Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Possum Story

Summer of 2013, I walked the Miracle Mile in Chicago with my new friend, comedian Andrea Caspari. We met up with another comedian, Kyle Parris, who Andrea met in Kansas City, MO at her very first open mic appearance. Kyle was hungry and suggested we go to Billy Goat Tavern. We found the stairs and started heading under the street to the sub-streets below. This area has a very significant place in comedy history. These subterranean streets were featured in the filming of The Blues Brothers. And The Billy Goat Tavern itself also had a link to comedy history because it was parodied as the Olympia Café on Saturday Night Live with John Belushi. Needless to say I was thrilled to get to see the place and hear, “Cheeseborger, cheeseborger, cheeseborger!” yelled out by the staff.

When we sat down, Kyle decided to share the story of the open mic when he and Andrea first met. It was 2001 and Kyle decided to try out something new which went horribly awry. Below is the gem, the worst possible open mic disaster I’ve ever heard of, known simply as The Possum Story.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Comedians in Cars Getting to Gigs: Part II- Carpooling

Carpooling can be a really fun option when going on the road to help reduce the cost of gas, increase safety and make the drive less boring. Here are some tips on making your carpooling experience a pleasant one:

Dwight Simmons on Carpooling:
Carpooling is a great way to save money on gas which is usually the biggest traveling expense. Also, it's cool to chat with another comic for a while during the drive it makes it go (faster). I always try to carpool if possible.

  • Discuss expectations BEFORE the trip. Many problems can be avoided by laying out the expectations of each person. The less you know the person, the more important these conversations are. Do not make assumptions. 
  • Discuss money before the trip. It’s awkward, no one likes doing it, but getting the financial expectations set and worked out ahead of time will reduce the odds of bad blood between comedians after the trip. Always assume you are going to give the driver gas money. It’s only fair. Don’t forget other incidentals like parking, toll roads and meals.
  • Discuss license and insurance before the trip. If someone is going to share the driving responsibilities, ensure that person has a valid license and is insured or that your own insurance would cover an accident with your car. In Indiana insurance insures the driver NOT the car so coverage would not extend to the other person. You could be in trouble if an unlicensed person is using your car.  
  • Discuss drug rules before the trip. Some comedians smoke, some comedians drink, and some, surprise, do not. If you do not feel comfortable being driven by someone who drinks and drives, then talk about that before you leave town. If you know people smoke set up the rules and expectations about smoking in the car before you leave. If you have a medical condition or do not want smoking in your car, ask if they could only smoke during gas breaks. The driver generally sets the rules so if you are not comfortable with their decisions then arrange for other transportation. Some comedians may also use drugs that may be illegal such as marijuana. Do not be a jerk and bring illegal drugs with you when you are carpooling with another comedian without that comedian’s knowledge.   
  • Don’t carpool with anyone you do not trust or if you cannot agree on the expectations for the trip. When the trip starts follow through with what you said you were going to do. If you said you would pay gas money do it, said you will not smoke in the car do it, if you said that you were going to leave right after the show do not hang out.  
  • Discuss medical conditions if applicable. If you have a serious allergy or medical condition, it is wise to tell the person you are traveling with in case you have a medical emergency and cannot communicate with medical personnel. Especially serious conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, etc.

Carpooling can be an incredibly fun experience or it can be a nightmare. Choosing trustworthy people and setting up expectations beforehand helps ensure that you will get to your gig and back without incident. Remember to be respectful and follow through with what expectations you agreed to beforehand.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Comedians in Cars Getting to Gigs: Part I- Money

   April 2008, I was just a new comedian with less than ten shows under my belt climbing in my car to make the hour-long trip from Indianapolis to Muncie. Realizing that it was my first time leaving the city and county for a show, I had a moment of glee thinking, “I’m on the road. I’m on THE ROAD!”

The Road, an intangible, yet large part of comedy life. Comedians spend more time getting to shows than onstage so let’s address some of the issues that are important to making that long ride as smooth as possible.

Saving Money
Traveling is expensive. If your intention is to work up into being a full-time professional comedian, then you must keep your expenses under control. Getting gigs means nothing if you cannot afford to get there.

First, eat at home or bring your own food.

Katrina Brown on Food Savings:
“When I arrive at my hotel, especially if I'm in town for a few days, I ask for a room with a microwave and mini fridge.” Then, she finds the nearest grocery store. “It's cheaper to buy a variety of fresh fruit that will keep for a few days versus breakfast out, as well as a box of cereal bars or granola bars… Again, it is WAY cheaper AND healthier to just eat in the room.”

Example 1: Amateur Open Mic Comedian expenses 
If an open mic comic is purchasing whole meals at the venue, the expense can add up quickly. This shows how quickly food and drink expenses can add up, and it does not even include the gas! 

