Two new comedy festivals have been born out of strong emerging comedy scenes in the Southeast. Orlando’s Indie Comedy Scene is presenting the Orlando Indie Comedy Festival September 25th-28th at various venues around Orlando. They are currently taking submissions for just $15 (goes up soon so submit now). Click the button to the left to get to their submission page.
We have decided to help out this start-up festival because we ourselves are a start-up festival. In the world of comedy festivals competition is a notion that in the end leaves the comedians the real losers. If Orlando is closer for you than Knoxville, by all means do the smart thing and submit to the Orlando Indie Comedy Festival!
I got the chance to spend some time with some of the Orlando comics last fall on my Dork for Life Comedy Tour and they are super talented and very much a comedy family the city should be proud of. Click the image to submit now!
Because it helps make your life easier. If you want to rent a car, if you want to rent a room, and endless other reasons that on the road you could benefit from having good credit. Having good credit as a comedian is nearly a laughable subject. Mostly because comedians typically have awful credit. Let’s explore some reasons why.
1.) Not enough income
This one is a given. We don’t make as much money as other folks think. More so, we have more expenses that eat into that income than most people who work a regular 40 hour job.
2.) Poor Credit Decisions
This is not related to late payment but to poor choices in securing credit that is not needed, like store credit cards with unrealistic interest rates or personal loans for things that are luxuries not necessities.
3.) Unexpected Debt
This is a super common one. This is medical bills and other financed and billed items of debt. Other examples include court settlements and home repairs.
4.) Bill Indifference
When you finally just stop caring. This one is common for mobile phone bills and other utilities that go unpaid. People that end up with their services turned off for non-payment seem to care less about trying to make good on their debt.
Fixing your credit is a LONG PROCESS most of the time. It requires dedication and persistence. Occasionally it is pretty simple and just requires a few disputes and it is resolved, but that is for those that have kept their credit in good shape in the beginning.
What is your FICO Score?
First things first, we need a credit report that includes a FICO score so we can find out where to begin. A FICO score is your value to lenders as determined by a financial calculation created by the FICO company in 1989. FICO was adopted by Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion (The three credit reporting agencies). How do you get your credit score for free without falling into some type of subscription service trap? Use CreditKarma.com (They do not pay me for endorsing them, I just used them and they worked great for no cost.)
Pull a full credit report
You will also need to pull a full credit report, this is also free once each year through Experian, Transunion and Equifax. Once you have done that you are ready to attack your credit improvement situation.
Where to begin
Find the reasons your credit is bad. Examples of items that hurt your credit score and written off debt, late payments on current accounts and insufficient credit history. First, tackle debt. Credit cards and medical bills are typical negative items you will see on credit report as unpaid debt or debt with bad payment history. You will also see misattributed or completely false debt. What? You mean other folks debt can be put on my credit report? Sure, collection agencies are lazy and often complete criminals. They do a host of things such as falsely report bad credit on unsuspecting peoples accounts. The government has regulations put in place to keep this to a minimum but it still commonly happens. So first things first, deal with the debt you didn’t create.
The Dispute Process
Like I said, sometimes you will see stuff on your credit you never did or participated in. You must go to Transunion, Equifax and Experion and file a dispute on the erroneous items on your credit report. Now comes the hard part, unrelenting persistence. You HAVE to follow-up with each agency to find out if the item has been removed or what the result of the dispute was. This takes time, sometimes as much as 90 days from the time you file. This is why I say it sometimes takes YEARS to improve your credit substantially. All three credit reporting agencies now have a dispute process you can do online. Here are links to all three (Experian: Equifax: Trans Union)
Building GOOD Credit
Unfortunately according to the way the credit reporting agencies work you really HAVE to posses some type of revolving credit that has a low but existent balance in order to improve your credit rating. They want to know you are an active participant in credit to see what your current payment history is like. Most of you that have bad credit will not qualify for a credit card or similar credit account, therefore it seems you can’t do anything about this part. Here are a few companies listed by CNN Money that allow you to start rebuilding your credit. http://money.cnn.com/galleries/2011/pf/1104/gallery.best_credit_cards_bad_credit/ Once you get one of these cards, use it wisely and responsibly and it will get reported to your credit that you are maintaining an open credit line with good payment history that is not maxed out.
How Long is This Going to Take?
It’s not quick. None of it is. I would say it will take at least two years to get your credit up to where it should be in order to do things like get a car loan of buy a house. The benefits of doing this will be never-ending however. Keep track of your credit and keep improving it. One day you will thank yourself for it. Now back to writing jokes..
