When I started doing stand up comedy ten years ago, I wasn't sure how to begin. I had been hitting a few open mics a week, and all I found was that parking in Los Angeles was worse than I thought, and these bucket mics are totally rigged. So I decided the best way to get up at least once a week and get some feedback, I'd take a comedy class. My first class at Flappers was with 5 very nice people, one who would become a great friend and an instructor, who would become my mentor. The class lasted 6 weeks. I built out 5 minutes of material. It was a great experience. And then I found out comics really hated comedy classes and thought they were a waste of time and money. And that's also when I figured out, a lot of older comics who had accomplished a lot with no competition had just as many opinions as those with very little experience and a lot more opportunities.
Let me start by saying that I believe in comedy classes, if done effectively, and I believe that there are many roads to becoming a professional comedian. But I can say, based on teaching over 2,000 students the past 5 years, that there are a lot of scammers, swindlers, and liars teaching comedy like the snake oil salespeople they were born to be. Here is a breakdown of what a comedy school or instructor should be and how to smell a crook from a barstool's difference.
Why Take a Comedy Class?
Often, comics find the idea of comedy classes "offensive." They have this idea that you can't teach funny. And in some ways they are right. A comedy class or workshop cannot teach you how to be funny, but they should teach you how to be the funniest version of yourself. As a life long educator myself, ranging from Sunday School for kids to Critical Thinking at the college level, as well as a wrestling coach, I understand we are all inherently limited in talent and skill. But everyone has some skill, and a class can give direction to maximize that skill.
This goes for improv classes, writing classes, MMA classes, painting classes, etc. For some reason people seem to think taking piano lessons are okay, even if the person only wants to learn for fun, but if a person wants a few pointers on how set ups, punchlines, and personas work, they are participating in a scam. That's a barbaric thought. There are plenty of people qualified to teach stand up to new comics and help revise a veteran' act with a few suggestions. In fact, green rooms are mini-classes, where comics give advice and ideas. It's just most people don't get into those green rooms in their fist 3-4 years.
But there are also people who never did stand up or did it at a higher level, and yet for some reason they feel the calling to take $400 from people without giving them the tools to decide how far they want to go. These people are casting directors and ex-bookers who see the wide eyed star gazers and exploit them.
When I took my first class, I asked the instructor his background. After realizing he'd been a working road comic with numerous credits, I decided to take the class. Had it just been some college manager with no real comedy chops, or a booker who never leaves their club, I would have been more resistant. So here are a few things to look for when debating who you should pay money to for comedy advice.
Comedy Instructors Should Be ACCOMPLISHED Comedians
If you are going to ask for advice from a comedian, you should ask someone you respect. If you are going to PAY for advice from a comedian, you better pay someone who is where you want to be one day. When I took over Flappers University, I had two major TV stand up credits and had worked at Nickelodeon. I was opening for comics who had been on Letterman. And I was headlining shows around Los Angeles. I was getting paid regularly for shows. I had a real career. That was 2019.
Today I'm on four booking agency rosters, have a Dry Bar Special, a Laugh on Fox spot, have toured all over the country, and I'm a publish writer and sought out public speaker for events. I've even converted my comedy talents in to other job opportunities - like contract work for biotech companies (writing training sketches) and headlining OSHA speaking events. I consider myself qualified to tell people how to start and maintain a comedy career that fits them and their goals.
You'd be surprised how many schools are ran by casting agents, washed up bookers, former improv actors who never did stand up, and people who read Judy Carter's book and stole the formulas. Before you take anyone's class, please Google them. If they don't have anything worth watching, then they aren't worth giving your money to.
Comedy Classes Should "Teach" a Philosophy and Structure
Many comics have told me they took classes before and the instructor would throw ideas at them and tell them to try that. Whether that idea was play a "character" or "just say these things on stage." There was no philosophy. No real breakdown. No actual thought of what types of jokes people should start off writing.
For me, the "write from a place of personal truth" philosophy worked best. I'm not a fan of comics starting out with observational humor that might work with their buddies but will confuse strangers. If your first joke is about Taylor Swift, then you've already lost me. She's a talented billionaire with a billion fans. You're a middle age dude who paid to take a class. Maybe start with your own insecurities, and let's go from there.
If your instructor cannot sum up their philosophy in a few sentences, then stay away. Or if they say, "I'll help you get booked at all the clubs..." then run away faster than the knights in Monty Python from rabbits.
Another component is the classic set up - punchline structure. If they aren't able to help you structure your jokes to have clear set ups and clear punchlines, then it's a waste of time. Starting out in comedy, you get 3-5 minutes at open mics, so you want a joke every 20-30 seconds. If the instructor says, "Just tell a funny story" or "just be comfortable" on stage, then they are not helping you. There is a method to the madness, at least when starting out, and the structure part should be clearly out there in the objectives.
Multi-Week Classes Should Have 5-10 People
If you ever take a multi-week class and it has over 11 people...run! I always liked 10 people, but once you get to 12-15 or even 20 people in a multi-week class, there is no time to actually break down your jokes. If the class looks like a cash grab, it probably is. Obviously, there are exceptions, but I've found, when instructors want a lot of students in a feedback class, they either are feeding their own ego or trying to pay their bills on the backs of aspiring comics. Instructors should be a regular working comic, not just a comedy teacher. I would also add, your class should donate a solid 10-15 minutes of time to you personally. There should be at least 5-7 minutes of material time, followed by 5-6 minutes of constructive feedback, and an opportunity for classmates to add thoughts. If you aren't getting solid feedback, then what's the point?
If you take a one day workshop, that's different. Learning how to get booked, emcee, or the "rules" of storytelling could hold a lot of people in the room (in person or zoom), since these workshops require less interaction. It's important that you research the comics teaching them. I know of people teaching "writing for Late Night" who never wrote for a show. I know comics teaching classes on being an emcee who don't emcee outside of their club. I know comics who teach social media classes with no following. You want to be careful, because a lot of these scammers just steal other people's class notes, but then when Q & A time comes, they're confused and speechless.
