Tag Archives: Barry Katz

#46 – Start A Podcast

Everyone has a podcast.

I usually hate doing what other people do, because it’s harder to stand out amongst a group of people all doing the same thing.

But I started a podcast.

I didn’t start a podcast for the usual reasons people start a podcast. I am not trying to get attention. I am not trying to get advertisers. I don’t even care about how many people download the episodes. I mean, it would be nice if you listened to it, but really I don’t care.

My only goal: to get people jobs.

Last year I was passed up on a gig that I should’ve at least been interviewed for. I had recommendations from network executives and friends of the showrunner. Even people the showrunner reached out to said I should be considered. The gig was to book comedians for a show, something I have done before. Despite all the recommendations, I didn’t get a phone call.

I wasn’t bitter. It’s part of the game. I took my misfortune as an opportunity to examine myself. I recognize that about every four years I have to alter my career path just a bit to maintain relevance. Show business is fickle and if you stick with the same methods for too long you become stale and people stop caring. All the biggest stars recognize this. That’s why you’ve been witness to so many versions of Madonna and Bowie.

Even mega producers like Judd Apatow have a few flops in a row before switching things up. Do you remember what followed “BridesMaids” and “Get Him to the Greek?” Some stinkers like “The Five Year Engagement,” and “Anchorman 2.” Then he came out with “Trainwreck” which most people loved before Amy Schumer started her path toward becoming the next annoying Dane Cook. OK, I’m getting off track.

I was strictly a journalist from ages 18 to 21. I switched gears a bit and became a TV producer and journalist from ages 21 to 25. From ages 26 to 30 I have strictly been a TV producer and all the other things that come with that like writer and casting director.

During each of those transitions came an influencer to lead the movement in a direction. What launched my last four-year run of non-stop working on TV shows was this blog. It got me a lot of work, because it showcased my writing and that I was hustling on my own. It got me one show, which led to another show, which led me to another show. At the time, everyone had a blog. Hell, everyone still has a blog. But I didn’t care about how many readers I was getting. I have a formula to look back on that did me well.

Now back to the podcast.

I listen to only two podcasts. “WTF w/ Marc Maron” and “The Industry Standard w/ Barry Katz.” By this point, most people know “WTF,” since Maron interviewed Obama last year. His motivation for starting his podcast years ago was that he had nothing of extreme relevance going on in his career. He knew he could talk to people and that he had famous friends, so why not start something that he could control, unlike the inability to acquire a show on TV, which requires an infinite number of executives and people to say, “yes.”

For me, the gig I was passed up on was not the first, and it certainly won’t be the last, but it was the first time I got passed up when I had so many people speaking on my behalf. It got me motivated.

It was easy to come up with the concept for my podcast. I know so many comedians who make a living in comedy, but don’t get the recognition they deserve. They have so many stories to tell, so many questions unanswered about where their path is heading, and so many battles to appreciate the present while keeping an outlook for the future. Also, they all have uniquely different paths to how they got involved in comedy. I have conversations about all those topics with so many of them at the Hollywood Improv, the Comedy Store, the Laugh Factory, the Comedy Cellar, and every other comedy club that starts with “the.” Now, I just record the conversations.

The goal of the podcast is simple. I wanted to get these people work, and in turn get me work. My whole network of people is all in show business. I don’t have normal friends anymore. I believe everyone has a story to tell, and my responsibility in my career has been to find out what a person’s story is, and tell it.

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I’ve recorded some episodes in some less than ideal situations like in my old apartment on Hollywood Blvd and this hotel room in San Luis Obispo.

I also didn’t have anything to lose in starting the podcast. In today’s world, everyone tries to stay as private as possible for fear of saying something that will offend others or perhaps be portrayed in an unflattering light. I have always put myself out there and shared more than a safe amount of information about myself. You simply have to read early posts of this blog to realize that fact.

In order to be taken serious about the podcast I knew I had to get some episodes up, and not just do like 20 of them. I have seen podcasts come and go, but the ones that have an impact are the ones that stick around and produce a lot of episodes. My thinking was that if I released two a week I could get to over 100 episodes in a year, which in television is the old syndication model that 100 episodes of anything is significant.

