So you think you are a funny stand-up comic? At any show now, someone is going to approach you after a set and give you a Comedy Central special. It is all just a matter of time. Lots of time. Lots and lots of time.
And during that time, you will do other shows in different cities to different crowds on different nights, waiting sometimes weeks on end for the next show to happen. You sit in the hotel room waiting, watching marathons of Deadliest Catch, anticipating those 25-60 minutes of stage time. You live for the stage, so why prepare for anything else? Your stand-up act is unique enough right? It will get you to the top all by itself?
However, if you would like to flex your comedic muscles in other ways, here are a few great ideas to get your name out there and pass the time between gigs:
Podcast: Ask almost any working comic today if they have a podcast, and the answer is almost always “yes.” Some podcasts are a massive source of revenue for the likes of Joe Rogan, Dom Irrera, and Marc Maron. Others serve as a springboard into exposing the internet savvy generation to your natural comedic talent. Yet more are just an excuse to get chicks over to the house in hopes that it will turn into a scene from “Howard Stern: Private Parts.” Podcasts are most often unrehearsed and unedited, many are broadcast live. Having a successful podcast that is interesting, entertaining, and humorous can showcase your natural abilities to carry a discussion and think off the top of your head.
If you live in a major city, chances are you also have access to other comedians and can bring them on the show. This is a great way to network and offer a free service to other comedians that can help their careers, which in turn can help yours.
And most importantly, building up subscribers is building up your fan base. These people enjoy you and will likely pay to come to a show when you are in their area. You can keep listeners up to date on your progress as a comedian, tour dates, new merch, test new jokes, and even use the listener numbers to sell advertisements on your podcast to cover the costs of producing it.
Check out this video for some great podcast advice I received from Kevin Smith:
Blog/Website: Noting bothers me more than when I see a great comedian and I search for them on Google only to find a Facebook profile set to private, and a likely arrest record. If you are good at what you do, people will look for you and they will find you. So when they do, give them two things: an updated website that provides clear information on who you are and where you are going to be, and a blog or something else humorous to keep them coming back. The likelihood of someone remembering to check your tour dates for the next time you will be in the area is a lot less than someone checking your constantly updated blog for great humor and advice.
If your website is just an electronic business card, you are doing it wrong. Interact with your fans, provide material for them to read, give them videos to look at, show them that you are the complete package and they are going to buy into your comedy and make themselves a life-long fan. Writing a blog will create articles that will be shared with those in and out of the industry. A great blog post can be shared thousands of times and earn you great exposure. When was the last time you felt compelled to share a biography? Yet if you look at your Facebook right now, there are several blog posts on your newsfeed. Make sure you are one of them.
Guest Blogging: What do you enjoy outside of comedy, besides drugs and Are You Afraid of the Dark episodes on Youtube? What do you talk about on stage that could be relevant to others? Write a list of things, and take a minute to Google search for blogs about them on the internet. When you find one, message the admin and offer to write a guest post from time to time. Writing a piece about something you enjoy outside of comedy, while incorporating your own humor into the post, can be great exposure outside of your medium. You don’t need to be talking about stand-up all the time. Go do a blog post on food, theme parks, or a movie you just saw. Write a review on a new beer, video game, or a new video game about beer (On second thought, I am claiming that last idea). Expose yourself to a new audience, try your hand at a new topic, and maybe even get some new fans, or at the least, some new material out of a whole experience.
Twitter: Comics have a love/hate relationship with Twitter, as in most love to hate it. To me, Twitter is essential for more than one reason. The first being the uncensored porn pics, but that is besides the point. The truly obvious reason is that it makes for great material and writing. Twitter gives you just 140 characters to get to a punchline. Shortening jokes to get to the funny part is what a lot of comics need to work on. Some of the tweets I have thought of have developed into jokes, and have been replied to by others that gave me great directions to take jokes.
Tweets on relevant topics are picked up by real news outlets, others by Fox News, and can broadcast or published on many different mediums. Humorous tweets are picked up by various websites, and can be retweeted hundreds of times, exposing you and your joke to thousands or more. One overlooked aspect of Twitter is that the comedy clubs use it to promote their shows. Retweeting the clubs you work for demonstrates you are supporting them and they will then support you. You are providing free promotion for them, and the bigger your fan base, the more they can take notice. Sending out the schedule for their upcoming shows to your 50k followers does not go unnoticed.
