How to Stop Being a Clod
By Steve Hofstetter
It is amazing to me that so many comedians can control an entire room, but are totally lost in an individual conversation.
How many times have you seen a comic approach a comedian with more experience and ask for help within three sentences? And then somehow get mad when the comedian refuses?
"Hi, you may not know me and you've never seen my act, but you should lay your reputation on the line for me. What? You're not going to? Jerk."
Sure, people do this in other professions. I bet every business man who has ever met Donald Trump has asked for a job. But comedians are trained to understand people. We're trained to manipulate words and turn phrases and find three different ways to say the same thing. So why, as a collective, do we botch our networking opportunities so often?
It is hard to maintain composure while meeting your heroes, that is certainly true. But when talking to a headliner you'd never heard of before, you should be able to pull it together. Especially if it's over e-mail.
No matter how inept you are with a computer, you need to know how to use the delete key. If you start blathering in an email, that's okay because you can reread it and unblather before you send it. "I was really tired" is no excuse. If you're too tired to write coherently, just save a draft of the letter and try again tomorrow morning. It is your career you're playing with, not a chat room.
But email is a very small component. The air of desperation I see at comedy clubs is amazing. And we've all been guilty of it. No matter how much swagger we have on stage, there have been times in all of our lives where we've ruined a perfectly good business relationship by showing our cards too early. Which is more impressive â€“ a comedian you admire finding out about a project you're doing from you, or from someone else talking about your project? If you truly believe that you'll be in this business for the long haul, you'll have time to lay your hand out one card at a time. And be honest â€“ no one kills all the time, no one. Show me a comedian who always talks about killing and I'll show you a comedian who has never experienced what it's like to kill.
I've seen comedians both more and less experienced than myself swarm a headliner when he walks in the door. And constantly I see them asking the wrong questions. You're a person off stage, right? Then it would reason that that holds true for the comedian you've just cornered. Stop asking questions that you can answer by reading their bio. Bring up a subject they might enjoy talking about like (gasp) something that has nothing to do with comedy.
And for the love of your career, stop adding comedians and bookers to your mailing list without asking them. No one on this side of the industry cares about a club date you're playing because they're either working that night or bitter about not working that night. This goes triple for bringer shows. Really? I met you once at an open mic, but you're giving me the opportunity to spend $12 to go to a club where I could have gotten in free and see you compete in the World's Funniest Taxidermist Competition, doing the same exact material you just did at that open mic? Count me in!
I know I'm being harsh here. But this kind of behavior frustrates me. I see constantly talented writers and performers approach business contacts with all the sophistication of an eight grade dance. Imagine if they approached dating the same way they approached comedy.
"Hey, I notice you're attractive. Date me? Please? Date me date me date me? Come on, why not? This may be my last chance! HELP ME!!!! I'M DROWNING IN A SEA OF REGRET!!!! MY PARENTS DON'T LOVE ME!!!!"
The best way to get help is to never ask for it. That way when you do, people will know you mean it. And what's more, they'll already be your friend. If someone asks me for help the first time they meet me, I don't ever want to help them because I'm worried about how they handle themselves around the people I could have introduced them to. And I'm smalltime in this business. I can only imagine how frustrating this must be for a comedian with actual credits.
I have a long way to go in comedy. But everywhere I've gotten so far has been through the help of a genuine friend I've made in this business. When you get the chance to meet a comedian you feel can help you, just meet them. A solid friendship can't happen in five minutes. If you're willing to hone your act on stage for years, why not do the same with your relationships?
Oh, and if you're reading this and can help me, will you? I mean, cause, I, uh, saw your stuff on TV last night and, uh, yeah, I really liked the way you, uh... MY PARENTS DON'T LOVE ME!!!!