The other aspect of television that I took when building the podcast is that I told myself I have to release every Monday and Thursday no matter what. I took that from the Maron format and decided I would release an episode on the same days at the same times of each week. People told me I was crazy to put those expectations on myself. But just like TV shows, people need to know when to find your show. You don’t see “Modern Family” changing its air date and time from week to week, but so many other people record and release their podcasts with no set schedule. I refused to be like that. Well, at first I refused to be like that.

As of this publishing date I am at episode 47. I kept up with the two episode a week model all the way until episode 43. Then I hit a wall. It wasn’t a creative wall, but rather one of time. I was producing “Hellevator” on GSN 15 hours a day, got hired by Just For Laughs for the Montreal Comedy Festival, pitching my own shows, and trying to maintain the podcast. There’s only a certain amount of hours in the day. Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I didn’t think it was insane for someone like me who is typically behind the camera to start a podcast. I know how to interview because of my prior career as a journalist and in casting you have to conduct interviews in auditions on camera all of the time. I also know how to book people and tell stories, and I have a seemingly endless pool of talent to pull from.

People started telling me that I would run out of quality people to interview at a certain point. Quality is relative. I have taken criticism in the past because I am pretty positive with comedy people. I believe there is a position for everyone in this community. Not everyone should be a stand-up comedian. Not everyone should be a writer. Not everyone should have a sitcom. Not everyone should be a producer. But I believe everyone can find a niche, so that is what I intended to do with my podcast, encourage the person in comedy to find their niche.

My next step was to figure out how to record the podcast. I am not a tech person. I sit behind cameras. I don’t shoot them. Same goes for audio equipment. I asked friends of mine what they record with, did my research online, and decided if I was going to do this then I would buy the best equipment possible. Fortunately, it was November and my birthday and Christmas were coming up, so my Mom asked me how much money I needed to get the podcast started. I told her $700 and she said Merryy BirthMas.

After that, the only things left to do was come up with a name for the show and some cover art for iTunes and the other podcast outlets. I was going to call it “The Grass is Greener Podcast” but I didn’t want people to think it was a show about weed and also that’s a really long name. I like having the medium in the title of all my projects hence why “Blog” is in the title of “The Discomfort Blog,” so “Podcast” had to be in there.

I liked the idea of talking about how everyone in show business thinks the grass is always greener. No matter who you are, you think someone else has it better, easier, or is more fortunate. It doesn’t matter how successful you are, you have that in you. I was playing around with the title and realized that “Grass is Greener” has the acronym “G.I.G.” and gigs, aka jobs, is exactly what I would be talking about with all these comics, since everyone in comedy is constantly obsessed with getting the next gig, getting to a gig, working toward the dream gig, and all of us have a different version of all of those. “The G.I.G. Podcast” just seemed to be perfect, because it could also simply be just “The G.I.G.” for short.

GIG Logo Lib

I took this picture back in 2012. Who knew back then that it would end up being useful?

With the name set, I just needed comedian guests. The first ones I wanted to sit down with were people I had conversations with all the time already so the tone would be natural and not forced. Nick Guerra was someone I always chatted with about how there is no rhyme or reason to anything we are shooting for in show business. He was essentially my muse for this. Other people I had these conversations with were Shawn Halpin, Taylor Williamson, Jesus Trejo, and Sharon Houston. I got them all in on my first few episodes.

It has been remarkable to see some of those people go on to do great things like Nick Guerra doing “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” and Jesus Trejo getting New Faces at Montreal Just For Laughs. My podcast definitely didn’t help them get those things, but our conversations discussed their goals, and to see them go on and accomplish some of those goals is pretty special.

Some of the more recent episodes have been with comedians I didn’t know well but met at different events or venues and have since become friends with like Daniel Weingarten, Briana Hansen, and Ron Josol.

I don’t know what will come of this. I don’t know if I will get work from this or if any of my guests will. I think we all will. I wouldn’t spend my time on it if I thought it was a waste of time.

