Monday July 1st, 2013 – Chicago, IL
Being in the entertainment business means being self employed, and that means one is required to wear a lot of hats. Seldom if ever do all of them fit well, and that’s why people’s talent level is not always in sync with their level of success. Like in any business, there needs to be a system of doing things correctly. All it takes is one part’s failure to keep that entire system from working.
As a comedian, I admit I’ve been painfully weak in my off stage matters. Everyone who is self employed has to decide what areas to spend time working on, and usually it ends up getting spent on the things we enjoy doing while what we don’t is ignored. That has been my story to the max.
I love wearing the hats of being a writer and performer, but I wore them so much I didn’t wear several others that are of ultimate importance in regards to the total package. One of those hats is that of a sales person. I assumed – quite wrongly – that if I had a good product people would find it themselves. Some did, but not nearly enough to launch me to the position I originally intended.
Most of the comedy clubs and bookers I worked for over the years were smart enough to focus on selling the concept of standup comedy itself rather than individuals, and it’s done them well. I wish I would have seen that flaw many years earlier than I did, but I didn’t. Now it’s a problem.
For decades, comedy clubs would use the model that coming to their club would be fun, even if you didn’t know the names of who was performing – and more often than not customers didn’t. I was interchangeable with a whole roster of performers who were ‘funny enough’, but not a draw.
That formula is evolving now, and comedy clubs are scraping the barrel to create the illusion of celebrity to attract customers in any way possible. If some gap toothed dingle berry off the street happens to be able to fart Happy Birthday on You Tube and it gets some hits – it’s a headline act.
I’m exaggerating a little – but not all that much. Name recognition is more important than I’ve ever seen it but unfortunately it’s also my biggest weakness. I have a rock solid act, but I am not able to sell out a single seat Port-o-Potty. Believe me, NOBODY is sadder about that than I am.
I suppose some of the other hats that I have neglected are those of promoter and publicist, but the sales one is most crucial. I need to sell myself to people who are in charge of buying comedy acts, and that’s before I get to the public. I need to sell the concept of comedy to potential buyers.
I’ve heard people I know in the sales business complain endlessly about the vicious rejection of going on sales calls, and today I got a taste of it myself. I had a face to face appointment with the General Manager of a rather large venue about the possibility of starting a regular comedy night.
It doesn’t matter where it is, but I had an inside track that he might be interested in trying out a few shows to test the waters. Well, my source was wrong as I felt his icy stare the whole time my pitch was being made. I felt myself stumbling over my words because I could see all too obvious total disinterest as I went through my points. He wanted no part of it, and asked stupid questions.
I wanted to verbally slice him to pieces for his condescending attitude – and I could have done it with ease – but that’s not what to do when wearing the sales hat. That’s reserved for the stage when I’m being heckled by a drunken idiot. I gave the guy my card, but I’m sure he tossed it in the garbage seconds after I left. This is a whole new form of rejection I need to learn to handle.