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Addicted to Comedy by Wayne Manigo: DIY Comedy Shows – Taking The Risks And The Rewards
I remember when starting comedy, how exciting it would be be make it to what I considered “The Big Time.” Every comedian has a different interpretation of what success means to them. At that time, I believed that once I had enough material, experience on the road, and exposure, the offers to perform comedy at clubs around the country would pour into my inbox. A television appearance here and there, and my comedy career could reach new levels. Historically, once you appeared on a late night talk show – the comedy gods would guide you into becoming a success. That’s the way it was done for decades.
Then I discovered how the model for comedy was broken. Patton Oswatt’s keynote speech at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival was a brilliant set of letters explaining to comedians and “The GateKeepers” of comedy how things have changed, in favor of the comics. Comedians need to consider all of their options while developing their comedy career. More importantly, they should be willing to take risks. My favorite quote from Patton’s speech:
“I need to decide more career stuff for myself and make it happen for myself, and I need to stop waiting to luck out and be given.”
The timing of this statement was truly ironic to me because prior to this article, it was one of the topics of discussion with some of my fellow comedians. Here are two examples of comedy tours I discovered, where comedians are willing to absorb risks in order to increase their fan base, their exposure to the media, and break a few of the rules in the process.
The Jokeslingers Comedy Tour
Ritch Shydner explained in the film I Am Comic how comedians have a certain timeframe or window to “make it” in Hollywood. The comedians on this tour have appeared in several television shows including Last Comic Standing, My Name Is Earl, Madtv, and more. Even with those Hollywood credits, they have not become household names yet. So they decided to pool their talents and resources together and finance their own comedy tour. The members of the Jokeslingers tour are:
- Alex Moore – www.alexmorecomedy.com ( @AlexMooreComedy )
- Brian Kerns – www.briankernscomedy.com ( @BrianKerns )
- Adam Dodd – www.theadamdodd.com ( @TheAdamDodd )
Each member is an experienced road comic, with several years of performing for a variety of audiences under their belt. Their styles of comedy are very different, and their combined efforts are sure to ‘WOW’ any crowd! Adam will sing the funniest dirty songs ever, but you can’t help yourself when he requests the audience to sing along with him. Brian delivers jokes at a rapid pace, with a machine gun delivery technique that leaves the audience wanting more. Alex complete the trio’s line up with material based his life experiences, Hollywood, and anything that crosses his mind while on stage.
What excites me the most about this tour is how the Jokeslingers decided to rent out local theaters for their audience. Utilizing the traditional comedy club model, they focused their marketing efforts with each town’s local media, prepared visits the radio stations to promote the shows, and updating their fans via social media. By performing these tasks (traditionally done by promoters/bookers/marketers), they eliminated the need for ‘the middle man’, thus increasing their proposed revenue. As a self financed tour, Alex, Brian, and Adam are becoming trendsetters when it comes believing in yourself and your comedy!
Created as a brainchild idea of James Creelman, one of the goals of this tour is to perform in front of many people along the east coast as possible. They intend to visit offee shops, opening for bands, and hitting every open mic possible along the way. Using www.kickstarter.com to help finance the project, James created a schedule to visit multiple states, and he recruited fellow comedians Derek Santos and Dan Martin. When I questioned why they created such a small kickstarter goal ($200), Dan explained how it was important to raise awareness to the project.
“People can continue to contribute after the goal is reached, but if the initial goal is not met – They will not receive any of pledged donations.”
Another thing that fascinates me about this project is the “word of mouth” marketing by the members of the group. Once the tour was announced on Fellow Stand-Ups (a comedian based Facebook group created by Dan Martin), the comedy community jumped in to help book them in various rooms based on their schedule. Instead of using websites like couchsurfing.org, they reached out to family and comics in other cities for a place to crash. They billed themselves as unknown comics with a goal to perform anywhere, anytime, and sometimes without the reward of a paycheck. You can’t get more dedicated than that!
In closing, Judy Carter mentioned how comedians should create their own opportunities. Using the previous comedy blueprint to reach that next level of comedy (larger clubs, movies, television, etc) is no longer the only option to us. Louis C.K. may have been the first comic who took an extreme risk of rebelling against the comedy corporate machine, but these comedians don’t have his budget. Their stakes are higher, their odds to succeed are longer, and their sacrifices are more intense. But that will not stop them from continuing to pursue their dreams, and I salute them for that. Good luck gang! Keep performing!
© 2012 Wayne Manigo
Wayne Manigo is a comedian and co-founder of DC Comedy Writers Group. He is the creator of “Addicted to Comedy,” and the ‘brainchild’ behind the annual comedy conference, Starting Stand Up: A Comic Beginning. He also produces the show, Bellylaughs in Bethesda at Caddies at Cordell.