How-To Start Your Own Comedy YouTube Channel

Picture it. The date: Spring, 2015. The challenge: Fresh off a firing, I told myself to do something I enjoyed, even if it was not for money. The result: I launched “Stay Golden,” a YouTube channel of weekly original videos inspired by The Golden Girls. We’re talking mashups, interviews, rankings, lists and original scripted comedy (and more).

In the three years since that first video, I’ve produced over 90 videos, gained over 9,200 subscribers, started turning a profit, became a certified YouTube content creator, branched out to hosting Golden Girls Bingo in NYC, and got paying creative work. All of this came out of the channel that I still run today.

 

YouTube is a valuable platform for comedians at every stage in their career and should be in your creative arsenal. From showcasing your gigs to making your own content, YouTube will be a spotlight on all things you! With no money down, I’m going to give you the inside scoop on how to launch your channel in an hour or less. These are the basics to get rolling on YouTube.

 

What Kind Of Channel Do You Want To Be?: YouTube channels, like movies, tend to fall into categories. Stay Golden is a combination of comedy, entertainment, and vlogging inspired by the show. I make videos ranking every episode, mashups where “The Golden Girls” meet shows like “Game of Thrones,” and one epic five-hour loop of Dorothy Zbornak screaming “Condoms, Rose!”

 

The idea of a channel is to showcase your funny, your way. You could do comedic monologues, write and star in sketches on trending topics, develop a full-on web series based on your own life, or use the channel to upload videos of your live performances. And there’s so much more!

 

You can be one of these things or all of these things. The key here is to have a clear vision, at launch, of what you want to do that makes you feel confident and excited for your new channel.

 

Setting Up Your Channel: We can get this done in under five minutes.

 

  • Already have a gmail account? Congratulations, you are 50% done with this part already. Log into YouTube using your gmail address. Visit your account settings to change the name of your channel.
  • Don’t have a gmail, or want to make a new one for your channel? Go to YouTube.com and click “create new account.” Fill out all required information. Your email is not your channel name; the “first and last” name fields make up your YouTube handle.

 

The key here is your channel name as a part of the setup. If the channel is about you, whether it is vlogs or videos of performances, consider making it your name. If it is sketches, scripted shows, or other comedy, make it your show’s name. Pro tip: Be sure to search the name in YouTube first to see if its already in use. If you need to change it, you can do this anytime in Google+.

 

Channel Art: These will be the first two images viewers associate with your channel. There is your banner and thumbnail. Think of these two items as your visual business card. They work together to tell the story of you and your channel.

 

  • Thumbnail: Also known as your logo. When thinking about your channel, what is the image that comes to mind? “Stay Golden” uses our name and a picture of a slice of cheesecake. If the channel is all your stand-up material, use your face as the thumbnail.
  • Banner: I talk about Golden Girls all day. My banner is their faces with information about my show. Banners are larger than thumbnails and take up the top of the channel page. Use bold colors and uncluttered images to catch viewer’s eyes. Relate it to what you do. And keep it simple. If your comedy is all about kittens, don’t put your dogs in there too. It doesn’t make sense.

 

Remember more than half of viewers watch YouTube on their phone. Your art needs to be clear enough to look good on smaller devices. Pro tip: You can use free services like canva.com or snappa.com to make these graphics in a snap. They come with drag-and-drop templates, fonts, and styles.

Uploading Your Videos: Whether it is original content or a recording from your last five-minute standup set, the process is the same. After clicking the camera icon in the top right corner to upload your video and hit these four hot spots:

 

  • Video Title: You have to call it something. No video will ever get published on YouTube without one. Titles range from the silly to the straightforward. I like to number my videos so viewers know there are more out there to watch. Pro tip: Keep titles under 70 characters so they show up in searches without getting cut off.
  • Description: This is your area to chat it up! Tell people what the video is about. Plaster it with all your social media links and your website; tell people where they can find your next show.
  • Tags: These are search keywords related to this video and your channel. They help you show up in searches. Fun Fact: Don’t add too many tags a single video. If a video has more than 15 hashtags, it may get automatically left out or searches. We don’t want that.
  • End Screens: People are loving your videos. Laughing it up. Wanting more! Use end screens to give them what they want: More of your awesome content! End screens link directly to your other videos and encourage viewers to subscribe.

