You Will Never Be An Overnight Success


Not getting the recognition, as a stand up comedian, that you think you deserve? Are you only hosting shows but think you should have a shot of featuring or even headlining? Or maybe, you’ve only had an opportunity to perform at open mic’s but think you should be given an opportunity at hosting a professional show? Let’s face it, we’ve all felt like this at one point or another. In 8 years, I’ve learned that when you think you’re ready to host and emcee a show, you’re really not. When you think you’re ready to feature, you’re really only ready to be an opener. When you think you’re ready to headline, you’re probably only scratching the surface at featuring. What a business, huh? How in the world can you ever know that you’re ready for anything? What can you do to get the attention of bookers or club owners? Well, I hope this blog will help shed some light on that.

I believe that the best judge on the matter lies squarely with the person that booked you or the club owner that has given you an opportunity on their stage. Look at them as the judge and the audience as the jury. The jury may render it’s verdict, but the judge has the last word on what happens from there. I have known a lot of comics who have not been patient enough to let a club owner or booker decide when they are ready to allow for the next step to be taken. Often times, the comic will jump ship and look for opportunities elsewhere, however, the process is then repeated at a new club or venue. As for me, I’ve decided to never take for granted any stage that has been offered to me. I have been told things like, “I don’t think you’re strong enough to bump one of our regular features”, or “I’m not ready to put my name out on the line for you just yet”, or “You can open here, but not feature.” Tough things to hear, but these words didn’t just come from people who didn’t know what they were doing. These were club owners who have a business to run. These are business owners that put their reputation on the line every time they bring a comic to town to work their stage. They’ve been in the business longer than I have. I was angry each and every time I heard these type of things said to me and many of these words were uttered to me as recently as this year! But guess what? I’m still getting the bookings. I’m still getting on these stages. And more importantly, I am still making fans along the way.

Two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to feature at the club I started at, The Comedy Spot in Scottsdale, Arizona. Not only did I have friends and family come out and support me, I had some new fans who saw my videos on YouTube, drive over 80 miles to attend the show! Both of my sets, one for an early show and one for a late show, went amazingly well. It seemed like I was getting applause breaks during every bit! The laughs were through the roof! At the end of the night, the owner presented me with an opportunity to headline a “One Night Only” event in October. I have featured at this club for the past 3 years and am now getting an opportunity to take my career a step further. Three years ago, I was featuring at this same club for 3 nights. Then, because my self promotion was not bringing out my supporters often enough, I was cut back to 2 nights and finally to only 1 night. I didn’t complain, (at least not out loud). I know that it is my responsibility to promote my appearances and bring people out to see me. If I can’t do that, how am I ever going to create a fan base? And, why would a club owner or booker want to book me on their shows? I’m not a household name. I’ve got no Tv or movie credits. I’ve never appeared on a Comedy Central show. So, why would I expect to get those type of premium bookings? I was lucky enough to hold on to at least 1 night! Since I was cut back to 1 night, I continued to post videos on YouTube, I continued to write new material and I continued to plug along despite feeling that I deserved more.

I’ve said this many times, “It’s going to take years.” I’m not talking about 2 or 3 or even 10 years. I’m talking about 12 to 15 years or more, before you can have a stand up comedy career worth talking about! I don’t live in L.A. or New York, where the comedy scene is booming, and although the local comedy scene in my hometown is a small one, it at least guarantees me 3 to 5 open mic opportunities on a weekly basis. In addition, I have a regular hosting gig at the El Paso Comic Strip, which is the only comedy club in town. It may take me longer than 12 to 15 years to get my career to where I am a “working comic”, (A full time stand up comedian), but I’m willing to hang around as long as it takes, even if my material goes from talking about raising kids to talking about the size of my prostate.

To all my fellow comics out there, hang in there and keep plugging along. Even if we don’t make it one day, we can all say that there was a time when we “Had them laughing.”

Anyone can be a comic, but it takes years to be a comedian.

Humility With a Name Like “Iggy”


I don’t consider myself a professional stand up comic yet. I’ve been in the business for 7 years now, and in that time have earned well over…six hundred bucks. I know a little more than the comic who has done it for a less amount of time but I have a TON more to learn.

Comics are self centered. Some comics won’t even take advice from others and certainly not from comedians who haven’t been in the game too long. Sure, we would all like to get advice from people like Louie CK or Jerry Seinfeld or Ralphie May, but those opportunities may never present themselves. There have been times where another comic will ask me for advice and I’m only happy to share it. I may not know a lot about stand up but what I do know, it is my pleasure to share.

