Saturday, 24 September 2011

One Man Show

At some point a comedian will have the opportunity to stage a one man show. This could be at The Edinburgh Fringe, a local festival or every few months at a night they have a hand in running, just because. It is useful to have a one man show under your belt, as it looks good on paper to yourself and the festival organisers who are chasing eventual funding (of which you will see precisely none of).
There are a few different ways to approach putting on a show of your own.

1. Pick n Mix - There is an established “headline” act, the title of the evening is that of the headliner’s show, however, there are two or more other “support” acts on before him. This is often to allow someone who hasn’t got an awful lot of experience to later say that they’ve done “a festival” or taken part in it, neglecting to mention they were actually a support act and squandered a twenty minute spot when they can just about fill five competently. The headline act can then usually do well under an hour of his own stuff and hope that the audience doesn’t notice that it isn’t actually a “show” after all, more of a gig with his mates, regardless of whether or not they compliment each other’s styles.

2. Free For All - This approach is at least more honest than the above one. A group of comics come together to put a show on. Usually performing 20-30 minutes each throughout the evening. Again, a credit is taken for doing the festival and also neglecting to mention that they did a bog-standard performance of material you would have seen anywhere else they perform anyway, calling into question why they bothered even doing it in the first place beyond satisfying their own selfdom.

3. "Serious Art" - Billing your show as “Theatre / Experimental / Niche / Etc” gives you a large advantage at a cost. The downside is that you can’t say you had a “comedy show”.  The advantage being that you will attract the type of crowd that approaches everything ever so earnestly - it’s unlikely that they will offer any sort of direct criticism, because as an art/theatre show, it’s up to "each person’s perspective". Thus your show will rarely be described as “unfunny”, because it’s art. As a result, very little effort needs to be applied in this format. Throw in a poem, song or interpretive dance somewhere during the hour and you’re set. More people will promote and discuss your show because it wasn’t billed as a comedy show, yet it made em laugh! Thus it’s much better than any actual comedy show!

    Once you’ve decided on your format, all that you need is a show name, your blurb and a photo. The show’s name should reflect what sort of material or themes you may be touching on, but that doesn’t necessarily apply here. Any old thing will do. It doesn’t really need to make a lot of sense, because chances are you haven’t worked awfully hard on constructing a cogent theme throughout anyway.

    Example of a bad poster
    Much of your comedian’s blurb can do for the show’s blurb, as it’s (mostly) you they’re coming to see. Make sure to turn up the bullshit factor to 11 though, as you’re probably competing with other comics around the same time. Paraphrase quotes from newspapers about gigs you’ve done, even if it’s a quote you originally gave them about yourself at one point. Use the same techniques you used coming up with your original blurb. The more hyperbole the better, usually.

    For your show’s photo/poster, try to find either the tackiest, nausea-inducing font/colour combination you can get, or the shoddiest, MS Paint style production values and share them everywhere. If possible, make it a chore to figure out what’s going on in the flyer, so punters actually feel obligated to go to it because they spent around a minute and a half figuring out why your face is on a poster.

    And there we have it! A sure-fire guide to setting up your one man show! Always remember to promise more than you can deliver and MAKE ‘EM LAUGH!

    Tuesday, 28 June 2011

    Selling Yourself: Website

    Now that you've established yourself as a hot-property comedian, you need a place where fans and promoters can visit so they can look at you, envy you and contact you. This is where your very own website comes into play. Follow these tips and before you'll know it, there will be an off-ramp of the information superhighway right at your doorstep!

    1. Headshot - Make no mistake; you want people to know that it's your website, so it's preferable to have a large headshot image of you on the homepage. Either looking incredibly smug with yourself for no discernable reason, or looking particularly serious and thoughtful, as if what you do has serious and heavy artistic merit to it.

    2. Achievements - Much like Your Blurb, your website homepage should have as many "achievements" and pieces of extraneous information (which mean nothing to the common punter) awkwardly crowbarred into the introduction as possible, almost as if attempting to grant the entire venture some sort of meaning.

    3. Showreel - It is also useful to have a showreel on your website. A Showreel is a compilation video clip of all your "best bits", intended to impress potential bookers. There's no need to have the clips in a logical sequence, or the clips themselves to have any context whatsoever. Heavily utilise different clip transitions, such as star-wipes.  Make sure you have some popular music playing in the background throughout the showreel, but remember, not so loud as to distract the viewer, but not so quiet that they can actually make out any of the badly recorded and edited clips you are presenting to them.

    4. Quotes - Remember to make use of the various quotes you've gathered and fabricated about yourself in Your Blurb. They can also go on the front page, or in a "Testimonials" section of your website. There's more liberty here to use unverifiable quotes and backhanded compliments to beef up your one-manpowered circlejerk. Always remember to end your quote section with something along these lines:

    "Here mate, thought you were funny." - Some bloke after a gig

    Guaranteed hilarity. This shows the reader that you actually do have a sense of humour and that people do think you're funny. It also displays the fact that you're in touch with the common everyday man; because normal people go around collecting things people have said about them and pay money to have those things displayed on a website.

    5. Facebook - To make sure people regularly visit your website so that your counter steadily goes up, make a "Fan Page" about yourself on Facebook. You can do this after about three open mic gigs. Usually the fan population is made up of closely-related family members of the comic. Science has still not completely deciphered why amateur comics have Facebook pages, but common sense would suggest it has something to do with attention and ego.