Promotion: Launching a channel will expose you to a brand-new audience you might not otherwise be in front of. To broaden your exposure, you should promote your channel across other social media platforms. Share your links on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (if you’re on them). Don’t overlook other options like Tumblr, Buzzfeed, and Reddit. For example, I post every new video in the Golden Girls subreddit and get tons of views. Pro tip: Remind people to subscribe to your channel whenever you link to it.

 

Why YouTube Is Important: Comedy is a hustle. I am constantly submitting to shows, pitching producers and trying to get writing published. Let’s be real. It can often leave you feel lonely, stranded, and rejected.

 

With Stay Golden, I don’t have to wait for acceptance. If I have an idea, I make it. YouTube means creating without permission. You don’t have to be booked to tell jokes or commissioned for a sketch. You set up a camera or your phone, do your thing, upload it, and make your own audience. You take control and power of your voice by making your own opportunities.

 

Stay Golden has over 1 million views, 99% coming from total strangers. I think about the shows where I’ve performed for an audience of nine people or how hard it can be to get friends to come out for a show on Tuesday at 11 pm. YouTube breaks down the barriers of time, location, and space.


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.

How to collaborate in comedy with literally anyone ever

Sure, I do solo comedy. But I’ve been collaborating in one form or another for the majority of my life: sketch, improv, choreography, directing, producing, and working in writers’ rooms. I like both ways of working, and I think the best thing you can do for yourself is know how to do either one.

 

Finding a great writing partner, producing partner, or any other sort of comedy collaborator is a worthy goal. Working with someone else can make your creative life so much richer.

 

It can also make it a lot more complicated because now, instead of only navigating your own hang-ups, craziness, bad moods and assorted mishegas, you’ve also got someone else’s to contend with.

 

Add to that, there’s no playbook for a working relationship with your funny friends.

 

So I’ve written a little primer for you, replete with tips and tricks to remember as you bring collaborators into your (previously solo) process—and alphabetized for maximum adorableness.

Always encourage your collaborators and let them know when they’re doing a good job.

Between you and me” — Or maybe not. Gossip is toxic and will always come back to haunt you.

Constantly check in on deadlines to make sure that your partner knows what is due, when.

Deadlines are the only way. Create them for yourself. Little ones and big ones all along your path.

Everyone you meet is a potential collaborator. Treat people with respect (until they really blow it and then GTFO).

Forgive small mistakes. We are all learning. Learn and move forward and help your collaborators to do the same.

Give all of yourself to your projects or don’t bother doing them. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

Have fun working together with your friends. When it stops being fun, notice — and make changes.

It’s okay to put yourself first. Make sure that you are not giving too much and getting nothing back. This should be an equal exchange.

Just say no to people who make you feel like garbage. You don’t need a collaborator who belittles you. There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Kick butt. Celebrate. Relax. Repeat.

Lone writing is not a bad thing. It’s great to take a break from collaborators sometimes and do it all on your own. You’ll learn a lot. See which way you prefer.

Make friends with people whose energy and work ethic you admire. Talent is nice, but over time, work ethic and positive energy will take you further. Seek out people who are talented and have an indefatigable spirit.

Nobody knows you better than yourself. Speak up about your needs creatively, financially, and in terms of time management. Don’t let alpha personalities silence you, and don’t step on the voices of others either.

Open yourself up to your writing partner’s ideas. Accept notes. They will make your work better.

Put yourself in the shoes of your collaborator. How is s/he seeing this situation?

Quality over quantity when it comes to rehearsal and writing time. You can get a lot done in a short, focused period of time and surprisingly little done when you’re unfocused or your team is too chatty to do any writing.

Read. It makes you a better writer.

Stop comparing yourself to your collaborators. Their strengths complete your weaknesses and vice versa. You had the good sense to work with them, and that’s a skill unto itself.

Take care of your body. Don’t rehearse and write till all hours of the night. Sleep makes you more awake and therefore more talented and more FANCY.

Untangle complicated social problems as soon as you can. Don’t let bad energy fester in your group. Talk it out and get rid of it. Put the work first.

Vent your grievances to your journal or practice role-playing with another trusted friend before having a difficult conversation to your collaborator. Words matter.

