Tag Archives: San Luis Obispo

#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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#40 – Attend Comedy Festival

Perception is reality.

Despite growing up in comedy clubs, and all the work I do in comedy I had never been to a comedy festival. I’ve been invited to several of them, but I’m not a typical comedy producer. I completely disregard videos, I never tell comics I’m going to be in the audience, and I believe I can book any comic for some sort of project someday. With that said, I never took up an offer for a comedy festival, because I always believed it was relatively cliche for a comedy person to go to one, until my buddy Devin Roessler invited me to the San Luis Obispo Comedy Festival, which he helps operate.

Here's Devin and I at the festival making unintentional duck faces.

Here’s Devin and I at the festival making unintentional duck faces.

In years past I heard great things about the festival, mainly that it was a party-filled four-day weekend in a picturesque small town. The festival is only five years old but Devin would always talk about it with such passion that this year once February rolled around I told him I wanted to go. I think what appealed to me is that it wasn’t mainstream yet. Rarely do I enjoy mainstream things. He spoke to Eric Shantz, the comedian and founder of the festival, and they gave me a room and a festival pass.

I asked my girlfriend Zoe if she wanted to go. Our relationship is only a few months old so it was going to be our first trip somewhere together. Even though we spend literally every day together, it’s different when you’re on vacation.

Zoe and I sped up the 101 on Thursday night, missed the welcome party but got there just in time for the after-party. Miller Lite sponsored the festival, so a limitless supply of beer got me hammered that first night and each and every night thereafter. I don’t recall the sequential order in which things happened, because of all the alcohol, but here are some of the highlights.

That contraption is called a "Shotski" for obvious reasons.

That contraption is called a “Shotski” for obvious reasons.

Ended the four-day weekend even more in love with my girlfriend – In relationships past I tested the women I dated by seeing if they could hang with me at the Hollywood Improv. Since I met Zoe at the Improv, and she spends multiple nights a week there with me, this festival was a true test of how much comedy she could bare since we saw multiple shows a night and we were surrounded by 40 comedians staying in the same hotel as us. She’s also a great judge of character and we had a blast hanging with some of my favorite comedian friends that she also took a liking to like Flip Schultz, Allison Weber, Brett Riley, and Shawn Halpin. Comedians are not easy people to be around, but she probably fits in better than me.

Zoe is the real comedian

Zoe is the real comedian

Scouted some new talent – I am working on a pilot for CMT and an executive at the network asked me to recommend comedians that they might not know about which should be on their radar. I got to see Chris Cope and Mary Patterson Broome perform, both of whom I had never seen before, and promptly recommended them to the network for future consideration. Both seemed genuinely appreciative and it’s always cool to see that on the face of young comedians. Moments like that remind me of why I do what I do. Comedians often ask me why I don’t do stand-up, and I explain that they get a high off entertaining people where as I get a high off of putting them in a situation where they can get a high.

Spent time hanging with a peer – There’s not a lot of people who have a similar place in the comedy world as me. My buddy Michael is definitely one of those people. In fact, he has probably done more for comedians than I have. He’s a comedy festival veteran, has booked numerous shows including “Chelsea Lately” and “Funniest Fails,” and he’s one of the few people whose opinion on comedians I trust. It was fun hanging with him all weekend, because him being there meant comedians wouldn’t just be kissing my ass all weekend. But most of all it was good to sit through shows and get a perspective from someone who does similar work as me.

Michael and I had many debates that weekend including who's the best comedian of all time. I say Carrot Top. He says Gallagher.

Michael and I had many debates that weekend including who’s the best comedian of all time. I say Carrot Top. He says Gallagher.

Met Rawle D. Lewis – Many of you are probably like, “who?” He played Junior in “Cool Runnings.” At this point in my career, I don’t get star struck. That movie, however, had a huge impact on my childhood. If you don’t know, it’s the movie about the Jamaican bobsled team. John Candy was in it and he was a huge comedy influence on me. It was also probably the first sports movie I can remember watching over and over as a kid, which led to me becoming a sports writer. And finally, my sister’s name is Jamaica so my family has always had quite the obsession with things related to Jamaica. I was pretty drunk on the Friday of the festival and didn’t want to approach him that night. Zoe and Michael teased me about how I really wanted a picture with him. The following night I spent some time chatting with him. He told me about what it was like working with John Candy, and about how he initially started as a stand-up comedian back in Trinidad and Tobago before acting became the path that was chosen for him. Eight-year-old Josh was living a dream.

I get excited over meeting the most random people.

I get excited over meeting the most random people.

Escaped Los Angeles – I love LA, but also hate it when I don’t leave it at least once a month. The people of SLO are so much nicer, as is customary of small towns. For Gods sake, that town is so small they still have coin operated parking meters.

This post is relatively late, because of how busy I’ve been in the month after the festival, but I wanted to make sure people, and especially the comedy community, start to recognize how great of a festival it is. It was run amazingly well, every show was sold out, the caliber of comics were exceptional, and I left impressed and ready to go back next year.

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