    6. Blog - A blog is another useful way of encouraging people to visit your site.  Aggressive and favourable introspection and self-congratulation is the most common use of a blog by a comic. Standard blog posts usually consist of a turgid and rose-tinted account of a recent gig, what they enjoyed about it, how the audience enjoyed it, a skimmed over (usually omitted) admittance of failure of a certain aspect of their act, finally finishing with a wry joke or pun in a faux-cheerful manner and a list of their upcoming gigs, as if anyone was reading. A certain level of self-deprecation usually envelopes each blog post, but is strangely absent from the comic's persona, on stage and off. Also, spell-check is optional.

    So there you go, lots of people checking out hot, hot comedy websites thanks to these tips! Try them out and make 'em laugh!

    Friday, 10 June 2011

    Selling Yourself: Your Videos

    One thing that's certain about comedy behind-the-scenes, is that promoters love watching stand-up videos sent to them by comedians looking for a spot. It can be useful to have a routine or performance recorded, so that the promoter knows what he's in for and can then massively change his opinion by giving you a bigger slot, more money and future gigs!

    Here are some tips for shooting your stand up video.

    1. Crowd - Try to pick a quiet night in the club where there aren't many people about. This ensures that you can be heard over the howls of laughter that you will be generating. Too many people laughing will just drown your gags out!

    2. Director - Ask a friend to record your set. Preferably a friend who quite likes your routine, that way, they end up laughing directly into the camera from behind. This makes it sound like more people were laughing louder and thus reflects well on you. If your friend knows your set well, it can result in them laughing just before the punchline, as they know what's coming. This is useful for promoters as it lets them know a joke is coming and to pay attention.

    3. Framing - Your friend should be able to get a shot that shows you on stage and a part of the audience, perhaps the table at the front. This will allow the promoter to see you wow the crowd with audience interaction while they look disinterested, chat amongst themselves, stare at their phones and scrape their chairs around the floor as they go to the bar.

    4. Length - Record and upload your whole set in its entirety. Don't edit and just upload short taster gags of your routine. The introduction from the MC, the clumsy fumbling with the mic stand and the slow start add an air of authenticity that the promoter will be looking for. Stop yourself from cutting out the failed jokes and slow patches in your short 9 minute 32 second "clip" - the viewer is going on a journey through your stand up. It wouldn't be any fun if it was all laughs, would it?!

    Happy shooting!

    If you're still unsure, here's a good example of what you want to send to a promoter so they can sit through it and watch. You'll be headlining clubs because of your videos in no time!

    Wednesday, 8 June 2011

    Selling Yourself: Your Blurb

    Your "blurb" is one of the key tools of attracting the audience and the attention of promoters. It is a piece of prose ranging from a few lines to 6+ paragraphs about you, your comedy and various quotes from summarily-written reviews or off-hand compliments given to you by an actual semi-professional comedian.

    Shortly before the first ever blurb was written

    Much like the ability to call yourself a fully-fledged comedian, there is no need to hesitate in coming up with your very own blurb - do it after your first gig. Hell, do it before your first gig: it's only going to be mostly lies and self-aggrandising speculation anyway.

    It is important to use adjectives to describe yourself. The more fantastical the better. "brilliant" , "amazing" , "energetic" , "unrelenting" "comic presence", etc. There's no need to have referential evidence of any of these attributes; it's just to get the audience through the doors, money out of their pockets and attention for your own hungry ego. Remember, you're the show.

    The use of clich├ęs in blurbs is particularly common - "blew the roof off" , "leaves the audience wanting more" , "wowed the crowds" etc. It is an odd practice, as all the acts in one line-up can end up sounding exactly the same. It would almost suggest that the featured comics aren't as experienced and successful as one (or they) would assume. Luckily nobody questions this.

    Sticking the name of a better or more well-known comedian in your blurb (without asking) is guaranteed to catch the eye of the average punter (and not irritate the other comedian you mentioned at all). Simply having shared the same stage as the well-known comedian throughout the course of one night, is enough to say you "supported" him or her. Incidentally, there's no need to actually go on directly before him/her or be asked specifically to support them (by say, their manager/agent), or even get paid for it. You supported them, and that's that!

    Also, remember to ask the more successful comedian what they thought of your set (even if they didn't see it or pay attention to you, which is likely). If they said "I liked it" , "That was OK" , "Stop bothering me", feel free to translate that into whatever delusional persuasion you happen to be of. Something along the lines of "Excellent and unstoppable comedy steam train!" should do. Remember to attribute the particular quote to them all the time.

    Always check if there is a reviewer in at the gigs you do. This can be a handy opportunity to get a quote to use for your blurb that may not be as devastatingly obvious that you wrote. The quality, circulation or notoriety of the publication they write for is irrelevant, so long as the review is positive. Ensure this by being overly friendly with the reviewer, buying them drinks, etc. Although research would suggest that reviews are merely the opinion of one person, and do not reflect the overall feeling. Make sure that the review corresponds with your overall feeling.

    You are now ready to write your blurb! Some people may find it difficult to write about themselves, so an aid is provided below. This usually proves to be a good technique, so long as you are honest.