This blog is a repost from comedian Mike Cody originally posted on KnoxComedy.com in August of 2013. If you know someone (comedian or otherwise) suffering from depression, help them get real help. Professional assistance for depression is out there and often is free.
It has happened to me. I came off stage and didn’t want to shake anyone’s hand. I was sure of only one thing, I hated what I just did on stage and was embarrassed by it. Some comics and audience members sought me out to give me praise, but no matter what they had to say, I was sure they were simply being polite because they didn’t want it to be awkward. On the way home I listened to nothing. No music, just the road. I stared ahead and thought about hopeless things like “This is why you don’t get bigger gigs..” and “You are terrible, how can you quit without it affecting the young comics that enjoy what you do. After this specific show where later I learned I didn’t do nearly as poorly as I had envisioned that I did, I decided it was time to address the feelings of depression related to comedy performance. I had submissions from many comics, but the one that I want to share with you came from New York comic Mike Cody. It hit the nail on the head. Here it is.
The Home Depot Fantasy
by Mike Cody
Sometimes club sets just don’t click. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. My favorite thing to do after a horrible set is run back to the green room and pretend I know which of the 17 different remote controls turns on the TV. Or, if the green room doesn’t have a TV, I stare intently at the menu. No one knows I’m thinking about how much I temporarily hate comedy. They just assume I’m having a hard time choosing between Chicken Finger Nachos and The Dumpster Burger.
The reason why I head for the hills in those situations is because I hate saying goodbye to audiences as they leave a show they didn’t enjoy. Few experiences are more stressful than saying “Thank you for coming” to strangers, especially when I really mean “Please don’t hate comedy because of me.” The only thing that bothers me more than feeling apologetic after a bad set is when I have a great set and people walk past me anyway.
I’m no egomaniac. When I kill, I know that nobody owes me anything other than the laughs they already gave me. I’m happy when people smile at me after the show. I’m even happier when someone shakes my hand and says, “Good stuff.” But when I nail it… I mean, REALLY nail it… And 198 out of 200 people walk past without so much as acknowledging my existence… That’s when the shame cycle begins. “I made them laugh. But they didn’t like me. Why didn’t they like me? Did I smile too much? Sometimes I look effeminate when I smile. I wish I had cheekbones. Maybe I wasn’t mean enough? Were they hoping for a meaner show? I don’t want to be mean. Being mean isn’t funny. “Maybe they liked me but didn’t remember me. That’s even worse. Am I forgettable? How could they forget about me? I made them laugh really hard. The headliner had a great set but that doesn’t mean they should have forgotten about me by now. It hasn’t even been an hour. “Is it my look? Should I dress differently? Grow my beard back? I can’t do that. Too many people have beards now. Did they hate my shirt? No, if they hated my shirt they would remember my shirt and by extension remember me. I never liked these glasses. I need new ones. The only reason I got these stupid frames was because they were affordable. That’s no good. Audiences can smell affordability. “Was I too locked in? Robotic? I wanted them to have a good time. It’s inexcusable when people go up there and just jerk around for half an hour. I want to earn my money. I think I did. They liked it. But they didn’t love it or else they would have talked to me. Maybe they did love it but they’re shy.
“Why do I keep doing this to myself? I know what triggers my sadness and yet I keep putting myself in situations like this. Do I belong on the stage? Do I belong anywhere? “Why didn’t they care about me as much as I cared about them?” After shows like that, I fantasize about changing my name, growing a mustache, and moving to North Dakota. I’ll get a job sweeping the floors at Home Depot and never, ever make anyone laugh again. “Hey, Fancy Joe,” my co-worker Larry will say to me at the end of our shift at The Deep. “They’re having a comedy show at the VFW tonight. You wanna go?” “You go on without me,” I reply. “I don’t care much for jokes.” “You’re an odd one, Fancy Joe.” Just to clarify: This is an actual fantasy that I have at least once a month.
