8 thoughts on “Are You Playing A Game You Can Win?

  1. I think that this is tremendous advice … the grind of hitting open mic after open mic – driving an hour – or more – for as low as 4 minutes of stage-time can be crushing … It is (sometimes) all too easy to forget why you are even going through the paces – in theory – it is to have fun – to get better at the whole craft of making jokes and to get people giggling. Anyways – that is why it is nice to be reminded that there are a bunch of avenues to get to a lot of different places.

  2. This is a really inspiring post Josh. Thank god I spent time learning how to use the computer instead of doing my homework.

  3. Josh,

    This may be your most important entry to Connected Comedy yet, but I’m hoping to dig deeper on this topic.

    You mentioned Halpern had “connections”, and Maron was already a great and high-profile comedian before their respective e-successes. I don’t know intimate details of Burhnham’s success, but I have a hard time believing his career went thermonuclear without some serious help going viral.

    I guess my question is: what separates success stories like these versus the dreaming wanna-be’s who annoy and spam the crap out of their friends and family to get a dozen views on their clip/podcast/blog? From what I gather, you almost need managment and big-media credits for audience to give you a fair shake without dismissing you as an amateur.

    I hope you don’t take this as antagonistic…I’ve been chasing that answer for many years now! Thanks for offering this forum for feedback, I look forward to your thoughts.

  4. Josh Spector says:

    Hey Tom, those are great comments/questions and some of them I should probably address in a separate post as opposed to just a comment. But in the meantime, here’s a few quick thoughts:

    • Halpern had some connections, but he had connections that he had created because he was spending time blogging and connecting with other bloggers, which led to his job at Maxim (I think). Your connections typically come from where you spend your time/effort. When you spend 90% of your time doing open mics, then 90% of your connections are likely going to be with other open mic’ers.

    • Maron had a fanbase obviously, but I believe his fanbase was a small fraction of what it is now. Yeah, it gave him a bit of a headstart, but it was the podcast that really introduced him to a new audience and fueled his career growth. The NY Times wasn’t writing about Marc Maron (and introducing him to new fans) when he wasn’t doing a podcast. So his pre-existing fanbase is kind of irrelevant to his recent success.

    • Burnham was definitely helped by being in the right place at the right time – he was on YouTube early and benefited from the site’s explosive growth. But that’s kind of the point – he was playing his own game and was playing it before everybody else was so he reaped the rewards. Burnham launched his YouTube channel in July 2006 – that gave him a HUGE advantage compared to comics who are just joining YouTube today.

    • Re: your question about what separates success stories from dreaming wannabes, I would say that they are separated by quality, commitment, and patience. You don’t need management and big media credits – it’s the exact opposite. The huge opportunity is that you no longer need anybody’s help to reach the entire world – these new tools have made it possible for anybody to reach everybody.

    But, it only works if you create something great. It doesn’t have to be great for everybody, it just has to be great for some specific audience and then you have to be committed to working to find that audience.

    And btw, what most comedians fail to recognize is that the audience is more powerful than the industry. If you get an audience, the industry will come knocking on your door begging to work with you. The flipside is not true: just because you get some industry attention, it doesn’t mean that the audience will care about you.

  5. Thanks, Josh…that’s solid clarification of the key points. I also think you’ve identified a big problem in the comedy community: the deeper you go down the rabbit hole among comedians, the further away you can potentially get from the civilian-at-large community, i.e. your audience. That’s probably a whole other post as well!

  6. John Moody says:

    All I can say is wow. After a very long hiatus, I got back into stand up two years ago only to find all of the rules have changed. Performing in front of 10 comics going over their notes at open mics is just slightly better than the “Bringer room” phenomenon that has taken place. It’s a game that I don’t want to play but felt it was because I’m lazy. Thanks a lot for this. I’ve been spending more time working on building a web presence.

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with this and with Natty’s comment. I like performing at mics to work-out material but it gets to a point where you’ve got your 10, or your 30, or your 60 mins., or whatever and then the return on investments from open mics just isn’t there.

    I think it’s important to always hone new material but it’s even more important to find some way to squeeze the ABSOLUTE most out of the material you’ve already honed.

    The old approach to stand-up comedy, the mic and road grind is dying. And that’s both sad and liberating.

  8. MG Gaskin says:

    It’s niche marketing and it’s the only way to succed in this economy whether it’s comedy or anything else! Get a Booker on the phone and tell them “book me I’m funny” equals classic fail. You have to first know who you are on stage then get really good at that!

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