If anything, everyone who comes on the show for a conversation at least appears to leave with the sense that they’re not alone. The hour I spend with the comedian is a time for deep reflection. Some have left with some self-realizations. Others have felt like it was a therapy session. Some are just happy to find out they’re not alone with what they’re dealing with in their personal and professional life. I know they feel that way, because they tell me…

And because I feel less alone after our chat.

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#44 – Vacation in Hawaii

I don’t vacation.

Since I started my career at 18 years old I have only been on one vacation, a cruise to Cabo San Lucas with my family when I was 21 years old and working at the Los Angeles Times.

Clearly "Elation" in the background depicts my mood from that cruise back in 2008. I had fun on that cruise, but in reality I didn't have many real life stresses at 22 years old, so a vacation this time around was much more needed.

Clearly “Elation” in the background depicts my mood from that cruise back in 2008. I had fun on that cruise, but in reality I didn’t have many real life stresses at 22 years old, so a vacation this time around was much more needed.

I didn’t think I would vacation ever again, until my girlfriend Zoe told me I had to go to Hawaii with her. I got back last week.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but there are a few reasons why I don’t vacation. The first being that from ages 18 to 25 I was fairly broke trying to establish my career. All the money I did make during that time typically was re-invested into my career. When I did have extra spending money during that time I typically went to Las Vegas or other party cities where relaxing really isn’t what you go for.

And from 26 to 30 years old I have worked non-stop on shows. During this time of my life I got plenty of invites to go on fun trips, but my work schedule never allowed it.

The other thing is that during this time I also got to visit some pretty cool places because the TV shows I worked on would pay for me to travel, and most of the time I got to go with friends since I typically work with people I hang out with.

Traveling for work has allowed me to see some pretty cool places like the French Quarter in New Orleans on Halloween in 2014.

Traveling for work has allowed me to see some pretty cool places like the French Quarter in New Orleans on Halloween in 2014.

Zoe was planning a trip to Hawaii around the week of March 12, because her best friend Susan was getting married and Zoe was named the Maid of Honor. She had known this date months in advance, but with my schedule I can never plan that far in advance, so I told her to plan on going without me. I know, I’m a really thoughtful boyfriend.

As the date got closer, I still told her I didn’t think I should go, because I was in the midst of looking for my next show, and I didn’t think I’d be able to enjoy a vacation without knowing if I had a gig locked in. Nor did I think it would be smart to spend money on a vacation when I don’t have a gig waiting for me upon my return.

I think she recognized that I would never allow myself to go, so she bought me a plane ticket and said I was going with her. I don’t always make the best choices, but I certainly did when I decided to start dating her.

She left two days before me so she could help put some finishing touches on the wedding plans. When I began to pack my suitcase I made the conscious decision not to bring my laptop. It was the first time I’ve ever left town without it. I would’ve left my phone too if it wasn’t for my need to depict how dope my life is perceived to be on Instagram.

As soon as she picked me up from the airport in Honolulu, I was glad she bought me a ticket. I have been stressed out, and when you’re in the midst of stress you don’t realize just how worn down you are until you power down. For me, that was on the six-hour flight from LAX to HA. I downloaded a bunch of podcasts from Marc Maron and Barry Katz, and the only thing I remember from their conversations was the first two minutes before I passed out each time I selected a new episode. Most people dislike the time spent on an airplane, but I enjoy it because it’s the one time no one in my life can bother me for something they need, especially when it’s on a flight with a company like Hawaiian Airlines, which doesn’t provide Internet access.

Susan and her husband Justin live in Hawaii already, so it was much easier for them to plan a Hawaii wedding. They decided to rent out this giant compound called Hale Koa Phineas Estates for the festivities. The compound has two giant houses on it with a basketball court, tennis court, pool, hot tub, and lots of beautiful landscape. It’s right on the beach in North Shore, and as we pulled into the estate I was even happier that Zoe made me go.

The compound sleeps over 40 people, that’s how many bedrooms and beds there are. The first night was a very big party until the wee hours in the morning. The following Friday morning Susan took a bunch of us on a hike up the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail, which halfway up to the top leads to a hike down a different side of the mountain to the Makapu’u Tidepools.

