miller said he was never going to, when I remember this from high school, he said he wasn’t going to dumb down his jokes just for the sake of a crowd. This is when people still respected Dennis Miller. What? Yeah, he did dumb down his life. There’s been people still like that when he was still like up there. The darker stuff is harder to get to people, especially when it’s not funny. When it’s not funny and dark or dirty, it’s offensive to people. They get uncomfortable. If you just do a joke about lollipops, it isn’t funny. They’ll just sit there in silence, and they won’t be like, ugh, they won’t feel weird. But if you do a joke about black people, everyone immediately is like, uh-oh, where are you going to go with this? So if all your T’s aren’t crossed, your I’s aren’t dotted, you don’t have everything completely justified by your jokes, then it’s going to bomb way harder. I’ve done a longer video, and I’ve done it two nights in a row, pretty much the exact same. Every crowd is different, definitely. So does it help me if I make it? Well, let’s imagine a reference joke where you can have a joke about, do you guys know who the band Alt-J is? Yeah. Okay, they’re a new band. They haven’t listened to me. I downloaded it. They haven’t listened to me. I illegally downloaded it. You can make a joke about them based on something they do, like, oh, yeah, that’s like the lead singer of Alt-J, you know, seeing a horse. Everyone in a cool hipster room might know what that meant, but everyone who doesn’t wouldn’t know. So it’s like you dumb down that reference, or you just leave it as is, and you can dumb it down to it’s like a needy singer coming in contact with a farm animal, you know. That’s not a joke, but like, you know, something like that. So now everybody can get it. So you have to decide what’s the line of how much they’ve changed. Like English comments, they don’t start saying elevator, they just continue to say lift, and they’ll say you’ll pretty much get it, so it’s fine. So yeah, you’ve got to think about it, but I will tell you this. I had that same theory that I was like, well, my jokes are just too dark for people, but really what it was is that my jokes weren’t good enough. And an unformed dirty joke or dark joke is way harder on people than an unformed plain joke. But it’s also sometimes I can see like they’re lacking a few of these stuff. So I know that it’s getting to them.
Yeah, every crowd is different. Some crowds are more boisterous. Or if it’s… Yeah, you’ve got to do it a lot of times before you really start figuring it out.
You know, you need enough data points. So if you have like five crowds, it’s not really going to do it in terms of like, oh, this joke is good or that joke isn’t good. I hate when people, like industry people say that. They’re like, here’s why that material didn’t work, because this joke is too dark or this joke… I was like, no, it’s because I didn’t connect with the audience. Like you didn’t see me kill with it yesterday. And that’s what I mean when people say like, I can tell even when there’s a bad crowd. No, you can’t. No, you can’t, because I can’t. And I’ve seen hundreds of hours of stand-up comedy, and I can’t. If there’s a shitty room where everybody’s bombing, I’m going to think you’re bad. And if there’s a great crowd and you’re a bad comic and you’re killing, I’m going to think you’re pretty good. It’s just, that’s just the way it is. So if you have five sets to decide if this joke is good or bad, it’s like that’s putting a lot of pressure on the people in those five rooms. You know, but a hundred times, 200 times, now you can start getting more of an idea of like, oh, this joke is good or bad. I remember I was up there once, and I did some joke about anorexia, the first joke. One of the first jokes I had that worked well. It was how do you kill an anorexic person? You tell her, if you lost like five more pounds, you’d be beautiful. And it always got a good response. Like it was pretty consistently getting a good response. I did it up there and some girls like, that’s not funny. It was like six people in the audience. And then for the first time I was like, oh, it is funny. That’s already been decided by fucking multiple times. It’s fun. I might not have done it right tonight. I might’ve seen too much of a scowl on my face, but this joke, you can’t fuck with a joke. You’re fucking with me only. The joke is a proven winner. So maybe you had a sister that had anorexia and you don’t like it, or you had anorexia and you don’t like it, but the joke is fine. So a lot of it’s just the type of crowd or maybe the way you deliver it. There’s that too. If I’m way tired, I’m not delivering my jokes as well as if I’m fully rested. So you want to be like, well, this joke works. What’s wrong with you? But really it’s like, I’m not pausing the right amount of time. I’m not smiling right. Sebastian got a lot better when he learned how to smile a little bit. Not make people think he was like super angry all the time. You know, he would get up on stage in the beginning and goes, the week I had today. And he would just start to get angry. And then he realized he could just be like, I’m not really that angry. Just a little bit of a smile and everyone would put themselves at ease. That’s the technical stuff I’m talking about too.
Those are the things you learn. Like little smirks that can like make a crowd be okay with you. You will learn that over time.
It will become innate where you can’t even describe it. You just know it. Jaisalnick put a video on YouTube of him like eating a dick in Michigan, I think. Like doing like some of his best jokes and just bombing. And then it interviews him afterwards and it’s the same thing. It’s like he knows these jokes are good because he’s done them hundreds of times. But that audience wasn’t really. Yeah, Dice did that after his big, big album. He went and recorded the day the laughter died. Just did it at a regular show, a pop-in set that he’s like, turn the mics on. Turn the audience mics on too. We’re going to record this. And you just hear, and there’s no Dice fans, a couple. Did he do a fight at the end or something? He might have. He might have. It’s been a while. But like they weren’t there for him. And he’s really offensively dirty. He still walks people. He says even at his shows now, he will still have people walking out upset. Like not knowing how dirty he was going to be. He’s too much and he’ll walk out. He loves it. And that’s everybody knows ahead of time going in. So yeah, I mean a lot of times you want to say like my joke is great. These people are idiots. But then that’s not going to help you. What will help you is like how would I make them laugh more at my jokes without like mortgaging what I want to say. You know, if it’s dark, you can stay dark, but you have to get around it. If you listen to all the Chris Rock jokes, the best jokes he had, the ones you remembered are not the best laughs. You know, the difference between black people and #####, that stuff did not get the big laughs. The setups got the big laughs. And then the stuff he said in between what you remember was not where the punchlines were. But he had all that other stuff on, the flowery stuff to make you listen. You know, like you’ll laugh at this joke, you’ll laugh at this joke, and you’ll hear this thing in the middle. So that can help a lot. You know, flowering it up. A story is the same way. When I do a story, it’s like I get, I see it’s too long without a laugh, I put a fucking stupid metaphor in there or something. You know, and that’ll make people laugh, so go with you over that hunk of like having no laughs. So that too. I used to be like, oh, I saw some comic to this. That guy TK, he’s still around, right? The bringer guy. And he was like, something over the mic, and he goes, oh, too edgy for you? And I remember then going like, that is the wrong way you want to look at it. Because that was just a joke that was not good. And he was using himself going like, I’m just too edgy for this room, as a way to not improve at all. That was 12 years ago. Before he was a superstar, he is today. It’s like this guy didn’t improve because he wasn’t pushing himself. He was just saying the crowd is wrong. Like you can get them on your side. There’s ways to do it without giving up what you want to say. But it’s hard, you have to find it. Some people say dirty jokes are easier. I think it’s harder because when those don’t work, they really get people angry at you. Drug references too. Christian people hate that shit.
Part 4 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators—part-4/
Part 5 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators—part-5/