How I Grew My YouTube Following

When I’m in Turkey there’s a barber I like to pop into in the coastal town of Kusadasi. He gives me what, in Turkey, I call “the standard”: haircut, shave, arm, hand, neck, ear, temple massage and wraps it all up my setting fire to stray clippings on my face and neck with an open flame.

This time, however, my wife videotaped the affair – I use the word advisedly – and as you can see he couldn’t resist giving me a little extra business. Anyway, I posted it to YouTube and it began spreading quite quickly – several thousand views right off the bat – and as of this writing is at around 40,000 views.

This is not the only humorous clip on my YouTube channel – I am a comedian after all – but the speed with which this clip spread was an order of magnitude faster than any of my others. I checked out Youtube’s handy analytics and quickly discovered the source of its popularity: someone had posted it to a fetish website catering to – I’m going out on a limb here – men who enjoy other men being tickled.

So my advice for success on YouTube is, unlike my Turkish barber, is to forget “playing to the balcony” and seek out a niche audience – kids obsessed with Star Wars, housewives aching for cute cat videos, men who crave to see other men being tickled with varying degrees of permission – and let them spread the good word for you.

How To Ruin Your Event

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Screen Shot 2013-02-18 at 11.21.34 AMThere’s lots of ways to ruin an event. Let’s talk about ruining the entertainment portion, especially if you have gone with comedy.

With any type of live entertainment there is a relationship between the audience and the performer. And nowhere is this more pronounced than with comedy entertainment which, when performed at the highest level, is much more like a dialogue than a monologue. The audience might be able to chat amongst themselves and still enjoy a rock band, but not so with, say stand-up: to be successful the craft requires an audience that is totally engaged.

A professional, experienced and talented comedian knows when an audience isn’t with her and will prattle, prod and engage an audience until she knows they are focused and only then will he get to the heart of her act and the business of making them laugh.

But how, you may ask, can I make a comedy entertainer’s job as difficult as possible?

Let’s say you’re a professional event planner or someone who is otherwise responsible for planning an event for your company. You’ve done your homework and found an comedian who is accomplished, a pleasure to work with and perfectly suits your needs. Now the question is, what can you do to thwart this his remarkable talents and years of experience and make everyone in attendance uncomfortable at the same time?

Here are a few simple things you can do to ensure that the delicate, essential bond between an audience and a comedian is tenuous at best or, better yet, never established in the first place.

Schedule The Entertainer Immediately After A Break

The room is pumped. The most-popular, hardest-working guy or gal in the company has just received his well-deserved award from the CEO and the energy in the room is at its peak. Whatever you do, don’t harness the audience’s energy by immediately introducing to the stage the entertainer you’ve budgeted a sizable sum to procure. Instead, have the CEO, emcee or whoever has the floor to announce a break “of about 15 minutes”. That should be enough time for the room to deflate, the energy vanish and allow the stragglers to head back into the room and settle into their seats while chatting with their fellow fellow employees about golf plans for the following weekend.

Seat The Audience At Round Banquet Tables

For the love of God, you’re not going to ensure that all the seats in the audience are facing the stage, are you? No, no, no. When an entertainer walks on stage you want roughly half the audience facing the back of the room. That way more people will be able to tell when the line for the open bar is down to only a few people. You might also consider leaving the doors in the back of the room open, allowing those seated with their backs to the stage to “people watch” the smokers, stragglers and maybe even catch a glimpse of that woman from the coat check with the ineffable aura about her. Ideally, you want these people who face the back of the room to be completely unaware of what is going on on the stage. Think muzak.

Serve Food During The Show

When a world-class comedy entertainer and a mediocre salad go head to head, the salad wins every time. Anything requiring utensils is best – after all, people are capable of enjoying a comedian with finger food like popcorn just as they are capable of enjoying a movie. Of course, it never hurts to have hard-working servers bustling from table to table pouring water, grinding pepper and sending that steak back to the kitchen until it’s done right.

Arrange For A Large, Empty Space Between The Stage And The Front Row

Nothing is more conducive to an attentive, engaged audience like seating them as close to the stage as possible. There’s an intimacy to this seating arrangement that mimics the openness and rapport of an private conversation. This is why you want a large empty space surrounding the stage. Many venues place a small stage against the wall of a large banquet hall and surround it with a large, empty dance floor: this is the ideal way to ensure your money and reputation go to waste. Nothing sends the the audience the signal “You have nothing to do with this performance” quite like seating everyone no less than a metric mile of the edge of the stage. This way audience members can chat with each other throughout the show while feeling – wrongly – that it has no impact on the overall performance.

