Eight things you need to start your own (funny) podcast

Elsa Waithe is a comedian, activist, and all-around wildchild. Her comedy is a mix of light-hearted but critical jabs at homosexuality and race but mainly herself and weed. She can been seen as a regular performer (and producer) at the Cinder Block Festival and in her feature on an episode of the This American Life podcast. She is also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!


My partner and I launched our podcast, 2 Spicy, as a response to Heather’s being laid off, and my constantly getting 30-day bans from Facebook. We wanted do a joint project that highlighted news and activism and amplified voices on the left in an effort to push those in the middle further leftward. That’s all we had when we started: an idea, and time. We had no equipment,  experience, or money. But we did have lots of FRIENDS—and tons of questions. Our first step was to reach out to our network and ask them EVERYTHING.

 

So now, I’m here to tell you what we learned—by asking and by doing—so that you, too, can start your own podcast. Here are the top things you need.

 

A topic and a take.

The idea of the podcast was to discuss some of the things that would get me banned from Facebook. We both had really strong ideas and opinions on the world and wanted a way to communicate them other than social media. We’d always been told by the folks around us that they really valued our opinions. In deciding your brand/topic, look toward your interests and hobbies. Surely there’s nothing new under the sun, so don’t be discouraged if there’s already a podcast that deals with your chosen topics. No one can talk about it in the way you do. Humor keeps your listener engaged, it doesn’t need to be goofy or campy to be funny. It just has to be interesting, and the more complex and niche, the better. You want to talk about sports? Then talk about something specific, like worst football fumbles. Politics? Maybe funny speech flubs. Try recurring segments. Have listeners write in. Humor can spring from your personality, your rapport with your co-host or anywhere.

 

A good partner.

As a creative couple we’ve always wanted to do a project that combined our talents. Mine, speaking and humor. Heather’s, thoughtful analysis. We were told before we started the podcast that we wouldn’t make a good podcast because we “agree too much”. We posit that good podcast partners need not agree on every topic nor do they need to argue all the time. It’s more about good on-air chemistry and banter.

 

Equipment: free and crowdfunded/donated.

It is entirely possible to start a podcast with zero dollars. We reached out to our community about helping us record and someone with podcasting experience volunteered to bring his equipment to our apartment. After releasing a couple of episodes and receiving positive feedback, we knew we wanted to be able to record more often without having to wait for someone to come from the other side of Brooklyn. We found out what basic equipment we needed and made an Amazon wishlist, totaling a little over $400. The basic equipment needed was a Zoom recording device, 2 microphones with mic stands and an SD card.  Within a few weeks all items were either purchased for us or donated to us..

 

Research and prep.

Our podcast focuses on current news and trends so our research involves following the news, watching trending topics on social media, and whatever fun/interesting/scary articles we come across during the week. We compile 6 to 8 topics, the points we’d like to discuss about said topics and try to order them in a way that will flow on-air. There’s no scripts, just a pre-planned outline. We like to be able to flow as the convo grows organically.

 

A platform.

Of course the main platform is iTunes. But not everyone is jazzed about Apple products so we are also on BuzzSprout and Stitcher. We don’t use it, but there’s also SoundCloud. These are places where it is free to host your podcast but there are also services where you’d pay. We’ve heard good things about BlogTalkRadio and PodBean. And, of course, there’s always the chance that you’ll be picked up by a larger podcast “stable” like Maximum Fun or American Public Media.

 

Promotion.

We promo the podcast across the three major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The drawback to Facebook is that you’ll need to spend a little money to promote your posts due to their algorithms. We’ve also started making clips of the more interesting sections of each weeks episode and releasing them as video teaser clips which are then released on Instagram and YouTube. We have a Patreon that we direct our listeners to so that they can support the show and get exclusive goodies. And we are always developing tie-in merch—like our 2 Spicy Habanero Sauce. Tune in to our podcast while you put it on…everything!


Elsa Waithe is a comedian, activist, and all-around wildchild. Her comedy is a mix of light-hearted but critical jabs at homosexuality and race but mainly herself and weed. She can been seen as a regular performer (and producer) at the Cinder Block Festival and in her feature on an episode of the This American Life podcast. She is also an instructor and incredible supporter of GOLD Comedy!

