4 Painful (But Hilarious) Lessons Learned in Stand-Up Comedy

Stand-up comedy can be an exhilarating experience or a terrifying one. Being in front of a live audience, pouring out your soul and getting people to laugh is a trying task. Sometimes it is the best thing in the world. Other times, it makes you wish you could just ball up and cry.

There are many lessons to be learned both as producers of stand-up comedy and performers. Comics performing on this Saturday’s show share their tales of how they earned battle scars in the comedy world:

1. Follow Your Instincts 

By: Producers/Hosts Brandon Collins & Mike Brown

comedyoutliers_1

Photo of Comedy Outliers by Mindy Tucker

We hosted our first private event last year. We were very excited and had been in contact with the private organization’s president who had specific requests regarding the type of talent we should book. We booked very specific comics who we thought would be successful in front of the anticipated audience. Unfortunately for us and the president, the booked comedians and the actual audience turned out to be horribly mismatched. The final result? A brutally awkward 90-minute showcase.

Afterward, we had a frank discussion with the president of the organization who admitted that they had provided us with misinformation regarding the type of talent we should have booked. We decided that for future events, we would book every private event just as we do our monthly showcases: diverse and fearless. We recently held another event for this organization where we followed this mentality, which resulted in a successful comedy showcase that was well received by their audience. The ultimate lesson of this story? Always follow your instincts.

2. Timing is Everything

By: Comedian Kate Wolff

Stand Up Comedian Kate Wolf

I had a show at a gay bar, the night after Whitney Houston died. I had been excited to do this show for weeks, because it was always packed with a really fun, excited audience. That night just before the host brought me up, they played a 10-minute video dedicated to Whitney. Every gay man in the audience was weeping when they brought me to stage. Needless to say it wasn’t the best set of my career, but I did get to hold an emotional man’s hand for an hour after the show.

3. You Will Be Booed and It Won’t Be Pretty

By: Comedian Langston Kerman

StandUp Comedian Langston Kerman

Photo by Phil Provencio

I was once booed in an empty basement bar by a grown man wearing a white suit and a crown. In his defense, it was his birthday. And he was performing on the show later. Obviously, a rapper dressed like he’s being baptized at a Burger King expects a little more from his opening acts.

4. Don’t Insult the Crowd 

By: Comedian Dan DelColle

Dan DelColle StandUp

Photo by Katherine Clark

December 16, 2012. It was supposed to be my first paid spot and I was excited. I’d done well in front of this crowd before. The show started two hours late so the crowd was getting restless. I’ll win them over, I thought. I opened my set with “I probably can or have bought drugs from everyone in this room.”  That was it. No one was amused. The room instantly hated me. The crowd wasn’t entirely silent because I heard someone say: “You’re not funny.” My 15-minute set was cut to about 13 minutes.

ComedyPoster-OutliersI guess the host didn’t have a light to get me off the stage because he walked on the stage and said “You’re done.” He encouraged the crowd to give me a simultaneous one clap at the same time. I stayed for the rest of the show and sat in the front row. Every other comic on the show did great and opened with a line of how horrible I did. Lessons: don’t insult the crowd and if you bomb, get the hell out of the room as fast as you can.

A note for New Yorkers: Go out and check out these comics at Comedy Outliers at Lilly O’Briens (18 Murray Street) on Saturday, March 21, 2015 at 7PM. The show has a $10 cover with no drink minimum. Pay only $8 if you purchase tickets in advance. You can also support their efforts by donating on their website or listening to their weekly podcast.

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Comedy Outliers: Third Time’s the Charm

Comedy-Outliers-3YearAnniGuest post by Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of Comedy Outliers. They offer advice to comedians, performers and event organizers on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

“It’s all in the game…”

Over the past three years, the NY comedy scene has changed significantly. Some comedy clubs have come and gone. Some have opened or reopened to great success. The alternate scene for comedy has also changed. When we first began “Comedy Outliers” in 2012, there were only a handful of independent shows in the city. Now, several shows run in bars and theaters every night in every borough. Some are good, some are poor examples of what stand-up comedy can be. Either way, comics and producers have really stepped it up over the past three years.

