This Ain’t No Sex Tape

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Many comedians share the same personality traits, regardless whether or not you’re in Los Angeles or Saskatoon.

We have this inherent need to be liked, loved, or this need to seek approval from large groups of people. We aren’t the most confident bunch and we fail lots.  Most importantly, once a comedian figures out how to write once they find their voice, they have the unique ability to take any situation in life, whether it be personal or something in the world and put a unique comedic slant on it.

The other characteristic that most comedians around these parts (at least) share is an interesting one. Most of them don’t like to be taped. Most won’t record themselves either.

I have had a few comedians give me grief, nervously inquiring if I plan on taking them. I’m glad to do it, but they always say no.

I was told by a pro who came through the city a few years back that he always records the audio on his phone of his sets. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good idea in theory, but it is kind of a waste. I will outline the reasons why every comedian, if they take stand-up seriously, should record every set with a camcorder or phone.

1.  It builds trust with those who follow you.  Think about this. Irish Steve once told me of gigs he did in Edmonton and at The Capitol. He told me he killed them. I said “how do you know? According to whom?”  At the end of the day, lots of times the audience can blow smoke up a comedians ass in assessing their show. The video doesn’t lie. Ever. Putting up shows where maybe you didn’t quite hit the mark, and mixing in some of your better videos to post, will build credibility with your audience. Sometimes you’ll find a comedian to be more authentic on stage during the tough sets. That will breed credibility and respect.

2.  It is the best way to build and promote your brand.  Say somebody contacts you to do a corporate gig, a paid club show or a fundraiser. The booker has kind of heard about you but hasn’t seen what you do. What are you going to show them? A bunch of clever tweets that made it into your material? If the person booking the act doesn’t have the time to come see you live, then you need a video of your set.

3.  You will get instant feedback on your body language.  For some jokes that require an act-outs, comics will practice their routines in front of a mirror. You shouldn’t just stand in one spot and tell jokes. Look at the performers on Just For Laughs, for example. Sire, it’s a bigger stage but you notice they don’t stand still very often. They are animated through their set, or they will walk around from one end of the stage to the other. Often times I will turn the sound off on my sets and just watch the body language. I’d say there are only a few comics that move around on stage and get a bit animated when doing material. I’m one of them. I have to be otherwise my legs might start shaking or get nervous. Keeping moving is a good way to stay relaxed.

4.  You will tell not only which jokes get laughs, but WHEN and WHERE those laughs are coming from, if any. I must admit that I don’t often hear the other comics really laugh at my material. Last Sunday night I probably had one of the top three sets I’ve ever done. Certainly it was the best of 2017 so far. Standing at the front of the stage you hear the laughs, but at times I couldn’t tell where the laughs specifically were coming from. With the spotlight on your face you can’t see the audience, so lots of times I will pause in the material not only for timing sake, but to hear where the laughs are coming from. Then, when I got home and watched the video I found something rather empowering and surprising. Not only could I identify what parts of the room were laughing, I also found that the comedians, the majority of them were laughing. With the camcorder set up at the back.of the room in the middle, it gave a true reflection of how I did. It’s easier to hear the laughter from the room on tape because on stage you just hear laughs but can’t really see or hear exactly where they come from.

5.  You can tell the effectiveness of your opening joke.  The opening joke lots of times sets the stage for your set. It should be short and get a laugh. I remember my comedy coach telling me in the video interview he did, that you shouldn’t do new stuff at the start. Do the tried and true at the beginning. New stuff in the middle, then the tries and true in the end for your closer. With me and my style, the audience has told me what I am. There is a certain type of opener that I have to do, not only to establish credibility with the audience, but to get some air underneath my sets wings. If you can get a real good laugh from your opener, it will make the rest of your material pop that much more. If you don’t believe me, check out my video from last Sunday. My opener probably got the best reaction of any joke, and it set the stage for a consistent set.

6.  It could help you with hecklers.  Fortunately we don’t have many at shows in Saskatchewan. Usually hecklers just want to feel like they are a part of the show, not necessarily to beak at the comic on stage. I have had a couple times where an audience member said something or whistled, and it turned out awkward for me. I didn’t capitalize on that moment and ended up saying something that didn’t fit. So what my comedy coach suggested was to write down from the video what that person said or did. Then write heckle comebacks. For me at least, I came up with several sizzling lines albeit after the fact. Most times I don’t have the ability to think of something effective on the spot like that. Running karaoke and putting people in their place was easy because they were there for the music. I’m not expected to be funny, so it helped me relax and be able to come up with things on the fly. Hopefully, the more comfortable I get on stage, the better I’ll come up with stuff on the fly. Or else remember all the heckle comebacks that I wrote.

7.  Have you no pride?  When you watch yourself on tape, you should be proud of what you are doing. Studies show that more people fear public speaking rather than death!  I’ve found the loudest critics are the ones who can’t or won’t try stand-up at all. I have one of the largest amounts of videos online. Why? Well, because it shows my journey.  It shows vulnerability too. I mean, how many comics do you know that will put up videos of sets that don’t go so well? I’m the only one, far as I can tell.

Be proud of who you are and confident in your identity. When somebody asks what I do, I really them that I do comedy. It’s only been within the last few months I’ve been able to confidently proclaim that. I used to be ashamed of it. Not because I didn’t take comedy seriously, but because I was ashamed of who I was. Now, I have almost a dozen videos on line, with a current website and I believe I cut the widest swath for Saskatchewan comedians on social media.

The audience judges you with their laughter. I would think that’s way more harsh than a comedian judging themselves on video, right? Taping every set will help you get better. You don’t need to release every video online, but videotaping should be a part of your sets. I would be happy to record any comedians set to send to them.

Now, I’d love to stay and write some more, but I need to get my sleep. I am volunteering at the Friendship Inn for the rest of the week…..hey, okay it’s for the fine option program but I am registered as a volunteer too. Plus they feed you breakfast and lunch. It’s a great way to give back to the community, make some great friends and save you the money of having to pay traffic tickets.

Then, come Monday morning I get to start my new full-time job, the first one I’ve had in 14 months (no, I don’t count the three weeks in Feb./March I wasted with an employer before being thrown under the bus).

Now that I will be working out of town and more than likely six days a week, the blog posts might not be as frequent. Maybe I won’t be churning out the new ideas with the fervour I once did.

But that’s okay. I’m Trevor Dean. Employee, gardener, member of Faith Alive Church, volunteer at the Friendship Inn, Dodger fan, great singer and student of The Stand-Up Comedy Clinic.

It has taken years to finally be proud of who I have become. I’ve stayed true to myself through these five plus years in comedy. Just ask those who know me best.

 

2 Comments

  1. Douglas Ferntree
    Jun 18, 2017

    I don’t think most comedians need to be liked, loved or feel the need to seek approval. I also don’t think most of them lack confidence. I think that you are mistakenly projecting your own personal traits onto a wider spectrum of comics.

    • Trevor Dean
      Jun 18, 2017

      I said that comment about comedians because that’s what I learned from studying comedy. Their need to be liked and seeking approval may have been more true back in the day when comedians started. If you watch documentaries about comedy you’ll see that I’m not far off. Plus, once you start comedy eventually you keep going with it because you seek that approval.

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