Business Side of Stand-Up Comedy & Keynote Speaking
comedy & Business keynote speaking
Submitted for your consideration:
There are countless myths and rumors going around
that mislead beginning stand-up comics and business keynote speakers:
The list of these innocent misconceptions is so long that . . ..
Hopefully, you will now, or very soon start recognizing what I describe.
•Come on: you can handle the truth, right?
First myth to be dispelled: "The open mic system is a great place to try out new
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
Allen once said,
"The best place to try out new material is Saturday night!"
This "Saturday night" is assumed to be at a full-time comedy
club where you are working for pay.
Only under these circumstances will your new material have a ghost of a chance
to get a fair hearing.
•Therefore, it is critical to get hired for pay ASAP.
How can you initially get hired ahead of the pack,
then rapidly work your
way up the stand-up comedy and/or business keynote speaking career ladders?
•Start by reading every word on this web page:
If much of what I share contradicts general perceptions in the comedy and
please keep an open mind:
Hopefully, by the time you reach the bottom of this document, you will start
to get my drift.
And if what I say makes sense to you,
•we may end up working together to help you
realize your ambitions
in the fast-lane professions
comedy and speaking.
This web page is an introduction to my "Business Side of Stand-Up
and functions as the Index for my Audition folder.
To return to this Index page, just click your browser's Back Button.
Q: Why devote a folder containing 22 more web pages to Auditions? A: Because throughout your stand-up comedy or business keynote speaking
always be auditioning.
Comics begin by performing freebie 5-minute sets at open mics which
for paid 15-20 minute gigs as Master of Ceremonies (MC) work at:
•then at full-time comedy clubs.
Business keynote speakers can begin by delivering freebie 20-25 minute speeches
at service clubs:
followed by 5 minutes of a Questions and Answer session (Q
which are auditions
•for highly paid engagements presenting to various groups and corporations.
Conventions needing a new keynote speaker every year can
have audiences in the thousands:
Whereas comics generally must work their way up the traditional MC-Middle Act-Headliner ladder at comedy clubs,
speakers with major success credits outside of speaking can sometimes
•jump right into delivering paid keynote speeches between 20-90 minutes long.
Such credits might have been earned as:
a business celebrity, sport figure, famous actor, Miss
America winner, astronaut, politician, successful general, engineer, techie;
heroic citizen: pilot, policeman,
With or without such credits, keynote speakers can increase their fees by 200-300%
when their paid keynote speeches are coupled with the speaker's:
•20-minute to 5-hour long seminars (also called "break-away sessions"):
•Back-of-the-Room (BOR) sales of their
books, CDS, DVDs, etc.:
•Consultation fees, on-site training sessions, etc.:
Back to stand-up comedy career curves.
No matter your current job title,
•at every performance, you are always reaching for the next rung up your
MC's performing 15-20 minute sets at full-time comedy clubs seating
150-500 customers are always auditioning
•to become slightly higher paid Middle Acts, also called Feature
Acts in different parts of the USA. Middle Acts performing about 30 minutes sets are always auditioning
•to become Local Headliners who are paid
twice as much as Middle acts, or more. Local Headliners performing 45-60 minutes sets are always auditioning
•to become National Headliners who can
fill major venues averaging 2,500 seats.
•National Headliners are performing 60-90 minute sets are always
•to become TV Comics starring in recordings of their live act to be:
1) broadcast as specials
over cable TV
that play to audiences of millions:
Comics with cable TV & major label DVD credits are always auditioning
•to get plum parts in TV series & motion pictures which play
of even more millions:
Auditioning has both an artistic and a business side to it,
neither of which seem to
be very well understood,
. . .
not even by some rather seasoned performers:
So, with this web site, even if you are starting to be in the know . . .
. . . Such a deal!
Every one gets
their initial experience somewhere by telling jokes to small groups of people
who know you,
perhaps at parties or in more formal situations where a beginner performer
for an amateur stage or service club podium situation.
Those amateur circumstances drastically change when you first appear at a comedy
before a group of strangers.