The best solution I’ve found for countering comedic experiences that leave me questioning my own self worth is to spend time with people who love me unconditionally. Usually that means my family or my closest non-comedian friends. I never tell them about my feelings of inadequacy, or my worries that even though certain people think I’m very funny, I’ll never be able to do the sort of things I want to do with my career. In fact, I try not to mention comedy at all. Comedy can be both exhilarating and torturous, occasionally during the same show. No matter how successful or unsuccessful they are, the comedians I feel truly sorry for are the ones who say the only people they enjoy hanging out with are other comedians. I love being part of the “brotherhood” but my non-comedian friends are the ones who make me feel human. When I’m low, I reach out to people who don’t care about whether or not my look is marketable. I turn to the friends who thought I was funny before anyone else did. Their laughter is the dragon I’ve been chasing all along. I’m lucky to share my life with people who would never walk past me. They’re the ones who give me the strength to carry on. If that doesn’t work for you, might I suggest an imaginary career at Home Depot? The benefits aren’t great but their aprons are pretty snazzy!
Mike Cody is a comedian of 9 years from Cincinnati now living in New York City. His debut CD on Rooftop Comedy Records “I Don’t Want To Take a Nap” can be purchased HERE>>. Follow him on twitter @mikecomedy
One of the things I have struggled with when it comes to comedy festivals charging a submission fee is where exactly the money goes. Sure it costs a lot to produce a comedy festival. Sure we would get a ton of shitty submissions from open-mic comics not yet ready to perform at a real festival if there WERE’NT a submission fee. However, I still felt like comics that didn’t get in should get SOMETHING more than just a rejection email and maybe some feedback on how they might get in next time.
Over the course of the last few years I have met a LOT of great comics booking shows and become aware of more and more shows being booked all over the country. This information proved to be more and more valuable as each time I would share some of it with other comics they were forever grateful. So what I decided to do to was make a database that was better than any other comedy gig/venue database out there. I am proud to say after months of working on it we have finally launched it and are beginning to compile gigs/venues all over the country right here on ScruffyCityComedy.com. All you have to do to gain access to the database is submit to the festival by becoming a member of this site.
So go ahead, even if you cannot make the festival, submit today to gain access to the fastest growing most comprehensive comedy venue database in the country.
The Scruffy City Comedy Festival is excited to announce two character roasts to be part of our 2014 event. Our festival lines up with the Fanboy Expo which brings thousands of sci-fi, fantasy, comic book and various fans to town that same weekend. This being the case we felt it extremely appropriate to do a Roast each night featuring some figures from that world.
History of Knoxville Character Roasts
The Knoxville Comedy Scene began doing Roasts of characters in November of 2012 with the Roast of Adolf Hitler. This was when we still didn’t have a solid venue for shows so we did the roast in the Morningside Community Center just East of Downtown Knoxville. After that our next roast was the Roast of Santa Claus (Video) in December 2012 at The Pilot Light. This become our home for the roasts. The shows became quite popular so we have now done roasts of Batman, Darth Vadar, Harry Potter, Hulk Hogan, and Axl Rose (September 2014).
Now for our Scruffy City Comedy Festival we have decided to do two roasts, one on Friday and one on Saturday. We are going to Roast Tim Burton and Superman. Superman was an obvious choice with the fury surrounding the Batman vs. Superman film that is coming to theaters soon. Tim Burton was a great choice because he opens us up to great films from the 80′s/90′s like Edward Scissorhands, Pee-Wee’s Big adventure and many more.
Comics Accepted to the 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival will get the chance to portray characters in each roast. We feel these shows are some of the funnest we do and are excited to add comics from all over the country to the Dais each night during the festival!
The number one thing I see in the world of comedy is comics uncertain what to do next in their comedy ‘career’. In this blog we will address two of the most common questions I hear from young comics just starting out in comedy. I spoke to Eric Yoder from Funny Business Agency about these questions. For some time I could not get work from Funny Business. In fact, I tried for a few years to no avail. Why didn’t I get booked? Simple, they hadn’t seen me kick ass live in person. I submitted a half-ass video in 2011 and they politely told me it wasn’t really a good representation of my stuff. They were right. It was shit. I was performing poorly rehearsed material to a crowd of 21 in some tiny theatre with shitty lighting and average sound. I remedied this and have put in a lot of work to improve since then and now I have worked for Funny Business on multiple occasions.
Eric was nice enough to provide us some direct answers to the two main questions I often hear young comics ask.
Question 1: How do I know when I’m ready to go from open mic to the next step and beyond?
Eric: Almost every comic thinks they are ready to move up before they actually are. I think being realistic about where you are at with your act and ability is one of the toughest and most important parts of being a comedian. Listen to feedback, ask for feedback from other comedians and club owners. You will be getting signs and feedback that support the fact you should be working at the next level.