Don't Fall For Big Promises
If you take a class and the instructor is promising you this will lead to better gigs down the road at big clubs...run! First off, if you are in the class stage of comedy, then you are not in the paid gig stage of comedy. Nor are you in the getting passed by big club stage. They have talent already. Too often I hear people tell me the instructor promised bookers from clubs would be at their showcases, and then it turned out to be a bringer producer who runs scam bringer shows with hacky title names like Suck These Nutz Comedy or Shimmy Shitty Show. Then the instructor tells students to do those shows, and then the bringer producer tells the comics they have to sign up for classes again to get new material for the next bringer show. Talk about a pyramid scheme. Just a wolf in sheep clothing.
If you are taking a class to get into a club's good graces, I would encourage you to lower your expectations. I remember one year a whole group of advance students at a club comedy class thought they would get feature and eventual headliner spots, only to be asked to produce their own semi-bringer shows where they could headline themselves (at 20 minutes max).
The club or school has no desire to make you famous. They have no desire to foster talent to become big time stars. They want pre-packaged social media stars and upcoming talent associated with bigger name comics. They want them on the ladder up, so they can eventually get them back to sell out a weekend. They do not see students as anything more than open mic hosts. Or unpaid main room hosts, if they meet demographic requirements.
Let's just say older comics get the door for often than stage time.
So if you take a class and they promise club bookers, better spots, etc. just...run.
Make Sure You Don't Go Broke
In the video above, I discuss this in better detail. But I can't tell you how many people I know who spent a lot of money, thinking the fast track to success is taking classes. Classes are a supplement to the hard work, not the basis. I understand that comedy instructors are trying to make money, but if they are charging a fortune to start, then they clearly are trying to cash grab before you realize it's not a legit way to become Joe Rogan's opener.
One time a student told me he spent over $20,000 on classes. He wasn't where he wanted to be, and his family was not happy. You think?
I would encourage you to spend no more than $1,000 in your entire class journey. That's 3-4 classes, depending on the school. After that, you should be pointed in the right direction. If you still feel the need to take classes, then it should be for community instead of career. Part of being a great comic is trusting yourself and not "asking permission" of a coach or mentor. As long as you are in classes, you will always rely on someone else. And the price will be more than just what you spend your money on; it'll be your time as well.
There is so much to write, but we all have to get back to our regular lives. At the end of the day, a good comedy class can be a fun experience. But don't get caught in the trap that classes make comedians. At some point you should fly the nest and flap your own wings.
Final final thought: Don't let anyone make you feel bad or less than for taking a class. Most comics just live and bomb at open mics. That's their journey. But if you want to avoid the toxic nature of bar mics, then a class can save you a lot of that frustration. But just don't expect one student showcase to change your life forever. Because, if you do, then not only will you find yourself angry and bitter, but now angry, bitter, and broke.
While we live in a world that tells us to celebrate ourselves fully, to embrace ourselves without question, and there is truth in that, in the world of comedy I have one response - ha! Don't let anyone tell you that your looks or age or race don't matter in comedy. Because they do. It's not just a "be funny" business. Anyone who broke free of the open mic circuit knows that on the other side is the political game. The "casting" of comedy shows and festivals, where the quotas are met, and the frustrating reality hits that they only need one of you, depending on your tribe or group. One lady. One senior citizen. One younger woman. One Asian. One Black person. One Middle Eastern. One fat guy. But then 4-5 mid looking white men named Lenny or Jake. If you think your looks don't translate to bookings, then you are very much mistaken.
The Silent Minority
While every other group sees the bias in their demographic, one group that gets a short end of the stick are the good looking comics. No, really. Go look at a comedy flyer. Odds are it's mostly frumpy, fugly folks. It's not a lot of Sydney Sweeney's either. Go look at the lineups at the big clubs. Do you see a lot of 9's or 10's performing? No. Is it because attractive people aren't funny? We know that's not true. In fact. I would say being attractive helps immensely in the beginning, as their shiny faces help distract from the frump on the rest of the flyer. But what was a ladder in the beginning, sadly becomes a crutch down the road. Because most attractive comics face harassment and expectations that many comics never face.
Humor is a Great Equalizer in the Arts
Whenever they do a study about what women want in a man, routinely, a sense of humor tops the list. Albert Brooks once scoffed at that stat, stating, "I'm pretty sure Fabio does better with women that Gilbert Gottfried." It's a good point, and probably true, but women still swear that they want a man to make them laugh. In response to this claim, pundits have argued that women tend to find cute boys funnier because when nervous around them, they laugh. So it's not that "Chad" is inherently funny, but those dimples make a woman swoon.
Meanwhile, men traditionally could care less if a woman is funny. Sorry, ladies. No guy ever thought that she was so funny, she must be "wifed up" before it is too late. But it is very important women find HIM funny. Even a guy with nothing but dad jokes, puns, and stolen Tim Allen stories wants her to laugh at him. Men view humor as their greatest weapon to fight off good looking men in the dating pool. And the greatest insecurity a "funny guy" can feel is when his girlfriend or wife laugh at other men's jokes. In fact, the worst date a guy could take a woman on is going to watch funny male comedians. Watching their girl roll over in laughter is worse than catching them in bed with another guy...it hyperbolic theory. When he asks, "what that mouth do?" He's hoping she doesn't say, "Laugh at Matt Rife." This is why men have had to develop some type of personality. Because when she's giggling at pretty boy nonsense, his only comeback is; "But I'm actually funny."
Women develop a sense of humor as a way to combat chauvinistic behaviors. It's their way to fight the patriarchy. If anything, the Barbie movie literally proved that theory. It's a way to become "equal" in the eyes of men. If anything, men find a woman who makes more money or funnier than them as a threat. I know that sounds weird, but we all know its true.
What Makes a Person Funny?
Growing up, extroverts are seen as the funny guys. Think about high school. The stoner who gets drunk at parties and dances on tables. The wild man. That is usually the introduction to what is funny. In fact, the most popular comics are those archetypes. Jim Carrey. Robin Williams. Chris Farley. It's a the clown - an over the top character on speed. The fat guy. The lanky guy. The sweaty guy. Not the attractive guy. It is how they separate themselves from the pack. It's a type of vulnerability that allows them to be free, whereas many attractive people feel the need to dress, stand, fashion themselves in a way others see as a mask.