“I used to find woman constantly bitching for equality annoying. My train of thought has always been: ‘Don’t whine about it, get out there and DO it.’ I’ve worked as a stripper, a waitress, and a cook. And I have NEVER felt more discrimination based on my gender than in the comedy world…” –Lauryn Petrie
Hello, my name is Matt Ward. I am a male comic. I book shows, promote shows and run two comedy festivals. So it is safe to say, I get to see a fair amount of comedians. Since getting my start producing comedy shows over 6 years ago I couldn’t help but notice that their were significantly more male stand-ups out there than female. This really didn’t occur to me until a female comedian accused me of being sexist by not booking enough female comedians. I went down my list of the shows I had booked at that time and noticed only 20% of the comics I had booked were female. Then I tought for a while about this and came to the conclusion that I just didn’t have that many female comedians to choose from. I booked the funny people who were available, not dudes or ladies specifically. So I then began to think about it even more. Why weren’t there more females doing stand-up? There are plenty of female public speakers, singers and other similar occupations. Why not so many in comedy?
So why are there fewer female comedians?
I have no direct answer to this…. I can only assume that maybe it has to do with ego, maybe it has to do with sexism in the industry, maybe it just doesn’t seem like a very desirable occupation. Again, I can only venture to guess. So I asked some of my friends in comedy that also just happen to be ladies about this and did some other research on the topic.
Wait, ARE there fewer female comedians, really?
Yes, across the country there are fewer female comedians then male. Gil Greengross, a Ph.D Psychologist and Anthropologist at the University of Mexico believes that number to be around 10-15% (Read Article) and I would tend to agree with that figure. He also believes that women are traditionally less socially aggressive than men and as a comic I know this is an extremely important component of developing the desire to start doing stand-up comedy.
Sexism in Comedy
Poor treatment and sexism in the comedy world is often cited as a possible reason there are not more women in comedy. Comedy is sexist but it does not have to be sexist. How is comedy sexist? Because people feel it is ok to sexually harass female comics. Patrons, wait staff, management and other comedians regularly dish out sexually inappropriate comments and
suggestions to female comics with no repercussion whatsoever. I know, I have witnessed it and then took action against it.
Why is this tolerated? “Oh, you gotta grow thick skin!” Some say, or “I get stuff said to me like that all the time, we are comics!” No, those are bullshit excuses for horrible behavior. Respect is the most important thing to any comedian. By making a fellow stand-up feel threatended under the guise of a joke you are creating a hostile creative environment. Yes, all comics have to be able to take a verbal lashing, but not from someone who should be on their side. They will get that on stage and they will gain the skills to deal with such heckling shitheads in time.
Why should we care if there are more ladies in comedy?
Some of the most amazing painters, writers, sculptors and musicians are women. There are far more females in MOST other art forms. Just imagine what comedy would be like if their were even 15% more ladies doing it than there are now. That is the direction we are going, we just need to be willing to allow it to get there by enabling positive creative environments for comedy. Yeah, kumbaya my comedy lord, why don’t we all have a wheatgrass shake and hug out our feelings, right? No, be dedicated to making everything related to comedy better to foster a strong comedy community and you will see comedy grow and become a more sustainable career choice for those around you.
So what should I do about it??
Support funny comedians. Hosts, stop telling the crowd they are female before they go on stage. Why do you do this? Do they need to prepare themselves? It’s ridiculous and needs to stop. I am not the first comic to mention this, in fact on a Facebook post not long ago Jake Weissman posted a very in-depth critique on this practice on his page. Male comics, what else can you do? You can also stop with the sexual comments OR more commonly, stop others from making a female feel intimidated because others choose to objectify her once again ‘under the guise of comedy’. Support and praise the ladies that come out to do stand-up. The world treats them with a double standard where they are held to a certain ridiculous social expectation that affects not only their actions off stage but the type of material the audiences will allow them to perform as well. In a nutshell, dudes (especially white ones) it is harder for them, so treat them with some goddamn respect. Be good people, treat your female comedians like your sisters and let’s make this comedy family stronger every day.
Another venue has just been added to the 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival giving us now 4 confirmed spots all within 1 mile that will be hosting shows. Latitude 35 on Market Square (center of Downtown Knoxville) will be hosting shows on Friday and Saturday night during this year’s Scruffy City Comedy Festival. Latitude has proven to be a great venue for comedy with it’s downstairs room that is away from the regular bar area. Beginning next month Jeff Blank will begin producing a monthly showcase at this venue, so begin showing your support now!
Open-mics are the most common place where people first get on stage and make an attempt to do stand-up comedy. Depending on where you live, these opportunities may or may not be plentiful. Here are some questions I often get from open-mic comics. Before I continue I want to say that being a comic that regularly attends open-mics and does not get paid yet to do comedy is no brand of shame. Everyone has to practice in a live environment and tune in all their senses on stage as well as improve as a writer before moving on to bigger things. Open-mics are the place to cultivate a healthy work ethic.
Q: Where the hell do I start?
