I usually spend a lot of time, when I do write about comedy, complaining or critiquing aspects of the business, whether it is bookers, managers, clubs, or monolithic groups of comedians. But I realized it is not just them making comedy more difficult, it is regular people and everyday individual comedians who make this such an annoying journey at times, even if they don't intend to. So, inspired by the "Broken Windows" theory of crime prevention, which theorizes that swarming and fixing little problems will lower overall crime, I present the "Broken Compliments and Questions About Comedy" theory on making comedians, who are struggling in the increasingly weakening middle class of comedy, happier day-to-day. Obviously these are my own personal theories, but I doubt I am the only one for whom these will resonate. Some of these apply to fellow comedians and some apply to regular folk. Enjoy:
1) Re-Tweet, don't Favorite. And don't email or direct message me that I am funny. I am a reluctant abuser of social media. If I did something else I would avoid it, but it is a part of entertainment so I try to immerse myself in it. But the reward is very simple -- if someone likes something, share it. That is how I can advance my reach and audience. Treating my material like a black guy that a white girl secretly dated in college is helpful to no one. I am sure there is some benefit to favoriting. I just don't care.
2) Don't ask me about how my comedy is going. But if you do, definitely don't refer to it as "my comedy thing/skits/sketch/hobby." If you think it is so trivial then don't ask about it. But if you are actually curious then speak of it like it is a career or a job. No one ever asked me how the "legal thing" was going when I was a practicing lawyer.
3) Don't tell me about your friend who is hilarious unless they are a comedian. Otherwise you are insulting and degrading what I have sacrificed to be skilled at what I do. I was the funny asshole at the cafeteria table and have been since I was 10. But now I make strangers laugh and have done so with an economically crushing, relationship harming, career risking, trial and error process. So your friend can go fu*k himself.
4) Don't say you want to go to a show or to let you know when I am in town unless you mean it. You owe me nothing. I mean it. I am doing comedy whether you support it or not. It is like a story I shared from a couple of years ago. A decently connected manager was very interested in working with me to find a way to publicize my Obama impression. We met several times over several months and then he told me that he decided not to commit to it. The lesson -- don't say anything unless you've made the decision to act, not just because you think you might act. That way expectations are not raised. Simple and thoughtful. If I don't know, then I can't care.
5) If a joke goes up on Facebook, "Like" it -- don't just piggyback on the joke. There are a few egregious offenders of this -- the person that never acknowledges a good joke, but then just takes the 95% of thought that the writer created and then simply attempts to add to it. If you like a joke, like it. If you don't ignore it. But if someone beat you to a concept, don't try to pull yourself up by their bootstrap.
6) Try to make famous people work for it on social media. Comedians and civilians alike -- try not to kiss too much ass, especially of funny people, unless they are actually being funny. They do not care about you or how many times you suck their Twitter di*k.
7) Don't ask me why I don't have an agent or a manager. It is not by choice. I don't want to be a struggling freelance unknown, unappreciated comedian. And to answer your follow up, yes, my career would be easier if I had people booking me for shows and auditions and gigs. Why hadn't I thought of that before?
8 ) If you do nothing do not ask me to follow you on Twitter. I will follow friends and fellow comedians that I like either personally (which pains me because sometimes I feel like I am giving positive reinforcement to a mediocre product) or professionally, but every so often a person from a show will ask for a "follow back." Why? Did you just travel 1,000 miles to entertain me with your writing and performance and I will receive more of that? OR are you just someone who tweets random personal thoughts and opinions with way too many pronouns, which make even your mundane thoughts hard to process ("This book is great!" -- what fu*king book?!!!). But thank you for equating my career of making people laugh and trying to build a fan base that will purchase tickets to see me and raise my minuscule profile with your desire to brag to your friends about how many people checked our your twitpic of your salad at Panera Bread.
J-L's new Album Too Big To Fail is available for free to download from www.JLCauvin.com until April 30th.
Follow J-L Cauvin on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JLCauvin