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.
When I started comedy, nobody told a shit. It was really annoying.
Stuff like how do you get a manager, what are you supposed to do. This is not like law school or medical school where there’s just a certain specific path. In law school you take two or three years, whatever it is, after two years you go get an internship or residency somewhere. Whatever it’s called. And you get a job and you go from there. You take the bar and you just know the path. But in this it’s a lot different.
And there’s really no path. Everyone’s like, everyone’s gonna be different. Have their own different ways. There’s no like specific, like Reggie Watts has become humongous. Completely outside the system. You know, he just plays music and does things he wants to do. And that’s not wrong or right. It’s not like you should model yourself after that or not model yourself after that. There’s just no right way and a lot of floating. That’s where it kind of sucks.
Everybody wants a manager, right?
That’s the deal. Everybody says you gotta get a manager. You really don’t need one. An agent will help you. Okay, a manager is somebody, this is what they do. An agent just gets you auditions. A commercial agent or a theatrical agent or a writing agent just gets you writing auditions. You know, makes you write packets and a personal appearance agent just gets you on the road. They just call people and get you tries for work. A manager sort of deals with you overall and works with, I don’t know, maybe you have an idea for some search show. And so a manager will get that together and say okay, let’s get that, what do you need? I need a pitch, I need a one page document. They’ll kind of help you form your ideas that you’re already gonna do. But just the idea of just having a manager is not gonna do anything for you. There’s a lot of shitty ones. There’s like a lot of shitty ones. It’s just like any job. There’s good people at their job and there’s bad people at their job. And managers, just because you became a manager, any of you guys could become a manager in like three years. You just get a, you just work for a manager and then after a few years you are one. But it doesn’t make you better at it than anybody else. There’s a few that are fucking sick that are great at it. And those guys are really successful and they have all the most successful people, the clients. But like just the idea of needing one just to have one, it’s not necessary. You still just gotta do what you wanna do. Does your manager book like all your road work or do you do that? That’s my personal appearance agent. Or myself. Most of this work you’re gonna get yourself anyway. They used to tell me that and I didn’t understand it, but like you gotta do everything on your own. This is what that means. That means like you gotta put that surf show together. Your manager’s not, let’s just say, your manager’s never gonna get that done for you. They’re never gonna write anything for you. They’re gonna say like, what have you got to sell? What do you want me to do? Some people just want managers to do what? Just to say you have one? There’s a lot here. I remember there’s this room, this guy Andrew Solemson ran this room at a coffee shop in the valley. Lula’s Bee Hive. It was like every Friday or something. He would never book and he’d piss me the fuck off. And I just thought if I got in there that would be like a step. And then I saw who was booking and they were all way worse than me. Or girls he wanted to fuck. And it pissed me and then I got in there and I’m like, oh it’s just a coffee shop. There’s just this shit going on. People are grinding coffee beans. It sucks. Managers aren’t gonna do anything specific for you. They’re just gonna help you with what you already have. Tom Cruise gets a manager. No, that’s even the same thing. They don’t make Tom Cruise movies. They just say, well we’ll read the ones that and we’ll narrow them down to the ones you want to do. Elrond Roberts is managing. Is it? He’s dead right? I could see that. What were you gonna say? Let’s say you start doing books of stuff like On the Road and all that.
How much material would you think you should be able to do before you start doing that so you don’t repeat yourself?
You know what I’m saying? Well, let me think how to say that. It’s really not about how much material. You need to be able to fill up the amount of time they’re booking you for. But if you’re supposed to do 15, you should probably have a lot more than that. In junior writing, that’s what they taught us. If you write a paper, you should know something like 200% or 300% more than you’re including in the paper on whatever subject it is. You don’t have to do a lot of research on knitting. You gotta do a bunch of research and only use what you need to use. But it’s really not about, especially in the first couple of years, getting specifically enough material so that you can go on the road and do it. You really just get material for the sake of getting it. So just build the material for the joy of it. And don’t worry about what it’s for until later. When I went from middling to headlining, it wasn’t about getting the time. It was mostly about getting those people convinced that they should book me. I was still featuring, but I still had plenty more time to code headlining. It was tough in the beginning. It was a lot more time. It was tough to think out all my jokes in the order. But then once you do it 10 times, you’re fine at it. But really, you just continue to build material. Totally. And then once you have a joke that doesn’t apply to you anymore, fucking get rid of it. It shouldn’t just be about culminating, getting all this stuff together. But definitely try to write a lot. Definitely don’t not do that. Does that make sense? If it doesn’t make sense, let me know. I’m a huge pothead and sometimes I lose track of what I’m saying. You write all day and you’re going up every night. Are you parsing through it? Does the cream automatically rise in your brain from all you wrote? Or do you usually throw away 90% of the paper you’re writing? You’ve got five pages worth, but it’s one page you’re bringing a night. I got some advice when I started from Joe Rogan. I went through my first slump when material wasn’t working as well as it was. I remember at Open Mics, every week, I don’t know if it’s still like this, but every week there’s a rotation of Open Mics you can do. And so then it was like, for me it became, alright, I can do every joke once at each one of these places. And then I go back to the same Monday room, it’s all the same people. They’ve already seen it, so I can’t do it anymore. Nobody writes like Open Micers. You guys write more than anybody. Just constantly coming up with new shit, which is great. Because here’s the advice he gave me. He didn’t use anything from his first two years. He said he used one little 20 second impression of Arnold Schwarzenegger with a cucumber up his ass. He goes, everything else is just gone. It’s no longer who he is.
So really all you’re doing in the first two years is just getting a spine on stage and just learning how to be comfortable up there.