A: You start doing comedy any number of places most often at a comedy open-mic. Now this part is OPINION and is not set in stone but many have found to be very helpful. Work on writing five awesome minutes of jokes. This usually starts as 10-15 minutes whittled down and sharpened over and over again on stage until it gets laughs throughout the five minutes. Sometimes it is good to video or audio record yourself during this time as it is easier to hear the reaction from the crowd and also hear where there is an opportunity for improvement in the way you are telling a joke. Once you get five minutes that is solid, you will be able to build another five minutes and so on.
Q: How long must I do open-mics before I will get booked for a show.
A: This varies. Most comics don’t get regular paid work until at least a few years after they start doing stand-up. Others end up getting lucky or being naturally talented enough to get a break within their first six months. The thing to keep in mind is, everyone progresses differently. This is where the impatience must be suppressed. Write constantly, improve all aspects of your performance, be original and when it is time, you will be asked to do shows. If you are not asked, don’t be afraid to ask to get on a show when you feel you are ready. However, also be prepared for the person booking the show to let you know directly if he/she does not feel you are ready. Don’t take it personally, take it as a challenge to improve and begin to work harder.
Q: How often should I be getting on stage?
A: As much as possible. If you live somewhere with an open-mic every night, at first you should be getting on stage every night your schedule allows. If this means getting a job that has daytime hours so you can get on stage at night, then this is what you do. If you live somewhere that does not have more than one or two comedy open-mics, then you should get on stage at music open-mics that will let you do so. Otherwise, you should move to a city that has more open-mics or comedy stage-time opportunities.
Q: How do I know if I am any good at comedy?
A: Because the comics that are veterans and really genuinely make a crowd laugh more often than not will recognize it in you and compliment you. A rare few more seasoned comics will choose to be stand-offish and not ever pay kudos, but for the most part, people who do comedy LOVE comedy and they will be glad to give you props when you kick ass on stage. DO NOT, however, fall into the trap of relying JUST on other comedians feedback in order to determine your abilities.
Q: Is it ok to call myself a ‘comic‘? A: Yes, and fuck anyone that thinks differently. Now this doesn’t mean you should go change your Facebook page to “Comedian Your Name Comic”, but it does mean that you shouldn’t be ashamed of telling people you are an aspiring stand-up or that you consider yourself a comic. Some comedy snobs will shit all over this advice because they don’t think you are good enough, but again, fuck them. In order to become something, you have to embrace everything about it including its title. When you TRULY get to say you are a comic, is when comedy is providing a source of income for you that allows you to focus on in primarily. But don’t fear using the title in conversation before then.
Q: When should I try to get into comedy festivals?
A: This also varies, there are comedy festivals for all skill levels of comic. I would say you should have a tight 10 minutes before you start submitting to comedy festivals and most importantly, a solid video of you performing this solid 10 minute set to submit. Also, when you do begin to submit for comedy festivals, be fully aware, the more popular the festival, the more comics with much more experience and talent will be submitting. So don’t get dejected and bummed out if you don’t make the cut. In some situations you can ask those that make the selections for these events for some constructive feedback and they might be able to provide it for you.
Q: Is there anything I should be doing off stage to get better in the beginning?
A: Yes, be dedicated to researching stand-up comedy and everything about it. Read the blogs, watch great comics, support comedy shows that come to your town that you are not even booked to perform on. The heart and soul of a beneficial comedy scene is the passion the comics in it have for the art of stand-up comedy.
Q: What if I don’t want to be a stand-up comic necessarily?
A: If you are not wanting to be a stand-up, but you want to have some type of career in comedy such as writing or acting, most of the rules apply for you I have discussed thusfar. If you are just doing comedy as a hobby, I really don’t have much for you. Many comics hate you. I don’t, but I understand why in places like L.A. the hobbyist comic is looked at with disdain. If you are just doing comedy for fun, don’t ask for paid work. At least not from me.
Q: When should I quit my job and begin doing comedy full-time?
A: Whoa, whoa, whoa there…. You shouldn’t be thinking about this for at LEAST a few years, probably close to five or more. You quit your job and go full-time when you are having to turn down SO much work in stand-up because your regular job won’t give you the time off that it begins to have a negative impact on your relationships with comedy bookers. I would say more about this, but this is an ENTIRELY separate full blog in and of itself.
Q: Should I move to L.A. or New York?
A: Probably not. Sure plenty of young comics do, but maybe you should consider spending some time in another smaller market with a solid comedy scene first. A place with tons of stage time. You can take the plunge right away if you want, but it is wise to work your way up on this one. Those places are really expensive, and for a comic that isn’t ready for Comedy Central or other tv/movie work, you are going to have a tought time dedicating as much time to comedy as you had intended. You will likely spend most of your time trying to afford your $1000 rent for an efficiency two other people live in, in the ghetto.