Wait until the show is over to celebrate. It’s not over till it’s over. Stay focused. Eyes on the prize.

Xerox your scripts well before your rehearsal so that everyone has copies and you’re not scrambling for a Staples. By Xerox, I mean print. (Work with me here, people. X is a tough one.)

You are always learning, even though you’re already a superstar. Stay humble.

Zip Zap Zop is still a fantastic warm up for your sketch or improv group. Don’t knock it. You’ll never outgrow a game that’s all about focus.

And those are the ABC’s of Collaboration!

Tell us: Do any of these tips remind you of a good story? Let us know (keeping people anonymous, though. See the Gossip note above….) Failure and success stories welcomed!


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


Mini Q+A with…Ashley Hamilton

Ashley Hamilton is a stand up comedian and writer from Chicago, IL who started performing in sunny Los Angeles. In LA, she ran a monthly show at UCB Franklin, hosted regularly at the Chatterbox in Covina, CA, and performed at the Hollywood Improv. Recently, she relocated to New York City and can be seen performing 7 nights a week all around New York. She contributes writing and videos to ManRepeller.com and hosts a podcast called Hold on One Second We’re Talking About Britney Spears, the world’s only oral history of Britney Spears in podcast form. She has performed all around the country and recently appeared at the Broke LA festival in Los Angeles and The Big Sky Comedy festival in Billings, MT. Follow her!


What’s the best way for standups to level up from open mics + “bringer” shows to “real” shows?

Support rooms, be funny, don’t try to tailor a good “show set.” Just work on getting funnier in general and it’ll happen.

 

Describe your worst gig.

I would say surviving any gig where people very specifically want to be doing anything other than watching standup is a victory. Its not that fun to feel like you’re holding people hostage.

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

Just keep doing it.

What’s your first impulse when someone says “women aren’t funny”?

Just wait until one takes pity and finally talks to you.

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

This probably sounds dumb but I just like doing it so much. Writing a joke and then having that joke work in front of strangers is great.

Best comedy advice you ever got?

Be funny.

Worst comedy advice you ever got?

Be something else (any advice about trying to fit into the mold of a female comedian who is already successful is bad advice).

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

I was extremely shy growing up but making my friends laugh was always a huge confidence booster.

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

I don’t think any one person inspired me to be a comedian. It was a pretty windy path before I decided I even wanted to try it. My dad introduced me to all of the comedy that wound up inspiring me.

Feelings about the word “comedienne”?

Too many letters.

What kind of class clown are you?

You’re here on this site and you’re part of the Comedy Gold community, so we can safely assume you’re some kind of class clown. But that’s not all there is to the story. Even class clowns have different flavors. Consider this a personality test for people who would never, ever take a personality test. Be sure to keep track of your answers so that you can add up your results at the end. Or, for those of you who are resistant to following directions, don’t keep track of your answers, it’s not allowed.

  1. When you’re not cracking jokes, you can be found …

    1. Scrolling through Instagram
    2. Crushing it in trivia competitions
    3. Coming up with more jokes to crack
    4. Bragging about your sexcapades
    5. Reading in a busy café
  2. Which of these jobs comes closest to being your dream gig?

    1. Social media director
    2. Political commentator
    3. TV show host
    4. Advice columnist
    5. Artist
  3. How would you summarize your sense of humor?

    1. Always on trend
    2. Democratic
    3. Stupid-funny
    4. A lil’ edgy
    5. Insightful and pointed
  4. Who’s your inner celebrity?

    1. Kim Kardashian
    2. Samantha Bee
    3. Amy Poehler
    4. Amy Schumer
    5. Aparna Nancherla
  5. What’s your patronus?

    1. Lion
    2. Elephant
    3. Dog
    4. Cat
    5. Mouse
  6. Which of these TV shows is your favorite?

    1. Rupaul’s Drag Race
    2. Saturday Night Live
    3. The Simpsons
    4. Broad City
    5. 30 Rock
  7. What’s your go-to shoe style?

    1. Booties
    2. Heels
    3. Crocs
    4. Sandals
    5. Converse
  8. What high school clique do you belong to?

    1. The proud crowd
    2. Nerds
    3. Jocks
    4. Stoners
    5. Misfits
  9. Which of these cities would you choose as your home?

