The Secret to "Making It" in Comedy
And Some Other $h!t Comedians Won't Tell You
"You are not going to make it as a comedian, you are vying for a lottery ticket that may or may not cash and probably, will not cash, but if you create your own $h!t, your own path or niche, your chances of being noticed are far [email protected]!ng better."
“When you’re creating your own $h!t, man, even the sky ain’t the limit.”
— Miles Davis
("If peeing your pants is cool, consider me Miles Davis"— Billy Madison)
"I remember when you sucked."
— Back Handed Compliment From Good Friend
What does it mean to 'make it' in comedy?
When I first started it meant that my name was on a flyer instead of the '& more' section. Scary that I've been doing this long enough that I used to get flyers for a show snail mailed... so I could hand them out to people... it wasn't just a social media post... anyways...
So you've been tearing up open mics, pumping out new material, getting some good laughs, entered a contest and even performed on some shows in your scene. You are chasing down that white dragon of comedy and you are hooked, hard. You can't imagine life without performing, but aren't exactly sure what the path is supposed to be to make this crazy dream a reality.
The short version: Create your own $h!t! & don't put all your eggs in the stand-up comedy basket.
The longer version:
Last month I was in NYC for a few shows and had the pleasure of meeting up with Kevin Gootee. Fellow stand-up, and the creator/ producer of Comics Watching Comics.We had some good laughs over a beer, discussing the crazy world of comedy, a lot of the bull crap that goes with it and the insanity of creating your own $h!t.
Comics Watching Comics wasn't just a thing that someone said:
"Hey Kevin! Can you be a part of this? Just show up for an hour."
No he created it from the ground up, and has put in countless hours of work towards it. It is now a show that other comedians are using as a credit because it's big and growing it's audience as each season passes. It also doesn't hurt that it's streaming on Amazon Prime
Season 6 of 'Comics Watching Comics' is available now!
Sarah Martin: What made you want to create Comics Watching Comics?
Kevin Gootee: I was at an open mic, and it seemed to be a collection of the most "God damn awful" comics. My friend and I were ripping on them back and forth through text. I thought, this is kinda funny, this could be a show, but wait a minute, you can't just make a show out of shitting on them, cause:
A) Nobody would want a 2nd season
B) Just bad karma
There can be something to tie in with it cause at the time it was the last season of Last Comic Standing, which I don't find to be good, it was a lot of sugar coated horse$h!t. The only good one, Norm McDonald. He was like "that was bad, and here's why," everyone else was like, "you're great, you're wonderful"...
No one wants to be the bad guy on national TV.
Right, you know, so I'm like what if we take both (kinds of judges) and kinda of mix them together, but for intermediate comics, and show the rest of the country, the non-comics, what it's like to be in comedy
But also the best piece of advice I was ever given and I will spread it as gospel, create your own $h!t.
You are not going to make it as a comedian, you are vying for a lottery ticket that may or may not cash and probably, will not cash, if you create your own shit, your own path or niche, your chances of being noticed are far [email protected]!ng better.
This is why i'm doing this show as well as other shows as opposed to just putting my eggs in the comedy basket
...And just purely doing stand- up and chasing down shows and spots at clubs...
I think that's ludicrous, that's just not my path, some people think this is it, hell or high water, I'm gonna make it as a comic, and that's fine. I mean most of us, I'm sure you too, when you started, you never thought you'd be into writing articles or podcasting
I didn't even think there was so many paths you could take.
Right, I never knew I'd be doing voice-overs or this show, when these opportunities appear it seems a lot better than trying to fight to get passed to do a late night spot at a club on a Tuesday, with only four $h!tty drunk guys in the audience
...And 40 other comedians before you get to go up...
You know it sister preach on...
How do you choose the judges?
Do they have to be good at $h!tting on people?
I choose the panel, like I choose the comedians, I have a nice bell curve. Some people are gonna be great, the majority of people are gonna be fine or okay and there is other people that are gonna suck. I do the same for judges, some are gonna be ball busters, some people are gonna be like 'alright, that was good' and give feedback, and some watch with a clinical eye, just breaking down the jokes and structure. I try to have a mix of everything for everyone, and I try as the host to be all of those in one.
Quip on Judging...
Everyone is pretty much judged knowingly and unknowingly from the second you walk out on stage, and then the internet and so on so screw it.