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Mini Q+A with…Rubi Nicholas

Rubi Nicholas has appeared on NickMom Network’s “Night Out” and “NickMom On…” series and has performed standup alongside comedy greats Judy Gold and Jim Breuer. She hosted the sold-out 2015 Lancaster City (PA) TEDx event in 2015 and then took it one step further with her very own TED talk at the 2016 live event. Follow her!


Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

I’m a Pakistani comic. I’d rather kill than bomb, sir, but you are making me want to change my mind.

 

Describe your worst gig.

I had driven over 4 hours to the western slope of Colorado when I was doing comedy in Denver. When I got to the gig, I realized it wasn’t just a Japanese restaurant. It was a Japanese restaurant with a table top hibachi. That meant that during my set, people were cooking their food, talking with the wait staff about how to cook their food, and just generally not about paying attention to the lady on stage. They had a show right in front of them; I was just background noise. As if that wasn’t bad enough, there was a large center table of only Spanish speakers. In my terrible fortune, I look like I might speak Spanish and they were mildly interested in checking me out until they just sort of shrugged and continued their loud conversation…I couldn’t even out heckle them. Awful. Just awful. But hey, at least it came with a really weird room in a Motel 6, though, right?

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young comedian?

Your dick is bigger than theirs. I promise.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Knowing that comedy can dismantle stereotypes.

 

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

“Don’t wear suggestive clothing, it distracts the audience…”

Doesn’t really feel like “comedy advice” at all, does it?

 

Favorite response to “What’s it like to be a woman in comedy”? 

I am one of those women who is deeply in touch with my inner Chad. I actually struggle with the notion that good comedy has anything at all to do with gender. It might take a little longer to break through getting booked, but staying funny, and staying on your grind is the only thing that works for any comic. To stay in comedy, one needs to be consistently funny. Being a comic in comedy is hard. Being a bad comic is worse. Meh, being a woman? We’re rising up actually and we are doing all right for ourselves, considering it’s only been an even playing field for oh, 2-3 years I’m guessing.

I’m more inclined to open doors for women through workshops, mentorship, writing together. I have 2 sisters and 2 daughters (full custody, no breaks)…my mother was a stay-at-home mom. My life is about women. I love being a woman, I love being a mom and I love being a comic. When you do something with love, with the knowledge that this is your calling, that there isn’t anything else that makes you feel perfect, it’s easy to brush off little slights along the way. Honestly, comedy has done more for me as a person than I can even express. It doesn’t matter to me if someone is not booking women at their room, I’ll move along and find another room—I love what I do and I know I’ll get booked.

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

As the only brown girl in my class, the weirdo that smelled of curry, the girl with the one eyebrow and mustache, I had a boatload of reasons to NOT be popular with the white kids that were the only other kids in the coal region in rural PA. Problem is, I’m an extraordinary extravert and love people so much all I wanted was acceptance and friendship. While I wasn’t pretty, or athletic or “normal” in so many ways, I was funny. Funny got me everything I’d ever wanted in school, friends, invitations to parties, a big peer group and even positive attention from my teachers at times.

Later I would learn to use stand up comedy as a tool, a mechanism to edit my life story and make it way less painful by making it relatable and funny. That is my comedy “why.” With my background, “sit down” and “shut up” were words I heard my whole life. When I started stand up, they said get louder, we want to hear you. It was a game-changer. Comedy allowed me to have my OWN voice. I am able to stand my ground in all other areas of my life because I no longer think of myself as unworthy of a voice. My voice is strong and powerful. I know that because I tried it out, and people listened….they still do. It’s a beautiful thing.

Was there one person who inspired you to become a comedian? If so, who, why, how?

I wouldn’t be a comedian if it weren’t for a series of flukes. I was a working mom, living in the suburbs of Denver, CO when my then 6-year-old saw a commercial on Nick@Nite (we had it earlier on mountain time before you give me the side eye for letting my kid stay up that late, I see you). The commercial announced “Nick at Nite is looking for the Funniest Mom in America–could it be you?” So, when she saw that, Sophie said, “Mom, you should try out for that show.” So that was it–the jump-off!