Moving from open mic to hosting or a paid performer is probably one of the tougher steps. The dynamic changes, you are getting judged more heavily and are expected to be performing as a professional, which means don’t treat it like an open mic.
When we (Funny Business Agency) have an act move up (from host to feature, feature to headliner, etc.) it’s typically us hearing and getting feedback from clubs and other comedians consistently for a number of varied gigs before we are going to look at taking that step.
Many comedians will sabotage themselves trying to move up before they are ready – and getting less than desirable feedback, leaving them in a limbo where they don’t want to go back to the previous position, but aren’t getting the consistent high-caliber feedback in the position they are wanting to work, to get booked over other options for acts at that level. (Matt Ward: Don’t force it or expect anything, sometimes you kick ass on stage for a year and people will notice and move you up the chain, sometimes it’s many years before this happens. There is not definite deadline to when you should be moving up, sometimes it happens quicker for some than others)
Question 2: How does a comic get in with a booker at first?
Eric: Every booker wants something different in regards to submissions. Typically having very quality , varied length, non “montage” video and a number of solid, reputable references will get you on the list of people to check out. If you know comedians that work consistently and regularly for that club/booker, ask them to put in a word, worst that can happen is they ignore them. But this will get your name in front of them again to stay on their radar.
Check your references before you use them. Ask the booker/club specifically what you need to send them and what format in order to be considered for work. If you are blind emailing every booker and club with a copy/pasted message or mass email, will likely go to junk or deleted. Take a few minutes and research the booker or club, email them a personalized email, don’t be a spamming, pushy asshole, and follow-up if you don’t get replies. Our agency alone gets around 30-40 submissions a week, usually we are able to review 5-10 MAX a week with everything else we are doing, so be patient.
Here are some ‘Don’ts’ related to getting booked for the first time.
- Don’t blindly send your avails to someone who has not asked for them. It is a quick way to go to the spam folder.
- Don’t assume you should be asked to do a show. You have to express to the booker you are interested in working with them before they will consider you for work.
- Don’t over contact a booker. Never call them unless that is what they prefer and certainly don’t ever expect them to e-mail you back within some imaginary time period. Bookers are busy, if they don’t get back to you, schedule a follow-up some time later and move on. (This echoes back to what Eric says above)
Here are some ‘Do’s’ related to getting booked for the first time
- Get a high-quality video of a good performance in front of an audience that is laughing at your jokes. Make it at least 20 minutes if you are looking to begin feature or host work.
- Get headshots done. This one is huge. If you don’t have headshots or a good video it’s like showing up to a job interview in flip-flops and shorts for a job selling to people who wear suits and ties.
- Get out of your city as much as possible to do comedy. The more people booking shows you get in front of the better. Be logical about it and don’t break the bank traveling. Take other comics that are also looking to move up in comedy and get booked and have the talent to do so.
There you have it, some inside info about how to move from the Open-Mic level to featuring for an agency, club or other booker.
Our good friend Holly Lynnea let us in on this little secret via facebook. The Accidental Comedy Festival in Cleveland is accepting submissions today on the 4th of July only for just $4. Now they are accepting submissions after today as well but they will be much more ($30). The festival itself is September 15th-22nd in Cleveland. Submit Now, what’s not, it’s just $4!!
We picked the first weekend of November to do our festival for a number of reasons. First off, no other comedy festivals were scheduled during that weekend. Secondly, the University of Tennessee Football team did not have a game that weekend home OR away. Thirdly, this is in the peak of the color change in the mountains so travelers coming in for the fest are going to see East Tennessee in bright reds, oranges and yellows. Now, we just learned another awesome thing is taking place the very same weekend, The Fanboy Expo!!
We know a ton of comedians are into comic books and other fanboy related things, so we are super pumped that during the day when the festival is not going on, our festival goers are going to be able to take a short walk to the Knoxville Convention Center to enjoy this awesome event! After all, Fanboy Expo is the Ultimate Comic Con Fandom Experience!
The 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival will now be officially taking place at 5 venues in Downtown Knoxville, Tennssee including: Scruffy City Hall, The Pilot Light, Latitude 35, The Star of Knxoville Riverboat and now at The Jack Cellar.
The Jack Cellar is a basement whiskey bar located below Skybox Sports Bar on Gay Street in Downtown Knoxville, Tennessee. The venue is the perfect, NY-esque basement club style room. The room will be able to comfortably seat about 50-60 partons for shows during the Scruffy City Comedy Festival.