Our Advice: Be Adaptable

“Comedy Outliers” has worked on being adaptable and making sure that we’re constantly ahead of the curve. This has presented some challenges, which were even more compounded with our venue issues. Nonetheless, our reputation amongst comedians has never faltered and our audience has always shown up month after month. But even with all of the successes and yes, failures … we’re still here. Three years later. With a popular show born out of a Facebook chat that turned into a showcase featured in the New York Comedy Festival and The New York Times. We learned to take a moment to reflect on past achievements in order to set goals for the future. We’re thinking about expansion, improving our current products (new and improved CO podcast coming soon) and potentially taking the show on tour. Once you realize you can achieve the goals you set out for yourself, the possibilities are endless. Hope ya’ll continue to rock with us as we begin year four.

A note for New Yorkers: Go out and celebrate three years of Comedy Outliers at Lilly O’Briens (18 Murray Street) on Saturday, February 28th at 7PM. The show has a $15 cover with no drink minimum. Pay only $10 if you purchase tickets in advance. You can also support their efforts by donating on their website or listening to their weekly podcast.

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Comedians: 4 Lessons Learned in 2014

event-tips-comedy It has been awhile since our last Brown Paper Tickets guest post. The past few months have been a blur with lots of big things happening with Comedy Outliers. This year was very eventful in regards to the changes we experienced both good (being involved in the New York Comedy Festival) and bad (losing our main venue), but we have come out the other side feeling very confident for the new year.

We’d like to share event tips and lessons learned from 2014.

1. Networking Is and Always Will Be the Game

Always be ready to promote yourself. We learned to share our brand with new people we meet. Carry business cards, be prepared to speak about your credits and don’t forget to keep promoting. Each event we produced presented new networking opportunities. We tried to meet everyone in the room, from the waitstaff to audience members and cooks. You never know who someone knows. This year, networking led to working with Yelp, Webster Hall and Comedy Central.

2. Be Persistent, But Not Annoying

Trying to book talent for our show can be exhausting, even if it’s just on a monthly basis. There are specific comedians that we reach out to who are frequently unavailable to perform either because of conflicts, or unsure of their commitments that weekend. Eighty percent of the time, the comic will ask for us to reach out with a future date. Do they really intend to perform on our following show? We’re not always sure, but we still follow up. This has led to us booking some pretty impressive acts and gotten us on popular podcasts like Robert Kelly’s “You Know What Dude?,” “Keith and the Girl” and the Anthony Cumia Show.

3. Don’t Give Up When Challenges Arise

We experienced a few bumps in 2014 when it came to working with venues and managers to host our monthly showcase. Whereas at our original stable, “Lilly O’Briens” we worked directly with the owner, we found ourselves working with managers who believed in our “Outliers” shows, but the venue owners did not. This led to us having several one-offs at various venues throughout the year, which was exhausting and trying on our confidence. Our fans’ consistent support, despite venue changes helped us get through these hiccups.

4. Make Sure Your Following Feels Appreciated

This year, we began charging a small cover for our shows, changed venues several times, and took part in the New York Comedy Festival. We made sure our audience understood why these changes were happening and ensured them that our shows would maintain the same level of “Comedy Outliers” quality. With our recent New York Comedy Festival showcase, it was extremely important for us to tell our faithful audience how wonderful it was to have had their support over the past two and a half years. Allowing our audience to feel a part of our achievements was rewarding for us and them. It creates a sense of community that will hopefully drive us to even greater heights in year three. 

With the year wrapping up, it’s fitting that our upcoming holiday showcase brings us back to where it all started: Lilly O’Briens. Lilly’s has moved to a new location down the street from their prior spot, but like us they have bounced back and are ready to host our amazing show. So come out this Saturday night and have a drink and a laugh with us. 

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Comedy Outliers: Themed Shows Aren’t Hacky

CO31 finalAnother guest post by Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of Comedy Outliers. They offer advice to comedians and performers on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

Stand-up shows are pretty straight forward. You have a host, you have a few comics go up and perform and then usually there is a headliner who does extended time to close the show on a high note. This can seem like a fairly simple formula, one relatively easy to execute. While some producers put more effort into perfecting this formula than others, there are always ways to shake things up a little bit and add some unpredictability to your show.