So when the goofy dudes transition to Hollywood, they become stars because they resemble our earliest memories of "fun." Rarely do young people find dry wit and sarcasm funny. It's an acquired taste. But bold and loud always gets the belly laugh. Relatively unattractive, these men's attractiveness stems from their confidence in telling jokes and act-outs. This is why Adam Sandler was a box office star and Albert Brooks wasn't. Sandler's over-the-top broad style reminds us of the class clown. Brooks is the class president or valedictorian.
Even with women, it's the loud girl who is funny. The heavyset girl who puts everyone in their place. The tomboy. The emotionally detached emo girl too. From these archetypes we get Rosie O'Donnell, Wanda Sykes, Rosanne Barr, Amy Schumer, and Ellen. They are self-deprecating, They area bit aloof. They seem ironically surprised their poor choices lead to an unfortunate outcome. They love irony and sarcasm. They tend to be sexually ambivalent (The Rosie's come to mind) or very sexually expressive and experienced (a la Amy Schumer). Only recently, has the "hot girl" become the prototype. Maybe it started with the Cameron Diaz 1990's pixy dream girl look, but now we see a shift from Rosanne Barr to Nikki Glaser or Whitney Cummings. This has opened doors for many female comics, but there is still a bias against attractive women.
Is There An Advantage in Comedy To Being Less Attractive?
This gets a bit controversial, but it's generally true good looking people are considered less funny. As Christopher Hitchens once added, and I'm paraphrasing, an ugly man has to develop a sense of humor if he ever dreams of getting laid. If you think about the types of stand up comics that make it, they are not attractive people. Jim Gaffigan, Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, etc.
The main reason is because no one wants to hear attractive people complain.
Plus, no one wants to hear pretty people problems. So if you find your jokes about the gym or dating hotties who won't commit bombing, then complain about a more universal problem first, then move into something that is unique to 10% of the population. Attractive comics make it work, but it takes some wiggling on stage to get there.
Exceptions to the Rule
Are there exceptions? Sure. Matt Rife and Dane Cook come to mind. Even Eddie Murphy would fall into this camp. Of course there are attractive female comics like Nikki Glaser, Sarah Silverman, and Ali Wong who write sharp jokes. One thing that I think pushes out female comics is the harassment and bombardment of sexual advancements they face.
Many attractive female comics have complained to me that when they get opportunities, the bookers, producers, or headliners make strong moves on them. These slimeballs try to coerce women into sexual favors in exchange for stage time. This incel mentality goes from the open mic scene to the highest level of Hollywood. To quote Hamlet, "there's the rub." Women want the opportunity but don't want this repulsive expectation. And for the record, how much do these men have to really hate women to see them as purely vessels for sexual pleasure? If a comic, booker, etc. only wants sex in exchange for stage time, clearly they are ass wipes who will not do anything for you, except make you feel like less than you deserve to feel.
What we found in the #MeToo movement is that this was more prevalent than even imagined. And we find that attractive males faced this as well with male executives. The recent Katt Williams interview hinted at this, and comedic actors like Terry Crews named names of agents who promised parts in exchange for more parts. This behavior is abhorrent and when seen has to be called out.
How Can One's Looks Create a Window?
Watching Rife today, he reminds me of Cook in 2006 when every girl I knew crushed hard. But the trajectory isn't long lasting as the audience grows up and the hot guy no longer relates to their audience.
For these comics to last, it's all in the shift of complaints. Adam Sandler, the clear replacement of Shore in 1995 (Jury Duty flopped and Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore soared) grew up with his crowd, and did the brilliant move of making himself desirable by being married to Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale, and Salma Hayek in his romcoms. Since beautiful women make men look better, he was able to go from goofball to dadbod. Whereas Pauley Shore, the icon of teen rebellion in the 1980s, stayed a boy and his audience passed him by.
When comics rely on their current looks to keep a career going, they find themselves fading out. It's why it's important to reinvent yourself every few years. You don't want to wake up wearing the same outfit you did ten years ago. That's how you become a Gallagher.
What Can You Do to Leverage Your Looks?
There are ways to leverage your looks and keep your dignity. If there is a club or festival you want to get into, and you see they don't have a lot of talent that looks like you - hit them up! And just know that we are all struggling with getting booked. I literally had bookers tell me they don't need "straight white males," as if I can just pull from the SWM group fund to pay my bills. While the commitment to diversity is appreciated, it still plays out as gatekeeping no one really feels comfortable addressing.
Regardless of the unfairness, we have to play the game to the best of our ability. It's really just a "moneyball" situation. Look for the opportunities out there and reach out. If you see there are places lacking people who look like you, START THERE. While most people who see their doppelgangers on the flyer hit those places up first, reach out to clubs and producers lacking representation that resembles you. It's not that they don't want certain groups - it usually stems from them having no idea where to look.
The entertainment industry is a rough and tumble place where the rules change every day. One day Matt Damon is the ideal male and the next it is Seth Rogan. One day Rosie O'Donnell is the queen of comedy and then it is Iliza or Tiffany Haddish. Don't believe me about Rosie? She literally was cast as Betty in The Flintstones Movie, which many considered a sex symbol cartoon. So what was "hot" today becomes "cold" tomorrow.
But what never gets cold, is you moving as the chess board moves. It's reinventing yourself. It's finding universal complaints. It's creating a brand that reaches your people. And that's the beautiful part of an ugly truth.
To get good anything you have to do it often and fail more than you succeed. Too often people are so afraid of failure they only do something in a safe place or under certain circumstances that appease their nervous system. People don't want to drive too far or spend too much money or use their time off to build their future. So instead of building an empire, they find themselves crafting out a corner of a street. Instead of getting paid legitimate money, they have to work for free or get nickeled and dimed by shady clubs. One of the reasons is because they live off the global success of others. They feel other people's success is their success, and it just simply isn't. The reason is because they live off the inspiration others feed them. Here's my basic example. If Jim Gaffigan gets a big movie role, I really can't say "if he wins, we all win," without grabbing my clown makeup. Now, if I get a movie role, then Jim might say, "It's great if an upcoming comic gets a big break - it's a win for all of us." He can say that because he's still worth millions. When I say it, I'm still worth hundreds. So remember this, success is not collective achievements that create inspiration - it's the hard work you put in creating perspiration that matters, not the inspiration. Inspiration is the drug you give yourself to be better, until it's the drug that leaves you complacent.