There are no requirements for open mics; i.e., anyone may sign up.
But no one gets paid except perhaps the MC who may also be producing these
Hint: producing amateur comedy shows is far more time and trouble than
it is worth.
Rumor has it that you, as a producer-comic, will get to meet other performers
who will in turn book you at their open mics. Reality check:
If your act is yet to be at the required level,
you are in
danger of getting type-cast only as a permanent host at your own comedy
open mic gigs.
•There is a long list of comedy careers ended by producer-comics falling for this
short-term money temptation.
Stick to performing
at open mics produced by that other greedy guy,
•and spend your time and energy much more profitably long-term
by mastering writing and performing techniques.
Here is a check list for you to look over, 35 lessons ranging from Beginner
No matter what you have heard,
•Always phone ahead to ask about a particular open mic's procedures as there
Sometime you just need to show up that night at a designated sign-up time,
and meet with whoever is in charge of that night's open mic.
At larger comedy clubs, you may need to sign up weeks in advance.
In other amateur situations, you might have taken a beginner comedy class taught
by a local comic
who is an untrained teacher with no real course syllabus nor accompanying workbook.
Usually these so-called "classes" meet weekly for 1.5-3 hours but only last
a few weeks:
There are almost never any Fundamentals-Intermediate-Advanced
and certainly no Graduate or Post-Graduate classes:
These awkward, local-yokel comedy classes are often attended by beginners
prompted by a promise
that after only a few weeks,
they will participate in a "graduation" performance
at a comedy club or other venue:
•Personally, I do not like the graduation performance situation as it
tends to take place in an overly protected environment:
performing before friends,
family and classmates.
Besides, what other theatre school in the United States claims
you have "graduated" this
Do you smell a rat?
Worse, this faux "graduation
performance" is nothing like what you will face at a real comedy
club open mic before an audience of total strangers.
Too often, beginning comics are so shocked, so unable to handle that unexpected
that they actually re-enroll in these phony classes just to return
to that warm and
fuzzy graduation performance.
•To me, this is a straight-up con:
You guessed right:
I offer no graduation performances nor open mics.
There is no need to waste either my time or your time re-inventing this broken
Because there is an abundance
of valid performing opportunities in every community throughout the United States.
Everyone wants to get on a stage.
Forget what you want!
That's for ego-ridden, cry-babies.
What you need is to learn all the writing
and performing techniques
that can get you hired for pay faster than the other guys:
Most likely, instead of beginning your journey with me,
•you have shown
up here to finally get the real deal:
after your first time (or first few times) on a comedy stage.
Professional comics and speakers
with 10 or more
years of paid performances under their belt
also take my training so they can
•learn more techniques
•and get back-to-basics.
You will probably have found
my web site through a recommendation from someone you trust
or accidentally by searching over the Internet.
•You are now looking for more solid information
•in a far more professional,
one-on-one consulting environment.
Hopefully, your first time
on stage was captured on video
and you either
have possession of the video on a DVD
or a link to where your video is posted
Next best thing would be having a video from one of your performance very early
in your career.
•Waiting to get a "better" video before seeking professional
help is a total waste of time:
Way too many folks have fallen into that ego-defensive trap,
and lost critical
years of early development time.
Plus, the untrained performer will predictably:
•develop bad habits that could have been caught and corrected early on.
By now, they will be cemented into his personal technique,
•and take much effort to dislodge.
Odds are that you will stop any really meaningful progression
•very soon after
you began doing open mics, as described
It is very helpful for me to see you performing
on a comedy stage
or speakers platform
•before you "learn
First of all, let me clarify:
•There are no amateur stand-up comics or humorous keynote speakers.
You can either compel the audience to laugh at your jokes, or not.
•Therefore, the next step is to get paid.
Why get paid?
The beginning pay for either comedy or speaking is not enough to waste your
•What makes getting paid essential is that you can finally be performing
before audiences that expect you to be funny:
You are no longer a rank beginner at an open mic or service club where the
typical audience has very low expectations.
