Jonny recently attended a stand-up comedy show at a venue that seats a grand total of … 18 people. What did he learn from the experience that you can apply to your showrunning? Plenty.
First, Jerod gives a quick description of his favorite new show, and then Jonny describes how he committed the most seemingly amateur of mistakes during his 304th recording of Hack the Entrepreneur. (Don’t you dare laugh, because it can easily happen to you too!)
Then, Jerod and Jonny dive into this week’s main topic, discussing lessons about hosting a remarkable podcast that can be gleaned from how stand-up comedians do their work:
- Define who your audience is and speak to them (dog or cat)
- Size doesn’t matter (one is better than zero)
- Pay attention to your venue
- The importance of perspective
- How to handle boos (and why gratitude should be part of your strategy)
Listen, learn, enjoy …
The Show Notes
- If you’re ready to see for yourself why over 201,344 website owners trust StudioPress — the industry standard for premium WordPress themes and plugins — just go to StudioPress.com
- The Corner Comedy Club: So small, it’s funny.
- Follow Jerod on Twitter: @jerodmorris
- Follow Jonny on Twitter: @jonnastor
- Showrunner FM
No. 089 Podcasting: The Stand-Up Comedy of Content Creation
Voiceover: Rainmaker FM.
Jerod Morris: This is Rainmaker FM, the digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free, 14-day trial at RainmakerPlatform.com.
Welcome to The Showrunner, where we have one goal: teach you how to develop, launch, and run a remarkable show. Ready? Welcome to The Showrunner, the podcast for people dedicated to creating remarkable audio experiences for their audience. This is episode #89. I am your host, Jerod Morris, VP of Marketing for Rainmaker Digital. I will be joined momentarily, as I always am, by my “Is he a real person or a robot host?” Jonny Nastor, the host of Hack the Entrepreneur. I’ll explain what I mean by that in just a second.
The Showrunner is brought to you by the all-new StudioPress Sites, a turnkey solution that combines that ease of an all-in-one website builder with the flexible power of WordPress. It’s perfect for bloggers, podcasters, and affiliate markers, as well as those selling physical products, digital downloads, and membership programs. If you are ready to take your WordPress site to the next level, see for yourself why over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress. Go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress right now. That’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.
All right, Jonny, the reason why referred to you as, “Is he a real person or a robot host.” Have you watched the show Westworld? Did you get into that? It’s an HBO show.
Jonny Nastor: I’ve never seen it.
Jerod Morris: Ever since I watched that show, it’s made me question whether the people that I’m seeing — are they real people or are they robots? I don’t want to give away any twists or interesting angles of that show, so I won’t say any more. Everybody who has watched Westworld knows exactly what I’m talking about. I recommend it, it’s a really good show. I think you’ll find it interesting. I recommend it to everybody listening, too, if you haven’t watched it. It’s good. I don’t know where they’ll go for the next season, but season one was really interesting and compelling.
Jonny Nastor: That’s way less offensive than I was expecting.
Jerod Morris: Yeah, I know.
Jonny Nastor: Like something I did on last week’s episode was very robotic of me.
Jerod Morris: No. Heather and I just got done watching Westworld. We just got done with the first season, so it’s still very fresh in my mind. So I’m sitting here wondering, “Are you a real person or are you actually a robot that is just so lifelike that I would never know the difference?” Imagine a world in which you would actually be wondering that. That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?
Jonny Nastor: Ah, there’s crazier stuff in the real world, Jerod.
Jerod Morris: I suppose that’s true. Where are we going with this episode? What are we talking about today, what are we doing?
Jonny Forgets The Most Important Thing
Jonny Nastor: Well, first … today, it happened. I don’t know how many interviews I’ve done. Episode 318 came out today and I’ve scrapped a whole bunch of interviews, so let’s call it 320 interviews. I know we’ve answered this on huddles with our Showrunner course members before. I know this had been a general thing. But today, this morning, my first interview of the day — I forgot to plug in my microphone.
Jerod Morris: No! I shouldn’t be laughing, that sucks.
Jonny Nastor: I recorded the whole episode on my laptop microphone, with me tapping away at times. The funny thing is, the dude that I was interviewing is also a podcaster, has been for years. As he was on my show, he was like, “Afterwards I’m going to ask you about 20 minutes worth of questions for my show as well.” I’m like, “All right.” As soon as we’re done, he’s just like, “Jon, do you have a real microphone or … ?”