"You" Are Not the Accomplishments of Others
Sometimes comics or celebrities have a great story about how they had $5 in their bank account when Netflix called them, and people are inspire. At the end of the day these stories are handcrafted to create empathy and a willingness to follow them. None of actually make you a better comic or better person.
Too often I hear people tell me these stories "inspire" them, and then I ask, "Did you get up more?" or "Did you finally write that script?" And the answer is always no. In fact, they did less. I have been struggling with this my whole adult life. I love movies and always thought I would be a filmmaker. Instead I saw a much of movies and never made my own. I still get "inspired" when I watch a great film or awards show, but I realized, I'm just a pundit in the Hollywood wheel. Whereas, in stand up, I never really cared to see a bunch of shows, and instead, performed at a lot of open mics and bar shows.
Sometimes we treat other's success like our own like the way fat dads treat their favorite football team, yelling "we won" after a game. No, Mark, "we" did nothing. They won, while you ate three types of pizza. You can't live off the accomplishments of others, feel good about it, not move forward yourself, and wake up the next day thinking you've done anything. It feels good to the you in the present, but it's cruel to you of the future.
Comedy Challenge: Watch Less - Get Up More
People ask me all the time if I watched so-and-so's comedy special. 90% of the time I say no. They go, "How? It's so good?" Because I realized early on, if you have great shared experiences, you live off them instead of feeding yourself. Also, let's say your favorite comic writes a great joke. You can't use it. You can't copy it. In fact, if you write your own version - it won't be as good. Tim Burton once told an interviewer he doesn't watch other movies while making his own, so he isn't "influenced" by it.
So when I watch comedy, I watch people the opposite of me. I watch old Albert Brooks and current Eddie Pepitone. Because I'm not doing what they do. But their commitment to the bit is the key takeaway. I don't watch a lot, but when I seek comedy, I seek out them.
Watch More Bad Comedy, Not Good Comedy
When I was starting out, I would go to Flappers Main Room and laugh at the great comics like Jimmy Dore, Dan Gabriel, and Melissa Villasenor. But that wasn't helping me. They are performing well crafted jokes to fans. So I started watching the YooHoo room amateur show. I gained a lot of knowledge and ten pounds eating pizza every week. Watching half baked premises, punchline-lacking jokes, and nervous demeanors actually became a real learning experience. Watching good comedy makes you laugh, but watching bad comedy makes you a better comic.
Let me repeat that: Watching good comedy makes you laugh, but watching bad comedy makes you a better comic.
Here's the theory: If you watch good comedy, what do you learn? Maybe be confident, have a punchline every 20 seconds, and be vulnerable. But those comics have 15-45 minutes up there to get into a grove. Most comics get five minutes. Watch how young comics squander their time. Watch how they don't get to their first laugh for a minute or 90 seconds (if at all). Watch how the crowd feels the tension of sitting in a silence that never gets broken. Then think to yourself, "I won't let that happen." And start writing great jokes. You'll find yourself forcing yourself to NOT be that awful open micer. If you watch a great comic ramble, you'll just think, "I'm just doing what Chappelle does" and never get better.
My Inspiration v. Perspiration Challenge
Okay, so let's say you think you want to go watch your favorite comic or support a show or watch a comedy special. Don't. Stop. Don't do it. Instead, go get up yourself. Go write your new jokes or work on your content or script. When you get the itch to watch, getup instead. Trust me, the headliner doesn't watch you. They're too busy getting ready. Trevor Wallace isn't interested in your Instagram Reels, because he's building his own empire. Stop watching movie, if you want to make movies. Trust me on this. I see so many comics who never "made it" or never got what they wanted because they're too busy taking pictures, watching shows, and trying to be PART of the show instead of BEING THE SHOW.
I understand the desire to watch comedy to be inspired, but I would argue that only works if you are not a comic. Sure, you can tell me that it inspired you seeing your friends on stage, but inspired you to do what? To watch more comedy? When I watch a sports film like Hoosiers, it inspires me to be better at comedy, buy reminding me to never give up when the odds are against me. It doesn't inspire me to play basketball. Watching comedy specials doesn't lead to you getting a special. Watching cooking shows doesn't make you more full. And watching porn doesn't lead to more sex.
If you listen to your favorite podcaster (car trips only - no sitting at home listening), you'll hear them say "I heard that movie was good" or "I need to see them on stage for myself" or "I want to catch that." It's because they are too busy doing "it" to sit around watching "it." I see a lot of movies, but I go in the spaces between my comedy and writing and TV show pitching time. 2pm is a great movie watching time. 8pm is for performing.
If you want a productive 2024, remember you will reap what you sow. Sow into watching, you'll find more time to watch. Sow into doing, and you just might wake up doing more.
The biggest complaint I get from comics is trying to navigate the Los Angeles comedy scene. They feel that they keep running in circles, while accomplishing nothing. And they aren't wrong. The LA comedy scene is a showcase format that encourages sleazy bringer producers, ego heavy bookers, and gatekeeping strategies that make you feel hopeless. You are not crazy - the entire scene feels and is a pyramid scheme. I would know, as I lived it on both sides of the coin. I once was a bringer of guests, and then I worked behind the scenes for 4 years at Flappers in Burbank. So let me tell you, it's a jungle out there. Here is a breakdown of each LA Club and what their audition system looks like.
The Comedy Store
The Comedy Store is one of the longest running clubs in the world. Before stand up comedy was a thing, there was The Store. The greats started there and became stars because founder Mitzi Shore would showcase them in front of TV's biggest producers. Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Joe Rogan all started there. The Store also is known for their Roast Battles and three rooms: The Main Room, The Original Room, and The Belly Room.
The auditioning process is pretty simple. On Friday between 12pm and 1pm you email email@example.com your name (NO tape, website, etc.) and then on Monday you find out if you made the 16 person lineup. You do 3 minutes in the Original Room, and you hope someone important saw you. Newsflash, no one does.
If you want to get into the mix faster, participating in Roast Battle is the real trick. By showcasing your ability to make fun of your peers, you will find a potential way in.
The only problem with The Comedy Store is that it's filled with awful bringer shows ran by scum. These NON PASSED wannabe comics convince newer comics to convince their friends to give them money, all while being abusive to new comics through threatening texts. These producers are scum. Rats. Pieces of trash who prey on the dreams of artists. So why does The Store let them use their room? Because Money. And newer comics don't realize the scam until it is too late. Stay away. I have heard too many comics tell me it hurts thinking how they thought being a bringer would help. It doesn't.
