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/
Part 3: https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators-part-3/
All those people, networks, producers, directors, managers, agents, they’re just people.
They’re just regular dudes. There’s no such thing as Hollywood. As they’re all made up of one mindset, like the fucking board in Star Trek. They’re just made up of individual dudes who think whatever they think. One of those dudes is really into some comic. The other dude might not have seen that comic. He goes, oh yeah, they’re pretty funny. Just because they sort of like what everybody else likes. But there’s no specific way to get in. You just need one of them to hire you, and then you’re hired. If Tarantino likes you and wants to put you in a movie, you’ll be in a Tarantino movie, even if all the other people hate you. They’re all just dudes. So their opinion doesn’t matter any more than your opinion, or your opinion, your opinion. They’ve been around for like five, 10 years, let’s say. You can like them on that level. But really, they’re just some guy who went to college and got into this. Some of them came from the music side, and they’re like, oh, now I’m a comedy agent. And it’s like, you don’t know shit about comedy. You don’t watch it every night. And they don’t. It’s not like they don’t know, but they don’t have any specific extra knowledge. They don’t have a finger on the pulse. They’re just some guy. So if some guy doesn’t like you, that’s OK. If you have a great YouTube video, and 95% of people click Like, because 95% approval rating, that’s a pretty high approval rating. But that means five out of every 100 people have clicked Not Like on your video. But that’s OK, because you have so many. But if you center on that one person who clicks Unlike, that’s going to be really negative. If you get one agent, or manager, or whatever, that says, well, it’s not really me right now. I don’t really like it. Or they’re just rude to you. Whatever it is. That’s just some dude. It’s OK for some people not to be into it. That was so frail. When I was out here once, I saw some lady in one of these states, some old conservative lady just scowling at me and hating what I do, because it’s just a different person every 15 minutes. And I was like, if she said something, I don’t know if I remember if she got mad at me or not. I think she was like, I don’t like you. And I was like, OK. That’s all right. You don’t like me. I shouldn’t be up in front of you. You want Christian comedy? I’m not going to give that to you. So we’re a bad match. If you guys go to a poker show, you’re going to be like, this is shitty music. Because it’s only for poker. I’m not a poker fan. So if you say, I don’t like the quick beat here, the poker band will go like, OK. That’s fine. But I have 2,000 people that are here seeing me right now. So fine. You’re just some guy. People are entitled to their opinions. So don’t take what they say as being like holy.
What they say, sometimes a lot of times they’re just coming up with it on the spur of the moment.
They’re just like, try to do this. Doesn’t mean that’s the exact right thing you should do. It’s just some guy telling you. It also doesn’t mean you should just say fuck you to whatever they say, and say you don’t know anything. But take everything they say with a grain of salt, as that’s just some person. You know what I mean? Does that make sense to you guys? They’re not wiser than us. And some of them are older, and you think they were already agency managers, or they worked at a studio or a network before we started comedy. So they’re like, oh, they must know. But they don’t know. There was this girl who used to be a premium blend, Alison Cohn. And she would only book people that she saw at parties, she liked at parties. She loved alternative comedy. That’s another reason why UCB and NerdMelt is a good place to go, because the assistants that are actually going to shows for the managers and agents and networks, head people at Comedy Central are not going to regular shows. But their assistants, their 25-year-old assistants, are going to shows. And 25-year-old college educated people, the type of shows they go to are over there. Occasionally they’ll be in here, or the improv, but that’s the kind of shows they like, is that NerdMelt and UCB. So be around those people. As you start talking to them, tell them, I’ll be performing at the Comedy Store, or this other place, or the improv, or wherever else. And they’ll come to those places too. But that’s just where they, that’s just the same thing. They’re just some dude. They have that predisposition. So this girl Alison Cohn, she would always like alternative comics. And she would also like the people who she wanted to fuck. She never fucked them, but she wanted to. And so whoever she was attracted to, she’d be more likely to book. So now all of Comedy Central’s bookings, except for the top, top level premium blend, the top managers who would just call them and say, you’ve got to put Steve Rennizisi on. He bypassed the system, I remember. He just had his manager call and say, no, no, this guy’s great. Have him on. And we all want that, but that’s probably not going to happen for any of us, that level. He just got a manager. He got a really good manager because of a referral that he didn’t ask for. He’s an outlier. I asked him, I was like, what would you say to these people, especially about getting managers and agents, because you did that when none of us did. And he goes, dude, that was just luck. That was Freddie Soto saying to his manager, saying, you’ve got to come look at this guy. That could happen to you, and that might happen to you, and it probably won’t. That’s just a hurdle he didn’t have to leap over. But it’s not going to stop you. You can always say, that guy had it easier, but it’s not going to serve you in any way. It’s going to make you a worse comic to spend your time thinking about that. So these guys that are just dudes, this Allison Cohn type, they’re just men like, well, she didn’t like me, because I was more crass. Me and David Taylor, we’re darker people. So we weren’t happy-go-lucky friendly. But other people got on, because she liked them. And that means that almost their entire roster was just people this one chick liked. And they’re like, oh, what are you going to do to get on Comedy Central? Do you have to write this joke or that joke? No. The reality is, you’ve got to get some chick to like you, and then be OK on stage. So don’t worry about what one person says or does. And then eventually she left, and then a new person came on with a new attitude about what they wanted to book. And that attitude still wasn’t me. But whatever, at some point it doesn’t matter. Talk to the industry.