I watch you guys once in a while, and you’re all doing the same stuff I was doing, which is fine. But I remember Freddy Soto, he’s dead, but he was a really good comic. And when he acted out his father, he was exasperated. He would have his hands all the way up, like really, like go for it. And then I would see Open Micers, myself, trying to do the same thing. And we would go like to here, and we would go like to there. We were just too nervous to fucking let it out. So that’s all you’re really learning is the technique, not the joke specifically. It’s good to get jokes, but they’re not going to really stay with you for a long time. You guys all right now, you’re not good yet. None of us are. That’s just normal. We all feel good. You’re good compared to other people at your level, I’m sure. But like, no one’s good when they start something. Same as basketball players. NBA players are better than college players. It’s just the more you do it, the better you’re going to get. And you’re going to look back at where you probably already do, and you’re going to look back at where you were a year ago and be like, that wasn’t very good. And you’re better now. And you look back to where you are now and say it’s not good. And your development in the beginning goes up a lot, and then it stops improving. It only improves little by little. What were you going to say? Like, some guys are bad at being a good, like, the road guy. And then there’s some guys who aren’t that special. Is there a difference in how you write those two things? Well, there’s TV standards. I mean, I asked Attel once if he writes jokes for Comedy Central. He said he just writes jokes, and then he’ll categorize them afterwards. Like, oh, I can do that one at Comedy Central, and this one will be an HBO joke. He doesn’t write with that in mind. Those people and those standards are going to change over and over again. So you really can’t try to please them. What you really should be doing is just doing the stuff you want to do, and learning what that is, and then perfecting it. And then if they want to buy it, they want to buy it. But I’ve never been on TV. I mean, I had one little spot on HBO, like, a four-minute spot. I played on it on a Friday night and a midnight once. And a lot of people, just TV is not the answer. And there’s a lot of shitty comments on TV. That style of comedy, they made their standards based on, like, 1980s rules of what people get offended by. Like, no one cares if you hear the word shit anymore. Nobody. No two-year-old cares. But they’re still going by that. So you can’t try to please them too much. You’re really not doing… You guys are all artists. What you do is whatever you want to do. And then some… Like a real painter artist, like some galleries are going to have your stuff, but some aren’t. Some artists get discovered after they’re dead. But it doesn’t mean Van Gogh was discovered after he died, right? I don’t really know. But somebody was, I’m sure. And somebody big. And it’s not like they weren’t good. It’s just the people that were in charge of deciding what is good, mostly Comedy Central, they just don’t see it that way. There’s just a few people who were there that just don’t see it that way. You know? If you’re an artist and you fucked somebody’s wife… Let’s say you’re a comic and you did the same thing, who works at Comedy Central. They’re just not going to have you on. But that should not stop you from continuing to improve. You know what I mean? Just get better. And then there’s other avenues.
And there’s new avenues coming up all the time.
So don’t worry too much about TV, especially at the early stages. I mean, you should get on there if you can. Absolutely. Why not try? But, like, it doesn’t really mean that much. I remember asking when the half hour special was something really good. When I started, it was like, they had just started. So Maron, Nick Swartzen, a few people got on half hour specials and they played them non-stop. The first three years of that, they played them non-stop because it’s all they had to choose from. And then they became less and less meaningful because they would just show them once and they’d be gone. You know? They had 12 years to choose from. So it was just, they could never put them on. So then it becomes like, what are you doing the half hour for? You really think, like, what are you doing it for? And so somebody told me once, like, well, it’s 10 grand, so that’s good. That’s something. But that’s not the only reason you’re doing comedy, really. And it’s a little bit of notoriety, but not really. I talked to Bob Oshack once about it and he was like, it doesn’t change it. He’s still here. He was still here on a Sunday trying to get up. It doesn’t give you road work immediately? No, it does not at all. Not at all. Especially not the half hours anymore. Jim Jeffery said when he did the Tonight Show, he got like 40 more followers. Yeah, that shit doesn’t matter. I saw somebody showcasing for Mitzi after they did the Tonight Show the week before. And I recognized him. I was like, dude, that guy was on the Tonight Show. Not passed. She crosses them out in like a minute. It’s like it doesn’t do anything long term for you. What you really want to do, I’m assuming, is have a long career. To be able to not have a real job for as long as possible. So like, specifically getting onto, don’t lose sight of that. You know what I mean? Don’t lose sight of like, I want to be a comic forever. So they give you these goals that you have to get there in order to get there. That was get TV, get a manager. But that’s not necessarily the way. Sometimes it used to be get in here. If you didn’t get in here, you couldn’t start. So people would just concentrate on just getting in here. I spent four years trying to please that lady. Just trying to get in. But luckily the whole time I was trying to work on comedy. But if you don’t get that thing, there’s other ways around. It’s just one person. The Montreal Comedy Festival is another one. Everybody wants to get into new faces. But if you don’t, it doesn’t matter. J. Moore never got in. Bobby Lee never got into that. And it fucking drove them crazy. But they didn’t need that in order to get ahead. You try for that, but try for everything. You know, try for Just for Laughs, try for TV, try to get a manager that’s going to work with you. We’ll get into what type of manager you want later. But who asked that question? Did I answer you at all? Will a manager help you get like a writing agent too? They can. Yeah. What you want in a manager, let’s just get to that now. You don’t want to cold call somebody. Because if they’re going to be working for you, you don’t want them to just be like, alright, I’ll work with you. You want someone who sort of is into you. And coming up to them and asking is the opposite of how to get that done.
The people that are going to help you, really at any stage of your career, at any stage, are going to be other comedians and your friends.
That’s going to be, right now all your friends don’t really have much room to help you. You know, you guys aren’t doing that much, I’m assuming. So it’s tough to help out your friends. But these are the guys you make connections with now that as you guys grow, are going to get you legitimate work. And it’s not about being friends with them so they’ll get you work. But that’s just what’s going to happen. So if you become friendly with managers and agents, mostly managers I’d say, then they’ll want to work with you. They’ll want to be a guy that they’ll want to be like, hey, you’re cool. I want to help you. I like your stuff. I like you. Way more than like what your material is. So you’ve got to go hang out at the Improv, you’ve got to go hang out at the UCB, and NerdMelt, just hang out there and be around those people. And then they’ll help you that way. That’s the way they’re going to do it. There’s more managers at those spots than like the store? Yeah, there’s nobody here. This place is about standup, which is fine. But this place used to be about getting discovered and that’s what made it a gem. And now what makes it a gem is that nobody’s ever here. You go up with impunity. You can bomb and it won’t matter. No one’s going to see you and feel bad. I’m talking about after you do your spot wherever you go up. Don’t not go up, but do your spot and then go hang out at one of these places. You can go hang out at Denny’s or you can go fucking hang out at one of those places and be amongst comedians. The more good comics you see, the better you’ll get. And bad comics too. You’ll learn from them too. That was somebody’s advice. I asked a bunch of comics what they should tell you guys. Who was it that said, watch a lot of comedy? Hold on. It wasn’t there. I think Scott said that on the WTF episode. Really? Yeah. It wasn’t Chris Farag. I don’t know if he said that. But yeah, get up and then go do the other work. The other work means go be someone they want to hang out with. I wanted this and I’m sure most of you guys too. You want people to know that you’re super talented. And just say, I get it. You’re funny. Come do Punch Up on this movie for me. Or come open for me on the road. That’s not the way it’s going to be. If I don’t know you, the odds of me asking you to go on the road for me. One, I don’t really have the opportunity to bring people a lot. But two, I don’t know you. I’d rather bring a friend who’s less funny than you. Because it’s going to be a fun time.