The Laugh Factory
With the owner of the Laugh Factory getting up in age, the club has gone through more bookers than The Store has gone through bringer producers. While the brand has lost it's luster, it still provides the most ridiculous audition process in Los Angeles. On Tuesdays you wait in line from 1pm until 5pm, hoping to be one of the first 10-15 comics. You will do 2 minutes in front of someone, who might tell you to come back for a 5 minute spot at the same open mic down the road. There are comics still waiting to hear they got passed who started a decade ago, but because the rotating door of bookers is such a nightmare, unless you get on the approved list during the right window of opportunity, you might find yourself still waiting.
Your best chance of getting booked there is reaching out to Chocolate Sundaes, their Sunday show that showcases 3 comics, with a 15-18 month waiting list. Yes. I wrote that correctly. Over a year. It's a great show though. I did it in 2018. But it leads nowhere. It's just a feather in your cap. The Laugh Factory has less bringers, as comics have to be approved to perform, but don't feel crazy if communication seems impossible to understand. The club has so many passed comics, they don't need anymore.
Easily, the classiest and most accessible of the three big clubs, The Hollywood Improv was started by Bud Friedman at the same time as The Store. The club has so many paid regulars with amazing credits, it's almost impossible to get stage time. There are around 14 "development" spots a week for young comics passed by the booker, all while there being hundreds of young up and coming comics eligible for those spots.
The Improv does have open mic bucket list auditions called Lab Work on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the booker will stop by to watch. If she likes you, you might get a 5 minute spot to showcase your best set. This is easily the best opportunity for any comic at any stage.
If all that work sounds too hard, your best bet is to produce a comedy show there. Start the show somewhere else and make it a success and eventually try to run it monthly in the Lab (the little room) to get a monthly spot. Besides that, The Improv just doesn't need you. The place is friendly to comics, due to the large bar lobby and open mic opportunities with Lab Work. The staff is always cool too. But it's just so busy and oversaturated there that becoming a regular is hard. You could try getting a door security job or bartender job there, but even then, you have to be really good at comedy to move into the development spots.
The HaHa Comedy Club
No one knows how to get booked here. You shouldn't worry about it. It's just a dump requiring comics to bring 5 people to every show, with random drop-ins you can't advertise because they show up after the show starts. These are the shows that wear down your friends and burn you out from worrying more about your friends finding parking than you getting your set ready.
The Comedy Chateau
The newest club on the market, this North Hollywood club has a main and small room and is the only bringer club offering it's main stage to newbies. Auditions are every Sunday at 4pm, and by 4:05pm you will feel your soul leaving your body. The club is ran by Felix who puts himself on every show with his guitar to sing about his dick and other bodily fluids. If you drag friends here, they'll have to sit through that every time.
The Chateau runs 20 person showcases, where each comic has to bring a certain number of guests, using a comp code to track, or they get knocked off the show, and the owner takes up their unused time. If you noticed, they never have "headliner weekends" where a big name does 3-4 shows over a weekend. Some celebrity comics use the bringer crowds to test upcoming Netflix material, but generally, the shows are populated by newbies. Traditionally, shows start 45 minutes late and your friends will have to buy more food and drink to get through the evening. No one is getting discovered there. You don't need them.
The Ice House
The legendary Ice House in Pasadena is currently under new ownership and are still trying to figure out their business model. There are no auditions as of yet, and the only shows are independent producer shows. If you know someone on a show there, ask them what the producer needs to be on their show.
Flappers Comedy Club & Restaurant
Flappers is a cross between all the clubs above. You get the big names like Kevin Hart and Jay Leno. You also get the showcase shows with the newbies asked to bring. And there are independent producer shows. There are comedy contests with cash prizes. And open mics daily. While the open mics are either $8 for 5 minutes, or $5 PLUS a one item minimum, Flappers is still the only comedy club with regular mics. You might have to mortgage your house or skip a car payment to go often, but you can get up.
Auditions are every Wednesday. You do 2 minutes in front of the booker who then gives unsolicited feedback on your set. If you are really new, he'll ask you to bring people. You'll say yes, and then show up to a maybe half filled crowd and do 5 minutes, then you'll be asked if you want to buy a tape for $35. When I ran the school I worked hard to help students fill the room with lower ticket prices and tape discounts. The booker and owner were always upset by my "comic first" mentality.
If you are a comic 3-5 years in, the booker will tell you that he can't use you because you don't bring anyone, and he might even say cruel things about your act. He's told comics I know:
"With your act, you might make it to the middle."
"I don't remember anything about you, you might as well talk about strawberries and cream."
"You're annoying. Don't hang out here."
A regular Ted Lasso.
You might even cry after when you realize all that bringing you did in your first few years meant nothing to them, and you built up no goodwill at all. So if you like feeling like crap and crying, Flappers audition is the perfect club for you! The booker also gives a terrible speech before auditions about how you shouldn't be an asshole, and then treats you like an asshole. It's a meta experience.
I used to sit in on auditions and talk about how the club works, but the booker asked me to stop because I was "too positive."
If you are an established headliner with access to the club, you can maybe email avails, but the booker won't email you back.
Oh, if you do get a YooHoo room spot, the booker will give himself 5-10 minutes on the show, guitar free thankfully, and will talk about his small penis or how he wants to kill himself. So expect your friends to ask if he's okay. He's not. But just say he is so they will come back if you plan to as well.
Overall Thoughts on the LA Comedy Scene
All of this may sound frustrating, and it is. That's why it is important to remember two things:
1. The Store, Laugh Factory, and Improv won't need you until you're famous. And that's okay.
2. Flappers, HaHa, and The Chateau need you way more than you need them. Always remember that.
While club spots are fun in the moment, the build up and aftermath are exhausting. Plus, when you think about how much "ring kissing" you have to do, do you really want your friends giving their money to these places, when you know they'll dump you ASAP?
There are plenty of great bar shows, road gigs, open mics, and other venues where you can grow your act, meet great comics to network with, and still feel good about yourself. Too often, comics get discouraged because they view the clubs like high school seniors view college. The clubs will not make you famous.
