how to find your voice

A 20-Day Content Plan For Comedians

I’ll keep this brief.

If you spend the next 20 days creating content based on the prompts I spell out below, I GUARANTEE you will get you more engagement with your existing fans, attract new ones, and learn a ton of valuable things that will serve you way longer than the 20 days you put into it.

While these ideas will work great as blog posts on your website, the topics can also be adapted and work as videos, a podcast, Facebook posts, or even tweets potentially. Choose whatever format you prefer and just put them out into the world.

Trust me, it will work.

Here are the topics…

Day 1: Introduce Yourself

To kick things off write an intro post that explains who you are and what you’re about to do. Tell people up front that you’re going to be putting out a new piece of content each day for the next 20 days and (this is important) give them an easy way to follow along with the journey.

Offer them the chance to sign up to an email list to get each day’s post or to connect with you on a social channel where you’ll be posting the content each day.

Day 2: Why I Became A Comic

Write a post that tells more of your story – explain why you chose to become a comic in the first place. Be open and honest about your background and how you got to where you are – even if you just started out. You might not think it will be interesting to people, but trust me, if you’re honest about how and why you became a comic it will be more interesting than you think.

Day 3: Share A Controversial Or Strong Opinion

It doesn’t matter what it’s about – just pick something you feel very passionately about and write up an explanation of your opinion on that matter and why you feel that way. It doesn’t have to be controversial, but it will work better and get more noticed if it’s something that not everybody will agree with.

Day 4: Admit Something You’ve Never Admitted Before

Dig into your personal life or background and share a story about something you’ve never publicly shared before. It can be something that happened to you, it can be something you’ve learned, something you believe, or something that people would be surprised to know about you.

When you write it up, don’t forget to tell people that this is something you’ve never shared before – it will instantly make it more compelling in their eyes.

Day 5: Interview Somebody Interesting

Find somebody interesting – it doesn’t have to be somebody famous or somebody you know – to interview and share that interview with your audience. Ideally, you will interview a person who is relevant to your niche or the type of subjects you cover in your comedy and in a perfect world that person would also have some social following of their own who they could promote your finished interview to in order to get you more attention for it.

You also want to really think about the questions you plan to ask and try to make them as unique and interesting as possible – don’t just ask the basic who are you and what do you do stuff.

Day 6: Explain How To Do Something

I’m sure there’s something you’re an expert on – figure out what that is and write something up teaching other people how to do it. This is a way to ensure that you provide value to people in your content and it can be the kind of content that builds value over time.

Day 7: Live Blog Something

Pick a TV show, sports event, or some other thing that lots of people are interested in and live blog it while you watch it. If you don’t want to do that, you can also live blog an experience – maybe it’s a live blog of a Spotify playlist, or a live blog detailing a trip to a museum.

The point is to document in real-time (or close to it) an experience that other people can relate to.

Day 8: Share Your Best/Worst/Craziest Comedy Experience

If you’ve spent any time in comedy, I’m sure you’ve got some interesting stories. Pick one of them and share it with people – but write it as if you’re talking to people who don’t have any idea how the comedy world works. Remember, you want your content to resonate with potential fans, not just other comics so don’t make your post too inside-baseballish.

Day 9: Share Five Amazing Videos On An Obscure/Random Subject

YouTube is your friend. Go on a deep dive about some random subject you find interesting, collect five incredible videos around that theme, and then share them with an amusing writeup of your thoughts about each one.

Day 10: Tell A Story From Your Childhood

Speaking of stories that everybody has to tell, think about your best childhood story and share it with the world.

Day 11: Rank/Review Some Local Establishments

Assuming you perform locally often (or want to), pick some of your local establishments and review them. You can play this straight – The 5 Best Date Night Restaurants In Your Town – or you can have more fun with it and do something like The 5 Worst Places In Town To Be Drunk.

The idea is to come up with something that will resonate with people who live in your area and that they’ll be likely to be interested in and share with others.

Day 12: Do A Late Night Monologue

This is a writing exercise, but also may interest your audience. Pretend you were on the writing staff for a late night TV show and write a series of monologue jokes based on that day’s news. As an added bonus, you can probably repurpose those jokes as individual tweets as well.

Day 13: Create A List Of The Best People To Follow On Twitter

If you don’t use Twitter, you can do this on another social platform, but the basic idea is to write something with recommendations of a lot of people that others should follow and explain why.

Once you’ve posted this, you want to tag the people you featured and make sure they know you did so – most likely, some of them will share the post with their own followers and get you more exposure.

Day 14 – Let Friends/Followers Interview You

Source questions from people you know like your friends or followers and answer those questions in a post. Another way to do this is to choose one person and let them ask you the questions – for example, you could let your Mom interview you. Or, you could do something like let your first ex-girlfriend interview you.

There’s a lot of different ways to do this and make it compelling – plus, it’s easy because all you have to do is answer their questions.

Day 15: Write An Onion-Type Parody Article

This is also kind of like a writing exercise, but it’s worth trying to see how you like it. Create an Onion-inspired parody article about something relating to your niche or interests.