All right, do you have any advice on the transition from opener host into feature work?
Because I’m getting a small amount from people who’ve thrown me bones here and there. Well, I’m from these clubs that are wanting to book features that are local, so they don’t have to pay. So did you deal with that? Well, I had Rogan take me on the road with him. After a while, this wasn’t like right away. This was after seven or eight years. Rogan would start taking me on the road with him. And I would talk to the clubs, and I’d be like, hey, I’d love to come back here on my own, even a feature. DC Improv, my family’s from near Washington, DC. I had one guy that would let me. He was friends with me, John X. And he said, whenever you want, give me a few weeks notice. I will let you MC. I’ll just bump one of the local MCs to a few weeks later. And featuring, give me a few months notice. I can get you on whatever week you need it. If you have a wedding or something, just let me know, and we’ll do it. And he was always cool with me. And then the new lady took over, and I wasn’t one of her people anymore. And she had all these locals that she wanted to book, like people that she liked. The same thing I’m telling you. People that you like, you’re more likely to give a spot to. It’s just the way it is. You’re opening for me in San Diego, because I know you from here. I don’t know your comedy that well. But it’s OK. And you’re from there too, right? So it’s like, yeah, that seems fine. It’s opener. How much damage can you do? You know what I mean? It’s going to be fine, no matter what. So if that lady wasn’t going to book me anymore, she just wasn’t going to book me. Because two reasons. One, she has her friends that she likes, that she wants to give time to. And every Joe Rogan that brings their own people, that’s one less week she gets to hook up someone in her comedy community. And a lot of people have booked their own guys. So every one of those weeks, she can’t book someone who’s talented in that area. And then she had her favorites. And then it was also like, she was a part owner of the club. And she’s like, I don’t have to pay for a hotel room. If I book this guy who lives here, then why would I not save $300 or $500, whatever the hotel room costs for a week? That’s coming out of her pocket. So she’s like, why would I spend that when I don’t have to? And you want to take it as an insult. Like, I’m better than that guy. But there’s so much in categories that we don’t really understand. Like that Peter Chen guy who goes, I’ve been doing it 10 years, he’s only doing eight. Like, there’s more to it than that. So the idea of I’m funnier than that guy who’s getting booked, there’s more in it. There’s just $500 she’s saving on a hotel. So absolutely, if you tell those people, I don’t need a hotel. I have someplace to stay, it’ll be more bookable. What I had this trouble with was going from featuring with Rogan to headlining. Like, I looked to come back here on an off week, and I never got a single person to help me. Occasionally, they let me do a late show Saturday, which would never work. That was the same draw as him. But it was like, they were like, yeah, yeah, yeah. And they would just never have me in, because they had other people they liked better. I could have done a better job of hanging out with those people and being somebody they wanted to have back. It’s not to say you have to get drunk with them, but you’re there. Be around them. Be cool. Be cool. Burt Kreischer, everybody wants to bring him back. And now he’s at the point where he wants a specific amount of money, and that’s more important. But for a while, when he was just trying to get in, Tom Segura took a year. And he said, I’m going to take all my money, and I’m just going to feature at every club in the country that I can. And I know I won’t get put up a lot. I’ll figure out a way to room with people, or figure it out, or just break even weeks. And he goes, this is the way I’m going to meet every club booker in America. And for 52 weeks, he took all the Jay Moore gigs he could. He took all the gigs he could. Whatever he could get in, just feature work in front of Dave Stroop or all these road guys that are booking a lot of rooms. He just took them all. And then eventually, because of that year, he could get a headline in a few of the places. I went and took with him. He was like, I’m going to Indianapolis. And he called me. This was like two years ago. And he called me and said, hey, maybe three. And said, I’m going. I can ask her if you could feature for me. It’ll be a break even week. You’ll have to pay for your own flight. But she’ll pay for a hotel room. And it’s $75 a set, or $100, whatever it was. And he goes, I’m not trying to insult you, but if you want to go, it would be a good way to meet her. And I didn’t have anything going on that week. So I was like, yeah, I’ll go. And then she was like, we had a good time. I never asked her if she could headline me, because he said Brian Sickler had the same thing. And he was like, hey, I want to come back and headline. And she immediately. When you ask people for shit, their hands go up. They’re like, uh. They’re immediately saying how to say no. It’s like homeless people bothering you. You immediately think to say no, and not what their problem is. But if you get to know about some homeless guy, if you’re telling me this whole story about some homeless guy, and how he used to be a great basketball player, and now he’s in the street, and he still tries to help the youth around town. You’re like, oh, fuck. Here, man. Here’s a dollar. On my own, I made that decision. So I didn’t ask her. And then she was like, hey, I’d love to have you come back and headline. And so then it was a success, just because of that. But none of those roguing gigs ever did I get to headline out of those. So what was your question? How do you move to them? Making myself. Because you mentioned the why. Now it’s the how, moving from that opener host to that feature stuff. Yeah, that’s hard. A lot of that is be the guy they want to hang out with, and have at their Christmas party. But a lot of it, too, is those weeks are booked by headliners who bring their own guys. So it’s hard.
