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Comedy: Fortune Feimster

“Chelsea Lately” Star’s Success-Secrets

4 years ago, Fortune Feimster had never been on TV.  She was working a day job and doing standup and improv casually for fun.  Then, 6 months after auditioning for “Last Comic Standing”, she was delighting audiences as a writer, performer, and round-table guest on E!’s hit show “Chelsea Lately”.

From “2 Broke Girls” to Tina Fey’s new Pilot “Cabot College”, Fortune Feimster’s effervescent personality and off-the-wall comic sensibilities never fail to bring audiences along for the ride and let everyone feel included in the joke.  But how do you go from working a 9-5 to living the career of your dreams?  Watch the video and read the article below to learn some of the real components of  “overnight success”. 

  1. GO FULL OUT
    As she mentions in the video, Fortune was doing improv and stand up for fun when her roommate sat her down and said “Do you really want to do comedy for your career?  Because if so, you’re not doing enough to be successful.”  Something in his words challenged her, and from that day forward Fortune threw herself into the work.  She did 6 shows a week, living and breathing the entertainment business.  When she wasn’t performing, she was writing, shooting videos, studying comedy, promoting herself, or honing some other aspect of her career. 
  2. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
    Fortune tried to get an agent, but none were interested.  They told her that she looked too “different” and that they just couldn’t see where she would fit into the industry.

    Being rejected by the gatekeepers of a profession would probably be enough to make most people give up- but not Fortune. 

    Without any agent or representation, she filmed herself, in her backyard, doing her characters and submitted the tape, unrequested, to Saturday Night Live. A few days later, they called and asked her to fly to New York to test for the show.

  3. DO IT YOURSELF
    With an attitude like her’s  it’s easy to see that whether an agent said “yes”, or whether Saturday Night Live said “yes”, or Chelsea Lately or Last Comic Standing said “yes”, it almost didn’t matter. 

    Fortune’s love of making people laugh, her talent, perseverance and unflagging belief in herself can be an inspiration for writers, performers, and anyone with a dream. 

    “From very early on, I decided that I’m going to do what I do until someone gets it. When you grow up looking different, you learn to believe in yourself.  You learn that if you want something, they’re probably not going to say “yes” right away- you have to convince them.”

  4.  

For more Fortune, stay tuned for part 2 of this interview (like us and subscribe to be alerted of the next video) and follow https://twitter.com/fortunefunny  Join Gerry’s newsletter at www.standupcomedyclass.com/aweber.html.  

Many thanks to Fortune Feimster – if you enjoyed this video, or have a success tip or a question please comment below!

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“Breaking Bad” and “Argo” Star Bryan Cranston’s Key to Success


I got a chance to sit down with Bryan Cranston (and Jay Roach, Judah Friedlander and Laura Linney but that’s another story..) and talk about his experiences on “Breaking Bad.” Bryan has had a long career spanning back to the 1970’s and I asked him about his staying power- his ability to ride the vicissitudes of a performance career. 

Bryan’s background is diverse. With strong comedy performances on “Seinfeld,” “King of Queens” and “Malcolm in The Middle” he has been able to smoothly transition from comedy to drama, and between television, theater and film.

Bryan Cranston’s advice, on choosing a career that will last is:  “First fall in love. Go with something you love and hopefully become really good at- as opposed to doing something you’re good at and hopefully fall in love with.  Because that will sustain you through all the hard times.  Truly, truly love it.”

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever heard or given?  Please post it in the comments below.  And to learn more from Gerry Katzman please visit www.standupcomedyclass.com

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How to Be Funny

Here it is in a nutshell: almost every time you make someone laugh- you are surprising them. You are causing their mind to make a different association than it normally would. And the reward for playing this trick on their brain, for momentarily confusing their mind, is laughter.

In this article, I’m going to show you some easy ways of making people laugh, while teaching some basic comedy theory.

Remember, when you’re trying to make someone laugh, you’re trying surprise them. Typically, you are looking for the most unlikely thing to do or say.

Let’s imagine that you are hanging out with a few co-workers. One of them is talking about how difficult potty-training her son has been. When someone in the group asks how old the woman’s son is, you say: “Forty eight.”

You will get laughs. Let’s explore why: The minute the woman started talking about potty-training her son, an image was created in everyone’s mind. That image included the assumption that her son is a child. As comedians, we shatter the assumption. In this case, by changing the age of the child, in their minds, at the last minute. When the mind gets tricked this way, the feeling of disorientation results in a laugh. So a good joke usually does two things: It sets up assumptions and it shatters them. This is often referred to as the “set up” and “punchline.” In standup, it is often called the “premise” and the “act out.” [See my other videos to learn how to do this in a standup environment.]

Let’s look at another useful tool for getting someone to laugh. It is called the “list of three.”