This is nearly at the point where we started our hike down the side of the cliff.

This is nearly at the point where we started our hike down the side of the cliff. That paved road is where we hiked up from. The path down the side of the cliff is definitely not as smooth.

I consider myself to have great physical stamina considering how many years I’ve been a runner and how much I hike Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles, but this hike down to the tidepools and back up afterward absolutely kicked my ass. I am writing this piece exactly one week after this hike, and I am still sore. Not even joking. This is 30.

The hike is literally straight down with loose dirt in some places and on the way back up you literally have to climb rocks. I am not afraid of heights, but it’s best not to look down at any point. I cut my hands a little bit going down the cliff, and once we got to the tidepools I jacked up my knees because I slipped several times on black slimy rocks while I was trying to take advantage of the photo opps for all the ladies. The hike back up made me question all my life choices. But the time spent in the surrounding water was an experience I will never forget.

No words can do this justice.

No words can do this justice.

The following Saturday was the actual wedding day, which meant I got to do whatever I wanted while Zoe and the bridesmaids got ready for showtime with Susan. What I chose to do was drink and watch TV after hitting the beach in the morning. I was too sore and had too many gashes in my feet for another adventure. I hung out with some of the other guys who weren’t in the wedding. We grabbed some seafood at a shrimp truck and went into town for some last minute clothes shopping for the wedding.

I could eat at shrimp shacks like this all day every day.

I could eat at shrimp shacks like this all day every day. This particular one has been featured on all those travel and food channel shows, so you know it was good.

The wedding was beautiful, and I was happy to be a guest of Susan and Justin. Even though I knew them for only a year I felt participatory in their experience since Zoe had me write their story of how they met for their wedding website, and I went along with Zoe to pick up Susan’s dress and also got into arguments with stores in the fashion district of Los Angeles who didn’t have the wedding reception napkins ready when they promised.

Here is the bride and groom.

Here is the bride and groom.

On Sunday morning Zoe and I woke up super early because we wanted to take advantage of our last day in Hawaii. We both didn’t know the next time we’d both have time for another vacation so we wanted to make the most of the final day. We left for Pearl Harbor at around 8am, because I like getting a little bit of historical perspective on places I visit.

Pearl Harbor offers three-hour tours, but if I learned anything from Gilligan's Island, it's best not to take a three hour tour.

Pearl Harbor offers three-hour tours, but if I learned anything from Gilligan’s Island, it’s best not to take a three hour tour.

From there we went to the beach on Waimanalo Bay, which is a pretty secluded beach.

I snapped some sexy shots of Zoe on this beach for her, but this one of her peeing in the ocean was for me...I don't know why she puts up with me.

I snapped some sexy shots of Zoe on this beach for her, but this one of her peeing in the ocean was for me…I don’t know why she puts up with me.

After a few hours there we went to Waikiki and then on to a location called China Walls to watch the sunset.

Hawaii provides its own filter.

Hawaii provides its own filter.

Spending so much time on the North Shore was certainly an experience. When you decide to stay in that area it’s a solid hour to get to anywhere that resembles civilization. I think I did a great job of disconnecting from social media and the rest of my life. Of course that didn’t go without a hitch though.

I am considering a career move to North Shore to become an Instagram Model.

I am considering a career move to North Shore to become an Instagram Model.

I had to take one business phone call on a job that I didn’t feel was a right fit for me, and I did submit my resume one time for a job that I really wanted, but other than those two occurrences I didn’t think once about my career or comedy. It felt great not to feel obligated to make an appearance somewhere for the good of my career. It felt good to take a breather. It felt good to not have any worries. I thought I would be very uncomfortable, because I don’t vacation and my mind runs on overdrive, but I had the time of my life.

The happiness in this picture sums up the whole trip.

The happiness in this picture sums up the whole trip.

This blog has really just been my 21st century version of showing you a slideshow of my Hawaiian vacation. Tune in nine years from now when I go on my next vacation.

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