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.”

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5 Things You Can Learn From The President Of MTV

Currently the president of MTV, Susanne Daniels has had a long and successful career in television after getting her start years ago as Lorne Michaels’ assistant on Saturday Night Live. On a recent episode of the Industry Standard with Barry Katz podcast, she discussed a wide range of topics including what she learned from Lorne Michaels, what she looks for when searching for talent and developing shows, and her advice to people hoping to break into the entertainment industry.

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

1. Aggressively Pursue Opportunities Because You Never Know Where They Might Come From

At around the 29-minute mark, Daniels talks about how she landed her first job out of college – an amazing opportunity to become Lorne Michaels’ assistant on Saturday Night Live. She did it by being extremely aggressive in tracking down any opportunities she could find, which led to a surprising bit of luck.

“There was nobody I didn’t ask to try to get an introduction to somebody in the television business, because I didn’t really have any connections,” Daniels says. “There was no stone unturned, nobody I wouldn’t harass.”

She goes on to explain that she was in a restaurant in New York and overheard two people having a conversation about a television production. She approached them, apologized for interrupting, explained that she was looking to break into the business and asked if there was any chance they needed a production assistant.

They didn’t have any open positions, but eventually she got connected to somebody who worked in TV news for a “general meeting.” She bombed that meeting because she wasn’t really thinking of it as an interview – it was clear to the person meeting with her that she was interested in entertainment TV and not news. That taught her another lesson:

“You have to treat every meeting like it could be a potential interview,” she says.

But Daniels got a little lucky – the guy she was meeting with picked up on her enthusiasm for entertainment and happened to know that Lorne Michaels was looking for an assistant. He offered to pass along her resume, which led to an interview with Lorne and ultimately she got the job and an incredible launching pad for her career.

2. Attention To Detail Pays Off

At around the 35-minute mark, Daniels talks about what she learned from her time working with Lorne Michaels on Saturday Night Live, and later on movies like Wayne’s World.

“My biggest takeaway from Lorne was that attention to detail is important,” she says.

She goes on to explain how Lorne would make a million changes to sketches on Saturday Night Live and often times they seemed to be extremely minor – he’d suggest a character wear a different kind of hat, he’d slightly reposition a camera angle, he’d make tons of tweaks that might seem too small to impact anything. But in the end, they made a huge difference.

“All of his changes would enhance the sketch,” she says. “The sketch was ALWAYS better.”

3. Be Loyal

At around the 40-minute mark, Daniels shares another major lesson she learned from Lorne Michaels – the importance of being loyal to the people you work with and who work for you. She describes him as being “extremely loyal” to the people that work for him and “very respectful” of them and their work.

She credits that for a lot of the success and stability of his projects. “He’s created a work family,” she says.

4. Look To Create Things That Aren’t Already Being Done

At around the 68-minute mark, Daniels talks about how she decides what kinds of shows she wants to develop for a network. While most people obviously won’t have the opportunity to determine a network’s programming, it’s helpful advice that can be applied to anything you create – and also might come in handy if at some point you do try to pitch a network a television show.

“Something I think about a lot is, what is a point of view that is not reflected on television already?” says Daniels.

She goes on to explain that she will rarely ever consider something like a cop show because that’s been done already and is done all the time. She looks for unique, new ideas, and concepts that aren’t already being done by others.

5. Follow Your Passion And Work Hard

At around the 95-minute mark, Daniels sums up her advice for anybody hoping to have a career in entertainment or break into the industry.

“Follow your passion. Go for it. Go for what you want,” she says. “It’s hard work, it’s work to break in. Have a work ethic. Bring ideas to the table that are your ideas in whatever environment you’re in. If you want to act, start acting – make videos, become a Vine star, get yourself out there on YouTube. If you want to write, start writing – write a lot of spec scripts, write different kinds of spec scripts, don’t be precious about it. Do what you want to do and know that hard work comes with it.”

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5 Things You Can Learn From Vine Star King Bach

With more than 10 million followers, King Bach has become one of the most popular comedians on Vine.

In a recent appearance on The Champs podcast, he talked about how he got started on Vine, what he did before Vine that helped prepare him for success, and even broke down how he makes money from 6-second videos.

You can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.

1. Overnight Success Is A Long Time In The Making

There’s a misconception that when stars emerge on a new platform like Vine that those people became instant sensations. But usually, those people have actually been developing their skills long before those platforms even formed.

At around the 7-minute mark, King Bach reveals that was the case for him. His original plan was “to be the biggest movie star ever created,” so he had gone to film school, experimented with YouTube videos, and put in a lot of time learning how to act and perform comedy.