The only technical thing, I would say, when you’re emceeing, no, you’re starting out the show from cold. And so you can’t immediately start off with blowjob stuff. You’ve got to get them situated into comedy. But that’s all technical stuff that you’ll learn when you do it.
Did you get headlining stuff more from these connections you’re talking about? Or was it your podcast started blowing up, and you became a draw?
It was all the stuff that I was like. It got frustrating for me after a while. I’m probably not a terrible example for you, in terms of that. I was ahead of where I should have been. It’s tough to look at yourself unbiased, so maybe that’s not true. But I felt like I was way ahead of these other people that were headlining, without credits. So I’m like, I can do as well or better than them. And then my agent now explained to me, he goes, that low-level headliner, $1,500 a week, $1,200 to $1,500 a week guy, that is the most competitive spot in comedy. There are way more people trying out for those spots than the $25,000 a week jobs. You have 25, 50 people doing that. There’s like 1,000 people trying to get that $1,500 a week job. And you’re like, but I’m funny. I’ll kill for the whole 45 minutes to an hour. And at that point, they’re like, yeah, we expect anyone to do that. So if that’s the standard, then really, what are you offering them? Why would they book you instead of somebody else they know, that they’ve already dealt with? Or even some washed up old-timer that they just have a history with? It’s hard to break through than that. But yeah, they wouldn’t do it until I had my podcast and those started taking off. And even then, club owners were skeptical of it. They’re like, I don’t know if anybody would really come. We thought half-hour comedy is the way to go. But nobody comes because of half-hour comedies. Two years after you do a half-hour, nobody will remember you even did one, let alone have anybody come out to see you. Jamie Kelly, this guy who was on My Boys with Jim Gaffigan, he was going on the road more because he was on this TVF show. And I was like, do people come out to see you? And he goes, honestly, maybe four people a show, on average. But it’s enough to make the club owners think that people will come out. It legitimizes me a little in their eyes. That same thing where one person picks you, then other people are like, oh, that guy picked you? OK. So then he could get in and headline because of that. Not because it added a draw, but just because it seemed like it should add to a draw. Did Ren Azizis change from the league? Yeah, it took him a while. He was two years on the league. He didn’t have a PA agent. He didn’t have an agent sending him out. And it was like, why? He’s a hilarious comic. And he’s on a show for two years. And he couldn’t get booked in places. Didn’t he make his own show with the league guys, though? They made their own league. They made it the unpatriotic for it, yeah. No, like the stand-up show. Oh, they actually did their own tour, yeah. And those would do so well that they would show those numbers to clubs. And they’d look what they’d do in unison. And at first, he would have to take less money than he probably should get at the club. But he’s like, trust me, you’ll be super happy with the numbers he does. And then they’ll offer him more money later. And now he’s making bank. But even then, think about that in terms of, if I make it, it’ll all be OK. That’s a guy who was on a show for two years, and not only could he not get booked in the road, he couldn’t get an agent to even submit him to book things on the road. They were all like, eh, I don’t know. What are you talking about? And he’s a hilarious comedian. So it wasn’t like he was sucky with credits. He was great with credits. And he couldn’t get on there. So it’s not like it’s an easy, like, as long as you get better, it will work out. There’s going to be a bunch of different ones. But the whole time while he was trying to get on the road, movies and TV were working out for him. He was on another show. He was on Punk. He was on this sitcom that didn’t last very long. And he’s on guest starring roles. So it’s like you throw yourself into everything, stuff will pay for you to continue to write jokes. You know? Yeah?
I was going to show you were talking about kind of group shows and they did that with Sullivan and Son. There’s a lot of no-name comics that are going on group tours as a group name, like the lawyers of comedy comedians at law and stuff like that.
Those don’t really do much. They split it as a band. We just had one that was like the almost homeless show that almost sold out the entire theater, because it’s also people that tour with the Renaissance Festival that had their own kind of folly. Do you think that’s a good way to start getting on the road as almost like a band, getting three of your friends together and selling yourself as a whole group package? Maybe. But honestly, who’s going to come out to see? They already knew the Renaissance people. That’s who came out. Not just based on the title alone. They had this tour called, what’s it called? Three Amigos. Hayasos of comedy, something like that. Yeah. So who was in the band? No, it was something. So the Madrigal, Al Madrigal, two other Mexicans. But the problem was, this is what all the clubs found out, is that this name, this Compadres of Comedy, whatever it was, something like that, that name didn’t carry as much weight as each of their individual names. So they did less numbers than if they just came alone. This idea of joining them all together, like the Kings of Comedy, that’s the Kings of Comedy and the Blue Color Comedy Tour. I mean, it’s a fun way to go on the road with your friends. I did one, the Monsters of Comedy, where me and my friends just drove up the coast, spot to spot. And it was like a break-even trip. And we slept through your room every night. And we ate horrible food. But it was fun. Jason Rouse, Sam Tripoli, Chris Neff. And we’ll see. Yes. We’ll see what’s there. I know about Tripoli’s naughty show that he does, like that’s getting kind of a big response. Yeah, he’s trying to push that. But he’s pushing that name, the naughty show, like he’s building that into something. Like the show that he’s doing. But through his podcast, too, he’s building a name for it. But right up in the beginning, no one was going to see it, just because it was called an naughty show. And even now, it’s not as good as you think it is. I’ll do it in Vegas, and 35 people will show up. And it’s like, that’s good. But it’s not like, you’re not going to be Tosh right away. I’m selling out theaters. That show I did last night was because K-Rock was doing the show. No one was there for me. So you just, yeah, I don’t know. Those things are OK, I guess. But really, it’s just for fun. It’s fine. If it can get you more time, so you can work out more time. Any opportunity you get, you can do a full half hour, or an hour, or whatever. Try it, as long as nobody’s there going to watch you. Nobody important. Try it. Put yourself in those situations.