That's why you want to work on your jokes in environments that aren't there to suck you dry. The Fourth Wall, Corbin Bowl, and Third Wheel Comedy all have opportunities you can use and network with the same comics you would have met at the smaller clubs. No reason to get into the pyramid scheme of bringing if you can meet the same people on your terms.
Keep your head up and know that no club defines you! You are the captain of your comedy ship. So sail on!
Too often comedians take a lone wolf approach to their stand up career (or career in general). They think they can make it on their own without having to rely on others. And while being on stage can feel like an isolating experience, the in-between-moments are where your career is truly made. Your network is always going to be your strongest resource in creating and taking advantage of opportunities. When starting out, your network is simply friends, family, and co-workers. But over time you have to create a circle of comics you can engage with. Don't be afraid to reach out and see who is able to connect. Here are a few pointers in building that network - for comics or anyone looking for an edge.
Build a Group at Your Level
One big mistake younger comics make is trying to jump into an established comic circle. They want to join a group that already made it, hoping that success can rub off on them. That is the wrong attitude because it doesn't include the primary element of a strong comic circle network: Trust.
You have to build your network based on people more or less at the same level as you. Come up together. Build a network of people you can trust. If you join a group that is way ahead of you on the social ladder, they might dump you because there is no foundation. You never went through the battles together. By finding people at your speed and level, you will match energies and be able to support each other.
If you are doing open mics, connect with open micers. If you are featuring and headlining B clubs, then find other comics at that level who can recommend you to similar venues. You just don't want to be in a place where your circle isn't able to help you because the gigs they do are too small or too big for where you are in your career.
Get a Mentor
I write this knowing that a lot of people confuse what a mentor's purpose is. Mentor's are NOT people who just give you access to what they built. They help guide you through the steps. Maybe they keep you accountable. Maybe they suggest a few venues for you to reach out to. But it is NOT their job to book your year of shows. I've talked to a lot of headliners who have comics call them up saying, "When you going to book some shows so we can get back on the road?" That is not the right attitude, by the way.
Mentors should be just a little a head of you too. Too often comics try to get mentors who are way ahead of them, and they really cannot help them. The advice becomes too general or impossible to execute correctly. A good comedy mentor should be where you want to be within 5 years. They can take you on the road, but in reality, they should be more of a coffee and dinner pal. And do not ask someone to be your mentor. It might put too much pressure on them. Just see if you can hang out with them. Support their shows. Give some value, even if its just friendship. Then feel free to ask a few questions. But once it looks like you are trying to just copy them, they will see you as a palmer, just trying to get what you can, instead of building a real relationship built on mutual interests and trust.
Hang Out After the Show
The best way to build a network is to enjoy "the hang" before and after a show. The comics who come late and leave early tend to be the same ones who stay in the same place years later, begging for guest spots on unpaid shows. It's in the hanging out you start to see which comics you vibe with. Sometimes you'll see a comic on stage and you will assume you two will get along well. Then you hang out and its awkward from the start. But had you just hung out at the comic's table, you would have realized that you make great "co-workers" but not exactly great "hang-outers." By the way, I just made up a word. You're Welcome.
Engage with Fans
I get it. You're an introvert. You don't want to talk to "those people." You don't want them to say "Here' a joke you can use..." or "put that in your little skits." But just know that your best network is your fan base. It is your fan base that will create your financial success as well. If you just have relationships with comics and bookers, you limit earning potential. But when you build a fan base, you can create door deals and not rely on the clubs. You can produce your own shows and do your thing.
This also applies to social media. Find time to engage by liking comments and responding to DM's. Once you get too many, you can back off, but I promise you - a little fan engagement can be what builds your brand faster than you expect.
Regardless of where you are in your journey, you need a support system and network. This goes for acting, writing, sports, etc. No man or woman is an island. So maybe in 2024 you take the biggest leap of vulnerability yet, reach out, and build an inner circle.
1. Dream Scenario
Nicolas Cage gives the best performance of recent memory as a regular guy who becomes famous for being in people’s dreams until it all goes wrong. A brilliant film is every way.
2. The Holdovers
Paul Giamatti, Davine Joy Randolph, and Dominic Sessa are the ensemble of the year in Alexander Payne’s new Christmas classic.
Christopher Nolan’s opus is the Hollywood studio film of the year. A masterpiece political thriller, where the true tension stems from the internal battle to create something so drastic it changes the world and our protagonist.
4. The Iron Claw
Sean Durkin’s ode to territory wrestling, the Von Erich wrestling family, and true independent cinema is the surprise of the year. Zac Efron has arrived.
5. Theater Camp
The funniest comedy of the year is a mockumentary about a struggling theater camp filled with big laughs and a brilliant satirical musical worth applauding!
6. Poor Things
A true visionary feast for the eyes. Emma Stone is a 30 year old woman given the brain of a baby, and forced to deal with the patriarchy from a fresh angle. This is what brave filmmaking is all about.
7. American Fiction
Another satire makes my list. This one attacking well meaning white liberals who think they know what being black is all about. Jefferson Cord writes and directs a near perfect film.
8. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3
James Gunn wraps up one of the best science fiction/comic book trilogies of all time. This is the Star Wars Kathleen Kennedy couldn’t deliver. A funny, exciting, heart breaking, joyous film that will be cherished for years.
9. Freud’s Last Session
A rare intellectual film filled with ideas and theories about life, death, free will, God and sex. In this fan fiction about the meeting of Sigmund Freud and CS Lewis, the story is about facing fears and fighting for truth. In the vein of Doubt and The Two Popes, this is the film I hope you’ll seek out.
10. Super Mario Brothers
The most pure fun I had all year in the movies. While not inherently deep, this animated rollercoaster of a film digs deep into 40 years of nostalgia and gives us the Mario Brothers film us 80’s kids always wanted.
Here are some films that tied for 11th. To be honest, I could have put any of them at number 10 and felt good about my list. All of them were funny, smart, and wildly creative in their styles.
The Color Purple
Godzilla Minus One
TMNT: Mutant Mania
Others worth watching:
These are the more experimental or niche films that will have both fans and haters, but I really enjoyed. This is a mixture of documentaries, true stories, and classic Hollywood tales of woe and redemption. What I can promise, is none of these films will bore you.