Jerod Morris: Oh, no!
Jonny Nastor: “What?” He’s like, “I feel like such a … I don’t know why I didn’t say it at the beginning,” he says, “but you’re speaking through your laptop.” Oh my God. There it is, folks. There it is. I don’t want to pass the blame, but Skype has been acting up in any number of ways. I had actually just done a call with somebody quickly, right before that. Just a five-minute call, and the microphone was set up. But then, somehow, it switched. I didn’t even think about it, because he could hear me perfectly.
Jerod Morris: I have dealt with this with Skype so often. You have to check before every recording. Did you notice right when I said, “Hey, how do I sound? How do I sound?” Right before we started recording? It was to triple check, because I have had that exact same thing happen, man, and it is the worst.
Jonny Nastor: I’ve been spoiled. It’s been good and I’ve never — in 320 episodes, this has never happened. But there it is. I’m waiting for my editor to see if … It was a really cool conversation. I don’t want to have to redo it, because it just won’t be the same. I might just put in a funny disclaimer at the beginning. He’s on a professional microphone too, because he’s a podcaster. So there’s me, “Hey, how’s it going, baby?”
Jerod Morris: I think you probably got to go disclaimer. I had that happen with a recent episode of The Assembly Call too, where I thought everything was good. I thought my microphone was on, and I go and listen to it and it’s like, “What the hell? Why does it sound like I’m just talking into my laptop?” Well, because I was. Because that’s the only microphone that was picking it up.
I said to my co-host, “Did you guys notice that I sounded terrible?”
Jonny Nastor: There it is.
Jerod Morris: I know. It happens.
Jonny Nastor: Life lessons.
Jerod Morris: Do you have a plan for preventing that in the future? Do you have a different … Obviously, again, it’s Skype, so you’ve got to make sure that you double-check. That’s the biggest thing. Just because you did a recording 10 minutes earlier, don’t assume all the settings are the same. Check, double-check, and test before every recording. Do you have any other systems in place to try and prevent that?
Jonny Nastor: That’s it. I’ve literally just added that step, which I did at the beginning of this call now. As I’m on the call at the beginning now, I just go into Skype settings and check Preferences. There it is. Audio file PR40.
Jerod Morris: See, you and I are like an old married podcast couple where if one of our audio sounds bad, we’ll just say it.
Jonny Nastor: We’ll tell each other.
Jerod Morris: And we’ll notice it right off the bat because we record all the time, so if something’s off …
Jonny Nastor: My guest feels terrible, because he has a co-host too, and he would’ve obviously told him. He’s like, “I don’t know why I didn’t tell you.”
Jerod Morris: That was my question. It seems unprofessional when you have a guest on to be like, “Hey, how does my audio sound?” But do you think that’s a worthwhile thing to test it with the guest? What they’re hearing is probably going to be what is being recorded, so is that a worthwhile question to ask or does that make you seem not as professional?
Jonny Nastor: Yeah, I wouldn’t ask my guest unless it was somebody like that, who was into this sort of scene. Otherwise no. If I check and it says that it’s on the right mic, then I’m good to go. It literally said laptop mic. Built-in microphone. As soon as I saw it I was like, “Oh my God. I can’t believe we did this for 45 minutes.” So there it is, folks.
Jerod Morris: Well, thank you for being vulnerable and sharing this most embarrassing of showrunner stories with us.
Jonny Nastor: Apparently that’s what this whole season’s about, Jerod.
Jerod Morris: I’m just standing back.
Jonny Nastor: Watch the train wreck so far.
Jerod Morris: I’ve revealed enough of these stories of my own. I’m standing back now.
Jonny Nastor: What do you say? We should jump into this main topic.
Jerod Morris: Let’s hop into it.
Finding Inspiration in Stand-Up
Jonny Nastor: Podcasting: stand-up comedy of content and creation. I really love the title. I’ve got to see where we can go with this.
Jerod Morris: I like it too.
Jonny Nastor: Like last week’s episode, which is from a personal experience of mine, my wife and I went to a comedy club three weeks ago on Saturday. From the very first person coming on, instantly I was like, “Oh, my goodness.” These things kept coming to me — the correlation between stand-up and podcasting. To me, there are really important lessons and some interesting things, especially because this club is actually … It’s really cool. It’s called the Corner Comedy, and their slogan is “So small, it’s funny.”