Two years ago, I saw a guy perform  at an open mic. The guy killed and had great jokes! None of them were hack and I could tell that the guy knew how to actually write material. He not only got the laughs, he did it in front of a bar audience. There is no tougher crowd than that! After the show, I went up to the new comic and asked him how long he had been doing stand up. He responded with, “This was my first time.” That floored me. I had to give credit where credit was due. I told him, “If you can do that at a bar, (make them laugh) you will kill them at a comedy club.”

Since then, I have been working with him at other bar shows and events around town. In that time, he has never thought that he was more than he was. He has remained humble and committed to the stand up craft. He will often times ask me for advice and I share things with him that seem mundane but are such an intricate part of the business. The best thing a fellow comic can do is help pave the way for those that are treading on ground that they’ve already walked on. I’m not “Headlining” material yet, but I have Emcee’d shows and I have Featured at comedy clubs, and the things I’ve learned are things that others have taught me. In this profession, everyone wants to stand out above the rest with little to no help, while others realize that to stand up above the rest can only happen when you help others to do so as well. That is quite a contrarian way of thinking, but it has it’s purpose.

This week, the comic I’ve been writing about will Emcee for his very first time at The El Paso Comic Strip. This will be his first professional gig. He has been working his set at all the local open mics, at bars, at school gymnasiums, at restaurants, at private parties, at charity events, at coffee houses, you name it! He has earned this opportunity not just by being funny, but by humbling himself to the advice of others.

He refers to me as his “mentor”, but he has been my mentor as much as he considers me his. I’ve learned from him just as much as he’s learned from me. Ask for his advice and he will be quick to invite you over to his house for beer and a joke writing session. I’ll be there on his first opening night and I will be there for his first Feature appearance and I will be front and center at his first Headlining spot.

Congratulations, Iggy! Kill em’!

How Many People Do You Need to Have a Good Stand Up Comedy Show?


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The answer to the title of this blog is, six. Yup, that’s all you need. At least, that’s all I needed.  Last night was my Headlining debut at a local El Paso, Texas bar called Coconuts. The promoter has run that show for over 3 years now, every week on Tuesdays. For the most part, the place is typically full of people on Tuesday’s Comedy Nights. On this night particular night, however, the NBA playoffs were going on and a well known rock group was in town to perform at another venue. The bar had at least half the size that we had grown accustomed to. As the NBA games were finishing and as showtime approached, the place got a little emptier. The show, however, must still go on.

Our host for the evening took to the stage and did his best to set the mood. He immediately had to deal with a drunk heckler who was relentless in shouting out what she thought of the show so far. Our host dealt with the distraction well enough to move on. By the time he introduced the first comic, more people were beginning to leave. Our first comic did his thing and plugged along despite very little reaction from a crowd that seemed distant and unamused. Like the professional that he is, he earned his laughs and never wavered from doing what he has been perfecting for so long. The comic ended his set with a smile on his face and left a few smiles in his wake. The seats, however got a little more empty.

Our feature and promoter then took to the stage and took complete control, as he has always been able to do. This was his room. He had tamed this room every Tuesday night, every week, for 3 years and has perfected the task. On this night, considering that the crowd had now dwindled down to six people, he finished his set quicker than usual and got off the stage leaving a good vibe in the room. Now, it was the Headliner’s turn…me.

By the time my slot came up, there was absolutely no one sitting in the tables in front of the stage. Several other local comics had shown up and occupied the stools at the end of bar and were doing their own thing. I never count them as audience members anyway. After all, they’ve only heard my jokes over a 100 times. Along the front of the bar were six people; two couples and a pair of buddies who had been there for the entire show. Before I was introduced by the host, I grabbed the mic stand off the stage and placed it right in front of the bar in the area where all the empty seats were. If the front of the stage was to be empty, I was going to move the stage to an area of the bar that wasn’t. I had no opening joke. There was no need for one. I simply started out by saying, “I’m performing for you six people today. Ignore the guys at the end of the bar. They are all comics and don’t give a crap about what I’m going to say so, let’s see who we’ve got left? We’ve got a couple here at the end. Are you all a couple or just touching pee pee’s? Oh, hooking up? So, you found each other on Craigslist or Mocospace? Cool. How about this other couple? Oh, married five years? Wait, your husband just got out of prison after two years, so you’ve technically been married for three years? Were you married to some dude in prison or was your lady here really patient? And here we have our third couple. I see that you are sitting next to each other with a “buffer” stool in between, so you’re not gay, right? You know, this place only has one urinal and no “buffer” urinal? It made it very awkward when I went in there and peed at the same urinal with another dude that was in there. I think he left?”