Recently, I was describing my lifestyle to someone and I said to her “you know, I’m a pretty healthy guy- I do yoga.. meditation.. methamphetamine.”

She laughed because the pattern that I was setting up for her (yoga… meditation…) lulled her mind into knowing what I was going to say next. Even if she wasn’t consciously filling in the next word in the series, bio-chemically, her brain “knew” the feeling of the next kind of word I was going to say. Her body and mind were ready to “feel” words like “vegan cooking,” “macrobiotic dining,” or “playing the sitar.” But when I said “methamphetamine” the shock to her nervous system resulted in a laugh.

We set up an assumption and shattered it. And the way we did it could not have been easier. In fact, the minute you watch this video or read this article, you will be able to do it. To make a list of three joke, you will set up a pattern by choosing two similar things/people/books/etc. and one that is different from the first two.

For example:

“I like to read the classic philosophers: Aristophenes, Moliere, Charlie Sheen..”

“In order for me to be interested in a girl, she has to have intelligence.. depth of soul.. a really hot profile picture.”

So to get started, think of two people at work or at school that you love and one that you hate. Go up to someone who knows you well and say: I think that my favorite teachers would have to be Mr. A, Mr. B, and Mr C. ( (love, love, hate). Think of two activities that you love and one that you hate. Two celebrities that you find talented and one that you despise. As you experiment with your “list-of-threes” you will notice how important the “set up” is as well as the contrast in your “punchlines.” Charlie Sheen and methamphetamine will “shatter” the patterns of “philosopher” and “healthy lifestyle” much more effectively than “Richard Simmons” and “Red Wine.” Learning how to set up patterns and choose explosive “shattering” images for your punchlines is all part of your comedy journey and the experimentation is a lot of fun.

Now that you know the basic secret of comedy (their are a few more hidden in the video at http://MasterTalentTeachers.com and at my site http://standupcomedyclass.com), enjoy the process of panning for comedy gold. Every time you make someone laugh, write it down (cellphones and notebooks are good for this). Begin to notice the unique way that you make people laugh, as well as the patterns that begin to emerge as you notice your own specific methods for shattering people’s mental expectations.

The world will always be in need of good comedy. As you’ll find in my other videos and articles- if you combine the truth of your life with the technique of “shattering the pattern,” you will be on your way to making a difference by educating people, and having a successful career that will entertain millions. All it takes is a little experimentation, some thinking, and the guts to make ‘em laugh. Good luck. -Gerry Katzman

How to become a Recurring Character on TV

How to become a recurring character on Television: An interview with Jennifer Hall

Everyone wants to become a “regular” on any show or series that they’re a part of.  But how do you make the leap?  How do you take a small part and parlay it into a starring role?

Actress Jennifer Hall was on her way to San Francisco, to quit acting, when she got a call to play a one-time guest star role in the HBO series, “Unscripted”.  She prepared for the part in the same way that she describes in this video and ended up becoming one of the three leads of the series.

The same thing happened when she played (what was supposed to be) a small role on the Will Arnett/Maya Rudolph series “Up All Night”.  Her “small role” ended up lasting the entire season. And the same thing happened to her on the soap opera “All My Children”. 

What kind of philosophy and technique is Jennifer using to generate these exciting results? 

  1. Be Exactly Who You Are. “I auditioned 63 times before I booked my first role.  At first, I tried “giving them (the casting people) what I thought they wanted”.  But then, at an audition, someone gave me some advice- they said “If you’re a can of tomato soup- then be the best can of tomato soup you can be.  Don’t try to be Vegetable or Chicken Noodle.  Just learn to bring the maximum amount of YOU that you can bring to any role.”  It was a pivotal moment for me because instead of trying to be glamorous or sophisticated in my acting- I started bringing the goofy, awkward, weird person that I am with my friends into my work.  And that’s when I started booking parts! Turns out, people like tomato soup!”
  2. Make something up about your character that excites you. Often writers focus on the lead roles, so when it comes to playing the smaller parts, it’s up to us to create the exciting inner-life of the character.  For for example, it might not be in the script, but in your imagination maybe your character has a secret trip planned to Hawaii- or maybe a crush on one of the other characters.  As long as it doesn’t contradict the script and helps to serve the overall story, creating a backstory for your character, that makes your character more fun and exciting to play, can be a great way to make that character come to life!
  3. Don’t be afraid of sucking. “Sometimes, when you feel like you’re sucking it really just means that you’re outside of your comfort zone. And very often, that isky-feeling is a sign that you’re onto something useful and exciting. So let yourself suck every now and then.”

Do you have a comment or a question for Jennifer, Gerry, or MTT staff about booking, comedy and acting?  Please post it below and please follow Jennifer at https://twitter.com/TheJenniferHall and sign up for Gerry’s newsletter at http://www.standupcomedyclass.com/.  Thanks!