Here’s the other thing I was going to say about material. Because I don’t like telling people how to write, or what jokes to do. Any advice I ever get comments on my own level, or lower, or higher, is just like, I thought you were going to explore this side of the subject. If you had a long bit, I was going to say, I thought I was going to hear what your father said about that. But that’s it. I’m not going to write a joke for them. Just like, I could see it going that way. Or wait, a pause there. Here’s the advice I’ll give you about material.
Try not to let it, because it’s happened to me and all my friends, try not to let your material own you.
At some point, you’re going to be better than you were when you wrote that joke. And you’re going to still do this joke, because it works. And then you’re not going to write new jokes, because you have this joke that works. And you wrote this joke a year and a half in a comedy. And now you’re six years in a comedy. And if you had to write this joke again, you would not write this joke. Because you’re better than that. But you’re stuck doing it, and you’re letting it own you. So just let yourself tell a joke. Thank you for your service. It’s time to move on now. And just let it go. That’s why, that’s the benefit of recording something. If you have some killer thing, I don’t know. I like to put it down somewhere on a CD or something, or a YouTube clip. At least it was on dead to the world forever. I do that. When you let go of a joke and just don’t do it anymore, that’s like a painter, like an artist, drawing a great painting, painting a great painting. And then at the end, like, OK, that was awesome. And then just burning it. You should put it in a gallery and go, cool, I’ll move on to my next painting. But you don’t just keep taking that same painting around for years, like, hey, check out my painting. You’re done with it. You know it’s not improving anymore. Use it for showcases for a little while. And then fucking move on. And so, yeah, if it’s good, and you think it’s still good, put it on a YouTube clip and then retire it that way. That way you don’t have to do it, unless the situation really, really calls for it. If it’s a joke about Hasidic people, and there’s 19 Hasidic people in the audience, like, all right, this would actually go really well right now. But yeah, that’s that thing that it’ll be a trap for you, is to let that own you. So just be careful of it. Who else has a question?
Just keep doing stuff and stuff can take off.
You know, Jay Moore came later. He’s got one of the top rated podcasts. I know he was famous, but like, just keep doing shit. Dean, how much traction do you get off your podcast? I get a lot of shitload, like $20,000. That’s great. And when did you start? After the big rush, right? What’s that? After the first rush is when you started, right? It took a long time to get it going. But once you get guests, if you get a good guest on it, they retweet it, and then it catches fire. Yeah. And then people will hear you, and they’ll hear your sense of humor. And they’ll either be into it or not into it. Yeah. But like, there’s no reason not to do it, just because it won’t lead to something major right away. So just keep doing it. And it might take off. Put your hands in a lot of stuff, and it might take off. And then you get fans to come see you from that, right? They come all the time. If you can get one fan to come see you somewhere from that. Like, I had Reap on my podcast right when I started. And he said someone in Arizona was like, I heard you on Arty’s podcast. And I came out. I’m like, right there is a win. Just one person. It’s not worth two hours. But it’s at least a win. Do you think a lot of you guys are successful in podcasting, because you have the same 30 or 40 people as guests that people will go to because they’ve heard them on other, like, that a lot of us might not be able to do? Yeah, there’s some of that. But then that’s just some of it. Yeah, if you can get celebrities every day, that’ll help. But really, why they come is because most of the people that have done podcasts now have developed a sense of humor. And that even when they’re not being funny, they’re still funny. And that the way you guys are in front of your friends, when you’re all fucking around, hanging out, and getting high, or drunk, or not, or just watching TV late at night, and you’re friendly and funny and making each other laugh. Like, if you can get to that natural state that you are, and you will get funnier as you do this. You practice being funny, you will get funnier. Not just the technical stuff, but you will get funnier. My friends at home would say that after a few years. Like, dude, I think you’re funnier now. And I would be comfortable around them. But you will get funnier just by doing it over and over. Anything in life, the more you do, the better you’ll get. That’s just the way it is. And so your body fails. You know? That’s why pool players and bowlers can play until their 50s, because they don’t need their bodies that much for that sort of thing. But basketball players, you got 35, and you’re done. But like comedy, you can still do it until you’re 65. You will continue to develop and get better. Robert Redford said, like 20 years ago maybe, 15 years ago, that he’s just starting to understand acting. And that was someone who had already won Oscars and been in it for fucking 20 years or more. And he’s just starting to figure out, I’m just feeling like I’m starting to get good at comedy now. It’s like the more you do it, the better you’ll get. But when you’re on podcasts, people start to sense that. Like, this guy is funny. And they’ll just start liking you. And you’ll get fans here or there. Not just by one appearance, but multiple times people can see you. I remember seeing Dave Attell on some late night show. And I remember just laughing. And then had no idea who he was after that. And then he was on some other late night show, maybe six months later. And I laughed again. I was like, oh, I think that was that guy that I saw before. And then again, a few months later after that, I saw him on some other late night show or some interview. And I was like, oh, that’s that guy again. And then the fourth time, by then, I’d be like, oh, Dave Attell going to be on Letterman tonight. I’m going to tune in for this. And then after that, I’ve just become a Letterman fan. I mean, a Dave Attell fan. Just by constant exposure to his sense of humor. So the more you do as you develop, the more people will just, not everybody. Christians won’t like me. But the type of people who would like your sense of humor will eventually start to like your sense of humor.
