Seminar: “How to Succeed in Today’s Comedy Climate”

Posted: June 22, 2010 in Comedy, Seminars
Tags: , , , , , ,

June 4th, 2009

Thanks to my weekly e-mails from Pudge, I found out about a free seminar at Gotham Comedy Club called, “How to Succeed in Today’s Comedy Climate.” With plenty for me to learn and the reasonable price of nothing, I was in.

I filed into the three-thousand square foot showroom at Gotham, filled with other helpless amateur comedians. I searched for a familiar, and preferably, friendly face like I was looking for a table to sit at for lunch in high school. It was relieving to spot Pudge in the middle of the slightly raised mezzanine-type area. I promptly joined him at his table.

Looking around, I noticed a lot of people I thought I knew. I couldn’t remember names, who was cool/nice and who was lame/a dickhead, or who was funny and who sucked. The scene looked like a montage of the open mics and bringer shows I had done in my short comedy life. Of course, the people who put the “strange” in strangers were littered in position right front-and-center around the stage. I predicted the average annual income in the room was thirty-thousand dollars. Possibly less. And by “possibly”, I mean “probably.”

Club co-owner Chris Mazzilli sat on the stage, accompanied by the pride and joy of Gotham Comedy Club, Jessica Kirson and a woman from a talent agency.

Chris Mazzilli introduced himself and his protege before spending a few minutes to brag of their achievements. This seemed unnecessary to me since it was pretty damn clear that they were both in a much better position than most in the room.

Mazzilli started a club because he was embittered with how comedians were treated and felt he knew a better way to manage talent. As an added bonus, he has a lot of successful friends that have hooked him up with competitive advantages to make his club a valuable asset for finding talent. I mean, comedy shows are filmed there, he’s got a good thing going. This I already knew. Self-promotion is great and everything, but I was there for the secret code to comedy success.

After they concluded the introduction/What Gotham is About & Why Gotham is Different segment of the program, Chris and Jessica stumbled to find an actual direction of the seminar. Clearly winging it, the two quickly opened up the floor to questions.

What we were supposed to ask about was not addressed. A heard of lost comedians were given the reigns to inquire anything their hearts desired about the world of humor and its impenetrable borders to a successful comedy club owner and professional comedian. This could only be bad.

The questions covered all angles of hideous. Some questions were straight up Mazzilli’s ass:

“How come Gotham is the only club in the city that offers a free open mic?”

“Mr. Mazzilli, how is it that you own a comedy club, but still have time to review videos comedians send you with such helpful constructive criticism?”

“Jessica, I have a two-part question for you. How have you gotten such a great reputation for wonderful, personalized classes so quickly, and when are your next comedy classes?”

Chris and Jessica took turns responding. “It’s about growing relationships with a club, possibly here,” Chris advised. Jessica went on to explain how important it is as a comedian to be professional and treat the employees at the club kindly by tipping for drinks and not being an asshole. Enlightening information. Truly groundbreaking, insider knowledge being passed out here.

More ridiculous questions were directed to the stage.

“Am I too old?” Some middle-aged man asked. Mazzilli replied with a comment on how age doesn’t matter. You just have to be funny.

“Am I too ugly?” Yes, I thought. But it doesn’t matter. You just have to be funny.

“What should I wear?” It should go with your act/character/point of view, but it doesn’t really matter. You just have to be funny.

The stupid questions continued. A comic asked why bringer shows exist. Um, so the clubs can bring in customers who spend money. Come on now, don’t waste the resources with this crap. How could these people expect to succeed in comedy if they were brain-dead? Ugh/bleh. I was losing the patience I never had in the first place.

I had to try to get something meaningful out of this. Evaluating the situation, I figured if I asked a funny question, I could at least make an impression on a comedy club owner. I raised my hand, stood up and delivered my question to Chris Mazzilli. “If someone like me, were to sleep with someone like you, how much stage time would I get?” The crowd erupted in a laughter that lifted my spirit.

Unfortunately, Mazzilli seemed to take it as a legitimate question, not a joke. “That’s not how this operation runs,” he replied.

“But you said we should build relationships,” I tagged to another round of chuckles.

Mazzilli didn’t seem to know how to respond. I may have thrown him off by shifting the mood away from seriousness.

By the end of the seminar, my notebook only had one comment in it: “Don’t tell people how long you’ve been doing comedy. If it’s less than 2-4 years, no one will respect you, they will say you need to pay your dues. If it’s more than 4-5 years, people may think that you should’ve made it by this point, so if you haven’t, you probably aren’t very good.”

The seminar concluded and the party broke up. Several people stopped me to compliment my humorous inquiry. My plan worked in that I had killed in one regard, but I had failed in that I hadn’t left a favorable first impression on Chris Mazzilli.

Surely, he’d forget all about. He was a busy man who saw god-knows-how-many-comedians over insert-some-short-period-of-time. In an attempt to get over it, I told myself I’d have another chance some other time to make a good impression on him.

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