I love giving advice. I’m only 6 years in, but I think I know everything. Until the next bomb. Then I think back to the time I gave unsolicited advice to a fellow comic and she’s been on television since then. She was fine, she didn’t need my input.
The harsh reality of me giving comedy advice is that I can get up on stage later and bomb in front of everyone that read this. It makes you think, Jesus, why would anyone take advice from that asshole?
From just a few months in to 10 years or more- you’re gonna hear all kinds of shit from people you probably shouldn’t listen to. So jump ship now or keep reading!
A handful of comics asked me about getting booked. How does one go about that? Why am I not getting booked?
I’m probably not the guy to ask. I get booked 3 to 4 times a month, and even that is pretty generous when I’m still learning so much. You’ve seen comic’s memes with full schedules. Clearly I’m not working hard enough. They have the hustle. I hustle in different directions. I feel uncomfortable asking too much. Even when I’m at my best, something inside tells me I don’t deserve to ask for more. I have to get over that.
Some nights I exude so much confidence, and then another night I feel like a beginner all over again, struggling through a longer set, forgetting my set-list, or closing with a joke that never works. What the hell was I thinking??!! Why did I have a beer? I’m losing focus, too relaxed.
I was in denial about a lot of jokes. I let them stay mediocre for years. Even my friends were probably wondering, why the fuck is he still doing that joke? It’s so easy to get set in my ways. I guess for a while there’s just not enough material, so I circle to older bits over and over again. Making mental notes after my set (oh, that line tanked again, I should change that) then blip! Forgotten until the next time it bombs again. It’s an unproductive cycle.
There’s real homework to be done. It’s not supposed to be all fun. We can’t just keep winging it on stage. We’re not all great like our heroes. If the line sucks take it out. Maybe the joke still works, but now it’s better because it’s shorter. I waste so much breath setting things up and it kills the actual funny part. I get this attitude like, I can’t think of anything else, that’ll do for now. I just admitted to myself that I don’t even like it.
Rewrites. Coming up with a better line, or a better set-up. So many of my jokes eat shit because the set-up doesn’t make sense, and no specific point of view is coming across. Sometimes I’ll ask an honest friend for an opinion. I’m sensitive about my jokes, so the response can be hard to take, but if something is not working, I’m not gonna be defensive about it. Riffing on the idea with a funny friend can put me back on the right track.
I have an app called The Comedy Companion. It lists all my jokes. It breaks them down into two categories: In Development or just Jokes. I rehearse individual jokes at home and list the time it takes to perform them. Then I give them my most honest grade. I love performing my Metallica bit, but it’s a C- at best. The first couple minutes get laughs, but then it eats a dick before I get to the huge act-out. It’s either too much of a niche audience thing or it’s just not funny enough. Maybe the storytelling is too sloppy. It’s a problem. I can’t keep doing it at shows until I do some rewrites. I can’t just blame the audience for not caring about Metallica. They still laugh at the set-up, so it’s not just the reference.
There are jokes that I’m not crazy about performing like My Last Name is Wurst, but it usually does great, so it gets an A rating. It says something about me. It’s personal and there are a few good lines that always hit. A good opener for sure. People hear my last name is Wurst when the host brings me up, so naturally I should open with that joke, right? (Yeah, but I die inside every time.)
So eventually, I can whittle down a set-list and they should all be A’s and B’s. Close on a A-rated banger if I can. Do I have any other foolproof jokes? Anyway, this is just how I do it…or forget to do it, but mean to do it. Just gotta work on those C’s, D’s, and F’s.
Any comic who complains about not getting booked is not doing the homework. They’re still doing the same shit and saying it the same way. Or maybe they’re so cocky and new that nobody wants to book them. Maybe they’re making people uncomfortable on Facebook with negative rants (I know I can only take so much). Maybe they’re getting laughs consistently at the same open mic, which is not a good judge. Go to a place where nobody knows you with actual audience members. Get out of your comfort zone. I love my Orange County friends, but they know me too well. Getting laughs at mics where nobody knows me feels like something. It’s fun walking in at some place where there’s a clique, too. I feel like the underdog. If I bomb, I can stay away for a long time or come back with a vengeance.
But the drive, blah blah blah- nobody gives a shit. We all drive our asses off. I took public transportation for 15 years! Shut-up-a-yo-face! Speaking of which, I’m tired of headliners complaining on stage about driving 2 hours to a paid gig at a nice club, you fucking wankers.
You gotta be honest with how you’re doing! So many people get into the “I crushed!” “I killed!”mindsets. You post that all the time and it makes me question your credibility. Ah whatever, I can’t even talk to those people. They’re trying to get ahead by overhyping themselves. They don’t want to work on getting funnier.