And do you think that making a podcast, even if not a lot of people are listening, it’s still worth it for you?
Because I can age and somebody will see you’re a producer. Absolutely. Just do something. And you will get better at comedy from talking comedically on the air sometimes. You feel like you’re better now, as a comic, just from doing podcasts? I think because you listen to people as you’re interviewing. So you listen to the laughs the same kind of way. It’s a timing thing. Sometimes I’ll steamroll over the guests. And I’ll be like, that was horrible. And you just start to learn that. And you get better at it from having done it. Yeah, absolutely. Practice gets you better at anything. But yeah, even if you write a script, it won’t go anywhere. Just assume you will not sell the first script you write. You’ll try to, and you’ll feel like it’s good. And then five years later, you’ll realize how shitty it was. But just do it. Anything you’re moving forward will help you. Just keep moving forward with things. And don’t worry about it being the break to make you made it. It’s just not going to be that. But it’s still going to overall get you better. The guys that are like, look at Barack Obama. He wasn’t a presidential candidate right away. First he was a senator. Then he gave some sweet speech at the Democratic National Convention. And then everybody’s like, oh, who’s this guy? And they started taking notice of him. It wasn’t because of his policies before that. It was because he sounded cool. It was interesting. And he gave great speech. And he had developed a speech making technique over fucking a decade or more. And he had gotten so good at it that when his time was there, the National Convention, he fucking killed it. And I guarantee you, there were some other people on that same convention that you don’t remember, because they didn’t kill it. They just hadn’t developed that sense of style and the things he was saying. And that didn’t mean he was going to be the president. He still had until then, four or eight years later, had to fucking beat Hillary Rodham Clinton in a preview, whatever they do. Primary. Primaries. And he barely beat her. It was still like, not everything you do is going to lead to a success, but it will get you closer. And the more you get close, the more we’re going to go in. It’s just like fucking tiddlywinks. Or if you just keep throwing up a basket, like a ball up towards a basket, eventually a few are going to pop in. And those will be bookings for you. That’ll be a sitcom or some gigantic show or some 6,000-seater like I did last night. Those are just going to be wins that you get over time of failure after failure. Like here or there, you’re going to get a win. What sucks about this, it’s not like golf, where if you come in second every week, you’re going to make such a great killing. You’re going to make such a good living. And you’re probably going to be ranked number one in the world if you just keep taking second place. But here, second place means you didn’t get the part or you’re not going to be on the show. So it sucks, but if you keep getting close, you’ll get stuff. Who else has a question?
Going back to open mics, are there better rooms to go to, or is it just about coming get up whenever you can?
Yeah. Good question. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know. I think you just got to go to all of them for the ones you like more. There’s going to be some better and worse. What I would do is I would set my week to Westwood Bruco was still those two nights now with bands. But that was the best one. That’s before Comedy Bang Bang started and all these other shows that were on Tuesday. And cool people would go down there. Zach went down there once. Jeannie Garofalo showed up a few times after they were already names. And it was like, ooh, just by their presence, we felt more legitimized. But that was the open mic that I would set my week for. So I would start my first joke of the new week on Wednesday. And I would try to perfect it at all the other rooms all over where you only see a few of the same people. And then by Tuesday, here’s a finished. And then it was done. And then I’d start the next thing. And then it became here on Sunday night. So I’d start on Monday. I’d just keep trying to get it better until that Sunday night show. Because here, there were real people. They had real audience members. So I felt like that should be my onus instead of pleasing those open micers at Westwood. But yeah, there’s going to be some that are shitty and some that are better. And at some point, you’ll outgrow. Like, I try not to do bars anymore, places with bars in the room. Just because people are talking. And to me, it’s like, I don’t. This is not the way I want to present the stuff I wrote. I took years to write this stuff, or months of hard work and suffering. And now you guys are all talking at the bar. It’s like, instead of painting a painting and having it on a nice white gallery wall, instead of painting it and then just crumpling it up and throwing it in the corner. And then saying, well, there’s my painting. And it’s like, it’s the same painting, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be taken in. Now, you guys are not the stage where you can turn down rooms and saying, I don’t want to do one where people are talking. It sucks, but you have no leg to stand on, so you have to take those shitty rooms. But always go to