In the art world, fall is in full swing and for us at “Comedy Outliers” that means we get to start producing our themed shows. During the first half of the year, our show follows a specific outline that we have perfected over the two and half years we’ve been producing. During the second half of the year, we have producer Mike Brown and customer service manager Tatiana Albandos’ birthdays so we get to bring more of a party vibe to shows. Not to mention additional shows with a Halloween and winter holiday theme. These shows allow us to have a loose format, which includes performing sketches, musical numbers and even bringing in guest musicians to add a different kind of vibe. The addition of live musicians is always a hit with our audience as it is much more engaging than simply plugging in your iPod for show music.

It’s very easy to get comfortable and complacent when producing a show. But you should never be afraid of switching things up and keeping your audience excited for the next event. In the end, you should do what you feel makes your show work. However, as you continue to grow your production, you should begin allowing yourself more freedom to have more fun and in some cases get incredibly weird.

Comedy Outliers’ next show is at 22 Warren Street on Saturday, September 20th at 7pm. The show has a $10 cover with no drink minimum. Pay only $5 for advanced tickets if you use the discount code “Rasta” for $5 tickets.You can also support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website or by listening to their weekly podcast.

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Making Your Talent Feel Appreciated

CO30Guest post by Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of Comedy Outliers. They offer advice to comedians and performers on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

A few years ago, when we were producing one of our first independent comedy club shows we were asked by a comic performing on my show, “So since you’re charging a cover how much am I making for my set?” At that time we were so ignorant to the business of stand-up comedy, we had no idea what they were talking about. But after speaking with some veteran comics whose opinions we greatly respected, we came to learn that the common rule of thumb with comedy shows is: if you charge a cover, you SHOULD pay your talent. Of course there are some show producers that don’t follow that rule and some comics don’t expect to get paid for every bit of stage-time. This is because stage-time and money are both valuable to a working stand-up comic. When we ran our “Comedy Outliers” show without a cover, there was never any expectation to pay our comics with anything besides a free beer and a sincere “thank you” for their time and talent. The only comic we would pay during that time was the headliner as they were usually a highly regarded comic who had several credits and added a certain amount of hype to help build the “Comedy Outliers” brand. We would pay for these comics out of pocket, which became expensive after nearly two years of being an entirely free show.

One of the main reasons we began charging a cover (we try to keep it as affordable as possible btw, use discount code “Summer” for $5 tickets) was because we wanted to be able to pay ALL of our performing comics. Another reason was to build the brand through better podcast equipment and merchandise, but we can only continue to produce great shows and content if we have exceptional talent. By creating a budget as producers and knowing our limits in what we can pay for talent has forced us to produce a much tighter show that provides a high quality experience for our audience. It is important to remember as producers that your talent needs to feel like their time and talent is being appreciated. When we were just a free bar show, the performing comics were just happy to be in front of a great crowd that was both diverse and energetic. Now we can offer that pay them for their time that they could’ve spent at another show. This has helped us build a stronger relationship with the comedy community in NYC that we love so dearly. They are always appreciative of the gesture and that’s a great feeling to have as a show producer. Keep that in mind when you produce your new show…spread the wealth!

Comedy Outliers’ next show is at Brick NYC (22 Warren Street) on Saturday, July 26th at 7pm. The show has a $10 cover with no drink minimum. Pay only $5 for advanced tickets if you use the discount code “Summer” for $5 tickets! You can also support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website or by listening to their weekly podcast.

 

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Comedy Outliers: A Million Ways to Deal With Venue Changes!

CO29final-normal fontGuest post by Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of  Comedy Outliers. They offer advice to comedians and performers on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

We Heard You.

We Listened.

We’re Back.

Those were the first three sentences in our first email we sent to our mailing list after the third showcase we held at Webster Hall. Based on the feedback we had received from our followers and our overall experience as producers, we came to the conclusion that our partnership with Webster Hall just wasn’t a good fit. The most difficult part about this revelation was that we had told our audience that it was essentially our new home AND we would now be changing the location of our show for the third time in less than six months. After a successful run of two years at Lilly O’Briens, producing a show for Yelp NYC and getting several guest appearances on popular podcasts we were hitting some rather rough speed bumps when it came to securing a new venue.