The above are just a few basic, feng-shui examples of how to ruin the entertainment portion of your event. The truth is, there are almost as many ways to ruin it as there are second-rate entertainers to ruin it for you.

Do you know other ways to ensure that entertaining at your event is as uphill a battle as possible?

On German Cops Trying – And Failing – To Give Me A Ticket On My Bike

I was riding my bike to the hardware store about 20minutes from our home in Germany. It was a sunny afternoon and there was little traffic. After stopping at a quiet intersection, I quickly resumed riding through the red light. Shortly thereafter I looked behind, saw a police car trailing me and knew immediately that I was being pulled over.

I’m good with cops in these situations. I’m 100% cooperative, humble and, most importantly, open: I admit guilt without stint. Doing so has enabled me to get out of tickets about the last six times I’ve been pulled over. This time, however, I felt I would not be so lucky. These guys, I sensed, wanted me to be ticketed.

I had never been pulled over on a bike before. I had never been pulled over outside the U.S. before. Both officers were younger than me – a depressing milestone. They seemed like the type of young men who spend most of their time lifting weights in their parents’ garage then throwing back beer at Germany’s equivalent of Hooters. When the first one stepped out of the car I said (in German) with the ingratiating tone of an experienced comedian: “I can’t speak German very well”. He replied (in German) “You can’t ride a bike very well either!”

He asked me where I live and said “On Kirchstrasse, with my wife”. “Show me your identification.” German authorities never ask questions – they make demands. I showed him my American drivers license. “Do you have something that shows you live at Kirchstrasse?” “No,” I said. Then, “Well, I do at home.”

His partner at this time was sitting in the vehicle with my drivers license and speaking on the phone – lots of back and forth. From the other officer the questions to me continued and I continued to answer. It became apparent that they were having some difficulty.

After about ten or fifteen minutes the other officer exited the car and approached me. “Okay. You will take us to your home to show us a document proving you live at 161b Kirchstrasse.”

“Oh, OK” I said, genuinely surprised and delighted (I suffer from clinical boredom and revel in such detours from the expected). There was a pause. “Um, do we put my bike in your car or do you follow me?” I asked.

“No,” said the cop. “You lock your bike and we drive you to your house.”

“I don’t have a lock” I said.

If things were going badly for these poor fellows before, this, I sensed, might be a knockout blow. The other officer returned to the car and the phone while his partner and I chatted about my background (American, comedian, etc). Another ten minutes passed. Finally, the officer exited the vehicle and they spoke to each other incomprehensibly.

Finally, I was handed back my drivers license and addressed in that scolding tone that suits German particularly well: “You ran a red light and the fine is 100 euros (about $130). Whenever you are in Germany you are required to have a proof of residency on your person at all times. Because you don’t have your proof of residency we must drive you to your home to get it. But because you don’t have a lock on your bike we can’t drive you. In the future you need to have your proof of residency with you at all times and have a lock for your bike. Only by doing so you will be able to receive your 100 euro fine.”

He didn’t really say that last sentence, although he may as well have.

The 10 Worst Jokes I’ve Ever Written

Someone once said “Thank God the audience doesn’t see the first draft.” Well, in today’s blog post you DO get to see the first draft! Some of these efforts are so scatterbrained that to call them “bad jokes” gives them more credit than they deserve. In other words, no premise, no punchline, no problem!

Jerry Seinfeld once characterized a successful joke has helping the audience to cross a deep chasm. If the chasm is too wide – if the connection between the premise and the punchline is too convoluted or complicated- then the audience falls in the chasm and there is no joke. If the chasm is too narrow – if traversing it is too easy – then there is no release, no titillation. The attempts below to get my comedy engine running generally belong to the former: pertinent details are left out, the train of thought can’t be followed and in the end, there is not a bad joke, but no joke.

Forthwith, then, with the 10 worst jokes I’ve ever written.

1 You know where I tend to put on weight? In the bathroom. Clearly I don’t get my best ideas in the bathroom.

Like most husbands, I like to make everything I do sound more manly than it really is. For example, I don’t tell my wife I’m “going fishing”, I tell her I’m going “hunting for fish”. Then I throw in an “Uga! Uga! Me go trout farm!” This isn’t the worst joke I’ve ever written, but it’s completely out of character for me and I can’t imagine pulling this one off in front of a paying audience. Also, for maximum effect I would have to pound my chest and most physical mannerisms beyond removing the microphone from the stand are beyond me. Maybe I can sell it to Robin Williams.