And managers are the same way. Everybody that was shitty but friendly got management.
It’s not like you have to kiss up to those people. But just be around them. You guys are funny people. And the reason they’re managers in comedy is because they like funny people. They get off on it. And managers like to fuck with male comics. They’re attracted to them. Male comics are attracted to male comics too. Not in that way. They’re into the vibe. They’re into what you guys do and they want to be around you guys. So just be around them. Let them discover who you are. I always got this whenever I talked to someone who I knew could help me. I’m kind of an introvert. So I go into myself and not be able to talk to them. Because I felt like it was asking them for help just by talking to them. Don’t ask them for help. Just be cool and be around them. Meet them the same way you meet each other at open mics. Just as you talk. And then afterwards if you meet somebody and ask them who was that? What does he do? Put that in your head. Be cool with him again. But you don’t ever ask them until way later. Don’t ask them to manage me. Because they’re not going to really want to help you. But if they call you in and say, so what’s your story now? What are you doing? That’s when you tell them. I’m trying to do this and this. Because it’s not what it is. You want a manager to help you do specific things you have in mind. If you have an idea. Like I said, a surf show. Or if you have, I don’t know, whatever it is. They can help you with that. They know who to talk to about those things. But they’re not going to invent things for you. And there are a few guys who get a manager. And the manager just gets them things. If you look at someone like Chris D’Elia. That’s a guy. This is not in terms of good or bad. I think Dave Becky is his agent or manager. There are certain people you see. They’re big, but they’re not that big. How come they’re that good? How come they’re doing that well? And a lot of that is because of really great managers. Those people you should not think about. Those are the outliers. D’Elia is a really attractive guy. He also kills every time he goes on stage. And people want to lose sight of that. But don’t lose sight of that. That guy destroys every time he goes on stage. And people want to be around him. And he’s a fun, nice guy. And networks see that and they’re like, yeah, you’re fun. A lot of it is just like, in a meeting, it’s less about the idea. We want to work with you. We want to do something with you. Just like if you decide who you’re going to write with amongst your friends, you write with people you get along with. There’s some sort of algorithm. It’s who you get along with mixed with talent. But it’s not about… That’s what Ralphie Mae said. It is not about hard work and getting up. That’s not what it’s about. It would be nice if it was, but it’s not. I spent seven years saying, all these people are shitty and they’re getting ahead. Instead of saying, okay, what can I learn from that? All I did was, here comes another shitty guy getting ahead. So what does that teach you? What can you gather from that? What? They’re shitty. Yes, they are. But they’re doing something right. They’re getting to where you want to get to. So what are they doing right? Whitney is whatever she is on stage. She’s the most beautiful woman that none of us will ever have. And she is by far more successful, probably now than will ever be, probably combined. So what is she doing right? It’s not, oh, she’s so pretty. She’s not that pretty. She’s okay. She’s an LA 7. There’s plenty of hotter comedians and hotter actresses. It’s not that. It’s that she knows everybody. She does a rotation on Facebook of writing every single person she meets. I’m just messing up because I’ll read through that. But just be nice. Let yourself be nice to them. And then eventually, not now, but in a few years and over the coming years, you’ll develop these relationships with them. And then maybe they won’t even be your first manager. Maybe they’ll be your fourth manager. And then they’ll be like, oh, so you’re not working with anybody? And I’ll be like, yeah, I’d love to work with you, man. And that shit will happen. But as you have stuff going on. So don’t get caught up in like, I need this step to get to the next step. Just be friendly with everybody and know you’re planting seeds for way, way later.
Do you think a lot of comedians at a high level don’t want to give advice?
Well, it’s tough. Here’s what it is. It’s tough for us to even think about when guys like Maron, let’s make the same me, I’m at 14 years. When I think of newer comics, I think of someone at six or seven years in. It’s tough to relate to those first year or two. Where it’s like that it’s fucking hellish sort of and you just move past it and we’re not thinking beginner. It’s not like that far beginning. It’s like when you think of high school, you don’t think of what class was like in first grade. You’re like, oh, I didn’t even know anything then. So, to me, Rogan said there’s no advice to give you. I think he meant in terms of in terms of like development on stage. That’s one where just watch a bunch of comedians, learn from them, and the advice that I’m giving you is you sort of have to find that for yourself. Not because it’s like this mystery that you’ve got to come across it, but it’s like until you’ve been in a situation where you have a heckler, anything I tell you, you’re not going to internalize. You know what I mean? You have to do it. You have to snap on them too hard once and then lose the crowd and then not deal with it at all once and lose the crowd that way because you’re not even like calling attention to it. You can get little tips, but only after you’ve already been in there enough. You’ll ask specific questions like, hey, I had this heckler and I fucking ripped him a new asshole, but then everyone turned on me. Something specific like what should I do there? What’s the problem? Sometimes people say, I’ve had this, somebody told me this, like sometimes you guys are way more sensitive and observant than audience members are. So when this guy walked in, it was these Italian guys, they walked into the side there and I just hated them instantly. I just knew who they were. They were just rich kids who didn’t do anything. And as soon as they opened up their mouth for a second, I was like kill yourself. I was just immediately like as far as I could. And everyone in the crowd was like Jesus, they didn’t do anything. I was like, no, they did do something. You would have seen it. And so that was the advice I got. Let them hang themselves a little bit and then do that. But then I still have to do that four, five, ten more times before I really got it in your muscle memory. There’s this thing in basketball where if the lane is like here, if the basket’s here, and you’re at the top of the key this way, and somebody switches, somebody’s running at you from down below running at you. The basket’s here, the foul line’s here, they’re running this way. Well, you can either shoot before they get there or knowing they’re off balance, you can drive around them because they won’t be able to run at you and then run back at the same time. But I can tell a basketball player that, but they’ll only know that when they’ve had somebody running at them fifty times. And then their muscle memory will kick in and just like, you don’t even think about it. You’re just like, I can go around this way because they’re coming up to help. So the advice from other comics, they’re not going to give you this this like gem of wisdom that’s going to make you a good comic instantly. It’s really about internalizing it into your muscles. You know what I mean? Does that make sense to you guys?