Defending My Life
Next Goal Wins
This gig to Oregon is very special to me because two of Eugene’s most famous former residents literally saved my life without ever meeting me. They are Steve Prefontaine and Bill Bowerman. In 1998 I was a senior varsity wrestler at Simi Valley High. I got injured in pre-season and it looked like I was never going to wrestle. I had a literal nervous break down panic attack. I couldn’t get off the floor.
This was about 25 years ago to the day. My grandma had to come over to house, after I called my mom to tell the school I was sick, so I wouldn’t be truant. My grandma told me we should go see a movie. I saw that the film Without Limits had one showing at the United Artists theater in the Thousand Oaks mall. That film stared Billy Crudup as the famous long distance runner Steve Prefontaine and Donald Sutherland as the beloved coach and track coach and co-founder of Nike, Bill Bowerman.
The message of the film was not to focus on winning or being the best. The purpose of the damn race was to challenge yourself. To just be better. That film resinated in my soul my entire senior year, as I battle two injuries and only wrestled 9 matches. I lost them all. I only practiced a few times that year. But every time I thought of quitting, I thought of this film. These men. Those warriors. The actual mighty Ducks. Bowerman’s career became an obsession with me. He inspired me to start coaching wrestling, even though I had no business doing it. But after winning 8 league titles with 3 teams, plus having numerous state qualifiers, and being the head coach of 6 all star teams, a few that won 1st or 2nd place medals at state dual tournies, I think I understood what those men preached. Life is a long game. It’s a marathon. Not a sprint. Everyday we have to challenge ourselves and the human heart.
People say things like “I loved that movie” or “it was great!” But Without Limits isn’t just great. It literally saved me and then changed my life. Also, for the record. The film had been out of theaters for two weeks by this point. It was a Thursday they had one showing. It was probably a filler from a reel that never got picked up. The next day,, Friday is was out of theaters. It only made $700,000 at the box office. It’s as if the film was made for me. And stayed in the area just for me. And I’d like to believe that too.
So I got to visit the University of Oregon today. I got to see the shrines to these two men. I won’t lie. I cried in the museum dedicated to them on Haywood Field. I had to hide from the college kids watching the door. But what a lovely day for me. To think 25 years later, I finally got the chance to see the home of Pre and Bowerman. And in the words of the poet, it has made all the difference.
It’s not the ghosting that hurts. It’s the lack of reason. Whether it’s friendship or dating, just tell people why they aren’t cool enough for you. Who knows, it might help them in their endeavors. Here’s a gender neutral template with fill in the blank options to text or DM to future people you plan to hurt and leave in a state of confusion:
Hey ______, I can no longer (date, hang out with, parent) you. Nothing personal but you and I aren’t clicking. You’re (not good looking enough, not making enough money, not interesting enough to have a conversation with). I understand I led you on by (hanging out with you, texting you, sharing my every thought for like two straight weeks, having dinner with you in romantic settings strictly reserved for people clearly forming a sexual relationship). For that I apologize…that you couldn’t see the future gaslighting.
While I hope you enjoy your life without me, I understand we can’t be friends, so I hope we can be like neighbors. We’ll never actually talk, but we can wave at each other at social events.
On another note (you should shower more, lose weight, read a book, invest in crypto, join a church or cult) if you’d like to have more friends on my level. But as for me, I’m ghosting you now. I’ve found better (dating options, coworkers, family members).
I’ll be blocking you on everything and then unblocking you in 3-6 months to see if you’re cooler or sold a script or got a project I’d be perfect for. Please don’t share this message with our mutual friends. I plan to tell them you just made it weird.
Due to studios having until late February to release their Oscar contenders, I finally caught up on all the major films of 2020. Here is a list of the best films I saw from January 2020 until March 2021. Only a handful of films made it into the theaters. This is based on a mixture of films I saw in theaters, streaming, and on demand. So the pricing and screen and sound were drastically different, which I’m fully aware may make me biased. With that said, 2020 had a lot a real gems. With no big blockbusters outside of Tenet, this year the independent film reigned supreme with a lot of wonderful stories dealing with issues like sexuality, poverty, race, political ambition, and other topics that deserve to be addressed. Below are the top ten I saw.
1. Trial of the Chicago 7
Aaron Sorkin’s true story of the protestors in front of the DNC convention of 1968 is a powerful and wildly entertaining drama that challenges our ideas of freedom of speech and justice. Filled with great performances, Sasha Baron Cohen stands out as hippie Abbie Hoffman, the pot smoking freethinker who leads this eclectic band of liberal misfits against a conflicted prosecutor and strict judge.
2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
August Wilson’s play about a famous black female singer named Ma Rainey (Viola Davis) and the rebellious trumpet player played by Chadwick Boseman is another four star masterpiece after Fences. The film takes place during one day in a 1920’s recording studio, following a multitude of characters, including the band, the music producers, and Ma’s secret lover and nephew tag alongs. Dealing with hard systemic racism as well as musical integrity, the film is a glorious showcase for two of the finest performances of the year.
3. Promising Young Woman
Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut is a sharp, dark, perspective look at rape cultural across the campus and corporate world. Carey Mulligan’s performance is a literal tour de force, as she caries out a variety of methods in making “nice guys” reveal their more sexually depraved nature by pretending to be drunk, being driven by men to their place, and her turning the tables of power on them. With sharp writing and an excellent supporting turn by Bo Burnham, the film looks at the female revenge thriller from a psychological point of view more than a violence dominated point of view.
Leave it to Pixar to be the film dealing with existential meaning through jazz music in a year where we all asked questions about who we are. When Joe, a frustrated substitute teacher, slips and falls into a pot hole, he ends up in the after life heading toward the light. But with his big break as a musician finally coming through on earth, he fights his own death to return home to give himself the shot he never had. But to complicate the story, soul 22 needs a mentor to figure out her place in the universe. With a rich and beautiful score, Soul tackles the issues of life and death most great films never would or could, but also reminds us that life is what we make of it.
5. The Father
A heartbreaking and deeply moving film about Anthony Hopkins’ Alzheimer’s induced father, battling the figments of his imagination and places of his mind, as they begin to blur, causing much confusion and desperation. Olivia Coleman plays his daughter trying to take care of him, but we grow weary with her as Hopkins goes deeper and deeper into his unawareness of the world around him. The film is a Masterclass in acting, editing, set design and score.