That’s all for now, follow me on twitter @mattwardcomedy and feel free to mention me if you have any comedy questions you would like answered!
Let’s face it, performing at comedy festivals is pretty expensive until you are getting booked in a paid spot to perform at them. It is becoming increasingly important for cost consciousness when deciding which comedy festivals to apply to. Here are numbers to think about when it comes to applying to perform at a comedy festival.
The Costs of Getting Into a Comedy Festival
1.) Submission fee- This is actually the least of your costs. From $10-$80 comedy festivals more often than not have a submission fee. Even if you submitted to EVERY comedy festival you see that is taking submissions over the course of a calendar year, the cost of submitting pales in comparison to the biggest cost of all.
2.) Travel- Travel will fuck your budget up every time. Are you applying to a comedy festival that is on the other end of the country? Are you going to have to fly?
Flying- Flights from some cities to other cities are unreal expensive. Before you submit to a comedy festival, if you know you are going to have to fly, go ahead and do a little research into the cost of the tickets. Quite often you will find you START at paying $250 to fly just about anywhere. You have to add the cost of renting a car potentially as well, so just tack on another $100-$150 for that and any gas you would use while there. In the end, doing a comedy festival on the other side of the country could cost you $500 or way way more.
Driving- Some festivals are somewhat centrally located. If you can drive there in 8 hours or less you may want to consider this option. The costs of driving this much varies dramatically, but even if you had a car that got 40 mpg and the average cost of gas was $3.15 (which it is rarely), you would still spend about $100 to get to the festival an back. What is WAY worse than that is that you are spending 16 hours in a car. That means you are taking a day off work or off gigs not making any money. Consider this opportunity cost when it comes to deciding whether to drive or fly. The BIGGEST benefit of driving is the ability to carpool.
3.) Food and Drinks and Weed/etc- Yeah, I mentioned weed, because to some comics it is right up there with buying drinks. Either way you have to be honest with yourself about the money you are going to be spending to survive when you are at the comedy festival. If you were at a festival for four days you are going to just begin to feed yourself and have a good time on about $100. That doesn’t include weed though… Sorry stoners.
4.) Lodging- If you are resourceful and ok with it, you can typically find a comedian to crash with. If you can’t and you have to get a room by yourself, look at spending about $150-$450 on a hotel room depending on the city. Does the festival offer lodging? A few do, not many, but a few do.
In summary, are you ready to spend close to $1000 to go to a comedy festival? If you are picking one across the country or in an area where the cost of living is high, be prepared to. Does that mean you shouldn’t submit to some festivals? Perhaps. Great festivals are happening all over the country now so in the end there is a good chance you are not applying to one that is pretty awesome and way closer to you.
We have two venues confirmed for the first annual Scruffy City Comedy Festival. First of all, we got Jason Boardman and the Pilot Light on board. Jason has been a big supporter of the underground comedy scene far before Matt Ward or Knox Comedy Live were bringing comedians to stages in Downtown Knoxville. The Pilot Light seats about 50 with standing room for about 60. The venue has been the home of our Character Roast series.
We will be having shows on Friday November 7th and Saturday November 8th at The Pilot Light.
The Pilot Light is located in the Old City neighborhood of NE Downtown Knoxville, about 6 blocks from Market Square.
Our primary venue where our biggest shows will be is Scruffy City Hall. Scruffy City Hall is a nearly 200 seat music venue that works perfectly for stand-up. The venue is located in the Market Square district of Downtown Knoxville. Scruffy City Hall is another venture from Scott and Bernadette West, also big supporters of comedy in Downtown Knoxville and renegade scene builders in the Market Square district.
The two venues we have secured are less than a half mile from one another, or just under a ten minute walk. We really want to make all of our venues walking distance from one another for our 2014 festival!
The festival is the brainchild of comedian and promoter Matt Ward. Ward also is the co-founder and co-producer of the Cape Fear Comedy Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina.
The Scruffy City Comedy Festivalgets it’s name from the nickname from a story that appeared in the Wall Street Journal in the 1980’s inspired by the news that Knoxville would host the 1982 World’s Fair. The article was written by Susan Harrigan and it was titled ‘What if you gave a World’s Fair and nobody came?’ The now infamous line from the article stated Knoxville was ‘a scruffy little city on the Tennessee River.’ The writer doubted that the event could work. It did. Because of passionate people and a unique vision, it did. That is why we are the Scruffy City Comedy Festival. Our collective of comedians that volunteers to organize, run and promote this festival believes we can throw a comedy festival where people can come from all over the country to be funny, become friends, have a great time and put people in the seats.
Submissions: Submissions for the 2014 Scruffy City Comedy Festival will begin in May or June. As soon as the information is released it will go out to our subscribers of this blog first. So please take a moment to sign up so you become the first to know the details!