People are very accomodating in Maine. I went to buy a newspaper in Bar Harbor and I didn’t have enough change so they accepted a two Canadian nickels and a Pepperidge Farm cracker. This is clearly a naked and sad attempt to exploit the comedy potential of a punchline that contains both the words “Pepperidge” and “cracker”.

4 I drove from L.A. to New York once. And after so much rural U.S., it’s nice to arrive at a place where there’s all services. This is a joke that I can never seem to make work and yet it keeps popping into my head from time to time. I think the idea is funny, but conveying it into words has eluded me. In my mind I see the Manhattan skyline in the background and a sign that says “Welcome To New York – All Services”. I need a slide show.

5 People like to approach comedians and tell them jokes – no other proffesionals have this problem. Nobody goes up to Wolfgang Puck and says “I’d like you to check out this meatloaf I’ve prepared.” Here we go again. Meatloaf. Puck.This is another “Insert-favorite-comedy-word-here” effort. Lazy!

6 I couldn’t fall asleep last night so I did what I sometimes do when I can’t fall asleep and that is I counted women. I think I got them all, but I still couldn’t fall asleep so I started counting sheep. I think I got them all… Get it? I sleep with sheep!

7 You ever get undressed for bed only to realize you haven’t been wearing pants all day? I guess that’s a guy thing. It’s not a funny thing, either

8 I like to leave little notes in my kids’ school lunches. Nothing profound – just little reminders, like “Lucas, remember that when you’re in math class today, I’ll be at home getting quietly hammered.” Ha ha! Jokes about telling my kids how I drink alone while they’re at school! It works for Ray Romano, right? People eat this stuff up!

9 My wife and I are settling into marriage now. For example, we each have our own side of the bed. Sabine always takes the right side and I always lay across the top. Eeuuww! Inappropriate visual!

10 I was very young when my grandfather past away but I still remember his last words: “I’m pretty sure this isn’t a supporting wall.” I’m pretty sure this isn’t funny joke, either.

If you managed to navigate your way through the less-inspiring entries in my comedy journal, I salute you! You deserve a palate cleanser…

Return to www.daviddeeble.com

8 Tips For Starting Out In Stand-up Comedy

Here are some simple tips for those who wish to try their hand at stand-up comedy.

1: STOP SNUGGLING UP TO THE AUDIENCE

People love to be told how wonderful they are, but they don’t usually find it funny. To the extent that your attitude toward the audience is a factor, contempt is far better than genuflection. Better still that your material be directed outward, without apology, than inward. Be honest – it’s refreshing, funny and the easiest thing to remember.

2: TAKE CHARGE

The audience wants someone to take charge and they want it to be you. Like the pilot of the plane, it helps to look like you know what you’re doing. You should have an air of authority. Think of George Burns and his cigar or Ron White and his glass of bourbon. I always wear a suit onstage – a nice one. And all things being equal, who do you think the audience will side with – a guy in a sharp suit or the guy in the Corona visor and the tribal armband tattoo? Remember, the audience is looking at you far more intensely they are listening to you when you first come onstage. It’s often said that “A haircut and a shoe shine will only take you so far.” True, but at least they start you off in the right direction!

During the zenith of male peacockery – the 1970’s – Steve Martin was relatively subdued in an all-white three-piece suit. Why? He knew that if he looked wild and crazy and acted wild and crazy that he would be like a lot of other comedians. But if he dressed normally and acted wild and crazy, well, then he would stand out (not to mention allowing him to tap into the regular Joe’s dream wish to become the life of the party).

3: NOTHING SHOULD FAZE YOU

What’s the worst thing that can happen onstage? Far from a rhetorical question, it will serve you well to imagine the worst-case scenario taking place on stage and you, the hero, dealing with it with preternatural calm. (In reality the worst thing that usually can happy onstage is a non-functioning microphone). If it’s a highly unusual situation, you don’t even have to be funny: 9 times out of 10 if you’re calm and can still form complete sentences, well, then you da man!

If you wish, write and rehearse some stock lines for commonplace scenarios such as a broken glass, a chatty table or a heckler. Remember, the audience aches for you to take charge.

You might find it useful to recite a simple mantra before you go onstage. I have a handful of different mantras that I sometimes use before a show and one of them is “Nothing fazes me”, which I repeat over and over (I’m pretty sure that’s what a mantra requires). Other mantras I use are “I’m having fun up here” and “My zipper is up”.

