Posts Tagged ‘Steve Hofstetter’

Borrowing From Broadway

April 17, 2013

Tuesday April 16th, 2013 – Hoffman Estates, IL

   As unimportant as it may seem, I want to be known for something positive after I’m dead. It’s difficult to be known for anything after one is dead, and that’s why I want to do it. It means there has been effective work done somewhere along the line, and future generations benefit from it.

  Laurel and Hardy, The Three Stooges and Buster Keaton are perfect examples. I used to watch their work with my grandpa when I was a kid, and we both laughed uproariously. I have pleasant memories to this day because of them, and most of them were dead before I was born. They gave millions pleasure while they were alive, and millions more after they died. That’s true success.

   I don’t know if I can do that, but it sure is a noble goal. I think I’m on or close to the right track at least a little, and I intend to keep working for as long as I’m breathing. It will end soon enough anyway, so why not shoot for the moon and beyond? Making a difference would make me proud.

   Right now, the project at the top of my mind is ‘Schlitz Happened!’ That may well be what I’m known for if anything, so I want to knock it out of the park and make it a high quality product for years to come. It may only be enjoyed by a select few, but I want those people to love it dearly.

   I’ve been doing my due diligence to improve myself on every level of late. Meeting in Atlanta with James Gregory and taking Steve Hofstetter’s business seminar really inspired me to take my level of business up a notch, and today I met with my friend Todd Hunt to continue that process.

   I always learn from Todd, as he’s one of the top marketers I know along with James, Steve and precious few others. There is major skill required to be a top marketer, but it also involves a well executed plan and a lot of plain old hard work. James, Steve and Todd have all done it correctly.

   Not only that, they’ve all done it in different areas. James works comedy clubs and theatres for the most part, while Steve works colleges and comedy clubs. I doubt if any of James’ fans have a clue as to who Steve is, and vice versa. And I’d bet none of any of those fans would know Todd.

   Todd isn’t even a comedian. He’s a ‘business speaker’, which isn’t the same as a ‘motivational speaker’, and neither of the two have a ‘circuit’. Todd has to dig up jobs one at a time, but he has done it successfully for years and continues to grind out his marketing plan on a consistent basis.

   I would bet 95% of his business or higher comes from his relentless cold calling, sending flyers and mailers and constantly shaking the trees of human resource people nationwide. If I had to do what Todd does to get work, I’d be out of business in a week. He really knows what he’s doing.

   Not only that, he’s a huge fan of Broadway shows. How does that help me? Well, he’s into that world like I’m into sports, and he has a working knowledge of the entire culture. I am completely clueless to that subject, but it doesn’t mean I can’t learn from it. Todd explained a lot of how that game works, and I listened intently trying to pick out anything that can help me with my project.

   Todd is also really good at making critiques and suggestions, and was kind enough to offer his input on the shows I’ve already done. I will listen to what he says, and incorporate the things I’m able to use to keep the show constantly improving both onstage and business wise. He gave me a one on one seminar just like James Gregory did, and I am grateful to have friends that are willing to offer help. I’ve always tried to be that way myself, but when it comes back it feels fantastic.  

Smart Business

April 8, 2013

Sunday April 7th, 2013 – Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

   Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest, but not in my busy world. I had a comedy class to teach at Zanies in Chicago this afternoon, and then ‘The Mothership Connection’ radio show tonight at 8pm on AM 1050 WLIP. I love doing both of those things, but my mind was focused on Schlitz.

   I’m thrilled with how the opening night went, and all of my energy needs to be centered on this for at least the rest of the run. I’ve been notorious for not being focused and other bad habits, but it doesn’t mean I have to repeat the pattern. This is my chance to do things right, and I intend to.

   The main thing I know I need to change is my attitude toward the actual show. I’ve been such a stickler for the onstage content throughout my life, I’ve missed out on several giant opportunities I totally should have gotten. That’s not going to happen this time. I’ve got a much clearer vision.

   The truth is, the public doesn’t care anywhere close to how much I do about how any particular show happens to go. They’re MUCH more forgiving than I’ll ever be should I happen to forget a joke or do something out of the intended order. The only one who cares is me. I have the power.

   This is something I’ve had problems with for a long time, and have seen others succumb to as well. I have come off stage countless times to thunderous applause, only to pick apart what went wrong with the set I just did that the crowd loved. They loved it, but I didn’t. That’s acceptable.

   It’s only a problem if it’s the other way around. I’ve seen performers with an exaggerated view of their own abilities, and they think they’re superstars when in fact the audience sees them a lot differently. I’ve never had that problem, and I hope I never do. I’m about constantly improving.

   There’s a fine line of how much energy to devote to the actual show versus the business, and I feel I’m right on track with this project. I’m glad I went to Atlanta last week and got to see things from the perspectives of excellent business minds like Steve Hofstetter and James Gregory. They are both light years ahead of me when it comes to handling their business, but I’m catching up.

   This is going to be a fantastic opportunity for me to implement what I learned, but also harvest the decades of hard work I spent out on the road learning to be a performer. I nailed those shows on Saturday as far as the audience was concerned, even though in my head I know I can make it better by leaps and bounds. I intend to do exactly that, and it will grow organically in due time.

   The old me would have looked for a small venue to do this and piece together a masterpiece of a product over years of struggle. WRONG. I did that with my standup act and am nowhere close to getting the results I hoped for. That was the wrong way to do it, and I won’t repeat that error.

   Getting on the big stage and working out the bugs is the way to go, and I’ve got three weeks of work ahead that I’m really going to focus on. These next six shows will all be better than the last, and by the end of the month I hope to have another run scheduled so I can keep it all rolling.