These things can happen and while it’s most important not to panic, there’s a few other things you should keep in mind as well:

1. Be optimistic and come up with an action plan! We followed up with our audience to let them know that we understood that they were not happy with Webster Hall as a venue and that we took their views to heart. We also knew that people appreciated our previous location at Lilly O’Briens in downtown Manhattan; a venue that was so random that they felt cool to be in the know about this unique event that took place every month. In the search for a new home, we knew we had to find a venue with owners that would not only be supportive of live comedy but would give us the ability to run the show the way it had always been successful.

2. Keep engaged with your audience! Using our weekly podcast and Twitter account to keep in touch with our following was crucial in making sure they knew about the changes we were making.

3. Don’t be afraid to admit when you made a mistake. We were initially very excited and proud of the opportunity to produce shows at Webster Hall. However after our first two shows, we realized that the venue didn’t quite understand what we were doing with “Comedy Outliers”. Our audience weren’t thrilled with the environment and as producers we found ourselves lost among the many other shows that the venue hosted. The decision to part ways with Webster Hall wasn’t difficult even though we didn’t have a secured new venue at that moment. We had to do what was best for our brand.

4. Be excited about the new changes! Finding a new venue required a lot of emails, phone calls with various managers and hitting the pavement to scope out potential venues. Finding the Wooly was a great success! Not only is it located only a few blocks from our old stomping grounds in downtown Manhattan but the manager is a strong advocate for the performing arts and really gets what “Outliers” is about. In our recent advertisements and promotion we have vigilantly expressed our excite about this “reboot” to our show with the new venue.

As a producer, there will be many successes peppered with a few setbacks. You have to be willing to adapt and show your audience that you are humbled by the experience. If they see that you’re doing your best to give them a great experience, they’ll come back and support you!

 Comedy Outliers’ next show is at The Wooly (11 Barclay Street) on Saturday, June 28th  at 7pm. The show has a $10 cover with no drink minimum. Buy $5 advance tickets if you enter code: “BPT”!  You can also support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website.

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Comedy Outliers-The Times They Are A-Changin’

COwebaprilGuest post by Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of Comedy Outliers. They offer advice to comedians and performers on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

It was time to make a decision and it would not be an easy one. After producing an “Outliers” show for a private YELP event and hosting a successful 2-year show, we were offered an amazing opportunity to bring our talents to Webster Hall. It was a bittersweet moment for us as we wanted to remain loyal to Lilly O’Briens, but with their new construction delayed indefinitely and our following growing more each week, we had to take this opportunity. We were given the chance to run our show just the way we have in the past but this time with the support of a business with a high profile and its own following. Everything’s perfect right?

This is where our dilemma came. After 2 years of hosting free monthly showcases, this new relationship with Webster Hall would allow us to book top talent but at a cost. A $10 cover. Our main concern with this new cover admission? Would our fans come? We had been providing what we felt was a great product that garnered strong praise from comics, positive word of mouth amongst our audience and the attention of NY publications. But this had all been for free. Would this work? In this brief lapse of confidence,  we began to worry about whether or not this would work. However, this moment also brought some clarity. If after 2 years, our fan base wasn’t willing to pay an admission charge for our showcase, which had been consistent and praised then maybe it’s not as successful as we thought. After months of hearing various audience members tell us, “You should be charging SOMETHING for this amazing show!” It was now time to see if they would come through for us. It was a huge leap of faith but with the turn-out of more than 50 people during our first showcase in early March, we were proud of our decision. Not only were we able to pay all of our talent, we were also able to purchase better raffle prizes, invest in a new “Comedy Outliers” banner and new podcast equipment.

This is the next step in our evolution. It’s risky and requires even more work on our part when it comes to marketing, producing and executing a show that has helped us build a mailing list of hundreds. We are excited, nervous and thankful for this opportunity to work with Webster Hall on expanding the Outliers brand. Year 3 looks very promising.

Comedy Outliers next show on Saturday, April 5 has a $10 cover with no drink minimum. Buy advance tickets. Support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website.