the better rooms, if you have a choice of one or the other. Like, if I had to drive half an hour that way, half an hour that way, go to the better room. Or mix with the chances of you getting on, too. If you can’t get on one room, then what’s that going to do for you? And I think jokes that make all the other comics who are barely paying attention start laughing really hard, those usually are probably going to kill with an audience, too. Yeah, well, that’s what I found is that you would find things, like if they worked in certain rooms, it’ll work everywhere. There’s also bad habits, eventually, doing open mics. Mitzi said that. I used to be real hyper. I would do all my jokes with a really high-pitched voice. Not on purpose, but just out of like, it just happened. Because I was nervous, I was trying to get the energy. I was like, yeah, seven dirty words! You can’t say shit and fuck on TV! And she was like, what are you so hyper about? I was like, I’ve got to get the crowd going. She was like, you’re just getting yourself going. And I was like, she’s an idiot. You’re an idiot. You don’t understand. But she did understand. She had seen fucking 25 years of comedy, and I had seen six months of it. And I was like, that’s what I mean when I say don’t make what you’re already doing have value, just because you’re already doing it. That’s what I was doing there. I was saying, well, this is the right thing to do because it’ll get a crowd interested in you. And really, I wasn’t saying this is the right thing to do, and now let me see what I do. I was saying what I do must be good, so I may find reasons why it is. And that’s unhealthy. That won’t get you to a better place. So yeah, I was too hyper. And they were laughing at me just because I was being an idiot. But they weren’t laughing at my jokes that I wrote. I don’t know. So yeah, go everywhere you can. I try to get up as much as I can. And do it to what line feels good. In the beginning, when I started going up, I just went up here. We had three open mic nights here a week. So I’d only get up here Sunday, Monday, Tuesday. Well, it started just Sunday, actually. And then this guy, Jordy Fox, told me, dude, you’ve got to go to other rooms. And he showed me the open mics, the other open mics. And so then I started going around. And then my development, instead of going here, was going way up. Just from practice.
Practice will make you better at everything. It has everything in your life, the writing and the acting.
Take acting classes, too, once you have some money. If you get a manager and say, well, I want to get on a sitcom. They’re like, well, why? Who are you? You’re not a good actor yet. You can’t be. You’ve never done it. You’ll be OK, because you want to be OK. But you’re not going to be good. So eventually, you’re going to get through a class. Classes will make you better at things. Same as pottery classes. Why should acting be that much different than pottery? You’re not going to be good at pottery if they just show you the wheel and say, go. So acting is way easier. You just take pretend. But it’s not going to be as good. So get some classes. Be better. Practice gets you better at everything. And then also write. Do all that. Yeah? Do you feel the same way about comedy classes? No, I don’t feel the same way about comedy classes. But here’s what’s different. Jake Johansson told me this about acting classes. It’s one of the benefits of acting classes. There’s two that he saw. There’s one, it shows you how to be around other actors. You get to meet other actors and find out what they’re doing, how to get an agent. They know which agents are good. You get to talk to them. You’re doing things with the people in the industry. If you just went to the open mic and then went right home and didn’t talk to anybody, you would be getting the benefit of having done it. But you’ll be missing out on the benefit of finding out where the open mics are that you usually get from your friends. All those things. How do you get up at this place? Just talking to them. How do you? Oh, that’s a good joke. I like saying that. Whatever it is, you have this benefit of just being around those people. So acting classes does that. It also lets you practice. Because there’s really no open mics for acting. But stand up comedy classes, you can just get on. You can just go to an open mic right now. You don’t need Sandy Shores or Greg Dean or whoever tells you, this is how you get on. I feel like those things tell you a certain way to do comedy. And you can’t get a guy like Mitch Hedberg to come out of those things. They would squash that in him. They’d be like, that’s not the way you write a joke. And they would squash it. And they wouldn’t let him develop how he is. Gilbert Gottfried could not develop in a comedy class. Not that type of act. They’d say, we have a technique for it. Everyone develops differently and different styles. There’s alt comics. And like I said, there’s black comics and fucking mainstream guys. And you just develop into whatever comic you want to be. No one can tell you what to write. That’s why I don’t like comedy classes. They tell you too much. A lot of it you really have to find for yourself. Really do practice and just doing it. And then you’re like, oh, I’m good at this. Now I’ve got to work on this and continue to develop the good thing.
That being said, have you heard or, because this is a big thing in Phoenix, about relevant comedy?