Mic Technique

Microphone Technique for Speakers, Performers and Entertainers

At some point in your life, you either have been, or will be, called upon to deliver a speech using a microphone – but do you know the fundamentals of how these devices work?

Watch the video to get a nuanced look on how to make the most of your time at the mic.

Here are some pointers:

  1. Speak directly down into, and through the microphone – the sound of your voice will almost never be picked up around the edges.
  2. Keep a 1.5″ to 3″ gap between your mouth and the microphone. If the mic is too close, your plosive sounds like ‘P’s’ and ‘B’s’ will create “pops”. If the mic is too far away, we won’t hear you.
  3. Microphone feedback is what happens when the sound from the speaker enters the microphone, exits the speaker, and then enters the microphone again, creating a high-pitched, squealing “feedback loop”.

    To avoid feedback, try never to point the microphone head directly at a speaker and avoid walking in front of speakers when you’re holding the mic.

  4. Let the microphone follow your mouth wherever you go.
  5. To correctly adjust a microphone stand- loosen the adjustable clutch in the center of the stand by turning it slightly to the left, then lift the microphone upwards so that the head of the mic is close enough to touch your chin, and then re-tighten the clutch by turning it to the right.

For more tips, tricks, and techniques about microphones and other aspects of speaking, performance, and comedy please sign up for Gerry’s newsletter at www.standupcomedyclass.com

Director Jay Roach

Emmy-winning Austin Powers director Jay Roach on Comedy and Directing

Here are some lessons derived from Gerry Katzman’s (www.standupcomedyclass.com) interview with director Jay Roach (“Meet The Parents”, “Campaign”, “Austin Powers”)


Lesson #1 – Everyone is afraid. Just because someone can successfully direct Zach Galifianakis, Mike Myers and Will Ferrel doesn’t mean he has faith in his own comedic ability.  Says Roach: “I’m not funny… When I walked up at the podium, I just hoped I wouldn’t start gushing sweat and blubbering because I really do have actually horrible stage-fright. it’s not healthy.” 

Lesson #2 – The only person who gets to decide whether you “have what it takes” is YOU. “You do not have to be funny or good at speaking to direct, thank goodness” added Roach.

 Lesson #3- Surround yourself with the best.

Lesson #4- Balance.  According to Roach, comedy direction is about creating a free, uninhibited atmosphere while the camera is rolling- while being analytical, obsessive, and painstaking while you prepare your next shot. 

Lesson #5- Work hard enough to earn your lucky break. Jay didn’t get to direct “Austin Powers” (his first feature film) until after he was 40 and had been working for years at every conceivable job in the entertainment industry.  But when Mike Myers asked him to take on the job of a lifetime, he was ready. 

Lesson #6- Success doesn’t look how you think it will.  Sometimes your dream job comes later in life than you had imagined it would.  Sometimes Emmy-winners have stage-fright. And sometimes, the world’s best comedy directors don’t think they’re funny. 

For more great information visit www.StandupComedyClass.com and join our newsletter. Thanks!

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How to be Great in a Meeting

Award-winning comedy coach, actor, and comedian Gerry Katzman gives valuable tools and secrets about how to pitch yourself and be great in an interview or industry meeting…

In any business, your results are usually dependent on how well you perform in a meeting. Getting the job, the raise, the contract or the sale is almost alway contingent on how well you are able to sell yourself or your product.

This video will show you how to talk about yourself in such way that you cannot fail to get people excited, eager, and hungry to work with you. 

After decades of preparing myself and others for high-level industry meetings, I have found three important questions which, if answered, will prepare you to shine like a star in any presentation, meeting, conference or audition. 

Knowing and practicing the answers to these three questions will enable you to talk about yourself masterfully.   They’ll also add focus and drive to your career.

Question #1: Who are you like? 

Name 5 successful artists/people/businesses in your field that you are similar to.  Who do people compare you to?  Whether the resemblance is physical, personality, or just an intangible essence- who are you like? 

People cannot spread the word about something unless they have some reference-points that will help other people understand it.  

What are 5 successful examples of people (bands, artists, businesses) in your field that have something in common with you?

“As a comedic actor I’m like Ben Stiller meets Jason Schwartzman meets Adam Sandler meets Josh Radnor meets Paul Rudd. ”

“Our band sounds like the Beatles meet Daft Punk”

“Her comedy feels like Ellen Degeneres and Woody Allen had a baby.”

“Our restaurant is the McDonald’s of Greek Food.”

Right now, try to write down your 5 examples.  You may need to call friends for help.  

Question #2: What do you want and who are the gatekeepers?

Write the three goals you want to achieve in your career this year and who you need meet with to attain them. Be specific.  For example, actors- is your dream job on TV, Film, Web or Theater?  Comedy or Drama?  Single-Camera or Multi-Camera? Which shows exactly?  Who are the casting people?  Decide.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” -Yogi Berra

Question #3: Why are you doing this/ What is your inspiration?