One specific experience that turned out to be perfect training for his Vine work in retrospect was a college sketch group he was a part of called “30 in 60.” The concept was that they performed 30 sketches in 60 minutes, which basically taught him how to create quick jokes and premises.

2. You Have To Create Your Own Opportunities

At around the 29-minute mark, King Bach explains what led him to start putting content online in the first place – he saw YouTube as a place where he could get seen.

“I did it to show directors, producers, and casting directors that I could act because I couldn’t get any auditions,” he says.

3. Don’t Quit, But Be Willing To Adapt

At around the 49-minute mark, King Bach talks about how he made the transition from YouTube to Vine. He only joined Vine in May of last year, but had been posting videos to YouTube since 2008.

The transition was prompted by a realization – he was getting about 10,000 views max on his YouTube videos and spending as much as $3,000 per video he produced.

But on Vine, he realized he could just shoot the videos with his phone bringing his costs down and increasing the volume he was able to produce.

4. You Can Make A Living From Vine…

At around the 41-minute mark, he breaks down some of the economics of how he’s monetizing his Vine account. He says he’s able to make a good living off Vine primarily by incorporating product placement into his videos.

But he points out that the key is to not make it feel like an ad. “I don’t make it look like an ad – I just put a hashtag on it,” he says.

Since there’s no traditional advertising on Vine, King Bach doesn’t get paid anything for just getting views on his videos, though he is able to collect advertising money from when they get illegally uploaded to YouTube on other people’s channels where ads do run against them.

5. …But It Takes A Big Audience To Do So

At around the 46-minute mark, King Bach shares some of the economics of his Vine videos and reveals that he’s making a lot more than just “a living” from them. He says he’s getting paid between $30,000-$60,000 for each 6-second video that includes a brand or product placement in it.

Those are big numbers, but keep in mind he’s got more than 10 million followers at this point. He says that agencies started contacting him with opportunities once he had 3 million followers, but at this point he mostly deals directly with the brands themselves when it comes to product placement.

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5 Things You Can Learn From Saturday Night Live’s Youngest Writer

Author and comedy writer Simon Rich, the youngest writer ever hired on Saturday Night Live, recently appeared on the James Altucher podcast for an interesting look at his approach to writing comedy.

In the conversation he shares his thoughts on writing vs. standup comedy, how he comes up with stories, and why he believes emotion is everything.

You can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.

1. You Have To Be A Superfan First

At around the 9-minute mark, Rich discusses how he got his start in comedy writing and how he believes most people do – by being a superfan first. He points out that for most people who “make things” for a living, it starts with them being obsessive fans.

Rich grew up watching tons of comedy on TV, particularly noting how he would obsessively watch sketch shows like Mr. Show and the Upright Citizens Brigade TV series.

“I was always trying to copy my heroes,” he says.

But his biggest influence was The Simpsons, noting at the 46-minute mark of the podcast that, “Everything I believe about comedy I learned from The Simpsons. In my mind, it’s the most perfect work of art.”

2. You’re Probably Either A Standup Or A Writer – Very Few People Are Both

At around the 17-minute mark, Rich weighs in on the differences between performing standup and writing comedy, and explains why he believes people are rarely good at both.

Calling standup an “extremely hard skill,” he points out that you can be a good standup and not a good writer and vice versa – there isn’t necessarily any overlap in the two comedy art forms.

For himself, he realized early on that he was drawn more to writing than performing so he chose to focus on writing.

“Usually, standups love performing – they can’t wait to get on stage,” he says. “It’s a very different thing than what I do.”

3. Everybody Tells The Same Stories

At around the 23-minute mark, Rich goes into a very interesting explanation of how he actually approaches writing.

“A lot of what I do is taking an old story I love and making it my own with a twist,” he says.

He goes on to explain that some people believe there are really only a couple plots that exist in the world and that every story is a variation on them. He believes there’s more like a dozen plots out there for people to reinvent, but agrees that everybody is pretty much telling the same stories in different ways.

Rich approaches his writing by looking for the emotional core of a story and finding ways to amplify that emotion, which is where the comedy is found.

“I start with a visceral emotion I have felt [in real life],” he says. “If it feels universal, I’ll write about it. I try to write about emotions not in the way they actually occurred, but in the way they felt. It feels much more high stakes than it is.”

For example, a broken heart in a relationship might not actually be the end of the world, but it feels like the end of the world. So he writes about it being the end of the world.

Later in the podcast, Rich adds that once you hone in on the stories you want to tell you can continue to tell them in different ways forever. “Some people write the same story for their whole lives,” he says.

