Sunday, 2 October 2016

Keeping Their Attention

Sure, you have all the jokes, laughs and a solid-gold, cast-iron comedy reputation across the land. You've bought more vanity licence plates than you've had complimentary hot dinners every night. But you have to keep your legions of fans interested, and remind them that you're relevant. Here are some techniques to secure your place in their minds (and cheques) as 'Mr Bigshot'.

Pictured: You, waiting on the audience to stop laughing

1. Have some wilfully offensive material

The beauty of this trick is that you generally don't have to put much thought behind it. All you need to do is think of something genuinely horrific or awful that could (and does) befall people on a daily basis. Once you've got that, just say it onstage. Luckily, the "joke" doesn't have to make sense, because the audience will be too busy hilariously reeling from the unpleasant scenario put forward for days and weeks on end.

"My only response to the inappropriate is to give what would be considered an appropriate response within this social context, hahahaha etc"

Of course, there is the real danger that your scenario may have actually happened to someone who is in the crowd, just out trying to enjoy themselves like anyone else. However, that's not your fault or responsibility, that's just statistics. Plus, they'll now associate you with their trauma and vice-versa. Now that's promotion you can't put a price on! They may even mention you to their therapist at some stage, and you know their hot dinner/vanity licence plate ratio is through the roof (which you've already blown off)!

"He said that? Wow! What's a guy gotta do to be his therapist?"

2. Organise a show about you

Not a one man show as we've previously discussed, that would be too much work. What you need to do to revive interest is to get a good gimmick show. Something that has a lot of moving parts and potential for tech failure at every turn.

"Sure, it'll be fine on the night."

This keeps things exciting and stressful for everyone involved. A live panel show or talent contest is a good format; usually something that is quite expensive and logistically nightmarish for trained professionals to pull off on television, nevermind you in a back room of a pub with half a working sound system. Capitalise on unsuspecting crowd numbers by getting the show included in a festival where the board would agree in theory to do something like this twice in as many nights (for some reason).

"Welcome aboard! Also, pleased to meet you."

3. Exploit, exploit, exploit

You've done the bare minimum and now it's time to reap the rewards, and there's no better soul to be pickin' than that of the life and the party! Hey, you're the one with the reputation on the line, so it's gotta be you getting the biggest laughs, making the most noise and poorly attempting full character assassination of your fellow comics in front of an audience!


You may have decided to get more than half a dozen other acts in on this show to help pad it out and/or carry the weight, either through their goodwill or their fresh-faced naivety, but you're the one driving this freight train full of hilarity, not them. Can you imagine in real life if someone tried to get up front and take control from the driver? Death. And probably not half as many laughs.

Make sure the other guests you've invited on to the show know their place by passing the blame of failure of the night onto them, and if the audience don't know theirs either, then you can revert back to point 1. After all, they've only paid to see this!

"How much of your ticket are you getting back and how do I feel about the situation?"

So there you go, before you know it you'll be on the tip of people's tongues and fingers from then on, right all the way until the start of the working week! Soak it up while it lasts! You won't have to do anything like this again for about 4 years or so - am I right ladies?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Making it as a comedian: Your six month checklist

Being a comedian is hard. Probably harder than being a brain surgeon. A brain surgeon has to operate on just one brain at a time with pointy tools, often with much blood. As a comedian, you have to interact with lots of people's brains all at once only using your words and with marginally less blood everywhere. You don't need to tell me who got the easy gig!

            What a hack.

However, unlike brain surgery or rocket science (substitute blood for oil/rocket fuel), comedy is a skill that can be picked up by anyone and mastered well within a year. If you've been gigging for the past while, here's your checklist for six months in comedy. Not ticked one of these off? Then you're not doing it right!

1. One Man Show

As discussed before, it's important to have a one man show under your belt. Most people think that this is an hour's worth of your own original and best material, presented in a cogent and coherent manner, perhaps with an underlying theme and with suitable closure for the audience.

In reality, there's many ways around this truck load of hard work. Get three of your friends to take part. Have two as ten minute support acts and the other as an MC. Roll out the same old material for the last 15-20 minutes, plus anything else off the top of your head and there you go! There's your hour show!

N.B. Remember to plug your show continuously for months on Facebook, to the point where it becomes some sort of visual background noise, always accompanying it with "Hurry! Just a few tickets left!" etc. In the few days leading up to it, give plenty of complimentary tickets out to your family and friends, then announce the show as "Sold Out". Don't forget to get your "journalist" mate to write a "review" dripping in nepotism for the local rag and reimburse him for it. About two pints should do it.

2. Gig Runner

Being on stage at other people's comedy nights isn't enough! You've been doing comedy for what seems like five minutes and lack enough usable material to comfortably fill an awkward silence in an elevator - it's time to expand your horizons! Seek out venues that don't have comedy on. Particularly venues that have zero interest in promoting it (this ensures you have full creative control of your night). Rooms with more twists and turns than an Agatha Christie novel along with plenty of pillars in the way of the stage are perfect. This means that the laughs will bounce around the room more than a traditionally shaped room, ensuring that people have an even better time than those comedy nights where people can see and hear the comedian clearly.