How did you deal with high failure in the beginning?
I failed. I failed a lot. Um, and that’s what I mean when I say you’re not good. I don’t mean you’re not funny. It means technically. The technical aspects of it, you guys don’t have yet. You don’t know like the, how to raise and lower your voice yet, and how to do an act out properly, or how to do less fake segues. Um… Um… The more you do it, the more you’ll get it. That’s what these stages are. There’s a Ralph we told him once in here, in the back there once. When I was starting, he was like, how about you do comedy? And I said, I think it was like a year then. And he goes, oh, that’s when it’s just fun. And I was like, what are you talking about? It’s horrible. I’m not a regular here. I can’t, it’s open mics are so fucking shitty. And I’ve talked to him about it a bunch over the next 10, 12 years. And this is what he meant. He just meant like, you guys, right now there’s no business, especially if you’re a year or two in, even three or four, there’s really not much business to do. It’s just about writing a joke. So in that way, you and Aziz and me and fucking some horrible person, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all just trying to write a good dick joke. You know what I mean? That’s all it is. The art of it, that’s all you guys got going on right now. But it’s fucking beautiful. All you’re trying to do is write good jokes. You don’t have to worry about like, well, this one goes for Comedy Central, this one goes for HBO. Just be free. Just enjoy yourself and learn shit. I watched Mark Curry. Yeah, that’s his name. Three Nights in a Row. That was a joy of working the booth here. Because you get to watch a lot of good comics and a lot of shitty comics. You can start seeing the mistakes they make. But I saw Mark Curry three nights in a row. And he normally wasn’t here much. It was somebody who like Mr. Cooper. Yeah. And he’s a good comic. And so the first night I was just enjoying it. This guy was never around. I was just like, oh this is really fun and interesting. And the second night I watched it again. It was pretty much the same twenty-five minutes or so. And I watched it again and I laughed again because it was still funny. And then the third night he’s like, well now it’s three nights in a row. I know it by heart. You know? And I was watching it and he did like two tag lines for this one joke and then he missed the third tag line. And I was like, oh he didn’t do that? Not only because I watched him the last two nights, but he missed that last one. And then there’s him on stage he was like going, he did like one, two, and then he’s like yeah. And then he goes, oh and imagine if, and then he did the third tag line. And that’s when I saw the technical aspects come out where it’s like, oh you can fake forget. Like that’s something you can use as a tool in order to like get something out so it’s not like it’s like repetitive and rote. Those are the things you’re learning now. The technical parts of it. You know? That’s what I mean by you’re not good yet. It means your comedy can’t come out yet until you learn that stuff. And there’s no like I wish there was a word of wisdom. There’s like a secret that all the old guys are like holding out. But there’s not. It’s just learn what type of comedy you’ll be. And don’t try to be like anyone specific. Cause honestly, I mean the advice Mitch Hedberg would have given you would be different on how to write a joke than, you know, than whoever. I don’t know. Than Maron. Those are completely different comics. So it’s like you become whatever you want to become. I forgot what the question was. It’s okay we’re talking. Go ahead. I lose my place a lot. I was on purpose. This is my I have a lot of questions. I want to be like that overzealous kid that’s the one guy that’s always asking questions. Ours is a little my mind’s a little smaller on the scale cause I know you posted this for LA Comics. We came out from Arizona just to figure we’re going to learn something. But ours I don’t like the scale of writers, managers, things. It’s more of just basically like localized stuff. One the biggest thing is with all the technology and everything and all the you know self promotion and everything is it still such a necessity to be in LA or New York to get yourself out. I mean like that was always the big thing. Many watch it like if you’re not doing stuff in New York you’re not shit if you’re not doing shit in LA you’re shit. How long have you been doing comedy? Over two years. Okay. But I usually tell people I started in LA and I tell people that was a mistake. That I don’t know how the open mics are now but it was a very non nurturing environment. It failed out a lot of people who could have been really great comics. What do you mean by that? I mean there’s guys I started with that would have been way better than me. But it’s so hard to get up in front of five comics two of which are sleeping and the other two are writing jokes and one guy kind of half paying attention. That’s not a fun environment to do scanners in. And the fucking coffee grinder going off. Like that’s bad. And eventually after a couple years out people get sick of it and they kind of start saying people drop off. It’s not to say you shouldn’t be here. You’re already here or whatever. But like I made it through that system. It’s not because of perseverance or anything like that. That’s a lot of luck. I managed to get in here when it was a place that you could still get in and become a regular or being an employee. It’s really not that anymore. What about the volume of mics you get here though? Yeah there’s that. There’s some cities where you can’t get up. I don’t know what Phoenix is like. Well we kind of just made a list of stuff. We got it to the point where anyone can do two to three shows from Monday to Sunday. Every night. All around the valley. That’s what you need. That’s all you need. If you can get up every night that’s like a minimum of what you can. Some cities don’t have that. So what I usually tell people is stay in your city until you’re a couple years in. Until you have your base. Until you’re a little bit confident on stage. And then you can come to LA and New York where it’s really…it’s demeaning the fucking shit we gotta do. Waiting in line with homeless people. I talked to a comic from out here at one of our shows saying that he was out in Chicago and he was like I’m ready to move to LA. He was going to do it every third year. And then he was like you know what maybe I’ll hold off. And then he said he waited another two more years. So he waited out there like five years. And when he came here realized that he was still in just that tiny tiny room below. And he was like I’m glad I didn’t make that first move. And he said the biggest advice is if you’re in a smaller town is don’t leave to go to a city like LA and New York until you’re featuring at five major clubs in your town. Not five major open mics but if there’s five…maybe. That’s a pass. I don’t know exactly that. Just cause some people aren’t into road comics. Guys like Hedberg had a real tough time on the road. Because he would feature an MC. And people are like what the fuck is this? You know when they’d never see him it was way different. But when he was MCing it was like he would open up with these weird old jokes. And people are like this is terrible for the show. So like for him to have to wait until he’s featuring at five road clubs would be like… No not five road clubs but five major clubs in your town where you can still pull friends. Still pull people that have seen you. I think it’s just when you sort of get comfortable.