 

For standups: what advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

Be consistently funny. Get up as often as you can in as many mics as you can. Once you know you are consistently crushing 10 minutes of material, start networking around the shows you want to be on. Ask your fellow comics that have shows if they would grant you a guest set. Crush the guest set. Always bring your A game to a show where the audience bought a ticket.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

I actually only see that word in writing. My inner feminist instinct is to raspberry at this word. My inner feminist is also 8 years old and recognizes this as nonsense. I’m a comic, full stop.

 


Rubi Nicholas has appeared on NickMom Network’s “Night Out” and “NickMom On…” series and has performed standup alongside comedy greats Judy Gold and Jim Breuer. She hosted the sold-out 2015 Lancaster City (PA) TEDx event in 2015 and then took it one step further with her very own TED talk at the 2016 live event. Follow her!


 

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How comedians bounce back after bombing

Have you heard this quote from Ira Glass?

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not.

 

But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story.

It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.”

Well, now you have. The first time I read it, I bawled, but these days I just get the kind of tears that sort of stick to your eyeballs. Age and experience have toughened me.

At some point, early in your comedy journey, you will experience your first big honkin’ failure. This will stand apart from just “not being good yet,” and will instead be a true failure. Just like with heartbreak, your first will sting hardest because you don’t yet have the tools to deal with it.

I’d like to tell you how an experienced failure-ista such as myself processes, recovers from, and grows better through failure so that, when you hit your first big comedy fail, you are prepared to rebound like a champ!

My Failure Story:

I did standup one night at a bar and I failed. I’m kind of a pro at failing (true humble brag), so I want you to pay attention not just to the failure itself, but to how I reflected upon it and used it to grow.

I was doing lots of small standup shows to prepare for one big show, a Comedy Central showcase that my manager had managed to book for me. It was kind of shocking because I don’t consider myself a standup comic… like, at all. I had done years of sketch comedy, comedic acting, and essay writing, but standup is it’s own animal and I had very little experience with it. However, I said YES!… and figured, I better become a standup comedian! Fast! My wonderful friend and collaborator, director Preston Martin, would schlep out to these little shows with me to watch my work and give me notes on the writing and performance after each one.

This one night, Preston couldn’t make it. I got a little giddy and wanted to take some risks, so I opted to wing it a little.

 

Onstage, I waded into some subject matter that was a little taboo. I guess I have to tell you. (Facepalm emoji.) For some reason, I thought that cold sores, as in mouth herpes, would make for interesting subject matter. I feel like, statistically, since so many humans get them, and since many people would be kissing that very Saturday night, that it wasn’t the most outrageous topic to bring up. However, I immediately saw my audience stiffen. Wrong crowd. It occurred to me that these folks were very young, terrified of herpes, and also that I wasn’t funny. So I was just an unfunny person on a stage talking about a virus that frightens people. (Multiple facepalm emojis.)

Then, since the trash fire had already begun, I made a joke about book clubs, which wound up with the line “I’m never gonna join your book club, so stop asking.” Of course, the one friend I had in the audience had just invited me to join her book club, something I only realized as the super-aggro non-joke slipped out of my mouth. In a neat thirty seconds, I had alienated my one remaining ally in the audience.

My whole set was bad, not just those two unsavory moments. My hands were sweating. The small of my back was sweating. My throat was tightening. I returned to some familiar material that had worked in the past, but it was too late. I stayed onstage until I saw the emcee mercifully wave her lit phone at me, the signal that I could stop shooting this dead horse and would be allowed to exit and lick my wounds away from the public eye.

 

To be clear, I’ve had other nights where I went off script and improvised some gems that I’m still using. This could have gone either way. But it went down, way down. Number a billion with a bullet.

 

I managed to get through the aftermath and return to the stage again — and did the Comedy Central showcase to boot. Having fallen so squarely on my face in preparation for the showcase was, indeed, one of the factors that made my performance that big night so solid. For the showcase itself, I stuck to my jokes that worked. I was emboldened by having experienced the worst and gotten it out of the way a week prior. I did a great job at the showcase and was happy with all the preparation I’d put in: The successful open mics and the failed ones, too.

