Sunday, May 9, 2010

For the peformers; The Million Dollar Business Card

Be polite, professional, and don't burn your bridges. A little lesson.

It happens after every street show, some guy hanging around as people are putting bills in your hat, "Do you have a card?" he asks me. Amazingly, on this day, I actually did have a stack of cards and some promotional brochures in the prop bag. They were even current and did not require me scratching out some phone number and writing in a new set of digits. I happily gave him a card and a brochure, he told me he was booking a garden convention show in the near future and was interested in having me do some entertaining. "Sure" I respond, "give me a call! We'll talk!" knowing I would probably never hear from him.

Most cards I passed out almost never panned out. no one ever called.( In fact after an enraged husband found my card in his wife's stuff and angrily called me to find out what I was doing with his wife...I almost gave up the practice). Seems kind of dumb anyway...passing out personal info to strangers on the street. But this was a long time ago before the internet tubes, when a business card was your ticket to bigger and better gigs and your first foot in the door.

Well this one card has turned out to be worth almost a million dollars in contracts and bookings.

and I could have still screwed it up along the way ...

I ended up going to the Garden Show in a desert town I had never worked before. It was a week long gig doing walk-around entertaining at a convention center. Boring but paid well enough.

While I was there I ended up auditioning at the local comedy club and got a booking for a later date. I never worked for the Convention guy again (He actually stiffed me for half of the check) but ended up going to the comedy club on two different dates. Well the booker of this particular club had gained notoriaty for being a complete jerk and clueless about the business of running a comedy club, (He often thought of some "funny" way to insert himself into your act, really? seriously? Ummm how about no! the act works fine without you dude...?) His ego was huge and very fragile. Many comedians would quit half-way through the week and tell him what an ass he was. I would just suck it up and let his ridicoulous ideas roll off me. I put up with the guy while I was there and just quietly became "unavailable" for him later on.

Professionalism never allowed me to tell him what I thought of him, even though it would have been pretty easy to do. This guy was famous for awhile in the comedian circles and everyone had a story about how they blew this guy off and/or told him to take a hike.The club eventually folded and I don't know what ever happened to the guy...

But before he dissappeared into the fog of idiots he did one good thing: He referred me to another club owner. This new owner did his own bookings and came from the world of Casino Shows. he made a bunch of money with a big show in Vegas and bought an old theater in Salt Lake City that he turned into a Comedy Club. He loved magicians and jugglers and had asked around about such variety acts. he got my name from the idiot in Arizona (thay were friends) and started hiring me two or three times a year. I quickly became one of his favorite acts and when another producer from Vegas was looking for a "specaility act" he happily gave him my number. I ended up signing on for a two to three week show - that actually turned into a 3 year contract making more money than I ever did before. I met other producers and agents in that show and have been working for them ever since, almost twenty years later.

Many people can trace their history back along their career to a few special agents or events. I can trace mine back to a single business card. Also by not pissing off an idiot-agent (that more than deserved it), I created a great career. I was eventually working by word-of-mouth and didn't even need to self-promote or audition anymore.

I met many comedians and jugglers over the years whose egos would get in the way, and they would tell off some agent or owner and walk out of a gig. Those guys are not working anymore.

Being professional is it's own reward.
Don't bite the hand that is feeding you.
You are never too big for a small show.
You are never as good as your best show, and never as bad as your worst.
Stay humble and approachable.
Nobody cares how amazing you are.
and as Pat Paulsen once told me:
"Be nice to everyone on the way up, because you will need them again on the way down."
He would know.



marythemom said...

Good advice!

Mary in TX

ali naqvi said...

This is stunning post..really helping info for my own business cards..keep it up.!!!!!