None of these lines were comedy gold by any means, and most of it was hack, but we were all having a conversation and, rather than heckle, they were all having a conversation right back with me. Every now and then, they would mention something that led me right in to one of my prepared jokes and the whole thing seemed like I was thinking it up right on the spot! It took a few minutes, but before you knew it, all six of them were laughing hysterically! After about fifteen minutes I said, “I think this would be a good time to end the show.” They didn’t let me. They actually said, “No, no! Keep going, keep going!” So, I kept going… for the first time in my seven years of doing stand up comedy, I had reached my audience on a personal level. One of the six had just gotten out of prison, one claimed to have been a stripper, one was unemployed, one was there just to “hook up”, one was there as the patient prison wife and the other was a computer programmer enjoying the laughs. I had gotten to know each of these individuals in the way a comic usually doesn’t get a chance to. That night, I was their friend and they were mine. And they let me talk. They let me perform. They let me entertain them.

They did more for me than I could have ever done for them. They laughed with me…

Omar’s Patreon Site. Pledge your support!

Think Classy, You’ll Be Classy


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“Your shower shoes have fungus on them. You’ll never make it to the bigs with fungus on your shower shoes. Think classy, you’ll be classy. If you win 20 in the show, you can let the fungus grow back on your shower shoes and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.” – Kevin Costner as “Crash Davis” in the movie “Bull Durham”.

This is perhaps one of my favorite movie lines of all time. In context, Kevin Costner’s character has been given the task of mentoring a young pitcher in baseball’s minor leagues. Crash Davis often teaches young “Luke ‘Nuke’ Laloosh”, played by Tim Robbins, lessons about life and how those lessons are vital to a successful baseball career. In this scene, Crash calls to attention the pitcher’s slob laden approach to his hygiene and appearance.

I believe stand up comics can take this lesson to heart as well. At least, I do. I have always made it a practice to look my very best when I have been booked for a show that will be presented in front of a paying audience. It has become quite the norm to watch comics take to the stage appearing as though they just got off their couch wearing clothing that seemed like an after thought. I am not suggesting that one should dress up in a suit and tie to tell jokes on stage as though appearing on the old Johnny Carson Show. What I am saying is that we need to make an effort to put our best foot forward when performing in front of a live, ticket paying audience. This allows you to appeal to as many of their senses as possible.  Through out the night, you will have the opportunity to appeal to 4 of the audiences 5 senses, (I don’t see how it would be possible to have them taste you, unless things get pretty wild), and the better impression you make on each of their senses, the more they are likely to remember you.

A few weeks ago, I attended an open mic, here in El Paso, Texas. I was wearing a very loose t-shirt and a pair of shorts. I hadn’t shaved in a few days and I looked rather raggedy. I have always dressed up for all of my paid performances, but this was an open mic, so I really thought is was no big deal. Right before I took the stage, I noticed two individuals walk in to the bar. I recognized one of them as the headliner appearing at the local comedy club that week. A comedian from L.A., he had recently appeared on Conan O’brien and was currently embarking on a national tour across the country as a nationally known “Headliner”. The fellow he was with, I assumed was his feature performer, who was also performing at the comedy club all week.

I went on stage and had a great set. I even noticed that my material was even making the L.A. comics laugh. At the end of the night, I made my usual rounds of the tables, thanking all of those that attended and gave us their attention. I really wanted to meet the L.A. star and just shake his hand, but I was intercepted by the other guy that walked in with him. He went on to tell me how I had impressed him and his friend so much during my set. Although they came to watch an open mic show and expected to see the same type of “hacky” material that typically accompanies such shows, they were pretty impressed at the originality of my set. He then said the following: “If you ever go to L.A., I think you would do great, but let me give you a little advice. When you appear on stage, try to look your best. Bookers and agents are looking for talent all of the time, but they are also looking for talent that they can market. They want to see comics that are pleasing to the eye. When they see someone like you who has talent and looks good, they will be lining up to offer you the fruits of your labor.” I thanked him for the great advice and completely forgot about meeting the “Headliner”. I don’t think I could have asked for better feedback!

Check out the Bull Durham clip below!

George Carlin Was Not Funny To Me


George Carlin was a good performer. He was a good orator. He was a good and creative writer. But, to me, he was not particularly funny. I know the comedy world at large may frown upon that statement, but who in the world said I had to agree with everyone! I’ve listened to Carlin. I’ve watched some of his specials and have even watched his Tonight Show appearances. On one particular appearance, he rambled off a long list of items as part of his set. None of these items were particularly funny to me. In fact, during the 5 minute rant, I giggled once. Then again, the audience didn’t laugh much either. But ohhhhh, the fact that he was brilliantly able to ramble off a 5 minute list of cleverly listed items got his fan base’s full attention. Then, at the end, a rousing round of applause. I sat there thinking, “I thought this was supposed to be a stand up comedy routine?”