 

Nowadays I do standup in the form of hosting HQ Trivia and hosting fundraiser events and whatever else I’m asked to do. I’m no longer afraid of standup and I can confidently put it on my resume, which opens up my job opportunities.

 

Since I had no guide in this particular out-of-my-comfort-zone journey, I want to provide one for yours. Here’s how I handle this kind of failure, and my advice to other temporary-failures like me.

Be gracious.

Sometimes, failure is obvious to the beholder. But other times, what feels fail-y to you looks great from the outside. Continue to be kind to those around you in the moments that follow your failure. Don’t let your self-loathing stink up the room. To my credit that night, I stuck around to socialize with the other comics and I thanked the women who had taken a risk to book me as a newbie. I thanked the friend who had come only to be made fun of for her (probably very impactful and empowering) book club. This takes wisdom and an eye toward the long game of networking and building relationships. This is just one night. It’s not a domino.

Find something you did well.

After a dumpster-fire experience, after your initial shock wears off, reflect on what did go well. One thing? Before the memory calcifies as a categorically “not good” one, see if you can salvage some tiny positive takeaway. In my case, I can say, looking back, that it was brave of me to get up and depart from my crafted jokes and try some looser, improvised stuff. It didn’t work that night, but some of it did the next time I tried it.

 

See how finding something good can place your failure in a larger context as part of a learning curve? No? You’re still mortified and angry about dropping your lines in the school play? Well. I’ve been there, too.

Consider how you might have misgauged your audience.

As I went home that night on the subway, replaying my failure, I saw that the audience had been younger than I’d anticipated and that some of my material on dating had freaked them out. I remembered squinting through the bar stage lights at the young couples and thinking, “Oh, this is only funny to me ’cause I’m like nine years older than they are.” This is what is meant by, “Know your audience.”

Choose one exciting point of improvement that you can’t wait to crush text time.

I felt terrible inertia after bombing that night. I didn’t want to get up and perform again, but I had the looming deadline of the Comedy Central showcase and I wanted very much to nail it.

I recommitted to my next small show being precise and tightly scripted, but bringing the feeling of improv to it. I took what felt safe in previous shows and married it with what had felt so dangerous when I failed. That next practice show was electrified by the specter of failure and my renewed commitment to clearer jokes and better writing.

This pendulum of safety and risk will be the most consistent aspect of our process. Risk will sometimes mean glory and will sometimes mean failure.

Final thoughts!

Ice cream. Can help with failure. Preferably ice cream with a friend, but ice cream alone is acceptable, under the circumstances. I like to have ice cream to celebrate both success and failure, because it reinforces this central tenet of comedy: Ice cream will still be there when you fail. Life goes on!

End of article. Now here’s some other stuff:

HERE IS THE ICE CREAM PHOTO.

I was gonna go home to sleep, but instead I decided to eat this sundae in a diner and tell you about someone special. Preston has been coming to my open mics these past two weeks in various basements to listen to some wonderful comics, but also massive quantities of homophobic and misogynistic sludge while he waited for me to go up. He has guided me with his wonderful directorial and dramaturgical insights and has helped me bridge the gap btwn skills I have and new ones I’m building. I’m so thrilled about the pathways stand up will open for me and these two weeks have left me with an enormously positive stockpile of good energy to take with me into more cruddy places where funny women are needed. Tonight’s show was awesome and I’m so happy that Preston extended this offer and his time to sit with me as I prepared. So this long post is to acknowledge him even tho all of Facebook already knows he’s the best. Duh.