Just be sure to explain in the intro to the post or the title what you’re doing. For example, you could title it something like “If I Wrote For The Onion, This Is What I’d Do.”

Day 16: Share The Weird News Of The Week

This is similar to the post you did where you shared a series of interesting YouTube videos, but instead of that this time base it around weird news stories. There are lots of ways to find this stuff – check out for starters – but the point is to pick a few crazy stories and write up your observations about them.

Ideally, these stories would be connected in some way – for example, The 5 Worst Criminals Of The Week – but they don’t have to be. It could also be something like “5 News Stories That Made Me Lose Faith In Humanity This Week.”

Day 17: Share Your Inspiration

Write up a tribute to a person or people who inspire your comedy or yourself. Think about who that person is and what it is about them that you find inspiring and share that with your audience.

And if the person you choose is alive and uses social media, tag them in your post on social media and let them know about what you wrote. You can even frame the post in a way that thanks them. For example, if you’re writing about Steve Martin you could title it, “Thanks, Steve Martin” or “How Steve Martin Inspired Me To Become A Comedian.”

You never know what could come of it.

Day 18: Write An “Open Letter”

Have you ever seen how sometimes publications will feature an “open letter” from somebody written to a particular person or brand? Do that yourself. Pick a public entity that you have a strong feeling about and write them an open letter explaining your position or asking them to take a particular action.

Ideally, this would be something that other people might agree with you about and they could potentially rally behind your expression of the idea or request for the company. For example, Time Warner Cable sucks and lots of people think so – “An Open Letter To Time Warner Cable” might get some interesting support.

Day 19: Talk About Something Nostalgic

The Internet LOVES nostalgia. Figure out something or a series of things that you used to love and write up something interesting about them. It could be a remembrance of them, or even some thoughts about why you miss them.

For example, “I Feel Bad That Today’s Students Won’t Know What It Was Like To Go To High School Without The Internet” or “10 Things Only 80’s Babies Can Truly Understand.”

Day 20: Write A “What I’ve Learned” Post

You can borrow the Esquire magazine What I’ve Learned column format and share a list of things you’ve learned in your life. Or, as an alternate, you can share a list of things you’ve learned from posting content for the past 20 days as part of this plan.

If you stuck with it and made it to this point, you’ve likely learned a lot and I know I’d love to hear about it and share it with others. Good luck!

5 Things You Can Learn From Kyle Kinane

Comedian Kyle Kinane is one of the smartest and most respected comedians working today – he also happens to be one of my personal favorites and a guy I’ve worked with in the past who deserves every bit of success he’s had in the past few years.

On a recent episode of The Comedian’s Comedian podcast, he was interviewed by Stuart Goldsmith in what was one of the best discussions about the art of comedy that I’ve heard on any podcast anywhere. I recommend listening to the full episode here, but you can also read some of the highlights of what Kinane had to say below.

1. Comedy Isn’t Easy And Your Comedy Shouldn’t Be For Everybody

At around the 5-minute mark, Kinane shares his take on the current comedy boom and points out that open mics are filled with people trying all kinds of bizarre stuff, wrongly assuming that somehow standup is easy to do.

“There’s more people now than ever in comedy,” he says. “I think people falsely think it’s an easy outlet.”

He goes on to explain why even from when he initially started at open mics, he’s always liked the idea of hearing some groans from people watching his act.

“It shouldn’t be for everybody,” he says. “If it’s for everybody, it can’t really be that great. If everybody likes it, I don’t think they love it.”

2. You Can Wait Until The World Asks You For Something

At around the 14-minute mark, Kinane explains how he’s approached advancing his career and it’s a strategy that flies in the face of what most comedians practice (and what most of the content on this site is, to be perfectly honest).

Basically, he’s chosen not to do anything until people come to him and ask him to do so.

“I never had the self-confidence to be like, ‘Yeah, I got this,'” he says. “I feel like if the world wants you to put it out there, they’ll ask you for it. I never released an album until a label asked me to do it. It’s a much longer way, but at least if I get down that path this way – I know I was asked to be here. I did it the way I wanted to and was asked to go to the next level.”

Kinane admits that his approach is certainly not the only way to succeed and breaks down what he sees as the different ways that comics get ahead in the business.

“There’s people with talent, there’s people with hustle, and there’s people with a mix of both,” he says. “The shorter way [to succeed] is with hustle…but if you don’t have the material to back it up when you get there, you fucked yourself.”

He adds that when he was getting started he didn’t worry about hassling bookers to put him on “good” shows and was content to perform on other shows until the people with the good shows saw him and invited him to do theirs.

“If you’re asking me to do your show, you’re approving of what I’m doing already,” he says.

3. Your Comedy Should Evolve With Your Life

At around the 31-minute mark, Kinane talks about how his comedy has changed as he’s become increasingly successful. He says his biggest goal at the moment is to write “positive comedy,” because it’s more a reflection of his satisfaction with how his career and life have evolved in recent years – and it also helps him stand out from the crowd.

“I realize I’ve got  to separate myself from this pack of sad, bearded white dude comedy,” he says. “I’m trying to make it something that’s more. Something that’s not just jokes. I’m a happy person and it’s disingenuous to go up there [and pretend I’m not].”