It’s insane. There’s four tables. You have to buy in advance, the ticket, and you have to show up 15 minutes in advance or else you don’t get your seat. They don’t have ticketed seats, but there’s only so many seats. I think there’s 18 seats, and that’s it. That’s all of the place. People were right there talking to you. The bar is right behind your head. They’ll just pass you a beer if you want, into the audience, because it’s so small. It’s actually comical that it’s so small.
It’s really cool, but it would be really intense as the stand-up comedian. Which it is as, obviously, a showrunner. Knowing that you’re personally there in people’s headsets — it’s a really intimate experience. Therefore, it’s hard sometimes, because of the exposure of yourself. These are some lessons or things that we can learn. I think most of us enjoy stand-up comedy or have watched at least a routine on Netflix or something, and I think it’ll help us improve our showrunning.
Jerod Morris: The way that this venue is set up is another lesson about the value that can be built by speaking to small audiences, and apparently the business results that can be generated speaking to small audiences, because clearly they can stay in business and they operate okay, despite the fact that they’re so small.
Jonny Nastor: They do. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night they do three sets. I believe at seven, nine, and 11. With six different comedians per set. The set is 60 minutes long, and six people get 10 minutes. Literally, one person is done and the next person is walking up. It’s an eight-foot walk between the bar, and they come one after the other so you’re overwhelmed for an hour of six people giving it their best. It’s really cool. Six different people for each of the three things, and they sell out each.
Jerod Morris: It would be interesting to talk to a comedian, especially a comedian who has the varied experience of speaking at a venue like that and maybe also doing a bigger venue. What is the difference? What is the intimacy difference? How do they approach it differently? Is the feedback that they get different?
I have to imagine it’s a much more intimate feeling for you as an audience member, being in such a small venue. To where, if you’re one of 18 people, your laugh means a lot more to that comedian — and actually, to the entire atmosphere of the performance. When you’re at a comedy show, the reaction of the audience can be contagious, and that can help get the comedian going. It all builds on itself. And you have fewer people there to help build that atmosphere for both the audience and the comedian, which would make it really interesting, especially from an audience perspective.
Jonny Nastor: Right. We went to the 11 p.m. one because that’s all that tickets were left for. I didn’t want to be eavesdropping, but it’s such a tiny place. After, as I finished my beer, the comedians were talking behind me, and that actually came up. That’s actually lesson number three, is the venue and the size of it, because it plays a big part. I won’t get into that now, but that is going to come up. We should just jump into this.
Jerod Morris: Let’s do it.
Define Who Your Audience is and Speak to Them (Dog or Cat)
Jonny Nastor: This is the part where I was like, “This has to be an episode.” The first person came up, and the first thing he said … This first lesson is: define who your audience is and speak to them. The first thing he said was, “Who here are dog owners?” And then, “Who here are cat owners?”
Jerod Morris: Dogs.
Jonny Nastor: There were no cat owners, everybody was dog owners. To my wife — I hit her in the arm. It’s tiny. He’s right there. I was like, “He just split test us.” And he literally did. His whole routine was making fun of cat owners and doing jokes about things our dogs do. I was like, “Oh my God!”
Jerod Morris: Wow.
Jonny Nastor: He literally, at the beginning … “Who is the audience? I’m playing to you, here we go.” I was like, “Wow.” And people were just rolling and laughing. We just gave him the jokes. It was brilliant!
Jerod Morris: That’s amazing. What a great idea. Did he have an entire set of material ready if the majority had said they were cat owners?
Jonny Nastor: Yes. Because of the venue and because of what we were doing, it didn’t matter. We’ll get into that in the third one. But for 10 minutes … The whole set is small anyway, if he played a bigger routine he might put both into it because it’s a bigger audience. But here he probably feels like there’s a good chance that it goes go one way or the other. That’s what he did. He split tested us and then ran with the jokes. There was no hesitation. It was brilliant. I was like, “That’s impressive.”
This is what we say when we say defining your audience. But your audience can mean different things, meaning that on your show you can have your audience, but what if you’re going to another show to be host on there, or what if you get to write for another blog? The audience is different, so you need to play to those audiences in that way and be willing to change and not be so adamant that, “This is how I am and this is who I speak to.”