4. Comedy Is Vulnerability

At about the 30-minute mark, Rich talks about how important he believes emotion is to comedy writing – and especially vulnerability.

“At the core of every comedy premise there needs to be some vulnerability, somebody has to be weak,” he says.

He goes on to talk about how challenging it is to incorporate an emotional connection into sketch comedy writing, which is one of the reasons he’s currently adapting one of his books into a sitcom instead of a sketch show.

He points out that audiences have a tendency to write off sketch shows and not allow themselves to become emotionally invested in them because you’re constantly reminded that what you’re watching is fake as a result of the characters constantly changing.

He contrasted that with a sitcom, where viewers get to know the same characters and develop an emotional connection to them relatively easily.

“Every new SNL cast member is hated at first because the audience doesn’t recognize them,” he says. “With a sitcom, by episode two or three you know the character. They always look the same.”

5. It’s Never Too Late

At about the 54-minute mark, Rich offers some words of encouragement to other would-be comedy writers who may be unsure of whether they’re making any progress or if they’ve waited too long to chase their dream.

“It’s never too late,” he says. “But if you don’t love sitting down and writing then you definitely shouldn’t do this because that’s what it is. But if you think you might like it, then you should sit down, write, and find out.”

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5 Things You Can Learn From Jim Norton

Jim Norton recently appeared on an episode of The James Altucher Show podcast where he discussed his early days in comedy, how he deals with crowds (and nerves), and what he’s working on to improve his act.

You can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.

1. Sometimes It Helps To Have No Other Options

At around the 7-minute mark, Norton reflects back on how he got his start in comedy and points out that he had essentially abandoned his education and put himself in a position where he had no choice but to succeed at comedy.

“I purposely left myself no safety net,” he says. “It’s got to be standup or it’s going to be nothing.”

He admits that like all comics, he struggled initially and he wonders whether he would have abandoned comedy if he had any other realistic career options at the time.

“I can’t believe I made myself continue to perform, because you bomb a lot (in the beginning),” he says. “If I had a good education, maybe I wouldn’t have stuck with it.”

He goes on to point out that there wasn’t necessarily anything special about him in the early days – noting that, “there’s a million funny people out there,” but that the only difference with him was that he put in the time and effort to learn how to do comedy the right way.

“I worked at it,” he says.

2. Be Honest, Except About How Nervous You Are

At around the 12-minute mark he talks about how he believes comedians should deal with crowds and how you should present yourself on stage.

“The audience likes to think you’re confident, and they don’t know if you’re not unless you show them,” he says. “Act as if.”

But while Norton believes it’s important to convey a certain confidence on stage (even if you’re not), he also explains that honest helps when it comes to other situations on stage.

“I’ll acknowledge if something doesn’t work,” he says. Ultimately, he suggests that you, “Be honest about your surroundings and project confidence.”

3. Don’t Do The Emotional Work For The Audience

At around the 26-minute mark, Norton is asked what part of his act he’s trying to improve at the moment and he explains that he’s trying to do less of the “emotional work” for his audience. He says he admires Colin Quinn because, “What makes Colin great is that he doesn’t do the audience’s emotional work for them.”

What he means by that is that you can do a joke about being angry, without actually being angry in your delivery of that joke on stage.

“You don’t want anger to block your creativity,” he explains.

He also says he’s trying to display a more complete side of himself and make sure he never loses sight of his mission.

“I want to make a point, but that’s not my job – anybody can make a point,” he says. “My job is to be funny.”

4. You Probably Can’t Do What Louis CK Can Do

At around the 33-minute mark, Norton discusses his various experiences working in television and shares his observations about the success and impact of Louis CK’s FX series. While he admires Louis and thinks the control he’s managed to get over his show is great for comedians, he points out that most people don’t realize that the major reason Louis can have that control is because of his diverse skill set as a filmmaker and editor in addition to being a talented comedian, actor and writer.

“There are things Louis does in that show that nobody else can do because of all his skills,” says Norton. “His skills enable him to do that.” He then points out that most comedians are never going to be able to do what Louis does.

5. Lead With Logic…Just Like Carlin Did

At around the 42-minute mark, Norton circles back to further explain his thoughts about not doing the emotional work for the audience. This time he uses George Carlin’s work as an example and points out that, “People respond better if they’re not being preached to.”

He adds, “George Carlin had anger, but look how silly a lot of his delivery was. He let his words talk for him and let the audience come with him…or not. He led them with logic instead of doing the emotional work for them.”

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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.”