Vine: See above but change “tweet” to “record” and “140 characters” to “7 seconds”
Write a Script: I just finished a doing two weeks worth of shows for the Orlando Fringe Festival. I was an actor in a 45 minute play that was written by a first year comic. We did seven shows and almost all of them were sold out. Each show, the revenue was given back to the producer of the play. Thousands of people saw our fliers, read the reviews of the play on major local news outlets, and the many that came to see the show were exposed to the comedic writing of one man. The amount of exposure that a successful play can get for the writer is unlimited. Putting your website on the fliers and programs can turn the theater goers into comedy club patrons. Your script could be bought out or made into a movie at some later point, creating even more avenues for you to explore. And just because you write the script doesn’t mean you can’t act in as well. Just ask relevant actors like Larry David and Woody Allen. Or ask someone else like Seth MacFarlane.
Write a Book: How many times have you left a comedy show and went to tell someone about how funny the comedian you just saw was? You tell a few of their jokes, get no laughs, and it usually ends with “Guess you had to be there.” If you are that comedian, why not give your audience something to take home that showcases your writing and comedic talent in your own words, not paraphrased. Books can compliment your comedy and can be shared, gifted, and will last generations. Just ask my buddy Adam Avitable, he wrote a book about interviewing dead celebrities. I took a second to read through the book at a show a few months back, and he sold several at the door. The comedy in the book is a great read and will keep people interested in him long after the show ends. His book made a bestseller list on Amazon as well and he has netted a pretty penny.
Also, how many times have you written a joke only to find that it just doesn’t work on stage. Do you think Adam would be able to do mock interviews with dead celebrities on stage? He had a great idea that wouldn’t work in his routine, so he showcased it elsewhere instead of just retiring the joke to the bottom of your notepad on your smartphone. Limiting a joke to one medium is limiting yourself.
Act: I admit, I am not a great actor. But sometimes, you don’t need to be in order to get on TV and get your face out there. Comedian Tim Wilkins from Tampa is on a Brighthouse commercial, Adam Murray is on one as well. Craig Chamberlain has his face on the side of Publix fiber bars. Rick Walters is in an independent film. Don’t be afraid to go to auditions and give it a shot. Very few locals are natural De Niro’s and getting recognized in public, even for the briefest of cameos on a commercial, is a great conversation starter that can lead into you promoting your act.
Even the stuff that doesn’t hit the airwaves can be to your advantage. A buddy of mine is in a Publix training video, seen only by those that are hired at Publix. Not a lot of exposure, but being behind the scenes of a film or commercial and seeing the process and preparation that goes into making one can also prepare you for future work that you will do on a much larger scale.
Go Viral: By this, I mean get AIDS. No one has good AIDS jokes anymore. Then go on the internet and look up Miranda Sings. If you followed my advice so far, pursue her and give her AIDS. If you decided that being sick the rest of your life isn’t for you, then just watch one or two of her many videos with millions of views. Why am I bringing up this unfunny abomination? She has a fanbase. She developed it through writing and performing as a persona on Youtube and relentless exposure. Several million views later, she has enough of a portfolio and following that she is now booking herself at top notch comedy clubs around the country for a one-night-only show that often sells out. She didn’t get that opportunity by posting clips of her at an open mic. Write humor, write skits, and bring it to life in a few 3-4 minute clips and the audience will find you and follow you, from the computer screen to the main stage.
Write a Song: I am not saying you strap on a guitar and hit the stage, I am saying you can write and record songs from your own home now with very little talent, just look at Fergie. You can download instrumental songs for free and put your own lyrics to them, parody existing songs, or even write your own original music if you know how. Putting your comedy into a song allows people to listen to you in a unique light and can net you revenue if you sell it on iTunes. Adam Sandler, Steve Martin, Andy Samberg, and T.J. Miller are all excellent stand-up comics who added music to their repertoire with success and made a pretty penny off of it. If two guys in helmets can make millions off of pressing play and repeating a few phrases, you should be able to put your dick jokes to a beat and at least make five bucks from relatives with iPods.
Bartend: I know this sounds weird, but bartending is a great way of building up your comedy career. Every single night you get to test your jokes on the same people likely to frequent the open mics and clubs you perform at. Build relationships with them, get them to come to shows, and you will likely even get a story or two out of it to share on stage. Then, when you finally realize that comedy is a lot harder than you thought it was, you are already in a position to drink away your sorrow.
These are just a few ways that you can expand your fanbase, writing abilities, and pass the time between the gigs. Have any other suggestions? Feel free to post them in the comments so I can ignore them or tell you that you are wrong.