Reading the biographies of comedians who struggled during their early days on the road to success inspires me deeply. I continue to study the careers of comics from all generations, because each of them faced difficult obstacles and discovered ways to overcome them. Learning from their mistakes helps prevent me from duplicating their errors. Gone are the days when comedians were required to submit bulky VHS tapes or DVDs with their headshots and bio to bookers and comedy clubs for potential gigs.
Can you imagine the costs involved to mail that stuff to various booking agents and promoters? The digital era allows us to produce quality EPKs at a fraction of that cost. Using the internet and tools like Skype eliminated the need to pay for long distance calls and expensive postal costs. This is a huge advantage to comedians who are beginning their careers, and probably aren’t getting paid much.
If you’re a working comedian, you probably have videos online to display your style of comedy. Much like the days of bootleg records or Napster, sometimes your work may find its way to the public without proper authorization. Here’s what happened to me…..
Someone suggested I teach a two-week camp for teenagers who wanted to learn about comedy. Based on my resume, this firm understood how I became established on the DC comedy scene. I was told during the interview that the job was mine, and an offer letter would be sent in a few days. Within a week I received a phone call, explaining how the company decided to decline my hiring. This decision was based on a video they watched on the internet when I performed at an open mic show a few years back. They felt that my material was deemed inappropriate for children.
That response blew me away because I’m a fairly clean comedian. When they described the video they reviewed, I remembered that night as if it was yesterday. At this particular open mic show, a newbie comic was bombing onstage for five minutes with material about humping female breasts. The room was silent the entire time he performed. When I was announced, of course I had to address it! I made impromptu jokes about how the man who invented that act was probably a broke guy in a whorehouse. But it wasn’t performed as clean as I described it here. After I won the audience over, I continued with my normal set. The venue posted that performance to their YouTube channel, and I forgot about it until now.
After hearing their reason for not hiring me, I thanked them for being honest with me and left it at that. There are plenty of comedians who said or performed offensive things during their career:
The latest incident with Edwin San Juan performing what some perceived to be racist jokes for the Sherriff’s Department in Los Angeles is another example. If someone hires a comedian without asking for a clean show or checking out material from their electronic press kit, then let the buyer beware. Comedians often attempt to take something unpleasant to deal with and attempt to make it funny. We don’t always hit that mark!