Red Flag Rising

Sunday May 23rd, 2010 – Chicago, IL

There’s a red flag flying sky high. Time to knuckle down and work even harder. I was asked to be part of a panel discussion at a comedy seminar held in Chicago this weekend called ‘The Inside Joke – 2010’. It was a venture by a local guy named Nate Baumgart.

Events like this are never easy to pull off, so kudos to Nate for even attempting to do it. I did one several years ago at Zanies, and it was all kinds of work to get it up and running. I don’t mind work at all, but these events require a lot of things that try one‘s patience.

Who can predict what can draw enough interest to get someone to attend a seminar? It’s a crapshoot, and advertising is not and never was cheap. It’s a little easier now with social networking, but it’s still not easy to get multiple butts out to fill up seats for any reason.

I thought Nate did a very commendable job attracting people from all areas of Chicago comedy even though the turnout was rather sparse. He had some top level people from the improv and standup scene, and if anyone was interested in learning they should have been there shaking hands and kissing babies. Nate kept the admission price ridiculously low.

If I’m not mistaken, each session was able to be attended for only a buck, and it was $5 for the weekend. That’s insane. We charged $350 for the weekend for the seminar we did at Zanies and we still didn’t turn a profit. We used the money to cover all of our expenses and advertising, and that ate it up quickly. We also had to purchase an insurance policy.

I don’t know what Nate’s expenses were, but I hope he didn’t lose his shorts. I don’t see how he couldn’t have, but that’s not my business. My business was to make comments on a panel about standup comedy that included Bert Haas from Zanies, Chris Ritter – the guy who used to own the Lakeshore Theatre, and comics Bill Gorgo and Cameron Esposito.

There were a lot of disagreements about a lot of topics, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I found disturbing was that nobody was there to see it. There are a whole lot of aspiring performers of all kinds in Chicago, and this is an event that should’ve been a waiting list only kind of thing. It was a great chance to pick the brains of some veterans.

I hope the business isn’t passing me by, but I’m in a dangerously close place where that could easily happen. I heard some names talked about by the panel I have never heard of, and I’m supposed to be in the business. That’s a huge red flag, and I need to fix it quickly.

The whole comedy game is changing, much like life itself. It used to be that everybody in comedy knew or at least had heard of everyone else. Now, there are people I’ve never heard of that are signing movie deals. I guess I should pay more attention to the internet.

I’m not really one for chat rooms or message boards or all the other things most comics need to know these days. It’s all evolving there, and if I don’t catch up and learn who’s on top of it I’m SO dead in the water. This was a wakeup call. I need to get better yesterday.


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