I will never reach the level of fame or recognition that George Carlin reached, but it does not mean that I have to admire him for his stand up comedy. What I do admire is, his ability to write, perform and create a fan base that was clearly devoted to him, even in death. I feel the same about Bill Hicks. Sure he was a ground breaker in the stand up comedy scene, but I didn’t find him funny. And I’m not obligated to. Here are a list of comics that I think are much more brilliant than they were:

Brian Regan
Jim Gaffigan
Mitch Hedberg
Nick Swardson

(Just to name a few). YouTube them. Then, YouTube Carlin and Hicks. Form your own opinion. I’ll respect it either way.

Oh, and if you are, by any chance, a rock & roll musician, you do not have to like “Stairway to Heaven” or even give a crap about Led Zepplin or Rush.

What ever dream you have, follow your own inspirations and don’t be scared to admit that you don’t follow the general consensus about anyone! After all, isn’t that what George Carlin, Bill Hicks, Led Zepplin and Rush did?

By the way, I loved George Carlin in the role of Popeye’s long lost papi in the movie, “Popeye”.

The Show Must Go On…But it Didn’t


I am posting this as a follow up to yesterday’s post regarding performing for a near empty bar. The show was to begin at 8:30, but of course, there was hardly anybody there at 8:30! So, as we typically do, we waited….and waited. The longer we waited for more people to show up, the more that the people that were already there, left! We ended up not doing the show.

Even during that wait, I was contemplating on what to say. Sure, I have prepared material but, it would all have fallen on deaf ears. I intended to simply converse with the audience and try my hand at improv, in hopes of livening up that few patrons that were there. Ah, it would have been perfect too! There was a group of 3 girls, and one of them was obviously leading an alternative life style. Wearing short chopped up blond hair, bottle rimmed glasses and saggy pants. She was ideal for a lead in to a few jokes I have about gay marriage. I would have addressed them by improving the following, “Well, it’s nice to see audience members of the Ellen show here tonight! Hey, I voted for Obama! I support gay marriage. Why shouldn’t gay people be miserable too? It’s bad enough that they’re so happy already. They even use a happy colorful rainbow as their symbol! I could see some new problems with gay marriage though. Like, after an argument, who sleeps on the couch?” The banter is not totally hilarious, but when you are winging it like that with audience members, something really strange happens… they actually find it funny! ?There have been so many things that I’ve been scared to say on stage and sometimes just don’t say them, but  when I venture to do so, I am floored at the response! There’s something about involving an audience and bringing attention to them in a “Hey, let’s talk!” sort of way. Take this last girl, for example. Do you think she’s embarrassed of being gay? Heck no! She’s out an about and wears her colors proudly! A good comic will get the laughs he can from that table and move on to another one. That table can now crack up at the target table of the next bit of material!

A key to all of this, in my opinion, is not to go overboard. It’s fine to point out the obvious and add some humor into it, but it’s a completely different story to insult people. Save that for the hecklers. The obvious observations are perfect for this type of “riffing” with an audience. Go to any stand up comedy show and watch how it’s done. A good comic will point out the obvious and fill the entire room with laughter that can hardly be contained! Pointing out the obvious is one reason a comic will often have self deprecating humor. While we stand on stage, the audience is already making stereo typical judgements on the performer. Things always stand out. In person, I look Arabic, so I will usually start my set by speaking only in Spanish. Then, after few moments, I’ll point to an audience member and say, “Look at that. I’ve already got you confused, don’t I? You’re thinking, ‘Man, Arabic sounds a lot like Spanish!’

Gets em’ every time!

:~)

The Jokes Start Here


I’m done with posting my jokes on Facebook. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians. So, my blog will be my testing ground! Here we go!

Ugly people should not have attitudes. Look, unless you are Lady Gaga, Kid Rock or Lil Wayne, you need to drop the attitude. Have you ever seen a really good looking girl with an ugly guy? You’re like, “Why are you with him?” She’ll be like, “Well, he’s really kind and has a nice personality.” and I’ll be like, “He’s got no choice! The poor guy is already going through life with 2 strikes against him!”

Ever have an ugly person correct you? “Does anyone know where the street Devon Tree is?” They’ll be like, “That’s DEVONTRY.”— “I don’t think I was talking to you, Quasimoto.”

If you were to make a comment to someone like Cindy Crawford and she was like, “Whateva!”,  you’d feel like, “Yeah, that was pretty dumb of me to say.” But, if you were to comment to someone like Lindsey Lohan and she was like, “Whateva!”, you could be like, “You know, you’re miles away from where you were when you did “Mean Girls.”

All the Kardashian sisters could get away with attitudes. Except the skinny one. Someone should tell her she’s adopted.

I’m no Prince Charming. I have a big nose and 3 testicles. Ask me for an autograph and you’re sure to get one.