It’s just how it is. I do this all the time. If I’m on a show and I’m talking about podcasting, or if I’m talking about business, or if I’m talking about music, I talk in completely different terms. It’s still me being that person, but it’s me knowing who the audience is and what will work the best for them at the time. I really think that it’s crucial. Obviously, you can’t necessarily split test your audience on every listen, but there’s ways we can do this and find out. It’s knowing who your audience is.
We all know who we want to speak to at the beginning, but often times we end up with a slightly varied version of that audience who actually listens to us, and we need to ask the question, “Are you dog fans or are you cat fans?” Then start projecting all of your creation and content from that to those people.
Jerod Morris: There’s even a more fundamental question that you want to ask before that, which is, “Why are people here?” This goes to the usefulness that we talk about, one of the four foundational pillars of being a showrunner, which is you’ve got to be useful to people. That means you either have to educate people, entertain people, or inspire them — or some combination. But most importantly, you’ve got to understand the primary reason why people are there.
If you’re at a comedy show, you’re there to laugh. The comedians obviously understand that. They understand that you’re there to laugh, so you’d think they’re not going to get up there and tell some story that’s going to educate you or inspire you. Maybe if they do that through one of their jokes, that’s great. But you’re there to laugh. They need to make you laugh. I think it’s important to remember that with our shows, why people are coming to our shows. And if we’re going on someone else’s show, or if we’re going to be elsewhere representing our work, what are those people coming there for?
For instance, if the owner had suddenly said to you, “Hey, Jonny, do you want to take a few minutes and promote Hack the Entrepreneur on the stage real quick?” Whether or not you would’ve done that, whether or not you would’ve been prepared for that, I don’t know. But in that moment, if you had something funny to say or some kind of joke — you would’ve wanted to try to entertain those people, not just get up there and give them this bland description of what Hack the Entrepreneur is, because that’s what the audience was there for.
It’s always important, whenever we have a chance to speak to an audience, to understand why they’re there. Right now we know you are listening to this to be educated about podcasting in some way. So yeah, we’re sharing stories and we hope to inspire you and all of that, but most importantly, we want you to walk away from this with something specific to make you a better showrunner. Just like a comedian at a comedy club wants you to walk away with laughs and memories of great jokes.
That’s what you’re there for. The other stuff is nice and it’s helpful, but it’s not the most important thing. If you understand that — why the audience is there — then you can, like with the dog and cats, you can lift them even further and really define them. That’s going to allow you to hone in and really make an impact.
Size Doesn’t Matter (One is Better Than Zero)
Jonny Nastor: Exactly. The next lesson is: size doesn’t matter, one is better than zero. There were 18 people there. Somebody calls you or emails you and asks you to be on their show, and maybe it’s not big enough. If somebody calls you and you’re trying to be a stand-up comedian, or you are and you have been for years, for some of these people it’s like, “How big is the room?” “Well, 18 people when we’re sold out.”
If those people said no … It’s funny, because it’s been three weeks since I’ve been there. I follow them on Instagram now, the club. But lots of those people have been back to play other nights on other weekends. It’s not necessarily the size, because it’s true … One of those people I actually follow now on Instagram because he had a call to action at the end. He said, “Track me down on Instagram at” and he said his name. I was like, “That’s impressive!” and I did. It’s just him going through life, doing hilarious stuff with his coffee in the morning. But he’s top of mind, and now I know when he’s playing back at this club again. The size doesn’t matter of the venue.
I said this two years ago when I started being asked to be on other people’s shows. My show was doing really well. People would ask me and I would say yes to every single show, as long as I figured I could provide value. It wasn’t about, “What’s in it for me? How many thousands of people listen to your show?” because that’s nonsensical. If one person comes from that show and me talking a half hour to talk to this host. If I get one new listener, that’s amazing. If that’s not worth half an hour of your time, then I don’t know what is. These people get 10 minutes to 18 people, and they’re ecstatic to do it. That’s how you build a career. That’s how you build an audience. That’s how you build a platform to get to speak off of to more and more people.
Jerod Morris: I totally agree with this. I would say size doesn’t matter, but intention and interest does matter. For example, for a comedian to go to this show, they know there’s going to be 18 people in the audience who really like comedy. They’re there to see comedy, they’re interested. So for the comedian, if they can have an impact, they know that that person could be a fan, they’re a consumer of comedy. They can actually have an impact with that person. If you were saying, “Hey, this is a venue for music and people are here to see bands, but we’ve got 10 minutes if you want to do a comedy set.” Now maybe … What’d you say?