Why do you love what you do?  When did you fall in love with your art, craft, or business?  How long have you cared about it?  Why is it important to you?  

People want to work with people who are passionate. 

How can you show your passion? Learn to talk about it.  

Conclusion:

Answer these questions at home.  Then, have a friend read you the questions and get comfortable answering them in front of another person.  Knowing how to talk about yourself, how to pitch your business- could be one of the most high impact activities that you can do. Start by knowing the answers to these three questions.  The results (clarity, focus, confidence, and purpose) should be satisfying and immediate. 

Please share your thoughts with me and sign up for my newsletter at http://www.standupcomedyclass.com/

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3 Tips For Comedy Writers – with late-night television writer Dicky Eagan

When it comes to writing for late-night, Dicky Eagan knows what it takes.  In this video, the head-writer of “Last Call with Carson Daly,” who has also written for “Lopez Tonight,” “The Wayne Brady Show” and many others, gives away 3 powerful secrets to having a successful career in comedy,  in writing and in any part of the entertainment field.

Tip #1) Surround yourself with people who are good at what you do.  

If you want to get better, then hang around people who are even better than you are at your chosen field – they will challenge you and as a result, you will improve.

Tip #2) Get specific with your goals.  

Don’t just say “I want to be a writer.” Imagine and envision exactly what person, project or show you want to write for. When things get hard your ability to focus on your original goal will help get you through the tough times.

Tip #3) Be great to work with. 

This is a tip that all of our most successful guests seem to say. No matter how talented you are, no one wants to work with a jerk. Get your attitude and ego in check, so that you will be the one that everyone wants to work with.

Want to know more? Have Comments? Questions? Post them below!

Find out more about Gerry at www.standupcomedyclass.com

And follow Gerry and Dickie on Twitter @GerryKatzman and @DickyEagan

How_to_Write_a_Funny_Song_partII

How to Write a Comedy Song – Part II

In part one of this series, Rob Seals (www.thesongwritingschool.com) and Gerry Katzman (www.standupcomedyclass.com) taught techniques for nailing the comedic end-rhyme of a song including working backwards and making lists. In this video Gerry and Rob outline the importance of having a clear concept and paying homage to (or tweaking the nose of) the genre of your comedy song.

CONCEPT:

The concept of the Flight of The Conchord’s song “Business Time” is that in a long term relationship, sex can become unromantic and routine.

Their ironic use of sexy 70’s R&B music leads us to another powerful tool for your comedy songwriting process-

GENRE:

If your song is set in a recognizable genre of music, you can allow your lyrics to work against, or toward that genre.

A fun example of working against musical genre is the hardcore gangster rap song “Whole Foods Parking Lot”

If you’ve identified a genre that your song is set in (for example: country, rock, hip hop, R&B…) it might be a good idea to make a list of every signifier of that genre (for example a signifier-list for hip hop might include beatboxing, autotune, record scratching, freestyling, shout-outs, rap-battles, etc.) Another good example of a song that makes use of genre signifiers is “Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FArZxLj6DLk

We hope you get many laughs from your musical comedy creations. Listen to comedy songs (and songs of all kinds), use the tools from our first video, make sure your song concept is clear (can be expressed in a single simple sentence) and make sure to check to see if there are elements of the genre (signifiers) that you can use to get more laughs.

The Mental Game of Auditioning for Comedy

The Mental Game of Auditioning for Comedy

with “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” star, Amir Talai.

When we’re invited in to audition for someone new, we can feel that creativity-stifling need to impress.  Instead of getting nervous and overwhelmed, consider this powerful mental context for auditions.

What To Expect When You’re Expecting star, Amir Talai, explains a mindset which can be helpful for relieving the pressure that comes from auditions.

“I think of myself as a product that I believe in” shares Amir.  “So when I walk into an audition, I don’t think “I have to be good or else…”  I think “I want to show them this great product that I think is going to be really good for them. “” The same way you might tell a friend about a favorite restaurant.

Instead of walking in to an audition with fear or neediness, walk in excited to share a great product.  

“What if every time you went out with someone, you got to take them to your favorite restaurant?  You’d be excited every time!”

And on days where you aren’t able to give your best audition, instead of letting the experience change your opinion about your talent, maintain faith in your product. Even the best restaurant can have an off-day.  That doesn’t mean that the restaurant’s bad.  Move on, keep cooking, and perhaps consider ways to continually deliver a consistently delicious product.

For more great tips join our email list and check out all the great videos and articles at MasterTalentTeachers.com.  Please comment below and share your comedy audition tips and questions.

Thank you, Gerry Katzman – www.StandupComedyClass.com