Trying to be relevant, but what in terms is relevant? My comedy club owner is big on relevant comedy, but he doesn’t explain what it is. There’s this type of comedy you watch where it just seems like 80s or 90s comedy. Martin Lawrence came in once for a few months. And he was just like, the jokes he was making, he could make OK jokes. But he was doing 90s comedy, the type of gay jokes he was making. Or I wanted to pull him aside and be like, dude, everybody in this crowd thinks gay is OK. You live in Los Angeles, and these are 26-year-olds. There’s nobody here that has the same view of you as you. And you’re not justifying your opinions. You’re just using gay as a punch line. And that could work in the 90s, but that can’t work now. That’s kind of an irrelevant style of comedy. So things like that. But I wouldn’t worry about it too much. You just do what you want to do. My friend David said this, that everybody who starts comedy ends up just trying to do an impression of a comedian. That’s all we do. And that’s what I was. I was doing Monica Lewinsky jokes. That’s what I’d seen on TV the last few years, doing those jokes. So I felt like that’s what I should do too. But eventually, you’ll drop that and start doing the jokes that you want to do. And that’ll be relevant. If it’s anything from your life that you really want to express on stage, one of the best things that helped me with my comedy was I dated this artist. And when she would go into a painting, she would talk about it in terms of what she wanted to express. And then she would use her technical skills to express that. She was really good at drawing fur and hair. She could do that really, really well. And whatever she wanted to express about, I think one of her whole series of something was about these masks that women have to wear in life to pretend to be a different thing. And then she just drew all these people with half masks and witches underneath it and over that. And she was expressing. But she had in mind already, what do I want to tell people? And it’s that, that women are forced to wear masks. And humans in general too. There’s some non-women too. If you go into it with that, then any of your comedy will be justified by what you’ve said. Because you’re like, I just want to share this. And then you will get better at it over time. You will learn how to express it better as your technical skills get better. The reason I ask is my comedy, or the owner of our comedy club, literally yanked me off stage because I told a story about when I was 16, I got a Ouija board for my birthday. He’s like, that’s not relevant. And then he literally pulled me off physically off stage. OK. There’s going to be a lot of situations like that where some person tells you you’re wrong. One, it goes back to that’s just some dude. But there’s also on the other side of that guy might know more than you do. And you don’t want to look at yourself as having done something badly. I don’t know about the Ouija board. But I told Renazesu when he started, he used to have a joke about being in a locker room and having guys’ dicks out. People just old men have their dicks out all the time. And it’s just like, I know when you go to a locker room for the first time, you feel like, what the fuck? Why are all these old men with their dicks out? Why don’t they just put underwear on? And so everyone has that thought. But the problem is that everyone who’s been to a locker room has the same bits, has the same like their dicks are right here. And I told him, dude, that joke is hacky. I know it’s your own experience. But everyone’s done it. And your first instinct is to go, shut up. You don’t know. I’m good. That Ouija board thing was good. But if you stop and take yourself out of it and say, well, let’s just imagine what he said. Could it be true? And why could it be true? And what can I learn from it if it was true? Now, if you really look at that with an open mind, I don’t know the joke. I don’t know what he’s talking about. If you really look at it from an open mind and you say, no, I really think that guy might just have a problem with Ouija boards or something like that, then you could say, OK, I can move on with him. People need to just keep going and not have to worry about what he’s saying. I think I’m on the right path. But really look. Maybe he was right. Maybe it is hacky. In what ways is it hacky? In what ways can I change that? Don’t worry about who the messenger is. If the message is fine, it’s fine. If Boonshaka Locker gives you a tag line and it works, then really what’s the difference where it comes from? You know what I mean? Obviously, you’re less likely to listen to what he says. But the message is the message. That’s what matters. What, Josh?
What do you think about a gimmick like, for example, my voice?
I don’t want to depend on just that. But it’s so easy that it succumbs to something about you. When you draw the line, folks, this is who I am. And I’m just using this to make it up. It’s a gimmick. Well, you’re welcome. You’re going to get more and more away from gimmicks as you go. The better you get at being able to express your thoughts, you’re going to get away from that. I did so many Jew jokes when I started. It was so prevalent in my act. And I was like, no, you don’t understand. I grew up Jewish. People are like, that’s too easy. No, I’m the only Jew here. And it’s like, that didn’t make me who I was. I had no real relation to that, even though I used to be religious. But I would use those jokes because they were easy. And eventually, I slowly stopped doing them. The dirty jokes, too. I’ll still be dirty. But it was so overboard dirty that I was overusing the gimmick. Your voice, you can’t help it. But the amount of jokes you make, early on, though, you’re just learning how to be funny on stage, just learning how to be comfortable. So if that gets you there, that’s OK. But those are the things that I mean. I don’t want to give you advice on it, because you will find that yourself.
You will start getting disgusted by certain things you say. You know?
You’ll be like, oh, this is just. And that’s when you know to drop it. Now, some guys never learn that. And so they keep doing this annoying thing. And we’ve all seen those people. They just do this annoying, horrible thing. They just keep doing it for years and years. And you’re like, why is he still doing that? But they’ll never get it. I’m sure there’s stuff that, in my act, is the same way, that I’ll just never get. That I’m not as good as I could be. But I’m not seeing myself honestly.
So the goal is to try to see yourself as honest as possible.
