Monday, July 4, 2011

Stand Up and Deliver

I get it now. Comedy is really like any business. Goal #1 is to develop a good product. In Comedy, the product is a great set. The product is not a tangible good or service, like let’s say a new toothpaste, pill or laundry detergent. No, the product is to get good on stage. To entertain an audience. To develop a set that consistently delivers more times than not. To borrow an old hokey slogan from the Ford Motor Company---“It’s Job #1.”

What this means, to me at least, is to concentrate on writing, performing and honing my “set.” To treat each gig—paying or not—as an opportunity to learn and improve. Or, to now borrow from the title of that Edward James Olmos film, to “Stand-Up and Deliver.” It may sound obvious and intuitive, but there are so many ways to become distracted in this business or to look for shortcuts, as in any other, and it took me the better part of a year to fully come to this realization.

Again, if you liken a comedy career to other businesses, without the “product,” there is nothing else that really matters. One can network, schmooze, develop a website, order glossy business cards, get a great headshot, create a blog (oops!), kiss ass (oops again!), Facebook, Tweet or Link In our little fingers to the bone, or follow the trajectory of every other newly minted comics or even inflate credits (sitting in the audience at SNL is not the same as “You’ve seen him on SNL!”).

I’m not saying in any way these other activities are not important, I'm only saying that without concentrating on your “product,”--- your set and stage skills--- it’s all for naught.

Over the course of my former career, I worked for three great companies that had an incredible array of products—Johnson & Johnson, Colgate Palmolive and Sony Corporation. And, I can tell you from a bird's-eye view that no amount of promotion, advertising and networking networking, would have amounted to much without products like a Tylenol, Colgate Total toothpaste, or Sony’s CD technology. To use clich├ęs like“it’s where the rubber meets the road,” “the money talks and the bullshit walks,” or “the audio matches the video" are understatements And,at times the product was so good that customers and vendors sought us out or found us before we got to them!

It seems to me to be similar in the comedy world. For what it’s worth it, to me it seems to be another “80/20% rule.” Write, perform and hone 80% of the time; do the rest during the other 20% of the time.

Okay. I know. There is definitely some truth to “It’s who you know” or “being at the right place at the right time.” Or, “it’s not who you know, it’s who you blow”—sorry for being crude, but I thing that one is clever.

I’m not there yet. But I’m trying to chart a more focused course for myself. For me at least, it seems that without the product, the rest is nothing but false advertising. So there, I said it.

I would love to hear your comments and reactions. And to tell me where your feel I’m not on-track or not “getting it.” Oh, and please subscribe. It tells me this is a decent use of my “20%.”

All the best to you. And Happy Birthday America!