Every year thousands of hopefuls flood to New York City with stars in their eyes. BIG DREAMS. Most of them have the talent to make it. Most of them won’t make it.
Not because for all the reasons your parents warned you about.
- WORK HARD!!!! Treat this business like a business. Write, audition, develop talents, read trade papers (Backstage etc), read plays, learn new songs, try to get free tickets to as many free shows as you can.
- WORK SMART!!!! Use the technology at your disposal. Be on EVERY PLATFORM. Brand yourself.
- WORK NICE!!! BE someone people want to work with. Don’t let ego and insecurity ruin great relationships. Don’t be an AHOLE!
- LISTEN TO THE PROS!!!! Ignore the negativity from family and so-called friends OR WORSE the wannabes working next to you at the restaurant. NONE of them know how to make it as an artist. NONE of them!!!!
- CREATE OPPORTUNITY!!!! Don’t wait to be discovered.
- ROI!!!! RETURN ON INVESTMENT is one of the most important business ideas artists FAIL. Time = Money. Money = Money. ROI = RESULTS minus time & money invested. Results are not always monetary. But you do need money to pay rent.
- KEEP EXPENSES LOW!!!!! The money sucks at the beginning and sometimes long after. If you want to be a working artist, instead of serving drinks or selling shoes, get rid of awesome apartments, you don’t need the newest iphone every year, wear clothes to keep you warm and not naked, not to impress. You don’t need a survival job if your money from acting pays the bills. Live within your means so you can dream bigger!!!!
Most people fail because they did listen to their parents, or worse, bitter failed actors working in the same restaurants.
If you want your seat at the table in this biz, you have to treat it like a BIZ.
I am going on 15 years without a boss. My journey is far from typical but not unique either.
I moved to New York City with big dreams in 1997. By 1998 I was married. The fear of not providing for my “family” had both my wife and I working 60+ hours as waiters to pay the bills.
When 9-11 came and went we both re-evaluated our lives. We decided from that day – OK it was about a year later, not an over night decision – that we did not move to NYC, we were not put on this earth to serve food and drink.
After a few showcases, regional shows and a national tour, we started our own company. We were now working actors, except the money was not great AND we never saw each other. If I was single and a few years younger (30 in 2002) I would have been fine. Sometimes I wish I had made this move right out of college. However what was to come in the next three years would never have occurred without the dark times. I became a better artist. I became a better entrepreneur.
We wrote a show, at the time mostly sketch with lots of musical parody. Our frame of reference, being from Washington, DC was Capitol steps. We held auditions, rehearsed in our own apartment and booked a few venues around town that would do a door split (No rent. The venue gives you a percentage of your ticket sales.) We did not make any money but so far we have not spent any money either, except for the studio to hold auditions (about $20 – it was a crappy place with a trash bag covering a hole in the wall, but it served its purpose – That whole building is now an American Eagle in Times Square lol)
At times we would even skip auditions, instead meeting folks at Starbucks. In the middle of one interview I had a total caffeine induced anxiety attack – I would forever on call Starbucks Ice Coffee “CRACK ON ICE”.
That first December 2002 show was in the old Danny’s Seagreen Ballroom, across the street from Don’t Tell Mama’s famous piano bar and cabaret club. Within 8 months we were performing paid gigs.
HOW did we make that move so fast? Not because we are great sales people, that’s for sure. I hate picking up the phone amnd blind calling just hear another NO, or worse, send me your package (THE MOST EXPENSIVE NO THERE IS!!!)
We hustled AND we embraced technology.
- We printed flyers, at first at home, hand cut, then eventually via copies at staples and then we actually got a marketing sponsor. They paid for printing of professional quality postcards ($250 for 5000) with our show advertised on one side, their restaurant or business on the back. We spent HOURS handing out flyers in Times Square. We started to get audiences of 20+ per show.
- We got on Myspace when everyone was saying Myspace was just for musicians and hookers. We were one of the first on Facebook, Twitter and even were invited to beta test Google+. Sadly we were late to the game on Instagram. We started posting videos early on Youtube. BEFORE Justin Bieber was discovered. AND Laurice was developing a website that was rich with text. Everyone complained about how it look compared to fancy FLASH designs BUT our site was the first to pop up in searches. Even UCB had to pay to be ahead of us and they were far more established at that point.
By the end of 2003, We spent $6000 on a yellow pages ad with ZERO results. BUT through Myspace and promoting ourselves around NYC via flyers and shows, we booked our first college gig at University of Maryland (September 2003), our first Improv 4 Kids shows at 4 Connecticut schools (October) and a few corporate holiday gigs (December). During this first year we were bouncing around from theater to theater. We were meeting other producers, artists and even marketing teams from comedy clubs.