Joey Diaz told me this once and it’s true. That whatever city you start in you’ll never get respect. They’ll always look at you as an open miker.
Yeah. That was a good question. That was a good answer. I started in LA. How do I get out of…how do I raise that ability to open mic? Well here’s what’s gonna happen. I see guys that are on stage at the improv or something or in the store or wherever and I’ll be like oh yeah I know they’re not what I like. Or they’re bad. And then someone says like what’s the last time you see them? And I was like I don’t know five six years ago. And then it hits me it’s like they were three years into comedy then and they’re eight years into comedy now. And I would not want someone to judge me that way. Right. But I’ll still judge other people that way. And everyone will. It’s just sort of a natural thing. So just understand that some of these guys that see you and that…this guy Eric who used to book the improv he told me some stuff. And he said like be careful who you go up in front of because they will always have that thought of you. The people that are gonna be around in terms of agents, managers, industry, industry in general and other comics too. Big comics. You want them to like you so if you go up and show them a kind of a mediocre performance that’s what they’ll think of you forever. I’ve seen people one time that I make like I stick somewhere in my head. You categorize them. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not fair. It’s not unfair. It’s just the way life is. If people see you trip and fall then they’re gonna think you’re a spaz. You know what I mean? It’s not…it’s like you might get way better at that but still…yeah I’ve seen it. So sort of you can get away from people, those people thinking about you like that. I did eventually. But I’m still sure there’s some people that still see me as an open miker. There must be. You guys all started after me so you don’t saw me as that. But like and luckily now a lot of these Comedy Central type people, industry type people they came here after I was done being an open miker. So they don’t know me as that. The people that were there, they’re always gonna be like yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, I know. I get that all the time. My manager gets that all the time. People say like I have to like beg them just to watch your clip. So yeah there’s nothing you can do. You’re already here in LA. You’re doing it here. Yeah. What? You have to crush anytime to get better respect for anyone? No but if you crush people are gonna respect it more. I mean they always said this at showcases. This is the thing they always said when I became friends with some of those people is that they can see when it was a bad room. Drew Carey used to do this improv at the improv. And I’m saying he would do improvisation. Him and his friends, Drew Carey and I, it was every Thursday. He’d do the 10pm show. And it was every other Thursday. Excuse me. And if you went on the show that he had a show. If you had a showcase at 8pm show, it was gonna be packed. Because everyone was there early. It was gonna be sold out in standing room only. And it was great. And if you went up the next week, it was empty. It was just an improv that you guys are trying to get people to come to. And I know some of you don’t have anybody to get to come. So it’s like 8 people. So it’s just luck of the draw. In those environments, absolutely you should be crushing. You should try to. I mean I always say always do as well as you can but like you can do that with new material. You can do it with jokes that aren’t worked out but with those jokes that you’re working on, try to do the best you can. You know? It’s like you can’t always swing for a home run but like you can with like, I don’t know, with like less tools. That’s a better analogy. I would start doing just crowd work and then I’d realize like, well someone’s been turning the material and I’m just watching that. Yeah, what were you going to say? How do you hang out at like UCB and Improv and Factory without paying a lot of money? Yeah, well this place lets you in. This place has always been good about it. If it’s not sold out, it’ll let you in the back. The Improv is pretty good too. The Improv is pretty good too. The Laugh Factory is always pretty bad. I don’t know how they are now but it used to piss me off when I would go down there to watch someone I knew. Someone I was friendly with here. I’d just say, Freddy Soto’s on TVMine and now you gotta pay. Come on man. They’re just doing their job. It’s just Jamie. It’s not the door guy’s fault. But the Improv, absolutely. You can go there and hang out. When I say the Improv, is it? Most of it. Okay. That’s good. Yeah, I know it’s tough and poor. So I wouldn’t say you have to pay to go in those places but you must know somebody that’s like a couple years ahead of you that’s going in. Those people can bring you in. You know? You’re not going to ask Greg Fitzsimmons to take you around the club. He’s just not going to do it. He doesn’t know you. But someone who’s just a little bit past you. Like, hey, if you’re ever going to those rooms, let me know. I’d love to go hang out. And that’s all it’s about. The Improv, it’s not the watching at the Improv that’s good. It’s the bar area. That’s what I mean when I’m saying go hang out at the Improv. Do your spot wherever. Get better. Technically. And then go be around those people who are going to help you seven years from now. You know? Yeah. Mine’s kind of added to that question. Working at a club like you work to yourself and there’s been a bunch of other comics that have gotten started. Box office or serving. Things like that. Food running. Whatever. I’ve heard before that it’s hard to like, you know you get in that club just because it’s like going to school for you. You watch comedy every day. You’re learning everything. The words end up. The quirks stuff. I’ve heard that sometimes you get lost in the fray where they forget like, oh you’re here. You’re a comic and stuff but then you lost and now you’re just an employee. Did you ever have to overcome anything like that when you worked here? Did they know that this is what you wanted to do? Yeah. Trying to help you or you were just a payroll employee and you happened to be funny on the weekends. Here’s what I figured out. No I was like a payroll employee and it was it was even before I was a regular I would just do the open mic nights and occasionally the belly room they would give me spots. But I mean it really bothered me to no end. I know it bothered Freddie also. He took a long time to get made a paid regular here. And Caparulo. It bothered him. It’s like no one respects me. Tony Hitchcliff has the same stuff. I thought it was like a slight on him and everyone was looking at him but it’s just something not a paid regular. And then later I realized what all the comics were thinking about us was just like oh I just assumed you guys are. Like they don’t care. No one else looks at who else is on the list or when. They just assume you get spots but they haven’t seen you go on right after them right before them. So no one’s looking down on you like the way you think they are. Oh you’re here. You must be a comic. But at least also like the management staff that’s also working at the club like that kind of puts you as like you know they know that you do stuff. Oh they’ll shit on you. The problem I have with this right now is that you’re saying like the best spots to do the improv is at the bar where you’re trying to you know jive something like oh I heard you’re doing this show. Would you mind checking out this show. We look at two clubs in Arizona. One where the club you work at is more leaning into oh talk with the comic you know hang out with them.