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5 Things You Can Learn From Gabriel Iglesias

Gabriel Iglesias recently appeared on an episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast where he discussed the evolution of his career and how he’s grown into one of the biggest headliners in the country.

But most importantly for up and coming comics, he explained how he approaches marketing and branding himself in a way that has helped separate him from the rest of the crowd.

You can listen to the full episode here, or read up on some of the highlights below.

1. Be Easy To Remember – And Consistent

At around the 17-minute mark, Iglesias explains that he embraced the nickname “Fluffy” early on because he realized that nobody that saw him was remembering his name. So, he decided to incorporate the nickname Fluffy into his act and into everything he did from a marketing perspective, recognizing that it was more memorable than his name. “It branded me,” he says.

Iglesias’ branding didn’t stop with his nickname. Early on he also made a conscious decision to maintain a consistent look – in his case it involved shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. He explains that it’s tough enough for people to remember specific comics in general, but comics who constantly change their look only make it harder on themselves.

2. If You’re Likeable, Be Likeable

At around the 40-minute mark, Iglesias shares what he calls the best piece of advice he’s ever received. While early on some of his material included profanity, he was advised to take the profanity out of his act because it was interfering with his biggest strength – he was a very likeable guy on stage.

He embraced that likeability factor and even though he has nothing against profanity, removed it from his act and concentrated on ensuring that everything he did played off of the likeability of his persona.

3. You Can Learn A Lot From A “Day Job”

When it comes to marketing and branding, Iglesias clearly knew more than the average comic when he started out- that’s because of his day job.

Around the 46-minute mark, he talks about how early in his career he worked at a Robinsons-May department store. While it may not have been his ideal job, he saw an opportunity to learn things that could help his comedy career. He didn’t work in the marketing department, but he befriended some guys who did and says he learned a ton from them about how to market and brand products.

He then took what he was learning and applied it to his comedy career.

4. Be Willing To Step Backwards To Move Forward

At around the 51-minute mark, Iglesias reveals that a couple years into his career he came to a bit of a crossroads – he had built a strong following among Latino audiences and in certain parts of the country, but was a virtual unknown elsewhere. He could have gone on to have a successful career just focusing on the audience he had, but instead decided that he wanted to push to reach a broader audience.

In order to do that, he had to be willing to abandon the theaters he had been playing and go back to playing smaller venues in front of tiny crowds who didn’t know who he was. And even worse, he discovered that much of the material he had developed didn’t play well with more mainstream crowds so he essentially had to reconstruct his entire act for those crowds.

But ultimately, that decision and his willingness to essentially start over in a mainstream world is what allowed him to improve and reach the level of success he’s at today.

5. You Can Learn From Wrestling

At around the 59-minute mark, Iglesias mentions that some of the most important things he’s learned about showmanship, marketing, and especially merchandising, he actually learned from pro wrestling. He explains that he studies wrestling and recognized how they merchandise their acts as well as how they add rock show elements to their matches.

And just like he did with the Robinsons-May marketing guys, he has adapted what he’s learned into his own comedy career.

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7 Things You Can Learn From Dave Foley Of Kids In The Hall

This is a guest post from Connected Comedian David Gavri, a Chicago comic and comedy writer who also publishes interviews with comedians on his Gonzo Fame website. If you’d like to contribute a guest post to Connected Comedy, please email me.

A founding member of the comedy troupe Kids In The Hall, Dave Foley has had a long and successful career as a standup comedian, actor, and writer. He recently appeared at a Q&A held at Second City in Chicago where he was interviewed by Katie Rich and shared the following advice for comedians about the challenges of writing and creating comedy.

1. Sometimes The Best Ideas Come When You’re NOT Writing

When it came to writing sketches with Kids In The Hall, Foley explained that typically the group’s most successful ideas came when they weren’t actually trying to write at all, but rather when they were just hanging out together.

“The best ideas come when you’re NOT writing,” he said. “We spent an awful lot of time watching MTV videos and saying stupid things at the TV. And that would end up giving us a great idea for an episode.”

Unfortunately, that process can be hard to quantify as work. “You’re sitting around a computer or you’re sitting around your writing meetings, yet NOTHING comes out of it,” he said. “And all of a sudden at 2 am you fart on a guy’s face and you’re like, ‘That’s hilarious!'”

2. You Have To Develop Instincts To Understand When Something’s Good

Regardless of whether you’re writing standup or sketches, Foley stressed the importance of putting in time and effort in order to get to a point where you develop instincts to understand whether something you’ve created is good or not.