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Comedy Outliers: Looking For a Venue? Remember to Laugh!

co2yearToday we feature another guest post from Brandon Collins and Mike Brown of Comedy Outliers. Brandon and Mike offer great advice to comedians, or performers in general, on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

The Comedy Outliers have their second anniversary coming up on Saturday, February 22nd at a new special location, The Mean Fiddler in New York City. Their shows are free and are first come, first served but if you’d like to make a reservation for six or more, e-mail them here.

If you’re in New York or headed that way, be sure to check out their show. It’s rare to see comedy of this calibre without a cover charge or drink minimum. That said, if you want them to continue bringing these great shows to the Big Apple, we highly encourage you to support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website.

So, without further ado, I give you Brandon and Mike of The Comedy Outliers:

Months before the first ever Comedy Outliers show, we searched for venues. Some were too big, some were too small, and one was just right. It had a private downstairs party room. That room had a private booth. There was a fully stocked bar area. And most important, the venue said we could use the room however we wanted. For almost two years, Comedy Outliers called Lilly O’Brien’s home. The venue is undergoing some major changes in appearance and location mere days before the next show; and now- we’re back to square one. Luckily, we’ve learned some tips over the past two years to make finding a new venue much easier.
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Comedy Outliers: Would You Like Be On My Show?

CO24finalToday we feature another guest post from Comedy Outliers. They offer great advice to comedians, or performers in general, on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

The Comedy Outliers have their annual holiday show coming up this Saturday, January 18th at Lilly O’Brien‘s in New York City. Their shows are free but we highly recommend you pick up tickets so you don’t show up to a full house.

If you’re in New York or headed that way, be sure to check out their show. It’s rare to see comedy of this calibre without a cover charge or drink minimum. That said, if you want them to continue bringing these great shows to the Big Apple, we highly encourage you to support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website.

“Yes, I’m available! Let’s do it!”

Those are words that a producer loves to hear when they are trying to book acts for their shows. Reaching out to talent to perform on your show can be quite intimidating and it is often accompanied with rejection or delayed responses that may not come until a week AFTER your event happened. Nonetheless, when you get the act that you feel will be a great fit for your show it is extremely rewarding.

There have been times when we reached out to a comedian about performing on our show only to have them respond that they were unavailable. Did we leave it at that? Of course not! We politely follow-up every month or so with the next date and to inquire about their availability to perform on our show. Sometimes this back and forth goes on for months and in some cases it has taken almost a year to book specific comics (cough) Hannibal Burress (cough)!

Remember when you are trying to book talent that you need to be professional, polite and understanding of their schedules. Creative people, especially comics are impulsive and at times unpredictable which causes challenges when booking them. There have been times when despite our efforts a comic will bail last minute because of a random paying gig that came up…not going to knock that because everyone’s gotta eat! Other times they double-booked themselves (step your Google calendar game up!) However, we never take these cancellations personally but we do try to build line-ups where the comics compliment each other so it may be quite some time before we reach out to that particular comic again if we find that they aren’t the best fit for next month’s show.

Booking a show that will have numerous acts can be stressful and overwhelming at times but this is what we deal with to create the best show possible right? When you get the talent you’re looking for, don’t forget to make sure they enjoy themselves and have a memorable experience so that they can pass the word and hopefully make it easier for you to book other talent through positive word of mouth!

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Comedy Outliers: Customer Service Tips!

COholiday2Today we feature another guest post from Comedy Outliers. They offer great advice to comedians, or performers in general, on how to survive and thrive in today’s competitive artistic climate.

The Comedy Outliers have their annual holiday show coming up this Saturday, December 21st at Lilly O’Brien‘s in New York City. Their shows are free but we highly recommend you pick up tickets so you don’t show up to a full house.

If you’re in New York or headed that way, be sure to check out their show. It’s rare to see comedy of this calibre without a cover charge or drink minimum. That said, if you want them to continue bringing these great shows to the Big Apple, we highly encourage you to support their efforts by hitting the “Donate” button on their website.

This month, their column was written by Tatiana Albandos who handles their customer service and outreach during their shows. Without further ado, we present Comedy Outliers: 

We are often asked, “How do you always have a full audience?” The secret to a loyal audience is actually no secret at all! Along with an awesome line-up for each show, great service helps us bring them back every-time! Here are three things you should always keep in mind when providing the best customer experience possible:
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