Whether positive or not, he stresses the importance of comedians evolving in their act. “I get upset when comedians don’t grow from one thing to the next,” he says.

4. Do More Than Just Make Audiences Laugh

At around the 40-minute mark, Kinane explains how he ultimately found his voice (read more on how to find your voice here) after a string of bad shows at a festival several years ago. Feeling he had blown his big opportunity, he returned to Los Angeles and wound up discovering a new approach to his material.

“I realized…I could do some real weird shit that I think is funny to me, but sounds sad to other people,” he says. “I realized how much more powerful it was for people to understand something as opposed to just laughing at the wording. Laughing at it because you relate is so much different.”

5. Love It Enough To Do It For Free – Forever

At around the 49-minute mark, Kinane talks about how he’s proud of everything he does as a comedian and adds that setting that standard is also a way of “guarding my own happiness.”

He admits to reading comments about himself from critics and other Internet commenters, but manages to not let them affect him too much.

“I read the criticism, but if I don’t think they’re right than I don’t worry about it,” he says.

And finally, he shares some words of wisdom for other comics that are just starting out and hoping to build a successful comedy career.

“Love it enough that you’ll do it for free forever,” he says. “You’re not going to make a living.”

READ THIS NEXT: 5 Things You Can Learn From Jim Norton

5 Things You Can Learn From Canada’s Biggest Comedy Club Owner

Mark Breslin is the CEO and Founder of Yuk Yuk’s, a chain of 15 comedy clubs across Canada, and a comedy entrepreneur who has spent decades building an empire. On a recent episode of the Industry Standard with Barry Katz podcast, Breslin discussed a wide variety of topics ranging from how he got into comedy in the first place, what he’s learned, and what advice he has for up and coming comics today.

It’s a great conversation and you can listen to the full episode here or read up on some of the highlights below.

1. It Helps To Start Outside Of New York Or LA

At around the 19-minute mark, Breslin shares some interesting thoughts on the role of the town in which a comic first starts their comedy career.

“It’s very advantageous to be outside the center of action to develop,” he says, referencing the upside of honing your craft some place other than comedy business hubs like New York or Los Angeles. “Most comedians in New York and LA got great somewhere else first.”

But Breslin also acknowledges that it’s become much more difficult to develop outside the spotlight because of the Internet. “It’s harder now…there’s no such thing as an outsider artist any more,” he says. “Everybody has 7 fans.”

2. A Good Comedy Venue Is About What’s NOT There

Even though it’s unlikely many of you will be buying or building comedy clubs, Breslin’s thoughts about what he tries to do in his clubs are still relevant to anybody trying to produce a good show – or analyze potential venues for shows. At around the 43-minute mark, he says that when you buy a comedy club, “You’re buying what’s NOT there, not what’s there.”

He goes on to explain that you want a venue that has no distractions and as much focus as possible on the stage. He said his early clubs were similar to simple small theaters with all black walls and nothing to distract people from the stage – he even tried to minimize the noise from people making drinks.

3. Most Headliners Sell As Many Tickets As A Dead Person

At around the 60-minute mark, Breslin shares an interesting perspective on the Canadian comedy scene and the inability of most comedy club “headliners” there to actually draw a crowd. He says there is no “star system” in Canada due to the lack of local TV exposure available to comedians and that as a result only 4 or 5 comics can sell out clubs on their own.

He goes on to explain that’s why his clubs rarely give Canadian comedians percentage door deals (they typically receive just a flat fee regardless of ticket sales) and it’s also why most Canadian comedians wind up leaving the country to seek bigger exposure.

While that scenario may be unique to Canada, his thoughts on the struggles of “headliners” to actually draw their own crowd are more universal. “Nobody really draws,” he says. “The club draws. The concept draws.”

He then explains that he previously ran experiments where he would run his comedy club ads with the names of random dead people (non-comedians) as if they were performing at his club to see if it had any impact on the ticket sales for that weekend’s show. He found that it had no impact on ticket sales and that essentially most headliners were selling as many tickets as a dead non-comedian would.

4. You Have To Take People Some Place New

Early on in the podcast Breslin says that he believes a comedian’s role is to tell the truth, but at around the 89-minute mark he elaborates on what he believes young comics should focus on. “Originality, finding and having your own voice,” he says.

He explains that there’s no shortage of funny comics out there, but when he’s analyzing acts he comes back to the same question: “Who has 10 minutes that takes me to a place I’ve never been before? Do you have anything to say?”

5. Don’t Just Hang Out With Other Comics In Comedy Clubs

I’ve written before about why it’s a good idea to hang out in comedy clubs, but Breslin warns that you shouldn’t spend all your time there. At around the 91-minute mark, he stresses the importance of exposing yourself to other forms of art and a set of influences that have nothing to do with comedy.

“Don’t hang out with other comics,” he says. “Go to the theater, art galleries, music. [An original voice] doesn’t come from watching comics and imitating them.”

READ THIS NEXT: 7 Things You Can Learn From Manager/Producer Barry Katz