•Every week, YOU can now have your very own Woody Allen "Saturday night"
to give your
new material an opportunity to succeed.
Rule number one:
You cannot learn anything about stand-up comedy from either
graduation performances or open mics:
I said that several times already?
I know, but years of experience tell me that this theme bears repeating.
OK: I lied.
You can actually learn something whenever and wherever you perform:
Learn to bring a wad of business
cards to every open mic you attend,
and network with the other wannabe
comics to learn when & where are:
•The unlisted open mics and
comedy shows where you might get to do a "guest set"
as an audition for the
show's comedy producer.
Generally, guest sets work out to be just another unpaid
But if it is on Saturday night, . . .
You get the idea.
These weekly open mic and one-nighter "gigs" (engagements)
open and close so fast,
often never get listed in local newspapers nor mentioned on local radio or
. . . But these
are your first hidden opportunities
that can lead you to eventually get paid gigs.
By now, you are starting to realize that there are a lot of do's and don't's
that most beginners and even seasoned performers hardly know about.
There is also a lot of misinformation, rumors, myths
and a general pervading
paranoia which you must have the sense to ignore.
If you are intelligent, some of this reality you are already starting to figure
Good on you!
My purpose is to accelerate your development
•by getting you the correct
information and training
. . . as quickly and painlessly as possible.
OK by you?
studying the masters, past and present.
you have no idea who these "masters" might be . . ..
not any of the comics performing at your local open mics
or low-paying one-nighters
or even you local comedy club!
•. . . Then, get my Home
Study Program, and
begin to learn that always:
•Technique is King.
More bad news:
After you win your first audition to get paid as an MC,
read the unstated fine print:
To continue to get more such MC jobs,
you still must know how to: Get
and Keep the Job as MC.
And discover discerning articles and online newsletters
that ignore the performer's personal lives and their performing credits,
and instead focus on techniques that work!
I also provide you a way to right now:
Get ahold of a comedy producer's audition
the all-important, spelled out RATING
•which allows you to measure
•before submitting an audition video.
Most producers will not look
at a second audition video for a full year.
Your first submitted audition video must close the sale.
Q: Why a full year? A: Because one year is the average time it takes
for a comic to make any measurable improvement to their act.
Yep: your open-micer cronies
will not have me in their corner accelerating their development time.
Instead, they will just be fretting about the logistics of getting dressed and
groomed, then driving to their next open mic:
Don't believe me that their career plan can be this mindless?
Then, prove it to your satisfaction by just asking them this seemingly obvious
question: "What will you accomplish at tonight's open mic?"
Odds are very good that the answer will be something like: "To get better, I need as much stage time as possible."
"How much stage time do you have by now,
and how much more open
mic stage time do you need
to start getting good enough to get hired?"
Expect to hear idiotic excuses: "You can never have enough stage time." "It is difficult to get hired because there are too many comics looking for work." "I'm ready now, but producers don't get my jokes." "I'm funny, but the audiences are dumb."
You can ask any number of career open-micer these and similar questions.
Expect to get the same kind of mind-bending answers from all these mental cases:
It's like they have all been brainwashed!
You might be tempted to offer them that Albert Einstein quote.
Only do so if you are really good at blocking fast punches!
•You can now beat that one year sentence by having specific plans
for every every one of your performances:
So, do not submit
an audition video until you have a video
•that can reasonably be expected
to get you hired.
But what do I know?
Just a simple, country comedy coach
Some of my credits:
•Comedy Coach & Co-Writer since 1977
•Producer of over 1,000 professional comedy nights in northern California.
•Judged the San Francisco International Stand-Up Comedy Competition 2 years,
then went on to coach the winner!
48 Comedy Marathon Comedy Contests over a 3-year span
that unlike today's
comedy competitions with their general categories
featured specific categories in order to better train my students and clients
in writing and performing techniques.
•These contests were based
on an article I wrote for the San Francisco Chronicle
Sunday Datebook entertainment section
. . . I could go on.