(Main photo via Nikki Hampson)


Emma Tattenbaum-Fine is a comedy writer and actor who frequently hosts HQ Trivia live in front of a million players internationally. She was named a 2016 Comedy Central “Comic to Watch” and a finalist in the truTV “Comedy Breakout” competition at the 2017 New York Television Festival. Emma was a staff writer on Almost Genius at truTV, and as an actor has collaborated with Al Sharpton, Reggie Watts, Aparna Nancherla, and Amy Poehler’s “Smart Girls at the Party”: writing for and then appearing in absurd sketches with them. Emma is a founding member of sketch group Political Subversities and the writing duo Ari and Emma. www.emmatattenbaumfine.com

@EmmaTattenbaum on Twitter

@emmatbomb on Instagram

 

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Tips from a teen: 7 pieces of PURE GOLD ADVICE for teen comics, by teen comics

Being young comes with its own set of challenges. Waiters ask you if you want kids’ menus, you get carded at R-rated movies, and parents just don’t understand. While these situations are frustrating, they also have their upsides (chicken nuggets for dinner, anyone?). And in comedy, where so many things are upside down, that frustratingly unusual perspective is a huge asset for teen comics.

 

Because it’s true. Adults don’t understand — which means kids like us have the comedic chance to explain it all. A lot of our favorite comedians started their careers in their teens, like Tiffany Haddish and Josie Long. And lots of teens are starting out in comedy right now!

 

But howww? I hear you. Well, what do I know? I’m just a teen standup comedian. Here’s how I see it.

 

Get inspired by a role model…

Teen comic and Inspiring Person™ Avery Lender says that her favorite comics are the ones who manage to be funny in ways that she’s not- comics like Dave Chappelle and Donald Glover, who are opposite from her style, but funny nonetheless. However, she loves female comedians best. Mindy Kaling, in particular, is a role model–she is a writer with her own tv show, her own book AND she was on The Office…talk about #goals! Female writers in particular help Avery see how to construct a joke and bring her own personal spin on it. And finding your own mentors will help you, too.

…or, better yet, a mentor

First thing you need is a doorway into that crazy world of comedy. Now more than ever, teens are helping teens get into comedy and slowly taking over, one millennial-run industry at a time! Just kidding. Sort of. Teens are helping each other out: they are even writing books on it, like Young, Funny, and Unbalanced, the book from the Kids ‘N Comedy team. If you don’t want to commit to a whole book about it, check out their blog!

 

Don’t “find” the time … MAKE the time

Finding time to do just about any extracurricular activity is hard. Comics, especially teens, have to be extra dedicated to squeeze it in between sports, college applications, and homework. We don’t recommend it, but Alyssa Stonoha says she even used to do her homework “like, in between classes.” Not great for grades, but potentially great for comedy!

 

Figure out what builds your confidence. Then do that. A lot.

Even if it’s just making your mom laugh, like Avery Lender, finding something that makes you feel funny is a great confidence boost. And that boost will keep you going when things get challenging. We comedians, in particular, are our own biggest critics. Even Mindy Project legend Chris Messina says he doesn’t find himself “particularly funny.” So spend time filling that emotional bucket with self-confidence so you’ll have it when the well runs dry.

 

Negotiate late night gigs with your parents (or find daytime ones). As a certified teen, you probably aren’t allowed in bars yet. Don’t despair! There are other options. Weekends are great, and so are comedy clubs who allow teens to perform (like the Broadway Comedy Club). Also, remember that mentor we mentioned earlier? Introduce this person to your parents. Even if she’s not old enough to be a chaperone, you can invoke the safety of the good old buddy system.

 

Remember who runs the world. But we don’t run comedy … yet. YET.

Being the ‘token girl’ in comedy can be hard. Even Avery says that she doesn’t “think girls are encouraged at all to be funny.” The important thing in comedy, like in life, is to remember to ignore anyone telling you you can’t do it. Sexism can look like a lot of different things, from the classic “women aren’t funny” to eye-rollingly stupid catcalls to even backhanded compliments from other women (see: “you’re so brave to do that” and “I love how you don’t care what anyone else thinks”). When in doubt, gird your emotional loins and prove ‘em wrong. Nevertheless, PERSIST!

 

Write what you know…carefully.
If your comedy is based in your personal life, be aware of how it might affect anyone you talk about. Being funny and being mean aren’t (necessarily) the same. If your jokes are about things like “peanuts and lizards and sexual harassment,” like teen-comic-turned-adult Alyssa Stonoha, keep private things private, or at least change the names to protect the innocent.