Jonny Nastor: I’ve seen that a lot at rock shows. They’d put a quick comedian on.
Jerod Morris: That may not be a great example, because at least those people are interested in entertainment, but it’s a little more of a risk. That’s why, when another podcaster asks you to come on their podcast, saying yes is such a good idea. Because you know that the people who consume that content are podcast listeners.
Maybe if you’re asked … The difference would be if you were asked to do a guest post for a blog. You would think about that a little bit more, because you have to think, “All right, if I’m trying to get listeners to my podcast and I’m writing a blog post, a certain portion of these people won’t listen to podcasts.” Now maybe the size matters a little bit more because you want bigger numbers to make sure that you have a better chance of getting people to your podcast.
But if you can get such a perfect fit like that, where you are a podcaster or whatever your thing is, and you can talk to people who are interested in that thing, then I agree. Even one person can make a big impact for you. But I would pay attention to the interest and the intent of the audience who you’re going to be speaking to, because that can help you determine whether it is a smart use of your time or not.
Jonny Nastor: Exactly. When I was coming from the perspective of two years ago when I was starting, I almost wanted it for, “I want to crash and burn in front of no one.” I wanted to get started. It’s like, “I’m gonna say yes. I don’t care if you want me to come to your group of mechanics having dinner or something and talk about business and they don’t care. This is my chance to do it in front of people who don’t care.” Perfect. “I’ll say yes to any opportunity so that I can get better, so that when the opportunity is right, I’m ready to rock.”
Jerod Morris: There is an opportunity cost to that time though, so you do have to take that into account. Especially as you start to get busier, the size and those kind of things can matter a little bit more. But I certainly think leaning toward the mindset that you had is a smart thing, especially in the beginning.
Hey, by the way, I mentioned at the start of this episode about our sponsor, StudioPress Sites. I just want to reiterate to folks that if you’re looking to start a podcast, or if you have a podcast but you’re looking to build a website. You’re not satisfied with your current website and you want something different, something better, something that really helps you create the website that you will be proud to send your podcast listeners to … We’ve told you a lot about Rainmaker here on The Showrunner, and Rainmaker is a great option, but Rainmaker isn’t perfect for everybody.
So if you don’t need that full, complete, all-in-one digital sales and marketing platform, StudioPress Sites is a great option. There are actually a couple of different options within StudioPress Sites that you can choose. One of them is absolutely perfect for if you just want to have a website and a podcast and then have the ability to add some different plug-ins and some different functionality, but all the hosting and the security and the design — all the stuff that can be hard, all of that’s taken care of — then you really should take a look at StudioPress Sites. If you go to the website, it explains it a lot better than I could do now, but I do know that the response to it has been great.
There’s a lot of internal excitement among the people here at Rainmaker Digital about the potential for StudioPress Sites and what it’s doing already, so I highly recommend that you check it out. Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. Again, it’s Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress. As I mentioned, over 200,000 website owners trust StudioPress, so if you’re looking to get your website going for your podcast or take it to the next level, check out StudioPress Sites and see if it is the right option for you. Again, Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress.
All right, back over to you, Jonny, as we continue walking through these lessons from your stand-up experience.
Jonny Nastor: Great. Lessons from a comedy club.
Jerod Morris: Yes.
Pay Attention to Your Venue
Jonny Nastor: Lesson number three. This is the one we alluded to earlier, which is: pay attention to your venue. Here’s the conversation that I overhead, which was interesting — 18 person in 10 minutes, or 45 minutes in front of 1500 people. There’s these two comedians discussing this behind me. I don’t think about stand-up comedy, but the one guy was saying how he has been asked to do a 45-minute act in front of 1500 or 1600 people. He hadn’t done something that long or in front of that big of an audience, so he was reaching out to who he thinks of as mentors in the comedy space and they were explaining it to him. He said it was profoundly changing his mindset.
He’s like, “We come here to this tiny room and there’s 18 people. I need one joke for 10 minutes. It’s so small, I’m literally standing on people’s tables. I’m just going to poke the audience and prod them until we just play and have fun. That’s just how this works, and the comedian who can play off the audience the best in this scenario wins. That’s just how it is. But when you’re just standing in front of 1500 people … For one thing, people are far away from you. You can’t play off the audience. You need 45 minutes of jokes, solid routine and jokes, and that’s hard.”