Even as the comedian begins earning a little income, spending money for food and drinks cuts deep into the bottom line. Note the comedian cuts his/her money in half by purchasing food at the venue. The savings of a ‘mom comped’ meals are awesome, but not sustainable.

Example 2: Early Emcee expenses
This kind of spending would not be sustainable for the comedian if they tried to make comedy a sole source of income. Cutting back on overall spending at the venue helps with savings. A comedian who makes a meal at home before going to the venue (short-distance gig) or brings food on the road with them for longer gigs makes better use of their money. One example is bottled water: At a restaurant, coffee house or club bottled water is often a dollar or more whereas you can get a case of 24 for about $5 at a grocery store.

Gerry Gobel on Saving Money:
Loot the continental breakfast! Dry cereal stores nicely.

Second, save gas. Gas is the biggest daily expenditure in comedian travel. Often the pay is identical whether you’re performing in town or in the next state. Keeping gas expenses under control is essential to financially sustain a comedy career. Below are some quick tips to lowering your gas expense:
  • Own a fuel efficient car
  • Maintain your car for peak gas efficiency-- especially the tires
  • Carpool
  • Get good directions to the venue so you do not get lost and drive around
  • Plan your trip so you can walk or use public transportation after arrival
  • Don’t keep heavy items in your car except what is necessary for the trip
  • Keep your tank at least half full at all times because the fuel burns less efficiently as it approaches empty. (This practice can also keep you from running out of fuel and being stranded.)
Dwight Simmons on Carpooling:
Carpooling is a great way to save money on gas which is usually the biggest traveling expense. Also, it's cool to chat with another comic for a while during the drive it makes it go (faster). I always try to carpool if possible.

Third, use your other resources. Always look for opportunities to cut costs on a trip. Got an old college friend living in Denver? Ask if their couch is in play when you roll into town.

Brent Terhune on Cutting Costs:
One way I save money is by sleeping in my car as much as I can. Some people feel that when they get tired they have to find a hotel, but really all you need to do is find a well-lit area (truck stop, rest stop), put the seat back and sleep for a few hours.

When entering your destination into your GPS,… if there's an option to avoid all tolls and it's not too far out of your way, take it. Avoiding tolls is a great way to save money and in some instances, save time while driving if you're passing through a major city like Chicago.
Go to the same gas station every time you fill up your car and use your "loyalty" card. If you're driving hundreds of miles a week then those points will add up and you'll save a lot on gas, drinks, food, etc.
These are the basics of saving money when you're on the road. Don't forget to check out the next installment on carpooling!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Nominees for the 2014 Hoosier Comedy Awards

Note: Nominees are listed in no particular order. Nominations were made in the March Otto’s Funhouse by other local comics. Nominees that did not actually qualify for the seedling award were removed. (Thanks for nominating me for gratitude and host awards, although it would be silly of me to give myself an award.)

Seedling Award
Leslie Densmore
Rhett Casteel
Diesel Reeves

Gratitude Award
Eddie James
Gerry Gobel
Todd McComas
Otto the Comic
CoLee Davis
Rhett Casteel

Happenin’ Host Award
Cam O’Connor
Otto the Comic
Eddie James
Will Hodges
Isaac Landfert

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Comedy has Sprung!

Spring begins next week, and I am thrilled about Indiana Comedy! There are a lot of budding rooms and special events in your regular favorites.Check it out!

20 MAR: First Day of Spring

21 Mar: Absurd Third Thursdays at White Rabbit Cabaret with Paul Strickland, Indianapolis, IN

24 Mar: Otto’s Funhouse Open Mic (Nomination Night for the Hoosier Comedy Awards), Indianapolis, IN

26 Mar: Rocketship Comedy Tour at End of the Line Bar in Fountain Square, Indianapolis, IN

26 Mar: Underwear Comedy Party with Joe Pettis in Muncie, IN

26 Mar: Vault Lounge in Columbus City, IN

28 Mar: Comedy Circus Open Mic at City Market, Indianapolis, IN

28 Mar: Open Mic at Bokeh Lounge, Evansville, IN

01 Apr: Open Mic Returns to Gaslight Inn, Indianapolis, IN

02 Apr: Jazz and Jokes on Mass Ave, Indianapolis, IN

21 Apr: Otto’s Funhouse 12 Anniversary Celebration and Hoosier Comedy Awards, Indianapolis, IN

Keep up to date by popping onto the Hoosier Comedy Calendar!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

State of Hoosier Comedy 2014

Stand-up comedy in Indiana is a constantly shifting terrain. This article is meant to highlight some of the changes and news in our community.

