Comedians of this era now have an abundant amount of avenues and tools they can use in the process of building their brand. But, what are the main ones to focus on? Chris Rock, who is prepping to release his newest film ‘Top 5’ in December has reached a level that many rising comedians hope to one day touch.
Using Rock’s ‘Top 5’ theme, we wanted to present 5 things we thought rising comedians should think about as they strive to grow what they have already built. Chicago based comedian Dave Helem, who has been building a name for himself over the years, talks to us about those 5 things.
In the words of the comedian Brian “Da Wildcat” Smith, “Comedy is a marathon”. There are no shortcuts. However, there are things that can expedite your process in getting to that next level in this highly competitive game. I am sharing with you five things that I think every comedian should know. – Dave H.
[/vc_column_text][vc_wp_text title=”1. Be Creative / Original Content ” text=”There are more things to talk about on stage than the typical “urban jokes that have been covered over and over again. There are thousands of comedians. What is going to make you stand out over the next person? You can only hear so many weed jokes. But if you are going to tell a weed joke, make it the best weed joke ever written. There should be a spin on that joke that no one (or hardly anyone) has touched. We have to learn to be ourselves and tell our own stories. I think that we shy away from getting too personal around crowds because we think we will be judged. Do you!!! Tell your story. People should feel a connection to you after you got off that stage, rather than just shooting corny impersonal “jokes”. Tell your story and hold in high regards what you believe to be funny. I remember when I first started doing comedy, I was talking about what I thought the crowd would find funny. Five years later, I could care less. It’s my time to share what I find funny with crowd. They might like it. They might not like it. The point is that you have to push past cliché limits, and take that risk in order to be great. Bernie Mac. Richard Pryor. Dave Chappelle. Patrice O’Neal. Chris Rock. The proof is right there.”][vc_column_text][/vc_column_text][vc_wp_text title=”2. Presentation ” text=”Before you utter one word on stage, people are trying to get a good sense of what you are about. This comes from your stage name, style of dress, or even the music you choose to walk out on. The great thing about stand-up comedy is that you are allowed to express yourself. You are able to create your look, sense of style, etc. Think about that when you are performing. What type of image do you want to portray on stage? I’m not telling you to not dress a certain type of way either. By all means, express yourself. All I ask is that you are intentional about what you present. Don’t leave it up to chance on how you present yourself to the world on stage. The same rules apply to your stage name. This may be a sensitive subject to some, but it needs to be addressed. Make sure you have a long term vision for your stage name. I started off my career as Davey Boy. I thought that as a comic that I had to have a flashy name that wasn’t my own. Davey Boy became Davey Boy Helem and then eventually I just ran with my government name. I’m comfortable now as myself. That should be the goal. If you enjoy your stage name, keep it. Just make sure that it won’t hold you back from any opportunities. You have comedians who have achieved much mainstream success with an alias (Lil’ Rel, Lil’ Duval, Earthquake, etc.) Just make sure you are not putting yourself in a box, before you ever step on stage. Like I said before, there are thousands of comics, and the road to potential TV credits is highly competitive. “][vc_wp_text title=”3. Internet Presence – Social Media” text=”We live in an era of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Creating a strong social media presence is essential. These are ways for people to find out what shows you have coming up for the upcoming week as well. Perception is reality. As you build yourself as the comedian you want to be, your reputation is just as important. If people see you are frequently posting pics from your shows, they at least will know that you are serious about getting up on stage and working on your craft. Larger followings lead to more people coming to your events/shows. Make sure if you have a website, you keep it updated. Small things matter in terms of how people perceive your brand. Utilize the combination of social media and the internet. YouTube is something that absolutely cannot be ignored. People such as James “Jay Mac”McCowan, Emmanuel Hudson, Tony Baker, and Spoken Reasons are all examples of comedians with very strong YouTube followings. As more people start seeing what you have going on, more people will start to take notice. That’s just how the game goes. Keep your social media entertaining by posting the funniest videos, photos, and other random things that exists on the internet. The “likes” and retweets will increase on your posts, and so will your following.
“][vc_wp_text title=”4. Networking” text=”Put yourself in a position to learn from comics who are doing what you want to do. As you grow, don’t be afraid to shadow these people and learn from them. I already know some comics reading this now may not agree to what I’m saying, but I am speaking from personal experience. This year I had the pleasure of opening up in Indianapolis, Detroit, and Cleveland for Hannibal Buress. Those shows were in 1000 seat theaters. That weekend I gained so much knowledge of myself as a comedian. That would’ve never happened if I wouldn’t have reached out to him. Don’t be afraid to let your peers know that you respect what they do, and you are trying to learn from them. Pride is a hell of a drug. Comics see what you have going on through social media and word of mouth from other comics. If you are getting stronger on stage and creating opportunities to be seen by larger audiences, that will help you tremendously in this game.
[/vc_column_text][vc_wp_text title=”5. Open Mics/ Practice” text=”As comics, we must practice. Any profession requires that. Many times I have heard comics say, “I’m not hitting the stage unless I’m being paid.” I don’t understand that. How do you plan on growing as much as you can? When you are on a showcase or a paid show, I feel as if there is pressure for you to be funny. It should be. People paid money to be entertained. You OWE that to them. Sometimes you want to go out and not feel the pressure of having to be “on.” It’s important to be able to tell a joke that you saw isn’t going to make it to your regular set. As an up and coming comic, your reputation is very important. It is important to be able to work out during your free time, but when you are on a show, your only mission should be to destroy your set. That leads to more bookings. Hopefully, it will also increase the time of your set. Going from a killer 20 minutes to a killer hour takes time and effort. Don’t cheat the game by doing crowd work for half of that time. Keep writing. Try it out. Make it stronger. Keep growing. Becoming a strong comic is simple. It’s not easy though. Put that effort in, and don’t cheat the craft. Over time you will either get better, or the game will take you out.
“][vc_column_text]By Dave Helem[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]