The beautiful story of a Korean family moving to the deep South to pursue the American Dream, this film took the festivals and critics by storm, becoming the winner in multiple foreign language categories, and earning Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Director, Actor, Supporting Actress, and Screenplay. With a beautiful score and intimate cinematography, director Lee Isaac Chung looks at his own life through the eyes of a five year old Alan Kim and the father played by Steve Yuen, to find the joy of family and cruelness of nature.
7. Sound of Metal
This hard hitting slice of life film looks deeply into the deaf community through the eyes of Riz Ahmed’s newly deaf drummer about to lose everything unless he can get an operation he believes will save his career and relationship. Paul Racci gives the performance of his life as the rough but loving leader of a deaf commune, and the film uses silence in a way unused in film before. A rare film not afraid to tell a difficult story without trying to tie a happy Hollywood ending to its tail.
8. News of the World
Paul Greengrass’s brilliant episodic western staring national treasure Tom Hanks as a man who goes from town to town reading the news in a post Civil War Texas. Along the way he finds an abandoned girl (Helena Zengel) raised by Native Americans and speaks no English. The film abandons cliches and becomes a showcase, showing a world not too different from our own with mass sickness, political opportunists, and child traffickers. But at the heart of this methodical western are two lonely people who build a family and life together.
9. Judas and the Black Messiah
The true story of how Black Panther Fred Thompson was brought down by the CIA and a black informant played by LaKeith Stanfield, in an amazing performance highlighting his shame and guilt. Daniel Kaluuya gives the performance of his career as Thompson. The film takes a real intimate look at how America wrongly tried to paint the freedom fighter as a terrorist and fills the screen with many fascinating and complex characters.
Chloe Zhao directs, produces, writes, and edits this quiet poetic film staring Francis McDormand as a nomad who states, “I’m not homeless, I’m houseless” to define her new minimalist lifestyle. Beautifully acted, the film uses real life nomads inspired by the book of the same name. The film challenges the way we think capitalism and materialism will make us happy by showing another world beyond our rat race mentality.
I like to consider myself the most famous least accomplished wrestler of all time. For a guy with no real wrestling accomplishments to have the influence I did in the California wrestling scene from 1999-2016 is quite something.
My career started in 1995 at Valley View Middle School. Thinking this was the first step to professional wrestling, I tried out for the junior high wrestling team.
In 1995-96 I went 4-5 in the Simi Valley Middle School season, taking second in the league, only because my semi-finals my opponent had an asthma attack and I pinned him while he couldn't breathe. I was majored in the finals. My only other accomplishment that year was I lost 15 pounds.
The next year at Simi Valley high school, I lost my pigtail at the 1996 Thousand Oaks novice tournament and then pinned the other loser. But I did take third at the Rio Mesa Frosh/Soph that year. I still thank Rio Mesa’s coach Todd Stoke when I see him for having that tournament. And I still mention it when I run the seeding meeting at Newbury Park Invitational.
Got promoted to Varsity at the end of my sophomore year because we needed the carpool drivers. That is not a joke. The regular varsity wrestler was a sophomore who went JV to win the league title. He pinned a kid in the finals I beat three days earlier. So I made myself a certificate as the “unofficial” JV Champ at school on Monday. I threw it away on Tuesday.
My two year varsity career was more uneventful than a Biden press conference. I went 0-6 at Marmonte Varsity League Finals over three years at Simi High. I won two actual matches. I beat a kid from Santa Monica who pinned himself, and I pinned a kid from Agoura who went o-7 in league. I went a much more impressive 1-5 that year in league, and 2-11 overall, losing in the first round of most carry tournaments.
I was injured most of my senior year, but filled out brackets better than any stat girl in the country. Humble brag - I was in honors English. I finished my illustrious career with a 13-15 JV record and 2-18 varsity record. Lettered twice. Didn’t get any awards at the banquet. So the team gave my an honorary Team Spirit Award for not missing a practice in two years, even when injured. I was Rudy.
My college career was even less impressive. I wrestled one day at Moorpark College in the summer of 1997 as a junior in high school, thinking it would be good to get beat up by college kids. My carpool partner quit after a day, so I wasn't able to go back. Still got a B in the class because Head Coach Paul Keysaw had no idea who I was, as I was on the roster for the summer class but never went. Easiest B I ever earned.
My coaching career started at Simi High (1999-2006) and then Royal (2006-2008) where I helped Royal win two league championships. I won one league title at Simi Valley in 2001 with a group of wrestlers in which half became ineligible after league finals.
At Royal I helped them reach new heights, even though one of dads turned assistant coach made my life hell. Eventually we had to kick him off the staff. His kid was the only CIF State qualifier. That was awkward. I was fired after leading the team to a league title and top three finish in CIF, because the coach who brought me on said “I don’t want people thinking you’re the reason for the success of the team.”
I ended up coaching at Moorpark College in 2008 and after that they canceled the program. So I went to El Camino Real, where I was part of three LA City Titles.
During 2004-2010 I was one of the head coaches for the TCWA All-Star teams. Mostly because the President and Treasurer knew I wouldn't take the petty cash to a strip club or buy alcohol, which I guess had happened in the past. Adults, am I right?
As the Team Leader we placed top 5 in Freestyle Duals every year and in 2010 took 2nd in the state in both Greco and Freestyle. With the coaching assistance of Buck Blakeman, Terry Fischer, Anthony Califano, Paul Clemente, Scott Yvarra, and many more, we overcame crappy seeding and hours of travel to succeed.
From 2009-2016 I was part of a few CIF committees because of the committee seeding data I collected when they switched from an all coaches meeting to a league rep seeding meeting. And a few times I was brought in to run CIF seeding meetings. But that was only because I was the SS Ranking dude for the TCW. And a lot of dads would send me nasty emails about how their son should be ranked in the SS because he took 4th at a 5-Way. Dads ruin sports. Never forget that.
In 2016 I won a LA City Title with my good friend Terry Fischer. As we left the Roybal High School gym, he looked at me and said, “We won the championship tonight, and no one in China cares.”
That might be the best way to define my career.
Paul Douglas Moomjean Blog's About What's on His Mind
Blogging allows for me to rant when there is no stage in the moment to talk about what's important and/or funny to me.