Mushrooms help with that a lot. It really does. It takes yourself out of yourself, unless you view it like, instead of being here, where I’m just looking out at you guys, it’s like I’m here. I can see you guys, but I can also see myself. And then I’ll be like, oh, you’re sitting cross-legged, like a homosexual. You know what I mean? I can see what it is, instead of like, oh, you just see yourself. Would you watch your set on the show as a study or to be scared? Maybe. I’m probably not organized enough to actually queue it up. Just the thoughts you have are OK. But if you take those same thoughts of like, let me view myself without ego, without like, oh, I’m right or wrong. I’ve dealt with people. I had to leave a podcast thing once, because I was just looking for ways to improve my podcast. And the other guy that was working on it was like, it’s fine. These guys said it’s fine. What’s the problem? I’m like, dude, don’t get upset because you want to attack your weaknesses. That’s a fucking gift for you. Anytime somebody shows you something that you’re weak on, it hurts. It hurts a little bit, obviously. But that is a gift. That is someone saying that you have a hole. It’s like you have a chain. If somebody shows you an actual weak link, a part of the chain is about to fray and break, you should say thank you. You shouldn’t say, fuck you, your chain’s not that strong. But that’s a normal tendency. It’s to go, you think you’re that good? Them doesn’t matter. The message matters, not the messenger. Everyone has their own weak parts. I know so many people who were so many really talented people who were like, oh, that’s a hacky joke. And I was like, oh, you don’t have a hacky joke? But they do. But it doesn’t mean that joke isn’t hacky and dumb. Anytime somebody says that, it sucks so bad. It hurts. But get past the hurt, and then that night or whenever when you’re alone, well, hold on. Let me think about it. Can this be better? Am I mumbling too much? Am I being too hyper on stage? Let me try. Let me at least try. All of you are going to have thousands more sets, thousands of more sets coming up. So you can try something and see if it works four or five times the way somebody says it. And if it still doesn’t, then fine. But I’ve had way more often somebody says, try it this way. I’m like, oh, I tried it that way. And I never tried it that way. I thought about it once, or I tried it once, and it didn’t work perfectly. And I’m just comfortable doing it the way I’m always doing it. If you take yourself out of that comfort range and really attack your weaknesses, that is the best gift you can get is someone telling you what you did wrong. Telling me what you did right, that’s just ego. That’s what the laugh factor over mic used to be for. I don’t know if it’s like that anymore. It was just a fucking ego boost. It was like, what was the show? 8 o’clock was the show, and then 9 o’clock started the regular show. So if you came to open mic, you just stayed. So Tim Allen and all these other people would come. Some people would just come early, Dan Cook. They would come early. So the open mic was a fucking killer every single week. And then you would come here, and you would fucking eat shit with the same material. It’s nice to have an ego boost once in a while, but always look at your weaknesses. It’s going to make you better than anything else. Like that Hemingway thing, that first draft of anything is shit. If you know that, you’re OK. But if you start going like, yeah, I wrote a perfect script, you’re not going to get better. You’re an expert. You’re going to say, what’s wrong with the industry these days, they don’t know what funny is. And that doesn’t help you. Why do you actually criticize me? It’s there. Your friends will tell you. Just say, like, you got any notes on that? Say tomorrow. Just say, you have any notes on that at all, or do you see anything there you can think of? I mean, in the beginning, it’s not that easy. But we had this writing class where we had to all talk about everybody else’s 10 pages every day in college. And the teacher was like, I liked it is not allowed in this class. That doesn’t do anyone any good. It just wastes 20 seconds to say I really liked it. What the fuck? If there’s one specific thing you liked, you can say why. You can say, wow, this really reminded me of my youth. And that really got me in a good place. It had to be so specific. Otherwise, like, yeah, assume this is all good. Here are the points I didn’t understand. If you can get your friends at first to tell you that, that would be great. Any of the older guys that say something to you, you should listen to them. They have a lot more experience. Some of them might just be bitter. But your tendency is to want to reject what they say. But just imagine if it were true. I hate to plug the club that I work in, but we have an open mic where at the end of the open mic, they go through and you get critiqued by the other comics. And they’re people you don’t know, so they don’t have to be nice to you. Yeah. You know, I’m not really. Yeah, that stuff hurts. That writing, when you had to present your 10 pages, it hurt when people say, well, this wasn’t clear, and I didn’t know what this guy was doing. These two seem like the same exact character. It doesn’t feel good to tell you you’re not as great as you were hoping you were. But yeah, that shit’s good. We use that with our friends. Get five or six friends and say, let’s all watch each other and write notes. Just what you thought, what you didn’t think. I saw Louis C.K. did that for Rogan once, like five years ago, the improv. And before the show was going, but afterwards, he was like, hey, man, here, I just, I don’t know if you want to put here’s the notes I took on your set. And that came from Louis C.K. So he had enough respect that if you did that to somebody, to Rogan, he’d be like, who the fuck are you? You know what I mean? But either way, the note might have been the same. This wasn’t clear. I didn’t know what you were talking about. David Taylor did this joke in there once, and it was about cow tipping. They didn’t say cow tipping. He just talked to these people in Indiana, and he goes, you guys go tipping? And I don’t know how the rest of the crowd felt, but I felt like that meant tipping money. So I didn’t get it. And the crowd didn’t laugh. And I told them afterwards, I think they missed what you were saying about being cow tipping, because you didn’t say the word cow. And he was like, oh, yeah, I guess you’re right. And he knew what he had in mind, so he could have pictured cow tipping while he said tipping. You know what I mean? But it wasn’t clear to the audience. So getting someone else to say that was like, oh, cool, that’s just one addition of a word, one word to make it clear. Those are the easy ones to handle, because that’s not like saying your joke is bad. But shit like that, have your friends help you. Absolutely.
Part 5 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators—part-5/