Love it!
No one ever said comedy was easy. Remember that you have plenty of funny years ahead of you. Not getting a laugh won’t kill you — but losing your passion might. Stay funny, ladies!

 


 

Gillian Rooney is a teenage American comedian and writer based in Connecticut. She is currently a student of Competitive Swordplay (member of Fairfield High School Fencing Team.) She is also an alumna of GOLD Comedy’s pilot workshop series!

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6 Ways YOU Can Use Humor Today To Benefit Your Workplace

While the “average” work week in the United States is supposed to be 40 hours, it feels more like two million. The 9-5 crowd spends a substantial portion of their life at their place of work, with people they might not ordinarily choose to be a part of their life. The result is often than in an effort to be businesslike, we tamp down our urges to joke around.

 

I’ll let you in on a secret. Being funny does not equate to being offensive or unbusinesslike. You can be professional, respectful, and hilarious, all at the same time. Your workplace is partly what you make of it, and you can create an amazing bubble of positivity and enthusiasm rippling out from yourself. Not only will it enamor you to your coworkers and benefit your workplace, it will also make you a happier camper.

 

Here’s what humor can do for you and your job — and how you can leverage its benefits.

When you’re trying to build confidence in your team.

Tell a joke or silly story, even if it is at your own expense. Like the time a raccoon broke into your apartment, you called the cops and answered the door in your Star Trek Captain Picard cosplay uniform because, in your freakout, you forgot to change (true story). Or reply to emails with a VEEP or Bridesmaids quote. Why? Coworkers will find you more approachable and feel confident in coming to you for help or asking a question. They won’t fear rebuke, and you’ll encourage their assertiveness.

When you want to build trust and camaraderie amongst coworkers.

Be the person in the meeting who accepts extreme eye-contact from coworkers as a silent affirmation they are not alone. Then slip them a WTF note with a good ol’ “hey girl, this meeting is whack but you aren’t.” You know that feeling when you are sitting in a meeting trying to look all normal on the outside, but in your mind you are screaming, is this happening? Does anyone else think what this person is saying is bananas? Use humor to defuse the situation and let coworkers know they can count on you to be normal, funny, and sane when they need it most. Because, if you’re anything like me, you desperately scan the room to try and make crazy-eye contact and without it, you may lose your mind.

 

When you need to release tension and stress.

Pass out third-grade-style valentines, leave funny anonymous post-it notes in the kitchen, or send out memes as responses to emails. Stress is contagious — but so is laughter. Create an alternative-humor oasis in the office that will bring tension down and remind people that it’s okay to blow off steam. A good laugh helps people relax, feel more positive about situations, and provides perspective. A workplace that decreases stress increases workflow and spreads the positivity.

When you want to reduce turnover.

Lead with a smile. Initiate a protocol that includes everyone creating a Simpsons avatar of themselves. Include cartoons and classic comedy movie clips (safe for work, of course) in materials and presentations. When humor is a baked into the company culture, it generates a positive and powerful work environment. That’s the kind of atmosphere that makes people want to stay, especially in industries usually notorious for their confrontational nature. Be the place people love to be, and they’ll stay loyal.

 

When creative thinking needs a boost.

Treat collaborations like an improv session. When ideas are in their infancy, yes-and them to help them grow. Allow yourself and your team to ask, what if … and then finish it with the biggest, wildest ideas out there. It allows people to think freely and quickly, and it lowers the voice of the inner critic, leading to more out-of-the-box ideas. There is truth in comedy, and ideas that at first seem goofy can be distilled into usable content.

 

When your company needs to stand out.

Include a clever quip, a joke, or cheeky graphic in your materials. Think about the kinds of advertisements, newsletters, social media, videos and marketing campaigns that you remember the most. (Want a great example? Take a look at Noble People. The more you look, the more you find.) Humor is humanizing. It makes your company comes across as more than just a brand.

 

Have anything to add to the list? Let us know @GOLDcmdy!


Courtney Antonioli is a performer and storyteller living in NYC. She produces Stay Golden, a YouTube channel of original content inspired by The Golden Girls. She hosts monthly Golden Girls Bingo at QED and does too many Tough Mudders. You can find her at @stolafprod.

