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I’m a Hustla Baby: Making Luck in Stand-Up Part 2

February 1, 2011

Welcome back to part 2 of this week’s article on hustlin’ (part 1 found here).

In the words of Biggie:

“Peace to Matteo / Now we smoke weed like Tony Montana sniff the yayo
Oh my God I’m droppin shit like a pigeon / I hope you’re listenin, smackin babies at they christening”

What does it mean to hustle?  I would define hustling as getting out there and striving to achieve your goals, whatever those goals may be.  Since this is a stand-up comedy blog, today I want to discuss some practical ideas for bringing the hustle to your stand-up game, and some mistakes that an over-enthusiastic hustla might make.

1) Define What Hustle Means to You

I think this is very important.  Everybody has their own situation. For someone married with children, getting out to one gig a week can be a huge hustle.  The same schedule for a Humber College comedy student is pretty lazy in comparison.

The most important thing about hustling is that it can’t be defined by looking at someone else’s situation.  Will the person going out every night move ahead faster than the person with kids?  Probably.  Let’s be honest – definitely.  But they are both moving in a forward direction, as fast as their circumstances allow.  It’s a waste of energy to hem and haw about it.

Plus, if parents can look forward to having their progeny to look after them when old and senile.  So that’s a bonus, right?

If this were my gang, I’d call us “Old Man Hustle’s League of Child Champions.”

2) Start a Show

Producing your own comedy show is a lot of work, but offers many rewards.  First, you get experience as an MC, which is a skill in high demand because it’s difficult.  Other benefits include developing a thick skin, organizational skill, and ability to handle unexpected situations with style and aplomb.  Yeah, that’s right, aplomb.

Further, running a show is also a useful networking tool.  Any comic worth their salt is forever sniffing around for that all-important stage time.  Those that run their own rooms will probably offer you time in return for a booking, so more stage time for you, pimp!

Just so that I allow a dissenting voice, Peter Greyy, a Seattle comic who frequents the “A Special Thing” website’s forum, made a fairly eloquent condemnation of creating too many open mikes:

“Shitty comedy shows train audiences that comedy is shitty. Saturating the market with mediocrity is a crime.”

I don’t know if I fully agree, but the dude is pretty wise, and has given me some great, solid advice, so see what he has to say before swallowing my opinion.  You can find the discussion thread (the topic kind of evolves on page 2)  here.

3) Online Networking: Twitter and Facebook

If you’re a comic and don’t use Facebook or Twitter, you are isolating yourself from some of the most useful networking tools ever invented.  Maybe you have issues with Facebook’s never-ending parade of privacy issues, but take my advice and get over it.  Social media networks are quite simply the future of marketing, and by ignoring them, you are shooting yourself in the foot.

4) Promotional package

This is a good thing to start early.  A promotional package includes headshots, a comedy resume, a snappy biography, and usually a demo of your best work.  This all takes time to do well.  Start early and let it evolve.  My first demo reel was all clips from open mikes, but over time I was able to swap out bits and pieces with better recordings.  In the meantime, I still had something to submit to festivals and competitions.

The key point here, is your promotional package grows with you as a comic.  Work you put in at the beginning when you suck is not necessarily wasted, because it sets up a framework that can be modified easily.

In my opinion, the hardest part is the bio, which has to be short, informative, and fun.  I gathered a few resources awhile back to help with this process which you can find here.

Get this stuff ready to go – just like most of my university essays, it will be a pile of crap if you rush it in one night.

5) Website / Blog / Podcast

The internet is an incredible tool for self-promotion, but the downside is that everyone knows it.  Rather than just shouting that you’re great, why not offer something?  I do a fair bit of self promotion in this blog, but first and foremost, Premise PUNCH Tag is about trying to help other comics.  Sure, people will check out my work, but they probably only found the site in the first place because they were looking for an open-mike listing.

Another good example are comics who throw out snappy one-liners every day.  Their Twitter followers get something more than just vanity, and it helps them develop material as well.

6) Invest in Your Community

I love to discuss stand-up theory.  As a result, I spend time on comedy forums, looking at comedy blogs, and generally digging in and joining discussions.  Don’t just lurk – offer your opinion.  Most forums allow you to put a link at the end of your posts.  If you are consistently offering thoughtful interaction, people will investigate.

__________________________________________________________

To close out the article, I wanted to address that there’s a point when hustling strays over into the realm of obnoxious. Enthusiasm is a great thing, but too much aggression or cockiness will do more harm than good. Here are some common over-hustling mistakes I’ve witnessed or committed:

1) Confusing Harrassment for Hustle

There’s a difference.  Asking for a spot at a room, then following up a couple weeks later if you don’t hear back is hustle.  Sending an email everyday is obnoxious.  You can’t force people to invest in you, and if they’ve made it clear they aren’t interested, back off – either they’ll come around or they won’t.  But you’ve done all you can for the  moment.

2) Sense of Entitlement

Performance art attracts insecure people who tend to overcompensate by acting arrogant.  It is not hustling to demand respect when you haven’t earned it.  No one owes you anything, and the best way to develop a bad reputation is to throw a fit when a show dares not to book you.

No matter how funny you are, some people in the world will not find you amusing.  You can’t force them to change their mind, so put that energy into more productive endeavors.  Like buying, eating, and talking about pretzels.   

3) Looking at people as things

I flipping hate sociopath networkers.  These are people who have let their lust for success overshadow actual human connection.  They are like Terminators, organizing everyone they meet in order of importance, and treating them accordingly.  Positive networking is attending fun events, and being friendly and helpful to the people around you, not just kissing powerful asses and snubbing noobs.

___________________________________________________________

That’s that, hustla.  Now hit those streets and get paid!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9X_4uabwHg
This video makes me feel weird.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin Chaba permalink
    February 2, 2011 10:45 am

    I’m just getting into stand-up and the article mentions comedy forums to connect and communicate. Can anyone recommend some good forums either for a beginner or that just has a lot of good conversation for learning and perfecting the craft?

    • February 3, 2011 12:39 pm

      Hey Kevin,

      A good place to start is the “Stage Time” section of a website called “A Special Thing.” Lots of great threads with experienced and wise comics talking about the craft. Literally you could drop days there, it’s so dense. Another decent resource is “Dead Frog’s” forums which are not as well-populated as AST, but have some nice threads nonetheless.

  2. pgreyy permalink
    May 5, 2011 2:58 am

    Hey Joel,

    Vanity thy name is self-Google-ing.

    I certainly don’t mind being quoted, but identifying me as a Philadelphia-based comic is both wrong and amusing, considering how insistent I am in mentioning where I actually am based out of…

    🙂
    pg–seattle

    • May 5, 2011 11:55 am

      Hey Peter,

      What a weird occurrence, I have no idea why I wrote Philadelphia instead of Seattle. Perhaps all along I disagreed with the setting of Frasier and it’s finding ways to escape my sub-conscious. I’ve updated the post with the accurate info. Let me know if you’d ever be interested in being interviewed for the Shout-Out segment or if you wanted to do a guest post. I’m sure readers would love to soak up your wisdom.

      Joel

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