(Ten years later, Marty comes to the realization he’s jealous of everyone.)
Did Gary Gulman mention listening to your sets over and over? That’s how I come up with new tags. It’s hard to listen to awful sets (I delete them pretty quick), but a good set is fun to listen to. For me it’s a drug. I keep rewinding to some lady’s cackle. After hearing bits over and over I start to think of alternate lines and directions. Or remind me of the fucking tag I dropped! A mediocre set will at least keep my interest, but it’s still a lot of cringing.
Nearly all of my bookings are a result of doing well at an open mic. Rarely from a Youtube clip. I just got my first Brea Improv spot because I made someone laugh at Father’s Pub, a fun and extremely divey bar mic in Santa Ana. You never know who’s watching, and because of that set I got to perform to a crowd of 250. That’s a big deal for me, to earn a club spot by just doing well at an open mic. The same thing happened at the Hollywood Improv. The booker was watching, and I did well when it mattered. A huge victory for me. I’m 6 years in and I almost stayed home that day. I never would have known, this is the day I get pulled. Kick ass in a room full of competitive comics, that’ll make an impression. Don’t go to a lottery mic just assuming you’re not gonna get pulled. Get amped up and review your set and be ready. Then light a fire in the room when your name gets called. It’s a test every time. We all blow it when it matters. I think we’re just unaware of it most of the time.
Jeremiah Watkins said to treat every mic like a showcase. Seems like a little much, but he’s fucking right. Don’t waste it because the crowd looks like shit. Be your best at every open mic. You get a reputation, oh, here’s somebody to watch. Say somebody complains about the audience and shits on the gig during their set. That’s an opportunity to turn the room around when you go up. Make those people your friends so that last comic looks like an asshole! Oh, you think this is a bad situation? Well, I just made it great, so fuck you, ya negative hack!
I watch people deliberately blow it and it drives me nuts because I’ve done it too. Bailing out on bits, slurring jokes, watching somebody too high to form a thought—in front of the people that matter. There’s a dude that works at an amazing comedy club and gets spots. Then he gets on stage high as fuck, doesn’t remember his jokes, and leaves prematurely after bitterly complaining in front of the booker. Fucking dude doesn’t know what he has and he’s pissing it away.
If there’s just one takeaway from this entry, remember this. Most Los Angeles and Orange County open mics have one or two comics in the audience who book their own shows. Sometimes more. They’re just there to do sets too, but if they like you you’ll probably hear from them at some point. Sometimes advanced comics are waiting to go up, too. Maybe you do good and they’ll take note of that. So work on your set. Don’t be a dick. Be friendly. Awkward is fine, just be yourself and genuine.
Blah blah, blah, I’m so good at giving advice!!!!
I was delusional starting out. With no point of reference and doing things for the first time, my perception of a good set was much different from someone who’s been doing this for 5 to 10 years. I was eager to post those early Flappers clips, but I’m telling you, take those fucking things down now before you shoot yourself in the foot! If you think you’re serious about comedy, you’re gonna be better in 5 years anyway, might as well wait a bit before posting anything. Don’t embarrass yourself by sending those mediocre sets to bookers. Even my current clip is far from a home run…I should probably take it down. It’s a C+…maybe a B-. I’m embarrassed that some of my most successful jokes are dick jokes. There are enough of those already. I know I’m better than that. Clever over easy, Marty. Be clever first.
So what I’m saying is if you have jokes about cocks, I’ll tag them. Let’s do this.
Big thanks to the comics who shot me a nice message about openmicreviews, the blog, or just had something nice to say to me about my set. The kind words in person at the bleakest open mics mean the world to me. I’m sorry if I didn’t remember your face from Instagram. There are people who occasionally donate, too- fucking unbelievable, thank you so much.
If you find a great mic that more comics should know about, hit me up! I also post a lot of ridiculous stand-up shenanigans on my personal account. If you’re ever in Orange County, make sure to follow Orange County Standup on Instagram. Dude posts everything going on daily, it’s great. Hit me up online if you need to bitch or ask about anything. If I don’t have the answer, I know a lot of people who might!
Man, I’m all tuckered out from giving out all this A+ advice, I’m plum worn out! I’m turning into a regular Greg Dean here. If you’d like to hear more, check out my past entries, learn from my mistakes and I’ll keep writing about it. I hope it wasn’t too obnoxious. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself of my own advice. Don’t end on a stinker Marty.
Good luck out there.
…(blows out candle)
Links to past entries:
My First and Worst Year: Westwood Brewco and Onward (the beginning)