I was like, “Wow, that’s true.” It was funny, because it was done — the six people — and I was like, “That’s true, these guys hardly had a joke.” They would ask people questions and make jokes about those people, about their situation, about their table, or about whatever. I was like, “Wow, that’s so true, that’s all these guys did.” To me, it’s interesting, because it’s paying attention to your venue. Knowing where you are, who you’re speaking to, and what will get them the result that they’re looking for.
If I’m sitting at the back of a room that has 1500 people in front of me and that person is just a tiny little speck on the stage, if he starts poking fun — talking and heckling the person in the front row and having a conversation with them for the next 40 minutes — I will be bored to tears at the back. For one thing, because I can’t hear the other side of the conversation. But when you’re sitting right next to the person you can hear everything. It’s really hilarious and funny. I was like, “Wow, this is a huge shift for the person to think that way. It’s not just ‘I can take this routine and move it here and put it in front of more people, or I can take this and move it here.'”
So this, to me, was into that whole choosing a format for your show, figuring it out who it is you’re speaking to, what venue you’re speaking to them in, and what that is that they’re trying to get from it. I don’t want to be sitting at the back of 1500 people and having you have a one-on-one conversation with somebody, because that’s not going to do anything for me. This can happen a lot when we do shows in the wrong format, where we think about ourselves too much and we don’t think about that person sitting at the back of the room.
There’s always somebody sitting at the back of the room. Almost everybody is sitting at the back of room, because they can’t take part in a two-way conversation with you — at least in real-time they can’t. They can do it in social media, they can do it via email, all kinds of things. But it’s so obvious. That’s where a stand-up comedian escalates from an 18-people room to an 18,000, is knowing that change and not trying to do the same thing that got them from 18 people to 50 people to 200 people. Not trying to do the same thing all along and expect it to keep carrying you. At some point it changes, and the thing that got you here won’t get you to there. You have to have a mindset shift change and make it very clear to your audience that you have done that.
Jerod Morris: This is where self-awareness is very important. If you are someone who is really good the observational, interactive humor, but you really struggle at reciting jokes and hanging on to an audience when you can’t create that interpersonal connection, you need to understand about yourself. That will mean that either you shouldn’t be aspiring with those big gigs, or you really need to work on that and get better before you’re able to do that.
It’s the exact same thing if you’re really good at writing 45 jokes and rehearsing them and getting up there on the big stage, but you’re really bad off the cuff. You need to know that so you don’t put yourself in those situations outside of, “I’m doing this to try and learn and get better.” It’s really important to understand, “I’m doing this because this is a demonstration of my expertise. I’m using this to build an audience, because people will see this. This is my authority being demonstrated. Here we go.” As opposed to, “All right, this is kind of a test and something new for me.”
If you’re horrible at interviewing and feel bad about it — it’s not to say you shouldn’t do an interview on your show and your audience is not going to give you some kind of leeway, but if you’ve really built an audience and you don’t have confidence in your interviewing, maybe you do that on the side and don’t publish it live until you’ve practiced a little bit. Understanding your strengths and weaknesses and understanding what venue you’re going to be putting this content out in is really important. Just so that you’re aware of what you’re putting out, to who, and how they are going to take it and how they’re going to view it. Self-awareness is among, obviously, the most important attributes that anyone can have in anything, but it’s extremely important to have as a showrunner.
Jonny Nastor: It’s interesting, because as you say that, it’s true. One of my favorite comedians is Louis C.K. He draws you into the most mundane story and then brings it somewhere completely that you weren’t expecting. But they all take 10 to 15 to 20 minutes to draw out. If I just wanted to start and I was like, “I’m going to be a stand-up comedian. I’m going to go to the Corner Comedy club and I’m going to emulate my favorite comedian.”
Well, for one thing, you have 10 minutes in front of 18 people, so you can’t do a 20-minute story. It’s a different thing. This is actually a side lesson. I think the reason why we start being podcasters is because we love listening to them and we want to also create like it. But if I listen to NPR-style shows that can dissect a story and piece it together with amazing editing and producers and stuff and I’ve just opened up Garage Band for the first time, I shouldn’t try and convince myself that I can do the same thing that NPR can. I need to start on the single stage for 10 minutes, not trying to emulate Louis C.K. or NPR at that point. I need to be aware that NPR has spent 50 years and has producers and budgets, and Louis C.K. has spent 35 years on stages already working his way up.