Once you set up one comedy night, set up another six. Ensure maximum success by purposely scheduling them to clash with other clubs, because as we all know, comedy's a big enough racket these days to intentionally split the laugh-hungry audience on a single night.

3. Comedy Crackerjack

Now that you have your comedy empire (which preferably uses your own face as the logo) you will need comedian minions to fill the line up each night. Already established comics in the circuit probably won't be too keen on performing at your nights due to extreme jealousy, so it's time to recruit and train up your own Gag Army.

Advertise free "How To Become a Comedian" classes, preferably to attract naive and impressionable people. Teach them everything you know about comedy. Later in the day, after lunch, put on a showcase gig in front of their friends and family. At the same time, plug your other gigs you have going on, placing most of your new comics in the line up. Bingo! You have full line ups and crowds packed with the newbie performers' friends and family who have been blackmailed into attending out of politeness. When the newbie performers no longer draw an easy crowd, get rid of them and recruit different comics. Repeat this process over and over when needed, right up until the comedy scene is watered down enough to flush right down the toilet.

There you are! If you haven't completed these steps in six months, unfortunately you won't become a fully-fledged comic. Not to worry though, you can still foist your borderline autistic slobberings into the comedy scene; submit badly-written comedy reviews to free magazines, record a four hour long "humour" podcast or write a blog on how to teach comedy.

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.

    Monday, 11 October 2010

    How To Be an MC

    "MC" stands for "Master Comedian", he's the guy who holds together the evening, starts the show, ends the show and introduces the acts. Other duties may include:
    • Deciding how much money an act gets paid at the end of the night, based on door takings/the personal relationship between them
    • The running order of the evening, based on the acts style, content, length and the personal relationship between them
    • Flashing the acts on stage to let them know they are going over their time/bombing on stage/making stage time for a comic friend of his who is not on the bill, yet will get more time than you

    "Flashing" is a technique used by MCs to get acts off the stage by flashing a light from the back of the room or side of the stage. Unfortunately, much like the crime act of the same name, it's rarely executed with the intended subtlety, and also like the crime, its recipients usually experience anger, disgust and confusion upon its occurrence.
    "Time's up"

    TRIVIA - Famous MCs include Hammer, Donald and Fly.

    Good MC

    If you have worked your way up to MC status in a club, or started your own one and taken the role despite lack of stage presence or material, then there are a few things you need to know.

    1. You are the show

    Even with a comedy night with three acts on the bill, you are going to be up on stage at least four times (not including intervals). Use these spaces in-between acts to go through some of your material. If you have half an hour worth of material, break it down into chunks to slot around the acts. The resulting bite-size comedy will suit perfectly and not seem crowbarred in, it may even seem refreshing because in number 2...

    2. Introductions

    You are in direct competition with all the other acts on that night. Why give the other comics a leg up and run the risk of being forgotten as "that guy between the good comedians" at the end of the night? Pre-empt the acts by giving them a bad introduction. Some angles are:
    • Getting their name wrong - This will initially throw the comic and force them to make a tough decision: Do they quickly attempt to correct you as soon as they get up on stage, potentially blowing their first gag in the process and generally ruining their flow? Or do they battle on anyway, under an incorrect name? 9 times out of 10 the comedian's ego cannot handle having the audience not know what their correct name is. If they question you afterwards, blow them off with a "poor handwriting/can't read well/got confused in the spotlight" excuse.
    "Next up we have Frank Mahmmfppft!"
    • Saying their catchphrase/punchline - This is especially devastating when this is used against a comic who has a tight routine with a great pay-off. If you blow the gag in their intro, then the end of their routine will go down like a lead balloon.
    "And now please welcome to the stage Kevin "I've Got Three Nipples" Jones!"
    • Their history - Mentioning a past endeavour or event of theirs that they had hoped the audience had long forgotten about is a great way to inspire instant hatred from the punters. A TV appearance, sexual inadequacy or a past unconvicted manslaughter charge is a great way to get the audience murmuring at the start of their set. The comic will then have to make the same decision made in point 2 as whether or not to explain or just continue on.
    "Fresh from prison, please welcome Sean Miller!"

    3. Outros

    This is a good way to kick someone when they're down - if a comic did average to particularly awful, it can be quite effective to snigger/smile broadly/wink at the audience whenever you come back and take the microphone from them. Repeating a failed punchline of theirs will garner a good response from the audience. Remember to do something similar at the end of the night when you ask the audience to give a round of applause for the acts they've seen.

    With these tips you will soon become the Master MC (Master Master Comedian)! Get online and start designing your t-shirts, coffee mugs and tote bags now! (order in bulk for reduced prices.)