    1. New York
    2. Washington, D.C.
    3. Los Angeles
    4. Austin
    5. San Francisco

If You Got Mostly As…

You’re the Meme Queen!

Your sense of humor is all about pop culture and all things current. People flock to you for ultra-relevant jokes on everything from avocado toast to Béyonce’s babies, and you never let them down. There are tons of popular comedians with your brand of funny, and it’s easy to see why. Just listen to the crowd in this show by Leslie Jones.

If You Got Mostly Bs…

You’re the Teacher’s Clown!

Taking notes on the current political climate, you’re able to find the funny in incredibly confusing or stressful national issues. You are able to use your laser-sharp wit not only to mock our nation’s politics, but to critique them, making your jokes as thought-provoking as they are laugh-inducing. Margaret Cho is an absolute master — er, mistress? — of this brand of comedy.

If You Got Mostly Cs…

You’re the Human Whoopie Cushion!

Your sense of humor is 100% classic, able to be adapted to any kind of audience. As much as you’re willing to poke fun at others, though, your best jokes are the ones about yourself and your own experiences. After all, everyone loves comedians who know how to get personal. Take a look at the way Tig Notaro spun her double mastectomy into comedy gold.

If You Got Mostly Ds…

You’re Working Blue!

Your raunchy sense of humor may not be safe for work or school, but it is a safe bet for getting a ton of laughs. Your lack of a filter keeps your jokes real and relatable, which is why you are such a conversation magnet in any situation. Just be sure to tone down the jokes in front of the kids. If you want to get a laugh from someone on your wavelength, behold Ali Wong’s take on everything from porn to marriage to underwear.

If You Got Mostly Es…

You’re a Secret Weapon!

You may be a bit on the shy side, yet your sense of humor is anything but quiet. Your introverted personality allows you to be a skillful observer, pulling comedy from all the people and things going on around you. Performing is where you tend to really come alive, so take your jokes out of your head and onto the stage. Look at this performance by Aparna Nancherla, and be sure to take notes.

 

So what do you think of your results? Let us know on Twitter at @GOLDcmdy!

5 ways to handle rejection (in comedy)

As you ponder the path that will help you become a successful comedian, you’re going to have to get used to a few things. One of these is being an unsuccessful comedian, at least for a little while — a subject I covered with a delightful article about how I inadvertently terrified a roomful of Youngs with a simple herpes mention at the mic. Another challenging reality will be rejections. Lots of rejections. So here’s my take on how to handle all those times when you don’t book the gig.

Get a life

I’m not trying to be shady! I mean this quite sincerely and with great love. Is comedy the only thing you think about, or do you have a community surrounding you that is rich enough and nurturing enough to help you sustain these rough ups and downs? If you find yourself obsessing about a recent rejection, reach out to a friend who will understand.

 

If you don’t have such a friend, get one. Get three. Everyone (your teacher, your aunt, your bank teller) understands rejection in one way or another, but you will find that your circle of artist buddies really gets, better than anyone, what it feels like to put your heart on the line and then not book something. Rejection in comedy can be particularly shaming because you make yourself really vulnerable when you’re trying to make people laugh. So when someone tells you they’re not feeling it, it feels somehow personal.

 

Make sure that your actor/artist/comedian/poet/musician friends know you have their back. Support your friend when she doesn’t get the role she wanted or when she is rejected for the second time from Jazz Choir. Be there for your squad and they will be there for you.

Comedy may look like a solo endeavor when you’re watching somebody’s Netflix standup special, but a quick Google search will reveal the enormous team and community behind every comedian.

Look for a pattern  

Are the yesses and nos you’re getting early in your early career starting to show a pattern?

 

I studied theater in college. After being roundly rejected from nearly all my auditions in my first two years of school, I unexpectedly booked a wonderful paid show that called for actors who could write, sing, dance, and act. I marveled at this opportunity, because so many of the things I’d auditioned for that year called for me to do only one of those things.

 

In the years to come, I’d consistently get rejected from shows and opportunities, but whenever writing was in the mix, I’d book the show, the sketch group, the workshop. Once I had the presence of mind to reflect, the pattern became pretty obvious: Writing comedy was the thing that separated me from other aspiring artists; performing the comedy I had written was a close second. Those were the skills that booked me the jobs.

