There’s no one path to success in Hollywood, but there’s certainly some things that may prevent you from getting that elusive “big break.” Here’s a look at five common mistakes I see comedians make that might be prolonging their struggle.
You’re Not On YouTube (Or There’s A Bad Version Of You On YouTube)
I’m not about to suggest that you need to become a YouTube star in order to have a career in Hollywood, but if you’re a comedian and you’re ignoring YouTube as a showcase for your talent then you’re making a huge mistake. YouTube regularly gets searched by studio execs, casting agents, talent bookers, and others who are looking for a quick reference about a comedian who may be brought up in conversation.
I’ve been in countless meetings where this has happened and I’d say more than 50% of the time what comes up is either nothing, or some outdated or terrible clip of the person in question. It’s really inexcusable and a huge missed opportunity. Inevitably, the comedian’s out of the equation and they turn their attention to somebody else (who likely has a decent clip on YouTube that they can look at in that moment).
It’s ok if you’re not going to be constantly posting new videos of yourself on YouTube, but you should absolutely have at least one or two good ones up there that showcase your talents. You never know who’s going to be looking.
You Don’t Understand The Business
One of the things that’s always been interesting to me about people who want to have a career in the entertainment industry is the fact that most of them don’t bother to learn anything about the business of Hollywood. I understand that performing and creating is an art and not a science, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at least have some idea of what’s going on in your chosen industry.
At a bare minimum, you should occasionally read industry news on sites like Variety or Deadline Hollywood so that you start to get a sense of who the various players are in the industry and what their interests are. If you’re lucky enough to get a pitch meeting with a producer, you should know what other kinds of projects they have bought – not only because it might help you sell a pitch but also because it might help you decide if it’s even somebody you want to work with in the first place. The more you understand about how the business works, the more likely you’ll be able to find success within the system.
You’re Not Creating Anything Or Building Any Value In Yourself
Another ironic trait that I often see in comedy creators is that they’re pursuing a career as content creators, but they don’t seem to have any interest in creating anything until somebody tells them they can. It used to be that you needed a studio or somebody to “greenlight” your creations and get them in front of an audience, but those days are gone. Sure, you might not have as much budget as you’d like for your creation, but thanks to technology it’s now easy to create something and expose it to the whole world.
If you do this, you not only are showcasing your talent but you’re also building value in yourself by starting to attract your own following and audience. A comedian with an audience (even a small one), will always be more intriguing to Hollywood than one who has no audience. And it’s impossible to build an audience for yourself without creating something first.
You’re Just Like Everybody Else
One of the easiest traps for comedians to fall into is to look around at other people who are having success in their careers and assume that you should be more like them. I couldn’t disagree more. The key to catching Hollywood’s attention is to be different from everybody else and to stand out from the crowd. A lot of times I think comedians think it’s enough to just be funny, but it’s not. There’s lots of people that are funny. The question is, what makes you different than everybody else that’s also funny?
If you haven’t figured out what’s unique about your voice, your act, your writing, or your content, then you’re fighting an uphill battle in terms of your career. There should be something about you and what you do that nobody else can do, and that something is what you should be “selling” to Hollywood. Because if you don’t know what makes you stand out from all the other funny guys, then how can you expect Hollywood to figure it out?
You’re A Pain In The Ass
Nobody thinks of themselves as being a pain in the ass, but trust me, some of you that are reading this fit the bill. Hollywood is just like any other business and people want to work with people that they know are responsible and easy to deal with. It seems like a little thing, but showing up on time, being reliable, and following through on what’s expected of you when you actually do get an opportunity can go a long way to getting you another opportunity.
Hollywood’s a small town and the chances are that anybody you work with will wind up in other jobs in the future where they can help (or hurt) you and they also probably know lots of other people in the industry who can give you opportunities. Being difficult or irresponsible will do a lot more than ruin the one gig you’re working on at the moment.