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!

2 comments:

  1. Great job Mark..

    I love when a new comedian realizes what the JOB really is all on his own. This why in my opinion Comedy cant be taught. You have to find these things out the way you did, by grinding it out on stage. Its funny you use the word PRODUCT, thats the word I use to describe myself..I truly believe I am the product which consists of my material, my stage presence, likability and professionalism. My material and stage presence are what I need to work on EVERY DAY..Like you said EVERY time I am on stage paid or not I should be trying to get better.. Being unique is obviously great but you can only be as unique as you truly are..stay true to yourself and the product gets that much better. Its hard to find like minded people in this game but when you do stick with them..This new awakening of yours will help you stay focused so surround yourself with people who are equally as focused.. There are so many men and women in this game that believe their own hype.. They dont respect the fact that it takes time to perfect an act..to perfect a voice.. Some of them will get things that you and I wont, they may seem to be rocketing to the top but I truly believe your talent/product will speak for itself eventually.. You may be awesome at self promoting but sooner or later you will have to produce and a lot of comedians arent ready, then they just fade away.. If you have a great product just like you said people will come looking for you eventually.. I have always believed in the phrase "Easy Come Easy Go" so when I get my moment to shine I want to be ready.. Keep grinding Mark, stay true to yourself regardless and at the very least you will feel great about how far you have come.

    Mike Gaffney

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  2. Mark

    Very well written and right on the money. I look forward to reading future blogs. Soon I'll be doing my first blog and I hope you'll give it a glance.

    As a fellow new comic who is working hard, I'll attest to the fact that without a solid act, anything else you do to promote yourself is creating a hollow shell. Right now our focus should be developing strong material, finding as much stage time as humanly possible and finding ourselves as comedians.

    I think to help cope with the the struggles, we have to enjoy every little win we encounter... Every good set, every compliment, every unexpected booking and all those other signs to indicate we are doing the right thing...celebrate them...because it's what we're going to live off of for years to come.

    Best of luck and hopefully we'll share the stage soon....cross the bridge to NY man, nobody in comedy who lives in Jersey makes it to the top without spending a lot of time in Manhattan. See ya soon!

    Dan Gutin

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