As one of the few shows that truly gives back to the comedy community, the show gives an opportunity for newer comics to be seen as well. Although it has a very small production team (about 3-4 people total) the quality is professional. This means though, that it is mostly financed by Kevin himself so please support the ongoing efforts by checking out the latest season. If you would like to submit, please follow the show on their website, FB, Twitter etc.
I think the show is a cool thing to offer to the [comedy] community too. If somebody has been doing stand up, let's say 2-3 years, they've been getting pretty good and they want to have some feedback and reassurance on it, and especially in the NY scene it tends to be pretty tough to get stage time that is quality.
Yeah, and just for the record, the requirement is 3 years in, and I think I might be bumping it up because I wanna have people who are rock solid. The cut off is 3 years because you better have a solid 5 minutes. If you don't by 3 years in, stop. You'd be surprised those, some people show up and think they can wing it. We can sniff it out.
What are the top 3 things you are looking for in a contestant?
Knowing your 5
A lot of people don't do this, which shocks me, but front loading your best $h!t, cause spoiler alert, we don't watch the entire 5 minutes most the time.
Oh like a booker, I think we all have a snap judgement on whether or not we are interested in listening. It's not one of those longer sets where you can ease into, you're not closing out a show, you have 5 minutes, you gotta fire away
Right especially since the videos sent in are the audition
Has doing this ruined comedy for you?
I have ADD already and the answer is yes. My tolerance has gone down, if I go to a mic or a show and it's the same premise like....
'you guys on tinder?'
I'll go take a piss, or if they use Trump or racism as a punchline it's just lazy. Something lame and corny like
'I was walking down the street and farted, someone said ew that smells, then I was like, that's racist.'
Has the game [stand up] changed for you since the show? Is there more pressure on you going up to the stage?
Yes absolutely, cause it's like, who this [email protected], with the balls to judge. That's why I don't sit there alone, I have people more tenured than myself on the panel, it's not a monarchy, it's a judiciary committee if you will. I'm just hosting, everyone on the couch has more experience than myself. The show does have a judgement tone to it, so sometimes I feel like I go up there and people are like yeah, fuck this guy.
Some people are like well 'I could have done that', so I'm like cool do it then
There are talkers and there are doers. I don't hang out with talkers. Those are the people who are like I'm going to a big meeting, but can't talk about it. Don't say anything unless you have it. I'm not saying a word until it is in stone. The doers do that, the talkers will create this air like 'oh look at me' when there is nothing there. It's truly the Emperor's New Clothes.
You're talking about a possible live show at a casino, and Comics Watching the NFL on top of everything else. What would it take for you to think you've 'made it'?
The minute I can quit corporate America. People think I'm so far a long, and I'm not, I'm maybe a little farther along than most, but not like leaps and bounds like some people think I am.
What would be the marker for you to feel like it's safe to quit your day job?
If the live show goes well, if we can get a deal for Comics Watching the NFL, if both those come in, then I maybe work 2 days a week.
Is there any limit of when the idea maybe 'jumped the shark'? If there's Comics Watching Comics, Comics Watching the NFL, will there be Comics Watching Hot Garbage and Paint Dry?
No, and there's a few other comics watching stuff in the works, I will run this brand into the ground.
Thank you Kevin! This was very motivational. Make your own thing and don't limit it.
Quick run down to 'making it':
- You can't do it without goals or a vision.
- What do you want to do in comedy? What's the end goal?
- Don't limit the amount of avenues this line of work has.
- If I were to rate myself off my standards of 'making it' from 10 years ago, then I've made it. I made it onto the flyer and out of the '& more' section. My goals have transformed as I'm sure my comedy career has as well. Thankfully social media has made flyers easier to share too.
I also wanted to do a quick shout out to Austin Nasso from the Seattle basedWorking Comic Podcast. Not only because I was honored to be a guest (Thank you Austin!), but because it's a different type of comedy podcast instead your typical bunch of comedians that have been doing it for a day and record in their mom's basement.
His show features interviews with comedians, writers, creators, actors, producers, club owners, and other successful cool people making it big in comedy. The show focuses on both creative and business sides of being an entertainer to help everyone find their own path!
I comedy nerded out to this! Very cool stuff. The name says it all...
If you create your own show whether it's in a bar, club, on tv, decide to run your own comedy club, it's yours, sky is the limit on what you do with it according to Miles Davis.