Sunday, March 24, 2013

Going "Pro"

A comic recently asked me what he needs to go "pro". I thought my answer might be of interest to others so here it goes:

First of all, it depends on what you mean by "pro". I like to caution all comics from focusing on money. When you start to focus on money, you get jaded and your life is filled with disappointment. There isn't much money to be made in comedy, it should always be an art form that we engage because we enjoy it. they day you start doing it for the paycheck is the day life starts to suck. Not only because it takes away from the joy of doing what you love, but the paychecks blow.

Money comes in time, focus on making yourself a marketable commodity. anyone can tell jokes and get laughs, but how many people encourage total strangers to leave their homes and take a chance on a night out in a shitty club serving over-priced drinks? until you have a following you aren't really worth anything to club owners and bookers. Talent is easily replaceable. Sure, they will compensate you for your time, but nobody can live on what you'll get paid for host / feature sets. Even if you are getting steady work, you aren't going to earn enough to pay for much more than gas.

I know people that are more than 10 years deep that struggle. The most successful "pro" comics are those that live at home or with a spouse that supports them. Or support themselves by some other means.

Basically, what I am saying is accept money gracefully when it is offered to you but don't expect it. don't count on it. and don't ever feel entitled to it.

The few "pro" early-tenure comics out there that claim to make a living in comedy, are in fact making a living by producing comedy shows. And even then, it's a meager existence. But, if you are so inclined and have an entrepreneurial streak that is the best way to go. Own your own. I have supported myself for over 5 years throwing comedy shows, and in the process got a whole lot more stage time than I would have otherwise. How to do that is going to depend on your resources and ability to recognize opportunities.
For example, I've got a really unique niche at the moment where I've combined my background in Psychology with my experience as a comedian into something really marketable, comedic motivational speaking. I get good crowds, i tell lots of jokes, and i am supporting myself because I found an opportunity.

The traditional route of working the open mics to get to host / feature and then get noticed and land that TV / Movie gig works for a few comics, but not for most. There is no standard career path for comedians. you have to create your own path.

However all that said, yes get some good head shots. yes, get a good demo video. a URL should be good enough for most bookers, no need to mail a press kit. get a good bio to introduce yourself with and network network network. then network some more. Also, invest in PR and marketing, beyond facebook. You are now a brand. Market yourself as you want to be represented.

Be good to the people you meet along the way. Asshole comics, even really funny ones, get a lot less work.

I hope that helps.