 

Take a look at your recent yesses and nos. Does a pattern emerge? Can you look at that pattern with a little bit of detachment (I promise, you can be bitter as you want when you’re done reading this article, but just indulge me for a sec)? Let the rejections fall away and take a look at where you are getting those yesses.

 

Now, to contradict myself. If you are very new to the comedy game, don’t read into your rejections at all. Notice that I was reflecting on my first two years of college when I began to trace this pattern. It may be too soon for you to do that. If that’s the case, just keep on trucking. Your rejections, though they may sting, are basically irrelevant information for you, young squire;  right now your job is to build up your endurance and keep getting back in the saddle of the comedy horse that keeps throwing you off. Yes, you can!

Have a ritual

When you work out, you do a warm-up and a cooldown. (Or you should, anyway.) The warm-up is to get your muscles ready, and the cooldown is to return your muscles to normal. Your emotional muscles work in much the same way.

 

When you prepare for a big audition, for instance, you get your brain and heart working at full capacity. You warm up, prepare for that moment, and give it all you’ve got. One thing I learned recently from a quick interview (aka phone call) with Peak Performance Coach Rae Tattenbaum (aka my mom!) is that after a big show or audition, you need to have a come-down ritual to bring your brain and heart back to a neutral state.

I told my mom that I was having trouble focusing after I had done a big show. I told her that my mind and body still felt like I was performing. I was on edge and couldn’t relax and move on to my next projects, despite their looming deadlines. She told me that I needed to cultivate a cool-down process after shows/events/auditions so that I could bring myself back to a neutral state and start my next projects without what Cal Newport, author of Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, calls “attention residue” — the feeling that you’re still kind of doing the last thing you did when you try to start the next thing.

Rejection works the same way. When you get the email or the phone call or you see the cast list posted, have a little ritual or quiet moment planned ahead of time. Honor the effort you put in with a cool-down ritual to thank yourself and just be sad for a little bit if you need to be. The day you’re expecting news, plan ahead for it, and you won’t be blindsided if it’s bad news that comes your way.

Reward the effort, if not the result

My friend had submitted a killer writing packet for a TV show and gone through multiple rounds of interviews. She was very close to booking a job that she had put many hours of work and daydreaming into. After a month of labor and back and forth emails, she called me, heartbroken, with bad news: She was not hired. She confided in me that she felt she might not get over this for a long time. What could she do to put all those lost hours in perspective? What should she do about this terrible feeling that she’d never book anything ever again?

This cuts to the heart of rejection pathos. It’s like cooking a whole meal, smelling it as it comes out of the oven, serving it to diners who get to eat it and then having nothing left for yourself. Rejection can leave you feeling cheated and dissatisfied.

 

Best way to solve this? Jewelry. Well, costume jewelry.

 

I told this sad friend what I tell you now: Go buy yourself a little present that will forever remind you of what a great job you did in pursuit of this opportunity. Celebrate what you know to be your success, even if you didn’t get the results you wanted.

My friend bought herself a little silver ring that depicts a hand making the OK signal. She wears it all the time. To her it means, “You done good, kid.” It helped her to close the chapter and, indeed, she did go on to write for a different TV show not long after — with me, no less! Lucky girl!

Follow up

Just because a gatekeeper rejects you in this moment doesn’t mean they always will. It took me three auditions to get into my college’s prestigious sketch-comedy group. Persistence pays off and, along with that, follow-ups pay off. Stay in the network of the people who reject you, if you like them and think you’ve got a future collaborating together. Sometimes you’re not quite ready, or they’re not quite ready for you. Wait it out and when the fates align, your persistence and your follow-ups will pay off.

Rejection is a temporary thing. A temporary thing you hafta go through for a long time. That’s the truth, but it’s no way to end an article! Here’s a picture of a llama with a very cool haircut. In my eyes, you are as brave and as fabulous as this llama. Go forth and make your comedy!


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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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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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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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!

How To Do Comedy: A Workshop For Girls + Others

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How to turn an anecdote into a story

A funny thing happened to you on the way to the dentist.