“I know when something’s good…but I’ve honed the craft of it over the years to where I’m more consistent in how I develop things,” Foley said. “Just doing it so many years, it’s like there’s an audience in your head that’s an amalgam of every audience you’ve ever played in front of – and you can just feel it.”

That’s why Foley believes improv and performing is such an important tool for writers.

“Writers who have NEVER performed are missing that tool. And they’re missing that ear, that ability to hear an audience react to things in their head. And a lot of times with sitcoms, you’re dealing with writers who have never been performers so they’ll write a line that on the page seems wonderfully funny, but when you say it out loud you realize that it not only isn’t funny, but it doesn’t even make sense.”

3. Focus On “Tight Writing”

Despite the comedy world’s current love affair with improv, Foley says Kids In The Hall never improvised anything and instead focused writing as tightly as possible.

“We would get together and basically shout out ideas to each other very quickly,” he said. “We would write and hone the sketch from a writing standpoint – we never had an idea and just improvised it. Writing for a TV show, we focused on tight writing.”

This was also motivated by the demands of  the medium.

“If you wrote something that was 3 minutes or under, it was MUCH easier to get in the show. If it was 5 minutes, you had to fight,” he said. “If it was over 5 minutes, you would almost never get it in. So the focus was always to be tight.”

4. Be Willing To Throw Jokes Away

One of the toughest things for all creators is to be willing to “kill your babies,” the process of throwing away material that you may like but may not be quite working for whatever reason. Here’s how Foley handles that:

“I’m not at all precious about anything,” he said. “You pitch a joke and if no one likes it, who cares? It’s something where I go, ‘Alright, I’ve written 1,000 jokes and I will write 1,000 more jokes.’ If you’re funny, it doesn’t matter.”

He continues, “Everything is disposable. And in a scene, you can have a joke that you absolutely LOVE, but if it’s hurting the flow of the scene you have to cut it. You just have to cut great jokes. You have to throw great jokes away if they don’t make the scene better. So you have to just…not love anything.”

5. Overcome Writer’s Block By Distracting Yourself

Despite his success, Foley admits that the act of writing can be more than a little frustrating for him.

“Writing is just the shittiest thing on Earth to spend your time doing, it’s just horrible,” he said. “I don’t understand people who ENJOY writing. I think you have to be some sort of egomaniac to enjoy writing…to just sit back and find your own thoughts interesting.”

But to combat the writing struggle, Foley suggests you find ways to distract yourself.

“Distraction is a great tool,” he said. ” Brain studies have shown that you get moments of insight when you are distracted from the problem you are trying to solve. And it’s good to give yourself that opportunity. For Kids In The Hall, when we had ideas that were going nowhere, we would often just leave and go go-karting for a few hours.

“And usually, while we were just hanging out go-karting, we would come with two or three ideas that were actually usable. It’s just that once you take your mind off it, it actually gives your subconscious a chance to come up with some decent ideas.”

6. Every Idea Is New (And Old)

When asked if he thought everything’s already been done before, Foley shared his perspective on the creation of comedy and the connection between what’s new and what’s been done before.

“The infinite variations in any art form is amazing,” he said. “You have the 12-tone scale which is the basis of all music, yet every day somebody writes a new melody with this limited tool of these same 12 tones.”

He went on to explain that everything can be varied, comparing creations to DNA.

“Nothing is entirely original and new, just as every life form has evolved from something earlier,” he said. “Every idea has evolved from something earlier and everything is seeded by things you’ve seen in the past.”

With that in mind, Foley recommends studying what you love to the point that you totally understand it, then throwing it away.

“For me, it was understanding EVERYTHING about what Monty Python does and with Kids In The Hall we just threw it out,” he said. “We literally went as far as we could structurally from Python, because we loved it so much. So just study the people you love and then just throw them away.”

7. Clarity Is Key To Comedy

As somebody who’s had success in standup, TV, and movies, Foley has a unique perspective on what makes comedy work and for him, it all comes down to a clarity of the material.

“It’s all about understanding HOW to deliver a joke,” he said. “A lot of people think that comedy doesn’t have to be sensible, but I think comedy has to be watchable. Comedy has to make sense. People have to understand the thought process behind the joke for it to be funny and they have to know where it goes off the rails and becomes a joke.

“The audience has to understand the logic of the joke and if you can’t convey that logic in a concise way, it’s not going to work. You must understand that the people hearing the joke are not in your head – they don’t know your back story to your joke. Their entire universe exists from what you write down and if you don’t have the information in the joke, no one is going to get it.”

In the end, he explains that comics have to tackle the same challenge no matter what they do. “You have to find a way to get the information out in a way that doesn’t interfere with the joke.”

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