Mini Q+A with…Chanel Ali

Chanel Ali is a standup comedian who blossomed on the Philadelphia circuit before moving to New York City in 2015. Her stage presence and story teller style make her a crowd favorite as she covers her upbringing, her world view, and life as a comedian who doubles as a polite person in real life. She was recently featured on an episode of Night Train with Wyatt Cenac and performs regularly at Caroline’s on Broadway and New York Comedy Club. Follow her!


 

Favorite response to a heckler or troll?

Right now, I’m a babysitter, just juggling babies and killing it at my job. You’re the guy, who’s bringing in mooore babies. Let me work.

 

Describe your worst gig.

I once had a gig at a bar that didn’t have a stage. They told us to stand near the pool table and gave us a wireless mic while the crowd was screaming watching the Super Bowl. Every comedian got one minute in before the boos took over. Afterwards, we could only laugh for having the guts to even try it.

 

On your deathbed, what transcendent advice would you croak at a young (female/LGBTQI) comedian?

Comedy is minutes, tiny bursts of opportunity on a show or a mic. Whenever you’re lost, get back on stage again, and again, and again.

 

When you were coming up in comedy, what helped you stick with it?

Steve Martin has a book called Born Standing Up and I read it after the first time I bombed in front of a lot of people. He said that his goal was to be good. Consistently good. Which is a hard goal. Moments of greatness happen all the time in comedy but consistency? It sounded daunting. I committed myself to the idea and invested heavily in learning from my mistakes. I became meticulous about my sets, keeping notes, taking audio recordings, studying the good, bad or weird.

 

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Don’t get comfortable in how that joke goes. It could change overtime, it could get better or become different. The joke isn’t done until you say so.

 

How has being funny helped you in your offstage life, either recently or when you were younger?

Sometimes I try to get people to laugh in business settings. I’ll make a bill collector laugh on the phone and then make a better deal. It helps drop the tension in a lot of situations and creates an energy where people feel compassion.

 

What advice do you have for how to level up from open mics + bringers to actual SPOT-spots?

It’s that old saying, dress for the job you want. Every time you get on stage you have an opportunity to showcase yourself and your work. Sometimes you have to use an open mic to showcase a complete set, to show that you have the material organized and that you are ready to be booked. Put yourself in the mindset of a booker watching a bunch of open mic sets. If you were booking a show you would want someone who goes up on stage with a plan and executes it. You’d want someone who seems polished and fun.

 

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Not my favorite honestly. I don’t want to be called that but I really don’t care if the next person does. I just like to be called a comedian. I think it’s gender neutral and I think it’s who I am, through and through.

 


Chanel Ali is a standup comedian who blossomed on the Philadelphia circuit before moving to New York City in 2015. Her stage presence and story teller style make her a crowd favorite as she covers her upbringing, her world view, and life as a comedian who doubles as a polite person in real life. She was recently featured on an episode of Night Train with Wyatt Cenac and performs regularly at Caroline’s on Broadway and New York Comedy Club. Follow her!

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How To Get A Job As A Digital Producer

…with Ana Breton, digital producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. 

Ana has 7+ years of working in film production. She was a camera operator for the movie “In Football We Trust,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. On the side, you can find her working on comedy videos with The Box, the all-female comedy talk show at The People’s Improv Theatre. She was a member of UCB’s Digital Team The Council and the all-female Digital Team LASH. She was born in Mexico City, speaks Spanish & really likes tacos. Follow her!


What’s your job/job title?

Digital Producer at Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

Did you always want to do this job? 

Digital producing is a fairly new job in television. I didn’t always know it existed, but I was interested in all the things it encompasses: producing videos, contributing to our social media accounts, building our show’s website, making a lot of behind the scenes content. I love letting people peek behind the curtain of the show.

What do you love most about your job? 

I love watching our show live! There’s a very special energy in the studio on Wednesdays.

What skills are most important to have for your job? 

Being versatile! In one day I could: produce a full video, take photos for the show, and/or contribute tweets for our show’s account. You never know what you’ll be doing that morning!

Are those skills that can be developed in other jobs, even outside of comedy?