 

You told your friend. She laughed and agreed, “That’s funny!”

 

Now, there’s an open mic coming up, and you will get 5 minutes to entertain the masses.

 

What do you need to do to get your dentist-commute-story from its current state, as a brief anecdote, to a meaty 5-minute affair that will make an audience chuckle and learn a little something about the human condition?

 

Strap in, readers. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

WINTER OLYMPIC NEWS HOOK: Here’s my own anecdote-turned-story of mine about gold medal figure skater Tara Lipinski!

 

Find the arc

 

The main goal here is going to be: Find the emotional journey. Every good story has an arc. You begin one place, and you end up somewhere else.

 

How do you feel at the beginning of your story? What expectations do you have?

 

Where do you find yourself at the end in terms of emotional state? What expectations have been met or shattered? What choices did you make in the process?

 

That’s the beginning and end of your story. Here, I made a picture, because I just figured out Word Art.

 

Define your turning point

 

Your story, after its beginning, will have a moment when everything changes.

 

Perhaps it was the moment when your usual route to the dentist was blocked because of road construction. And that was the moment you knew that this would not be your average dentist commute!

 

Side note: Why have I chosen such seemingly boring subject matter for our jumping-off point? Because I want to illustrate that stories can pop up anywhere. The real question is: What makes this day different? Good stories focus on crossroads in people’s lives. Any good scene, story, or joke exists in the moment when the usual becomes the unusual. Otherwise, why would you pick that moment?

 

Maybe you just got a bad grade and are feeling especially down, and your friend has strep throat and canceled her birthday party that you were so excited about, and it’s hailing outside, and now you have to go to the dentist to deal with a cavity. You are at your wit’s end! One more bad thing and you’ll explode! So that’s how we know today is different. We find you at a breaking point.

 

A good story often begins with a character either on the brink of changing or learning, but not yet sure how she will, or a character completely oblivious to change, who is, therefore, gobsmacked by it.

 

Figure out what’s in your way

 

Stories thrive on conflict. What is conflict? I’ll explain it with math:

 

Desire + obstacle = conflict.

 

In shaping your anecdote into a story, consider what you, as a character, desire in this story. Is your desire to NOT be going to the dentist? Are you ruminating about a love interest as you walk the last few blocks there? What do you want, and what are the obstacles in your way?

 

These obstacles come in different shapes and sizes. They are both internal and external.

 

An external obstacle might be: You have to get to a 4 pm dentist appointment so that you can get to orchestra practice at 6 pm, but a blocked highway filled with clown cars foils your plans! (NB: Do not use clown cars in your story. Truth in comedy, folks.)

 

Or maybe your obstacle is internal. You’re on the way to the dentist obsessing about your love interest and feeling horrible self-loathing because your braces are orange and black for Halloween when you realize your love interest’s favorite color is blue. Your internal obstacle is your plummeting self-confidence in the face of your desire. (Wouldn’t it then be surprising if your love turns out to like orange and black because you like it? How might your character then feel by the story’s end? See how conflict creates story?)

 

Putting it all together

 

Okay, now is the moment of transformation for your little anecdote.

Set yourself up for success by conveying your state of mind and what you want at the beginning of the story. Identify your turning point, that moment when everything changes. By the middle of the story, we will expect to find you, our protagonist, facing one or numerous obstacles in pursuit of what you want. By the end, you’ve either gotten what you wanted or haven’t, but in the wanting of it, you are now changed in some way.

 

Articulate that change at the end of your story.

 

“The end is in the beginning.” You will hear this in improv classes when it comes time to end a scene on a laugh line, you might have heard it in algebra class, and you’ll hear it right now in this article about morphing anecdotes into stories. Compare your ending to the beginning of your story. How do you, as a character, now feel? Without the beginning, your ending packs no punch.

 

Plant the seeds of what might be your next story at the end of this one. Not because you are definitely going to write Commute to the Dentist 2: Electric Boogaloo, but because it ends us on a note of curiosity and intrigue. BUM-bum-bum.

 

BONUS STORY: Here’s another about how I had ghosts in my room as a kid and my mom helped to get rid of them.

 

 

Speaking of curiosity and intrigue: What’s YOUR story about? I wanna hear it! Tweet us at @GoldComedy

 


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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