Absurd Third Thursdays Celebrates Third Birthday
Isaac Landfert as George Burns.
Happy Third Birthday to Absurd Third Thursdays! This monthly room serves up a classic comedy club style show (opener, feature, headliner) in the swank White Rabbit Cabaret in Fountain Square. Isaac Landfert had been dutifully at the helm of this successful show as well as co-creator of the successful Dead Comics Party which is held annually in October. February will be a special event for Absurd Third Thursdays as local powerhouse Dee Dangler bids adieu to Indianapolis in a move to Las Angeles. This appearance will be his last appearance in Indianapolis before the move.

Sinking Ship is out; Sabbatical is in
One of the biggest upsets in the comedy community was the loss of Sunday night comedy at the Sinking Ship (recently branded RocketshipComedy). After two and a half years and despite continued success, the Sinking Ship decided to discontinue comedy at their venue. The Sinking Ship’s success was primarily due to the combination of regional feature and headlining comedians who were often in town at the tail end of club gigs with local comedians. It became a real staple of the Broad Ripple area, and will be sorely missed. In fact a documentary of its run (June 2011-December 2013) is in the works. However, Rocketship Comedy is looking forward has moved the successful Sunday night format to Sabbatical. Best of luck to O’Connor and Rocketship Comedy in their new home!

Limestone Comedy Festival Taking Submissions
Bloomington’s Limestone Comedy Festival is taking submissions for its second year. The submission window is open through March 21. Submit by Feb 28 for the reduced fee of $25 ($40 if submitted in March). The festival runs from May 29-31.

Southside Indianapolis has Dearth of Comedy
Long gone are the days of the strong south side rooms such as The Gas Light and The Goldmine whose longtime rooms were dropped and temporary revivals have long fizzled out. 2013 had a handful of attempts to bring comedy to the southern part of the city including a brief run at Mucky Ducks on Southport. The most promising attempt at a south side presence was the Wednesday night show at Rehab Bar and Grill/Mikeys. The show, although well-liked by management, was shut down due to the more profitable darts competitions. I am hopeful that more shows will be attempted on the south side of Indianapolis because there is less saturation of comedy in the southern half of the city.

Comedy in Crawfordsville Expands Brand with The Play-InContest
Comedy in Crawfordsville has taken off as a brand in West Central Indiana with regular shows in Crawfordsville, IN and its “Invasion” Shows hitting small neighboring towns. Started in Aug of 2012 by local comedian Neil Snyder, the brand stays strong with pre-booked open mics and shows in the centrally located shows and then pre-booked shows for the invasion circuit. 2013 saw the expansion of the brand into The Play-In Contest where comedians vie for a paid feature spot in the Comedy in Crawfordsville series. Season Two of the Play-In just began running this month. 

Muncie Show Rebrands Successfully 
After The Comedy Moshpit's relationship soured with Be Here Now in spring of 2013, the show was re-branded as Laughterhouse Five at Valhalla and launched its new incarnation by the end of the summer. The show is a combination of pre-booked open mic and special event shows. The room has even hosted big names like Doug Stanhope as well as quirky special events with wrestlers.

Evansville Open Mic Well Received
Evansville, IN is home to Joke Factory Comedy Club and a handful of open mics. Local comic, Dustin Matteson, decided there should be more stage options for the local talent. The open mic debut was well received at The Bokeh Lounge despite sub-zero temperatures. The Bokeh Lounge is picking up the open mic as a regular event and the next one will likely be in February.

Otto’s Funhouse—the last bastion of truly open mic comedy?
I’ve been maintaining the Hoosier Comedy Calendar since 2011, and one of the changes I’ve seen in the homegrown shows is the gradual replacement of open mic rooms to pre-booked open mic or purely pre-booked rooms. The change is not terribly surprising as pure open mic rooms often leave the booker at the mercy of whoever decides to show up on that particular night to perform. It can create problems filling the allotted time or providing the audience with enough value to the show to maintain it. Another issue is that over time there will be a pack of comedians frequenting the same room over and over which can exhaust an audience to hear the same jokes over and over. Bookers have sought to aid this issue by pre-booking the room with at least one featured performer to provide value to the show and then hand picking the ‘open micers’ based on reliability, professionalism and value of their performance. This increases the odds of the room’s survival, but can make it harder for noobs to get their stage time and develop as a performer. They need a place to practice (and suck). Thankfully, Indianapolis still has Otto’s Funhouse to rely on for a pure open stage. Anyone who shows up gets 10 minutes or three songs depending on what their act is. Monday night is often the deadest night for bars and restaurants which is why they often put open mics on those nights in an attempt to draw more people during that slow time. I could fill a book with the number of Monday night open mics that have come and gone in the last five years. Otto’s has outlasted them all going on its 12th year this spring. The main reason is due to the owner (Dave) genuinely supports local performers. Another highlight is the absolute freedom of the room to really do and say whatever you want. The room is often frequented by comedians, but also has bands, singer-songwriters and poets take the stage as well.The show is the third Monday of the month.