Professor Blastoff is a weekly Podcast on the Earwolf Network, hosted by Tig Notaro, Kyle Dunnigan and David Huntsberger, with Aaron Burrell occasionally appearing to assist in the research and conversation, but he is absent from the episode addressed in this article.
Each episode revolves around a theme that the hosts find interesting. Their guests range from other celebs and comics to “regular” people and listeners who have expertise, insight or interest in the topic.
The episode is packed with great advice (Katz comes on at around the 13-minute mark) and you can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.
1. Beware Of The Fine Print
At about the 21-minute mark, Katz talks about how producers will often approach comics at a performance with a video camera and a release form, offering a good quality tape in exchange for the right to show the performance in a “limited market” or for a “limited time.”
The fine print of these forms (and we’re talking super fine) can often give them rights to air your performance for much longer and in many more markets than initially promised (that’s what happened to Kyle Dunnigan, spawning the anecdote) and if it’s not you’re A+ act, you’ll be stuck with it circulating out there for who knows how long.
Katz’s advice: “Don’t sign anything or get taped, until your material is A+.” Don’t self-destruct.
2. “Lovable And Huggable” Wins The Race
At around the 25-minute mark the group has a conversation in which they analyze what tipped Notaro into becoming America’s Top Comic. Katz explains that, “99% of the time, huggable and lovable wins the race in standup comedy crossing over to TV and film.”
Katz talks about how prior to her brush with cancer, he always found Notaro to be rather stand-offish and felt uncomfortable around her. He even says he wasn‘t sure what to expect when he arrived for the episode.
But as her story of survival spread, it made her image more “huggable and lovable” and the experience has actually made her more of a “light in the room.” Sure, there are cases where less-than-lovable guys like Lewis Black or Denis Leary find success, but on the whole it’s comics that are likable that will cross over into the TV/film mainstream. You have to be likable at some level to get people to follow you from the small clubs, to the big clubs and theaters, and then to TV & film.
3. Consistency, Confidence, Hard Work and Positivity
These quotes say it all:
“There’s no way that anxiety and success go together.”
“If you’re anyone in any kind of career and you’re asking yourself, ‘I wonder if this is for me?’, then it’s not meant to be.”
“If you’re relying on the three clubs in town, you are not going to get great. You are dead, you have no shot at all, but if you go to all the open mic nights and every single opportunity there is…then you will get great. If you want to get great, get out there and get great. Find the opportunities or create them.”
4. There’s No Time Limit
At around the 51-minute mark, Katz talks about a hypothetical conversation with an 18-year-old Louis CK, when he was just starting, where he outlines all the success that he’ll have one day, but with the caveat that it won’t happen for 20 years. It’s a reminder that success doesn’t happen overnight and you shouldn’t expect it to.
That evolves into a bigger discussion and by the 62-minute mark Katz talks about “making it.”
He explains, “The only way you’re going to make it and get where you want to go is to create unique and special ideas and get people talking about them.”
5. In Show Business, Safe Is A Big Thing (especially when auditioning)
At around the 54-minute mark, Katz analyzes Kyle Dunnigan and identifies a quality that Dunnigan possesses to disarm everyone in the room at auditions and instantly make them feel comfortable and safe.
Most comics who get their own shows, do so as unproven entities. If the studio is going to give you a chance (with their money), they need to feel safe with you. They need to feel like you know what you’re doing. Approaching an audition with confidence, as though you’ve already been on the lot for months.
It’s not much of a stretch to extrapolate that concept to any sort of a gig. You’ve got to let them see that you can handle the opportunity and that their trust in your abilities won’t betray them.
6. You CAN Make Money In Comedy
At around the 70-minute mark, Katz offers some encouraging words for comics who may wonder if it’s actually possible to make any money in comedy. It is – if you’re willing to take it seriously.
“There’s no way you can’t make money in this business if you get up every morning at six and work till two on your craft and do everything in your power to,” he says. “The only way you can’t make it is if you’re self destructive, doing drugs; if you’re lazy, if you have a sense of entitlement, or if you’re mean or disingenuous.”
7. Relationships Are Important
Just as “Lovable and Huggable” is important to a crowd, it’s also important when relating to others in the business, including other comics. At around the 71-minute mark, Katz talks about Dane Cook and some mistakes that he made in his relationships with other comics.
While Cook was always respectful to his manager and agents, when it came to other comics he was guarded and seemed to have more of a rogue outlook as opposed to embracing the community of comics around him. It all boils down to respect – just because the club owner will let you go on at a moment’s notice, bumping other comics from the spots they‘ve been waiting on, it doesn’t mean you should.
Dane Cook reached that level, and was able to show up to a club and bump other comics, like Louis CK and Zach Galifianakis, who were just a few steps behind him in breaking, but no less professional and established in the community. Respect your fellow comics and their time.
You never know when they might be able to help you (or hurt you), so don’t be a jerk.
Did you find this podcast summary helpful? You can read more of them here.