We learned from our mistakes on stage and off. By Summer 2005, we quit our days jobs to focus 100% on marketing and performing. We were now performing 6-8 sold out shows/week in Times Square, performing a few college shows, a few dozen corporate events and a few hundred K12 school shows (Improv 4 Kids TOOK OFF IN A BIG WAY!!!!).
Like entrepreneurs we were working 70-80 hours a week so we did not have to work 40 hours / week for someone else. By the end of 2005 I was making more/week performing my own show, now 100% improv comedy, than my friends doing non-union tours and cruise ships. The only ones doing better were doing Broadway and or TV full time.
In 2006 I made my TV debut, 100% because we were in the clubs. MTV called the NYC Improv looking for a fat guy with a hairy back. It was Monday night, we had a sold out 8pm show. Eric Hansen, the club manager asked if I was available the next morning. I booked it. Around the same time I got myself booked on Letterman simply sending out my postcards. Letterman’s stage door was a block from the NY Improv. In 2008, while I was managing Joe Franklin’s comedy club for a 6-month stint, I was introduced to my manager. Within a month I was filming my first SAG commercial, making more in a day (Over three years of royalties etc) than I did in 6-months at the time.
In 2008 we cam into some money and said, NOW we can do it the right way, right? We hired a PR firm. Spent $10,000!!!! With ZERO returns.
Our success is 100% due to hustling in crowds to our shows, then building repeat business by being good on stage and off. We were entertaining AND fun to hang out with off stage. We greeted our guests with smiles at the door, grateful they attended OUR show with 1000s to choose from in NYC.
In hindsight my advice for kids & teens that want to work in this business. START NOW. Start writing songs, plays, comedy routines. Start creating work on online platforms. I have a couple students taking this advice and KILLING IT!
My advice for 30+ adults, DO THE SAME THING!!!!! The late, great Oren Sandal (R.I.P.) told me in 1992, if you are not getting the work you want, CREATE IT!
A lazy writer, I found success doing improv comedy – very few can claim making a living solely form improvisation in the theater. My income comes from performing, teaching and producing. I spend 60-80 hours a week, EVEN in these crazy times, so I never have to go back to carrying a tray of drinks. And sometimes I am even rewarded with another TV gig etc so those that don’t know any better realize I am successful (LOL). NO REGRETS!!!!
Artistic Director Piano, MC, Teacher
Member since 2002
TV credits include Billions (CBS), Friends of the People (TruTV), Blue Bloods (CBS) Royal Pains (USA), Lilyhammer (NETFLIX),Naked Brothers Band (NICK), Fat Pants (Dr. Oz Promo), Late Night with David Letterman (9 eps), Hair Trauma (2 eps, WE).
Walter is a New Yorker since 1997, but grew up in Maryland, getting his theatrical start in Washington DC area. If you have called to book a gig or groups sales you most likely talked with this guy. Walter has also performed internationally in theater, music and even Opera.
January ONLINE Comedy Classes
- Mondays 8pm Stand-Up Comedy 60-minute open mic type session plus coaching on developing original material, performance techniques and getting stage time.
- Tuesdays 8pm Improv 101 All Level Game Play Adults (16+ Welcome)
- Wednesdays 8pm Improv 201 Advanced Improv Techniques Adults (16+ Welcome)
- Saturdays 2pm Improv 301 Long Form Improv Comedy
- Sunday-Thursday 6-7pm Comedy 4 Teens ALL LEVELS
- Sunday-Thursday 5-6pm Comedy 4 Kids ALL LEVELS
- ADVANCED LEVEL Classes for Teens (Saturday 12pm and Sunday 1pm) Currently sold out. If your teen is ready for advanced level work, contact us and we can get you into those sessions on a case by case basis.
The all professional cast of EIGHT IS NEVER ENOUGH presents hilarious interactive musical comedy improvised based on audience suggestions and participation. We recreate the club magic on ZOOM with high energy. No two drink minimum, but we turn any room of yours into a comedy club. CLICK HERE for tickets to online shows. See you back in Times Square ASAP!!!
- January 7 GUTTER BALLS! Walt Frasier hosts 10-year reunion from Off Broadway Run featuring current and former fan faves!
- January 14 Dolphin Surprise Party! Amelia Fowler hosts hilarious comediennes and a dolphin is sure to make an appearance.
- January 21 LMAO 2020 in Review! Samuel Van Wyk heads a cast of our top players.
- January 28 ABSENT MINDED COMEDY R-Rated comedy uncensored hosted by Nathan Armstrong