You don’t bother anybody you know it’s like you know you’re bothering somebody.
The club I work at is a strict no fratization you’re here to do your job don’t worry stuff it’s just kind of a new thing that they’re trying to do. Who’s that? It says don’t talk to comedians. It’s kind of a thing now because of past experiences with other certain people. Some comic goes to a bar and gets too drunk and then no comics are allowed to go there. It’s like why am I? That’s a different person. You serve in a comic and you want to talk to the person they think oh that guy is going to try and get you to do something sketchy because he’s out of town doesn’t know anybody. Basically it’s most of like that guy is going to try and get you to buy drugs. Don’t do anything that’s going to get yourself in trouble and sacrifice your job and your future. Well I mean definitely don’t like bugger guys like if somebody’s there and they’re talking on the phone you don’t want to be the guy who’s sitting in the green room and saying so what else can you teach me? And he’s like I don’t know man I’m dealing with something I don’t know. That’s kind of the portion of it. I mean you got to know hold on Stuart, you got to know like when you’re bugging people you got to know not to, it’s tough it’s a tough line and some people are going to get on the wrong side of that line but like yeah I mean being at the improv I mean it’s like being at a house party where you don’t have to try to talk to anybody but if you go to the house party that everybody goes to eventually you’ll just meet them and you’ll become friendly with them and then your own sense of humor will come out. You don’t have to try to impress them in any way. David Taylor his uncle comes to visit sometimes, he’s a photographer he takes pictures of like Miss America pageants and stuff like that just how he makes his living he comes out here once in a while for work and I’ll hang out at the store and he went with Matt Taylor to the Ha Ha Cafe and was sitting at the front bar there and Matt told somebody that that guy who was that guy? He had like white hair and he goes oh he’s an agent of William Morris or a manager of William Morris agent and he so the guy didn’t know that, the uncle didn’t know that that Matt had said that but all he saw was people just coming up to him left him right, like oh you watching the baseball game? I love baseball, it’s so fun what are you a fan of? I like the Orioles but I also like the Braves, you like the Braves? and it’s just like why is everyone trying to talk to me? It was so weird for him just like people see me out so they’re aware of that so don’t do that but don’t don’t try to be away from them but just be around them it’s like this is how I am at parties I get uncomfortable but it’s like if I know you three and I don’t know you then I’m talking with all you guys but you know them, then now we’re in a five way conversation and now I can meet you instead of like hi my name is Ari what can we talk about no one meets that way so just kind of be around them so if some guy over there wants to talk to you in some comic, then fucking talk to him that’s the thing we usually get is if they come and say hey what do you guys do? and fucking go out with them and we’re like uh we’re all going home and it puts off this cold front which a lot of us that work there that even our comics that’s not what we want to be doing we’ll tell them the management says but we’re not supposed to talk to you but ignore that shit they just did not let us drink at the old place in Arizona and we’re like they said it was a state law you couldn’t drink while you’re on stage at the improv? and then we found out it was just some Christian guy we didn’t want people drinking on stage he’s dead now it was so annoying I’d be off stage, I’d be MCing and I’d ask the bartender for a beer and he’d look over my shoulder and I’m like who the fuck are you looking at and there’s the manager going it’s okay and I’m like give me a fucking beer they wouldn’t serve all we did was we bought a bunch of liquor and we kept it in the green room and we just got cokes and mixed also you were saying about meeting people I know you were saying make friends with people and they put them on the show I feel like nepotism is the biggest curse around this town yeah it’s what, okay, with people helping their friends is what makes sort of not the best comedy come out but there’s something to be said for chemistry too every team Sean Kent played for was worse because of his addition look at Kobe Bryant, it’s the same shit they got the best center of the NBA this year at one of the top point guards and now they’re fucking 500 swept by the clips yeah, he’s 0 for 4 and they clinched the division in the cover the cover’s dead? oh wow, that’s good but it’s a lot about chemistry so it’s like I’d rather work with a friend of mine who’s slightly less funny than someone who’s a little more funny that I don’t know at all that’s just not going to be good in a writing room it’s not going to be good on the road I mean don’t ask those guys to take you with them on the road you can say hi, absolutely and then also know this if you meet anybody on the road, they are not going to help you when you get back to LA or New York those guys will get you immediately it was a fun weekend and that’s all it was and if they say like, yeah, let me know when you’re in LA that just means nod hello and say I worked with you once, see you later when you get here they have their own lives here their own vacation there Stuart, what were we going to say? I was going to ask if there was a turning point you felt with your material with your estate presence around the time you got past here did you feel that there was an act like this? here’s what happened, I got paid a non-paid regular here she worked me pretty fucking long before she passed me, she got in her head also, hold on, before I go on you guys should know this, everything is changing in Hollywood with the internet and with the way things are in general it’s almost exponential, the changes so when people tell you, like this is the way I did it you have to see how much of that you can actually really take in right now they all told us, well you can still make it at 45 look at Ronnie Dangerfield and eventually I’m like, can you think of an example that wasn’t 40 years ago so I can actually do something with that there’s a story of who was that dude from Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Richard Dreyfuss he did this thing, all my acting teachers would say all of them would say this that he went into these meetings, he got his auditions and he went in to meet the casting directors and he would tell the producers and he would tell them he wasn’t interested in doing this part and they’re like, you came in here to tell me that you don’t want to do this role? he goes, yeah, I want to say hi, thank you for the opportunity but it’s not for me and eventually Spielberg found out about this guy I was like, what the fuck is this? turning down roles that aren’t even offered to him and I think that was what he gave them maybe something else first, but I think Close Encounters after that and they’re like, that’s a good story that will not work today yeah, your agent would be like, no, no, no yeah, your agent would kill you they’ll get the cast agent they’ll call your agent and say, what the fuck? you think I have time for this? I have time to see 25 people and this guy came in just to leave? you do that twice and your agent will drop you so those stories aren’t exactly a one to one you can’t exactly transfer all those stories so, my experience here at the comedy store is going to be different than yours when I was here, Mitzi was here every week, a few times a week I honestly don’t see it as a way in to become a paid regular anymore it doesn’t seem like it is then I got to work with Mitzi and get advice from her, honestly from 40 years of stand up she would say, some stuff she would tell me would be useless but some stuff she would tell me would be dead on and just the ability to work here and see comics was important but, when I got made a non-paid regular after like four years.