   I love working at the Northern Lights Theatre, and hope to continue. If the numbers keep up at the rate they were last week, I believe I will. Still, that was only one week. Now word has to get out, and it will take time for it to take root. All I can do is keep working to improve, and I will have a kick ass show to deliver for anyone who decides to take a chance and come out. I can feel myself being much more mature than I’ve ever been, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

A Journeyman’s Journey

April 3, 2013

Sunday March 31st, 2013 – Atlanta, GA/Chicago, IL

   Time to head home. This week was a fun and productive experience even though I didn’t make a nickel, and I’m glad I came. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Atlanta. It’s a super city, but I’d not been here in years. I worked here regularly when I started, and I’d love to return again often.

I’m very much a big city person, but that’s not always where the money is in comedy. There is a lot going on at any one time in a big city from sporting events to concerts to even other comedy shows, and it’s difficult to stand out and be noticed. Playing the sticks is much smarter business.

In a perfect world, I’d work the road once a month in cities like Atlanta, Houston, Denver, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Kansas City. Those are twelve towns I’ve either worked before or would like to work my way in.

I’d love to be able to hop on a plane once a month and go do shows in any of those places, then come home on Sunday with a check that has a comma in it. There are a few comics that have that kind of a draw like say a Brian Regan, and it sounds like a fantastic way to make a dream living.

For a long time, Tommy Chong was in that category. He had enough of a draw everywhere that he could pretty much sell out four shows at a comedy club in any major city, and then sell t-shirts on top of that. He could work the road as much as he wanted to, and for years he did exactly that.

The road is a lot less brutal when you’re flying first class and staying in hotels that don’t have a number or an animal in their name. Trying to nod off at the ‘Sleepy Squirrel Motor Lodge’ while some boozed up ex-convict biker is cooking a fresh batch of meth in the tub next door isn’t fun.

I learned a lot this week, but one of the things I already knew was that I need to become a draw SOMEWHERE. After all these years of knocking around, I’m still a journeyman with little to no clout when it comes to putting fannies in seats. That’s a major kick to the balls of anybody’s ego, but truth is truth. There are a lot of guys like me out there, but if we can’t sell tickets who cares?

This was a great week to get myself started in doing exactly that. Steve Hofstetter put together an outstanding seminar that changed my whole way of thinking, as did my great visit with James Gregory. Both of those guys are world class business people, even though they’re aiming for two completely different audiences. Steve is a huge college act, while James now focuses on theatres.

As for me, I’m going to start where I started – at least for now. I’m going to put all I have into the next four Saturdays doing the ‘Schlitz Happened!’ shows in Milwaukee. I’m at a great venue that’s behind me and wants this to work. What I learned in Atlanta this week will serve me well.

I did get a chance to stop on my way out of town and have dinner at my friend Darryl Rhoades’ house. He’s a world class cook and made us THE best lasagna I’ve ever eaten. His wife Suzanne and he are vegetarians, and they take pride in their cooking. Jacob Williams and I enjoyed every bite as we got ready for our twelve hour drive northward. I am in a wonderful space right now.

Off Stage Overhaul

March 31, 2013

Friday March 29th, 2013 – Atlanta, GA

   Well, it’s a good thing I’m in such a good mindset because I won’t be winning the contest here at Laughing Skull Festival. While it would have been nice to advance, I’m not upset. There were seven Chicago comedians in the contest that had over sixty entrants, and not one of us made it to the second round. Coincidence? Conspiracy? It doesn’t matter even if it was. We didn’t make it.

Some of the other comics were rather miffed, but I’ve been around long enough to know that a contest of any kind that involves subjective judging of artistic talent is about as easy to predict as which rapper will get shot next. It could be anyone at any time for any reason. There’s no logic.

I came here to showcase myself in a five minute set, and that’s exactly what I did. I thought my set was very representative of what I do on stage, and it was in front of about fifty people off the streets of Atlanta who had never seen me before. I was mixed in with eleven other acts and all of us were trying to get the attention of three judges who like what they like. It’s not complicated.

On this night in this crowd in front of these judges, I was not one of the four finalists the judges liked based on their set of parameters – whatever that may include. I’m not bitter, angry or upset at anyone and I wish the comics who won all the best. There are a lot of really nice people with a lot of talent in this festival and my fingers are crossed that the best person wins and gets noticed.

Just because I didn’t win the contest doesn’t mean this was a wasted trip. On the contrary, there were a pair of useful info packed seminars this afternoon that made it worth coming. I was blown away by the presentation Steve Hofstetter made about the business of comedy. Steve is in charge of the festival, and I’m rapidly becoming a fanatical fan. This guy is on the ball and then some.

Tom Sobel in Louisville is a booker I’ve always liked and respected, and he told me how much respect he had for Steve Hofstetter. He told me I’d be impressed with both Steve’s comedy chops and his business acumen, and he wasn’t kidding. I haven’t seen his act yet, but if it’s half as good as his offstage methods he’s going to be a superstar. I shut my mouth and soaked in what he said.

I’m not sure how many of the other comics attending appreciated it, but I surely did. He threw out some fantastic ideas, and I need to implement a whole lot of them in my own presentation if I ever intend to move ahead in the business. I’ve got work to do, but that’s ok. That’s why I came.

Tonight I did two sets at two very different venues. One was at an alternative rock stage called ‘529’ and the other was at the Atlanta Improv. Both sets were solid, and I enjoyed watching a lot of other acts I hadn’t seen before. The vibe was very supportive, and we all got along all night.

I know my business is severely lacking compared to where my show is, and although it’s never pleasant to admit a fault I freely do so I can find a way to improve. I’m going to implement a lot of what I’ve learned here as soon as I get back and I know I’ll show major improvement within a short time. Tomorrow I have a huge treat. I get to meet with master marketer James Gregory, aka ‘The Funniest Man In America’. James has kindly offered his expertise and I’ll gratefully listen.