4: YOUR VIBE IS CONTAGIOUS

If you’re calm, the audience will be calm. If you’re irrepressible, the audience will be irrepressible. If you’re worried about what your next joke is, so will the audience. Can you fake your demeanor? Of course you can – you do it all the time. If you’re the meditating type, consider doing some before each performance. If you have any doubt about your ability to memorize your material, spend extra time committing it to memory. Do whatever works for you so that moments before you go onstage you can take a deep breath, inhale and tackle your job without looking over your shoulder.

5: TALK ABOUT WHATEVER YOU WANT

One of the nice things about stand-up comedy is that the world is your oyster. Do you really have so much material that you’re going to limit yourself to relationships and Lindsay Lohan? On the other hand, don’t try to stem the tsunami of material you’ve been writing about egg whites. Sure, maybe you risk being pigeonholed as “The Tool Guy” like Tim Allen, for example, but I’ll wager that it’s the kind of pigeonholing most would benefit from. Think of it as your hook!

6: BE VERSATILE BY WORKING BOTH CLEAN AND DIRTY

None of this is mean to persuade those with moral or religious objections to adult humor, but most people understand that versatility is generally a good thing. I hope this doesn’t shock you, but there are decent people in this world who would like to see a show that’s unsuitable for children. In fact, there’s a burgeoning U.S. city unabashedly dedicated to entertainment for grown-ups called Las Vegas. President Reagan even emceed a floor show there for a while. If you are capable of doing stand-up using language and themes that the vast majority of adults use everyday among their peers, don’t be afraid to do so! If you can work both clean and dirty then its’ no different than Starbucks offering both hot and cold coffee, thereby bringing more value to more people. Ka-ching!

I only ask one thing: if you work clean, please don’t engage in that obnoxious form of moral exhibitionism that requires that you point out and celebrate it with the audience, i.e., “In today’s world where so many people feel you have to tell dirty jokes to be funny, it’s so refreshing….”) It’s like carrying a drunk girl to her bed and bragging the next morning about how you didn’t’ put a move on her.

7: LISTEN TO THE AUDIENCE

I’m self-deprecating on stage. Very self-deprecating. Extremely self-deprecating. I hate myself. All of this is fine, except that I also tend to be overly-sensitive and insecure and when I add self-deprecation to the mix, I sometimes get in trouble. The best advice I ever got in this regard was from a wonderful comedian and my good friend Jeff Wayne. He said “Unless a joke gets no reaction whatsoever, you should just continue on without commentary.”

It’s sometimes tempting to call attention when a joke gets a weaker response than that established by the audience’s “laughter baseline”. The majority of times I do so, however, I end up only alienating the audience. I can hear the audience thinking “We’re having a ball here – why are you micro-analyzing our every response?” If you work quickly onstage, you can often get away with with a joke that falls completely flat by segueing immediately to the next joke.

But if there’s an elephant in the room and you work slowly like me, you’ve got to say something. Be prepared to win them back with a hilarious impromptu line (which you carefully crafted years ago on the back of a cocktail napkin).

Remember, it’s a war, not a battle. So listen to the audience, but don’t be in be in thrall to any one moment on stage.

8: PUT YOUR WORST FOOT FORWARD

Comedians are not generally known for their looks. On the contrary, stand-up comedy is one of the few professions where good looks are considered an occupational hazard. Take me, for example. I am a handsome man, there’s no way around it. I take no credit for it, it’s just the way it is. You don’t think I see the way audiences look at me when I walk onstage? It’s always the same: the women looking at me and beaming, the men looking at their women and frowning. I haven’t even spoken into the microphone yet and I’m already behind the 8-ball with all the guys in the audience and, in a way (and for the same reason) many of the women, too. But I’ve got one great thing going for me: I’m 5’5″ and 117 pounds. In other words, I’m a little man. And I don’t mean in a shorter-than-the-national average kind of way, either: I practically represent the lollipop guild.

My diminutive stature has been a gold mine for comedy. Forget all the material it generates – it mellows what otherwise might be perceived as a threat. I’m no longer just smart, funny, good-looking and successful: I’m smart, funny, good-looking, successful and small enough to do my shopping at Baby Gap. The same phenomenon is at play when I do material about married life. I can’t count the times I’ll see a holdout in the audience – usually a woman – with a look of consternation on her face. Then I begin telling good-natured jokes about married life with kids and I can practically hear a collective sigh of relief.

So remember, talk about those aspects of your life that are unsatisfying: winners are boring.