I remember that was a turning point, when I was just way more confident.
I would go to the same shitty open mics and I would be like, you guys can’t touch me now because I’m a non-paid regular and I would do better because of that confidence by the time I got made a paid regular though I saw how fucking stupid it all was and I didn’t care as much so there is no specific turning point boom, and I’m going to get better but, I mean, I remember that time with those Italian guys on the side certain things you will remember to help you get better but it’s not like you are going to figure it all out one day it’s just going to be like jumps here is the development I had it’s tough to remember all these but I remember being like, getting slightly better it’s usually like that, you know and then, sometimes I will go through a rut and I will get worse and those will usually put me out over here when I come out of it, I will be way better than I went into it there is also these jumps where you get a little better every day and then all of a sudden you figure some stuff out and you are like, oh now I’m here it’s still getting a little better but there are these jumps you can make but it’s usually some breakthrough set some great crowd in front of a bunch of people I don’t want to forget this too there is another mistake you can make of not coming to LA soon enough because I remember being two years in and doing an open mic in Northern Virginia and just visiting home and finding an open mic and they were all like, yeah, it’s an open mic I talked to this guy who was the same two years as I was and man, he was bad he was so bad and I saw him talk about that open mic and there were 75 audience members there you have no idea how easy you have it this is the best show I have done all year and you are looking at it as an open mic and this guy was not developed because he only went up a few times a week instead of like 5, 6, 7 times a week and it’s just like he wasn’t going to develop so at some point you have to get your legs your sea legs and get the fuck out of there into where you can see good people being around good people all the time will help you you should watch every headliner that goes to Phoenix for the good ones and the bad ones if they let you in you should watch all those people it’s tough because here you get to see people every night you get to see people 15 times there you only get to see them once or twice on a weekend you just sort of enjoy the act there are 6 headliners on one show here yeah, some of the best comedians in the world are here on any given night Sebastian and Brett those guys are fucking great and there are guys that I saw that were the best anyone that I knew at one specific thing like the way Don Barish can take control of a late night crowd I don’t see many guys that can do that and I’m like, ok, what can I learn from that? and you just see the way he can smile slightly and as he calls his grandmother some dirty slut and has her laugh at him I couldn’t do that in the beginning and we saw this guy, we called him White Kyle or Sick Kyle because because he saw Don doing that and he saw me and a few other people going like you fucking bitch with a smile on their face or saying, hey, what’s up black people he went to some lady in the crowd on Sunday night and he just goes, what’s up you black bitch? and made the rest of the show weird for hours and that’s just nobody had mine we all know he had mine but technically it wasn’t there yet and that’s when he started calling Sick Kyle after that yeah, but you see people night after night after night and eventually you can start getting technical aspects of what they do, the way Bobby Lee I stole this from him, was just putting his hand on the mic stand having something to do with it, have it there he got it from Carlos, I think you’ll see the technique people have where to move the stool or sit down or stand up, leave the microphone in or not, all that stuff just look at what they do, Paul Mooney, he’s never here anymore, but he took control of a late night crowd, or early crowd more than anybody I’ve seen so I always try to watch his first five minutes because people would be leaving, and they would see him come on they didn’t know who he was, black people knew who he was a little bit this was before the Chappelle show the white people had no idea who that guy was but they’d start to stand up and they’d be like, hold on they’d start to sit down, before he even talked he just had this power and so you’ll see people that can do something really good, there’s some great storytellers around so if you have some story you watch those guys, and you start seeing how they come full circle on it and the way they’re doing things you can start to learn from them and grow that way that’s not necessarily you should do that, but if you want to do, let’s say a story then look at the other storyteller comments and see how they’re doing it what did you ask? was there any big moments of development? yeah, was there like you were starting to do stuff in TV work or anything like that yeah, that’ll help make you more confident definitely when Tony Rock started coming around he clearly used that name, Rock people got him up at the Laugh Factory right away they said this about Pauly Shore too I remember somebody telling me he did it for himself he didn’t do whatever he did for himself nobody tried to put him on because Mitzi was his mother and then the guy said he would go to the Laugh Factory and say, Pauly’s coming, just put him on and get him off I’m like, how is that not being helped? he got up, Tony Rock, same way he used the stage time to get better so who gives a fuck? so TV never made itself open to me but that’s not going to stop me I thought it would for a while I was like, I don’t see why it can’t be anything but the whole time you’re just improving on stage
This is something Maron told me to tell you guys don’t put all your eggs into stand-up he said there are maybe 10 or 15 guys that can make just a living off just stand-up comedy and be just known for just that and the odds are there’s more than 15 of you in here so, I mean, think about it.
