Tag Archives: Montreal

#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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#45 – Attend Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival

I have done pretty much everything you can think of in comedy.

I’ve toured the country with comedians, written stand-up specials, booked comedians for competition shows, written jokes for hosts, produced short films, hosted a podcast, and even gone in front of the camera.

The one thing I had never done was go to the prestigious Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival.

I’ve always wanted to go, but because I work all over the spectrum in television and not every show I work on is a comedy, no show has ever paid for me to go. And it’s super expensive to pay out of pocket.

Through luck, timing, and a recommendation, I was hired by Just For Laughs to be a set vetter for the festival.

Comedians always talk about how big Montreal is for their career, and some comics would literally kill to get in there. The same is pretty true for producers, writers, managers, and agents.

I’ve worked as a set vetter before, but in a much smaller capacity. When I worked on “America’s Got Talent” I helped comedians with their sets for auditions and tapings. I only worked with a handful at a time. In advance of Montreal I got assigned roughly 65 comedians. There was about 200 comedians in attendance at Montreal who were taping sets. I ended up working with nearly all of them.

Comedians were assigned a network they would be taping for, a set length in minutes, and a venue they’d be taping at. Each of the six networks we were filming sets for had different guidelines of standards and practices. Prior to a comedian filming a set, the comedian had a warm up set the day prior where I watched them perform their intended set to give any last minute notes. In advance of that, I worked with the comedians via phone, text, and e-mail when they provided a transcript of their intended set.

One of the venues I was set vetting at is called The Comedy Nest and it's inside the old forum where the Montreal Canadians used to play. They built a mall inside and kept center ice and some of the seats still in tact.

One of the venues I was set vetting at is called The Comedy Nest and it’s inside the old forum where the Montreal Canadians used to play. They built a mall inside and kept center ice and some of the seats still in tact.

The list of comedians I was assigned was like a Mount Rushmore of comedy living legends. Louie Anderson, Lewis Black, Bobby Slayton, Greg Proops, Tom Green, Andy Dick, Brian Posehn, Jo Koy, and many others who are just coming in to prominence like Tone Bell and Cameron Esposito.

Here is one of the amazing comedians I got to work with, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

Here is one of the amazing comedians I got to work with, Mary Lynn Rajskub.

It felt weird to get assignments like Louie Anderson, Bobby Slayton, and Lewis Black because I’m 30 years old and they have been doing comedy longer than I have been alive. Guys like that could have very easily been stand-offish, but they weren’t. They were receptive and willing to work to make their comedy even better than their already crafted brilliance.

There are always some people who are difficult to deal with, and interestingly enough it was never the legends. It was the people who THINK they are legends. Fortunately the problem children were few and far between.

I arrived in Montreal on Saturday July 23rd and came back to the United States on Sunday July 31st. Each day started with a 5pm meeting with the set vetting and programming team of JFL. My first show was at either 7:30pm or 8pm with a second show at either 9:45pm or 10:30pm. Id usually wrap up vetting sets around midnight and then head to the Roast Battle viewing party or God Damn Comedy Jam show before a 1am meeting that usually lasted until 2:30am.

The God Damn Comedy Jam took place in the backroom of a church, which was an extra special touch for the show.

The God Damn Comedy Jam took place in the backroom of a church, which was an extra special touch for the show.

Before 5pm and after 2:30am I was free to do whatever I wanted, but often that involved chasing down comedians I needed to speak with about their sets.

I did manage to try poutine one time while in Montreal. Canadians love their fries. And I love their country.

I did manage to try poutine one time while in Montreal. Canadians love their fries. And I love their country.

The 1am meeting was without a doubt the highlight of my work experience in Montreal. Six of us would gather to discuss the comics we saw that night and paced each shows gala tapings for where each comedian should perform in the lineup. Order of a lineup is something the average comedy fan might not be aware of its importance. Among other things, certain comedy styles go better when placed after other styles and vice versa.

This was a lineup from just a normal warm up show at Theatre Ste. Catherine. With normal shows this stacked, the galas had a lot to live up to.

This was a lineup from just a normal warm up show at Theatre Ste. Catherine. With normal shows this stacked, the galas had a lot to live up to.

The 1am meeting was so completely opposite of a typical meeting. Ignore the fact that it was taking place at 1am, but we also conducted the meeting over drinks, and inside a room where the only thing separating us from hundreds of the biggest names in comedy and entertainment are two doors.

When Blake Griffin asks to take a picture with you at 330am you do it. Or in this case when he doesn't ask you, you still do it. Blake was hosting shows all week and was amazingly funny.

When Blake Griffin asks to take a picture with you at 330am you do it. Or in this case when he doesn’t ask you, you still do it. Blake was hosting shows all week and was amazingly funny.

Each night a comedian wandered into our conference room. Whether it was Jimmy Carr, Elon Gold, or Jessica Kirson it was a welcome distraction that added to the fun.

The thing I loved most about the festival was getting to see international comedians on a regular basis. I had never seen Jimmy Carr before, and he’s someone I have followed for a few years because he’s huge internationally.

Russell Kane is another British comedian who stole all the laughs from the festival. Getting to see someone like that whom I had never seen before was a real treat, especially when he told me that he made a point to crush it this time around after being disappointed with his showing at the festival four years prior.

And then there was comedian Dave Hughes from Australia, who I would never have been exposed to. His style of comedy really forced me to listen to his words because of his accent and how he pronounced words. I can half listen to comedians from the States and predict where the bit is going to go. With the international acts, it’s not as easy because styles from other countries are different.

The U.S. dollar is worth so much more in Canada, which came in handy when I visited the casino.

The U.S. dollar is worth so much more in Canada, which came in handy when I visited the casino.

I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing, but I did walk through Old Montreal, which has gorgeous nostalgic architecture. And as per usual when I’m in a new city I visited the casino. Beyond that, I stuck around the three-mile radius of the festival, because there was just so much going on in the immediate area.

One of the few venues I went to that wasn't a place of comedy. The Marche Bonsecour in Old Montreal.

One of the few venues I went to that wasn’t a place of comedy. The Marche Bonsecour in Old Montreal.

I didn’t have many moments of discomfort in the 8 days I was there. Comedy is my third language. Unfortunately French isn’t my first or second. I really only had a few instances of feeling awkward when someone in the city didn’t speak English and only spoke French. For the most part, everyone in Montreal speaks both languages. My most profound emotion was without a doubt pride. It felt great to be experiencing Montreal with a number of friends who were doing big things during the festival.

Watching my buddy Jamar Neighbors perform each night as part of The Wave on Roast Battle for Comedy Central was pretty dope. Seeing Jesus Trejo attend the festival as part of the 2016 New Faces group was really special. And seeing Gina Brillon perform each night as part of the Ethnic Show and work with her to tape a set for the Howie Mandel Gala filming for the CW was remarkable. Gina and I started out together nearly a decade ago back in the SiTV days when I produced a show called “Latino 101.” To think we came from doing Latino shows to working together at Montreal was a pretty epic experience.

The look on my face in this picture is pretty much how I looked the whole week, big eyed.

The look on my face in this picture is pretty much how I looked the whole week, big eyed.

I could write 10,000 more words on my experience at Montreal, but I’ll save that for another time, because other career things happened in Montreal, which I will share in future blogs. There really was a magical feeling over those eight days. I am writing this over a week after I have returned from the festival and I barely feel like I have recovered, not only because I barely slept but because it’s hard to come back to reality after non stop excitement nearly every moment I was there. Now as for those other career things that happened while at Montreal…I know, cliff hanger…

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