Jerod Morris: Or you need to understand that you’re good as an interviewer, but you’re not good as a audio storyteller, so don’t even aspire to do the NPR-style podcast. Just put that out of your mind that that’s not something you’re going to do. A comedian doesn’t need to be able to play to 20,000 people to carve out a good career as a working comedian. If that’s not your thing, if you’re better at the smaller venues, interacting, then maybe that’s what you build your career around.
I think the exact same thing goes for podcasting. You may be horrible at interviews, and you may be horrible at off-the-cuff conversation, but, man, you’re a good audio editor. You have a great ear for sound. You can tell stories. Maybe that’s the direction that you go in. Understanding that about yourself and using that awareness of your skills and your desires will help you go down the right path — both for your own show and your own career as a showrunner may be beyond the show that you have right now.
The Importance of Perspective
Jonny Nastor: Which ties in so well to the final lesson, which is perspective. Nobody gets into stand-up and expects to make it big and replace their job without years and years of grueling hard work. Having people heckle them. Failing. Having to play tiny venues with no people. Having to play at rock shows, like you said, where people aren’t interested in your thing because it’s the wrong venue for it.
I’ve heard people podcasting that would … If two podcasters, side-by-side, were having a beer and both knew that only — that’s what they would say, probably, as a showrunner, “only 18 people listen to me.” These two comedians that were standing behind me, that are my age must have been doing this for at least five years each now — and have ambitions of doing this full-time, because I’ve looked into them on social media since then — not one of them was like, “I can’t believe I’m only doing this for 18 people.”
It’s a really different perspective, and I think it’s a perspective that a lot of us could use to approach showrunning. Knowing that it’s not a way to get rich quick. It’s not a way to build an audience fast. It’s not a way to transform your business quickly. It’s something that takes years of practice and hard work to get better. To slowly build up that audience of 18 people and 18 people and 18 people. Take each time you sit down at the microphone as a lesson, just like standing up in front of 18 people is a huge lesson for these people with years of experience.
It’s perspective, it really, truly is. And knowing that there’s still that end goal, there’s still that Louis C.K. out there. There’s still that Marc Maron or that NPR. Marc Maron has been doing this for 25 years in different formats, because podcasting didn’t even exist then. He started years and years ago, and you have to keep that into perspective.
It can sound awesome that my show can be doing well and that it can have sponsors, but I’ve been doing it literally three days a week for two and a half years now. That’s a ton of podcasting. That’s a ton of focusing. That’s a ton of writing for other people. That’s being on 60 or 70 other podcasts and putting in that time and effort to build up that. That takes time and that takes perspective that it will take time to get there. Nobody gets there overnight. Nobody gets there quickly. It’s worth going if that’s where you want to go, but please don’t get into it without that perspective.
Jerod Morris: It’s not just the time that it takes for your show to listened to by enough people to generate an audience, it’s the time that it takes for you to get good enough to when you actually do attract people to keep them around as listeners. Because the other part of this equation that is so important, and this is where … Look, if you want to be a good showrunner, you have to have the pride in yourself, the confidence to step behind a microphone and say, “I’ve got something important to say,” or “I have something to contribute to the conversation about topic X.”
You’ve got to have something inside of you that believes that you have something worthwhile to say. But the minute that you start publishing and distributing your content out there and it hits the audience, your pride is far less important than your humility and your ability to listen and to pay attention to the response that your audience gives you.
For a comedian who is up on stage, that is about being able to understand the energy of the room, being able to listen to which jokes get laughter and which jokes don’t, which jokes get belly-laughter and which jokes get courtesy chuckles, and be able to iterate. To understand, “The timing of this joke worked really well this time, but the laugh wasn’t as good this time and the timing was a little bit off, so I need to make sure that I do the timing here.”
You’re paying attention to the response and you’re iterating. Maybe you think this is the funniest joke that you’ve ever told and nobody laughs at three straight shows. Well, guess what? It doesn’t matter what you think, you’re trying to make other people laugh, not make yourself laugh, so you’ve either got to re-work that or you’ve got to take it out. It’s the exact same thing as a showrunner.
You may be doing interviews, for example, and you have this question that you think is the greatest question, yet for some reason, every single time in your interviews when this question comes up, it creates this awkward moment with the guest because they don’t quite get what you’re saying. Their answer isn’t very good and it’s not connecting with the audience. Well, okay, that’s not a good question.