There’s no specific I always had this thing where I’d be real confused I always had this thing where I’d be real combative with people, and be like, no, stand-up is the real thing everyone else is shitty and I’m the best, and we had this thing if you’re a comedy store comic, you were good and laugh after your comics all suck and the improv comics all suck and then I realized later, why? because I happen to drive by here and get a job here we’re all better than the laugh after people who came from the other side and got a job there it’s ridiculous it’s not a special technique every acting class does the same thing it’s not the best training good people come out of everywhere every comedian, first of all hold on, I gotta get back to this comics are all your friends I don’t know if you guys have this combative thing that we had I don’t know if you guys have this combative thing that we had but it’s always like, I’m better than you and that guy sucks we never say it to people, we just talk shit about them and fucking hate them, especially if they got a head and you knew they weren’t good that’s not bad some comic who’s getting a head because they’re not good that just helps us not in terms of, it just shows comics that are bad that’s bad, but I’m saying comics are your colleagues we’re all doing the same shit like what I said, we’re all just trying to write a dick joke so we’re all together, if you want to be enemies with somebody you’d be enemies with somebody who’s not a comic who isn’t even trying we’re all just creative people we’re all in the same boat so yeah, some people are going to be way worse than you and you’re going to be offended by that, but they’re not doing anything to you just help them along in terms of what I said, your friends are going to help you that means you guys too a lot of you guys are going to quit and become fucking producers so it’s not like you should kiss up because you never know who can help you and fear that they won’t help you but be friendly and eventually they’ll want to work with you if you quit you might give him a job at some point like, I love that guy it just comes down to, it’s down between these two people and you’re like, oh yeah, just stand up with him or, oh no, fuck that guy I used to do stand up with him it’s like, how do you want people acting? it’s not about like you have to show them that you’re better than them just be cool with people just be friendly, we’re all colleagues we’re comics, that’s us we’re comics, so we’re all in the same boat be angry at your parents someone who’s not a comic oh, and here’s what I want to get back to but in terms of that too there’s plenty of ways that you can get out your funny things you have there’s YouTube videos oh, and that’s what I meant too in terms of how it’s different now there’s also podcasts weren’t around five years ago there wasn’t a way to get your own shit done you can make stuff on your own way easier now before they had all the keys so you have to get some guy in a suit who says, we’re willing to give you money to do this thing and now it’s really not as true now if you’re broke, you need some money you definitely need some money but you can do videos for other people the stuff you can do just to get better writing I came out here, I told people writer but really, comics is what I wanted to do but writing, I’d at least taken some classes so I felt like, I can say I want to do that I won’t be embarrassed why would you think you could be a comic I had no reason to think I could but writing, I’d at least taken a few classes and then I tried both for a while then comedy took more of my stand-up took more of my mind and all my thoughts were going to stand-up so I just concentrated on that and I’m like, I’ll get to writing and then 10 years pass and then I’m the guy who just hasn’t written you can say, well I want to do this but then I just haven’t there comes a change from when you, in your mind when you all go through this when you go from being a guy who’s trying to become these things to just having become it you see those degenerates washed up comics that are huge drug addicts you guys have seen them and you’re like, well I don’t want to be that but I can still take drugs and experience these things and I’m not saying stay away from drugs I’m saying stay away from doing nothing except drugs you will eventually become that drug addict guy or that guy who’s never written anything or doesn’t write a new joke you keep saying, I’ll get to it you become that person David Taylor wrote for 5 years at coffee shops and he was getting close on jobs and started getting jobs just do it for the sake of doing it and you will improve your skills at all of it, directing stuff you want to shoot little shorts you can do them like people said on your iPhone whatever, just get it done and you won’t be good and you will get better it’s the same as any computer program you don’t know excel that well until you use it a bunch you learn all this stuff it’s on ESPN.com, not your first time your first time you go, where are the basketball scores and you figure it out, now you just know so just do everything that’s what Maron said, don’t put all your eggs in one basket there’s ways to get out like humor there’s tons of different ways so don’t be locked up like I said, Reggie Watts, that guy does it his own completely separate way and now he’s the same, he’s met up with Sarah Silverman like in the end they’re just sort of like their own way and they came back to the same place yeah? I see a lot of guys trying to get into the whole podcast thing but something someone told me once is that you don’t want to do that too early, because if you get too exposed and you’re not good, everyone’s always going to have that memory of you yeah, they say that a lot do you think the podcast and YouTube Avenue is getting too flooded? well, here’s what it is, they say don’t don’t expose yourself too early, my feeling is this it’s like when I say like, people will see you as an open mic-er always, once they see you doing open mics in that way, there is something to be said like, be careful who sees you and where and how, but if you do something that’s not good, and it gets 50 views on YouTube, no one sees that so really, what kind of exposure is it? the only way you’re getting exposure if it gets like 100,000 views and then you’re like, can’t be all bad you know, unless you’re like William Hung and you’re like, so bad that they’re laughing at you but yeah, just do the stuff and you can delete it later and you get better at it. John LeJoy he wasn’t as good, I’m sure, as he is now when he started doing all those things but now he gets, you know he has an audience that knows and loves him and wants him to put out new stuff so, I wouldn’t worry that much about like it’s too much exposure, it’s almost like, just try it and you’ll quit after 2 years it might not go anywhere, but at least you’ll have done it and you’re like, cool, now I have a little bit of experience doing that and it’ll make you better, it won’t be like a one to one like, do this and you will become a star in this avenue, it’s just like, you’ll get better over time when I started doing commercials or auditions for it, I wasn’t good at it I got a little better and I started booking some and that helped me make money so I could just do stand up but like, even on the commercials themselves I wasn’t as good when I started on them as I was after I’d done 35 or 50 of them you know, it’s like you just get better at all your skills so, I wouldn’t worry too much about like limiting yourself because you’re afraid of the exposure you know, just do the best you can at whatever level you’re at and know that you’re going to improve which means you’re going to look back on this and be like oh, this wasn’t good but I made stuff, clips online that I found later, like, whoa that is terrible and it’s sort of embarrassing but yeah, you just take that shit down and you gotta do something that’s representative of yourself I don’t know, I mean, don’t send those out to like, agents and managers because they’ll see it and they’ll be like, they’ll just assume you’re just a comic, they’re not going to assume you’ve been doing it for a year you know um but yeah, little sketches and shit, just make them who cares, podcasts, same thing, it’s like yeah, maybe it’s too late but maybe it’s not here’s the thing about those that are cool is that you might get 7 listeners but those are 7 fans and other people will listen and then like eh, I don’t like it, it’s okay, they’ll just never remember that you had a podcast you know, they’ll just, they won’t even enter into their memory if you get an 8th fan, then you have an extra fan you know, if you have 10, it’s just like Twitter and all that, it’s like the people that follow you and listen to your jokes, if you have like 100 followers, it’s 100 people listening to your jokes, that’s a lot that’s the size of the OR almost that’s pretty good and as you get better, that audience will grow, you’ll get more, you’ll start getting better tweets and people will retweet you more and you’ll start growing that way, you can’t worry too much about like, joke isn’t good, it’s gonna expose me too early, just keep trying what?
Part 2 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators-part-2/
Part 3 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators-part-3/
Part 4 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators—part-4/
Part 5 – https://mrsteinberg.com/indie-creators—part-5/