Absolutely! There’s no school or major that teaches you how to produce online content. You learn bits and pieces from other jobs and experiences, and for me, it all came together here.

What are the challenges in your job related to your being outside the straight-white-dude norm? 

TV and film continue to be run by mostly white men. I feel lucky to work in a diverse environment, but even then your voice can be drowned out sometimes. My advice: Be confident in your point of view, and make sure it’s heard. If we want to change the media landscape, we have to continue to chip until we’re seen and heard.

What is the most important thing a teen or young job-seeker can do if she wants YOUR JOB? Well, not YOUR job, but a job just like yours. 

If you want to work at a political late night show, read up on politics and brush up on joke writing. Reach out to people you’re a fan of; you’d be surprised how many would be interested in mentoring you. Find internships or production assistant gigs, and most important, never give up!

What is most challenging about your job?

Because our show is a political late night show, we are constantly hyper-aware of what’s happening in politics. That can be exhausting. It’s important to take breaks from the news cycle some days!


Ana Breton is currently a Digital Producer for Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.  Ana has 7+ years of working in film production. She was a camera operator for the movie “In Football We Trust,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015. On the side, you can find her working on comedy videos with The Box, the all-female comedy talk show at The People’s Improv Theatre. She was a member of UCB’s Digital Team The Council and the all-female Digital Team LASH. She was born in Mexico City, speaks Spanish & really likes tacos. Follow her!

 

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How To Get A Job In…Comedy Writing and Production

 

“Comedy” means a lot of things. While many of you want to PERFORM comedy, many of you just want to be IN comedy, or NEAR comedy—as a writer, producer, manager or agent, club owner…so many options! We’re here to help you figure out how to get there…with people who ARE there. This week we chat with: longtime (and hilarious) Netflix TV writer and producer Nancy Cohen.

What’s your job/job title?

TV Writer/Producer at Netflix.

Did you always want to do this job?

I worked in TV production in my twenties, while dabbling in writing. I just didn’t have the confidence to pursue it seriously. I’m glad I waited because I collected many stories…just by living.

What do you love most about your job?

Writing a scene in, let’s say, a bakery. And then a couple months later a crew is hammering away, building a bakery. It’s insane. Also, there’s lots of laughing every day.

What is most challenging about your job?

Knowing when to keep my mouth shut and when to open it! That took me YEARS. People who are writers’ assistants learn this firsthand because they work in the room. I worked on set so I had no clue how the room worked. It’s also important to not take things personally. People tell me I have a thick skin, which also took years. In my twenties, I was the first to run to the office bathroom for a good cry.

Are there challenges in your job related to your being outside the straight-white-dude norm?

The challenges: those dudes stick together and have each others’ backs. I think women have to work harder to prove that we’re good at our jobs. But now, more women are getting staffed on shows because guess what: they NEED us. Now I feel like it’s a bonus to be female. We knew this all along but finally, they’ve figured it out! Embrace your POV.

What skills are the most important to have for it?

Having a unique voice and perspective and finding the funny in all situations.

Can those skills be developed in other jobs? 

We write as a team so being able to collaborate is key. If you can get a job as a writers’ assistant or P.A., you’ll learn how the TV machine works, which will be very helpful.

What is the most important thing a teen or young job-seeker can do if they want YOUR JOB? 

Get any job on a TV show. Do the grunt work and keep writing every day, even if it’s just a couple of paragraphs in a journal. Because when you’re older, you’ll go back to those journals for material! See movies, watch TV shows, read books, figure out how YOU want to express yourself then go for it. And then go for it again and again and again. The more you write, the better you’ll get. Also, remember that everyone’s first drafts suck; writing is rewriting.

Want more comedy inspo? Of course you do! Check out more mini Q+As.


After stage managing and fetching people things for years in New York, Nancy Cohen moved to Los Angeles to be a television writer. She has written on numerous shows, including The King of Queens, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Gravity Falls and Fuller House. She’s currently writing on a Netflix show, Alexa and Katie, which will premiere on 3/23/18. Nancy lives in Hollywood with her husband, Brian Frazer, also a writer, and puppy Hubbell, not a writer. In her spare time she tap dances.

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

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