Awesome. GREAT! NOW WHAT?
Wanting to be a comedian and being a comedian (or actors, singer, dance, producer, writer etc etc etc) are very different things.
I have been working professionally for about 25 years. I have been a full time working performer for 15 years. My day job for 15 years has been selling myself, going to auditions, and / or creating work for myself by producing shows and building a clientele for private/corporate events. In addition to 1000s of shows at NYC clubs, I have been on TV, I have toured nationwide in Broadway Shows (non-union) I have performed at colleges, I have taught team building and performed for Fortune 500 Corporations, I have developed an educational program, teaching comedy, acting and singing (I can do Opera too lol) and also as a producer helping other artists find work.
Not here to brag, but i know how to put a career together. I am not famous, but I am not starving either. For every comic you know by name there are 100s, maybe 1000s, of folks like me working and making a living.
If you are only looking to become famous this is not the blog for you. But I can put you on a path to possible fame. Learn from my mistakes and start on the right path 10 years younger, perhaps…
First thing I can say, most of what I learned in college – about finding work and putting together a career – is bogus. I had amazing teachers of acting, singing and even dance ( I can tap, too lol) but they were working in colleges because finding work as performers was tough.
I learned the most from the part timers. They were in schools for some benefits but they mostly made their living in the real world, performing, directing etc.
One of those part timers – my mentor as an actor- would bring in guests, and two of these helped form my life as a working artist.
One was the artistic director of the Living Stage – an Improv based outreach program associated with Arena Stage in DC. The other was one of DC’s most popular cabaret artists. Sadly, both have left this world – BOTH far too soon.
But both had a message – if you can’t find work, create it.
20-25 years later I sum all this up in one phrase
ALWAYS BE CREATING
If you want to work, you have to work. WORK begets WORK. For a comic. you need to write and you need to get on stage (or in front of a camera.)
If you want to start working as a comic, start working as a comic. For me, working as a comic means you are getting on stage telling jokes and/or stories and taking home some cash. Sometimes that means $5, other times $500, and sometimes more.
If you can, get your self booked on a real show. If you can’t go do an open mic. If you can, produce your own open mic. If you are serious you will find a way.
Every time you get on stage you have to consider that performance objectively. You cannot be to hard on your self OR to light. What works? What flops?
Repeat your success and learn from mistakes. The more you can leave ego and insecurity out of this equation the better you will be.
This is very personal on many levels, but at the end of the day YOU are a product and THIS is a business.
YOU need to develop and then sell you product. As a comic you will have a never ending process of brainstorming ideas, developing them through writing sessions and improvising on stage.
REAL comics (not the 100s of wannabes that pop in from time to time) are at the club EVERY night. They writing on notepads and ipads on the subway between clubs, they get on stage, then repeat 4-5 times/night.
The ones not getting stage time are creating stage time, producing shows and trading spots, or just going to open mics (A valuable resource but a dead end after a point).
One my biggest success stories as a teacher is Steven Prestia. Steven came to me already a big fan of comedy at 13 years old. I found his work a bit TOO Catskills (thanks to another comedy school in town that shall remain nameless). TO silly. Too cheesy. BUT he had a fire. He had a life on stage few do at 13. This kid needing molding but he was born for this.
Now in college, about 20, Steven is working for me, performing and teaching. But more importantly, Steven is hustling for stage time and now even getting paid at some clubs and getting work at private events.
I have others that came to me already “trained” by colleges and other studios. I hired them. But they spent more energy complaining they had no other work that actually finding other work.
CREATING YOUR OWN WORK
One of the hardest things to do as an artist is admit, THIS is not working. THIS has nothing to do with you as a person.
I came to NYC to sing Opera and Broadway 20 years ago. I got work. I toured and performed opera and musicals. But the money was crap and I was not getting ahead.
So for me creating my own work, starting in 2002, was an effort to make my self NYC based full time to network with agents, casting directors and other artists.
By 2004 I was making more money running my own Improv show and by 2006 I made my TV debut on MTV and Letterman. By 2008 I had a manager that sent me on auditions, immediately booking a SAG commercial. When the economy crashed in 2008/2009, my corporate business dried up a bit but my educational outreach programming was on the rise. I stopped going to open calls, but folks would invite me to perform in their fringe fest works and other plays/musical so I could get my fix as an actor and keep making money as a comic and Improv actor. By 2011, I had a growing educational business. Now I might send 2-3 shows/educational programs out a day.
Again, my point is not to brag. My point is WORK begets WORK. And the second you put 100% effort into developing and selling YOU, your career will start. It may happen slow. It may happen fast. There are a lot of factors. YOu cannot control what others do. But I guarantee BEING IN THE RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME never means sitting at home or working at your “day job”.