You’ve got to pay attention to that and you’ve got to iterate. Having that perspective of not just the time in terms of days and weeks and months and years that it will take to be able to have your content exposed to enough people, but also the time that it will take you to get better. And the way that you get better is by truly paying attention to the response of your audience and using that reaction to iterate and make things better.
How to Handle Boos (and Why Gratitude Should Be Part of Your Strategy)
Jerod Morris: I will say, one other thing on perspective is to remember that boos are better than nothing. If you’re a comedian and you go up on stage and all that ever happens is that you get boo after boo, that, to me, is much better than an apathetic response where you get nothing. Because if you get nothing, now you’re left to wonder, “Wait is this resonating? Is there something I’m doing? Are people even hearing me? What’s going on?” At least if you get a boo, you know, “All right, this sucks. This is not working.” That is good because it tells you to go in a different direction. Maybe comedy’s not for you, maybe you need to go do something else.
Appreciate the boos. Remember that they’re booing the character that you are presenting onstage, that you’re presenting behind the microphone. If you don’t understand what we mean by that, go listen to last week’s episode. But appreciate the boos, because they are actually more helpful to you than any non-response. Of course, we want to get to the next cheer, we want people to like what we’re doing and to respond to what we’re doing, but we may have to go through a lot of boos to get there, and in a lot of ways the boos are opportunities to take direction to get ourselves to that next cheer. They can actually be very helpful if we can view them from that perspective.
Jonny Nastor: Funny thing, one of the six comedians that night didn’t get boos, he just got complete silence. Train-wrecked so bad that he got offstage in, I’m going to say, four or five minutes. Just froze up and walked off. It was so small and so … There was no booing, it was just like …
Jerod Morris: Not even courtesy chuckles or anything?
Jonny Nastor: No, it was just like, “Oh my God, what are you doing?” He just put his head down and walked off. And he’s right there in the room. It’s so intimate. It’s just like, “Oh my God.” But then another guy ran up right after that and took over and was like, “Here we go.”
Jerod Morris: That’s interesting. What is your role as an audience member at a comedy show? Because you are part of the show. Literally, your response can help encourage the comedian or make him feel more awkward or make the show worse. But you also have an obligation to not just laugh at anything. You’re there to be entertained, you want to make sure there are jokes to make you laugh for real. Would you try to laugh a little bit and help this guy out, or do you have an obligation to not give courtesy laughter because you don’t want this guy thinking he made you laugh and then he’s going to go to his next show and tell the same joke and it’s actually not funny?
Jonny Nastor: I paid $20 to be there, Jerod.
Jerod Morris: I think it’s actually kinder to someone in that position. It’s different if you were sitting across the table from the guy at dinner and he’s a friend. Maybe then you’d give him some courtesy laughter. His life isn’t based on his ability to make someone laugh. I feel like it might be nice to give him courtesy laughter, but it wouldn’t be kind in the long run, because you’d be encouraging him to continue telling crappy jokes that are not going to get laughter. It’s actually a very kind thing to not laugh, but only if he’s going to actually listen to the response and iterate based on that, so hopefully he or she will.
Jonny Nastor: Exactly. Lessons from a comedy club. Define who your audience is and speak to them, remember the dog or cat owner split testing. Size doesn’t matter, one is better than zero. The third one is pay attention to your venue, because it does change how you need to deliver your message. And then the fourth one was perspective.
Know that all of this takes work, and also the perspective of when you get 200 or 500 or 1,000 downloads, don’t think of it “only” as 500 when someone else might get thousands of downloads. Think about that comedian standing onstage in front of 18 people. They’re nervous and they’re not thinking, “Well, Louis C.K. just did 15,000 people last night down the street, so I shouldn’t be nervous.” They’re freaking out. It’s still super hard, and it’s super important — what you’re doing and what they’re doing. Keep that perspective at all times. Then, Jerod wrapped it up with the boos are better than nothing, and they are sometimes as important.
Jerod Morris: The last thing I want to say in terms of lessons, is pay attention when you’re out living your real life for stories that might not immediately seem applicable to your content but can be. Just like Jonny did here, bringing this topic to us where he’s out at a comedy club. What does comedy have to do with showrunning? Maybe it’s a bit easier of a connection because there’s that performance aspect of it, but it can be such a great way to illustrate an idea in a different way.
Always pay attention for these opportunities in your life where you have a story that is interesting and that can illustrate something in a different way. Bring that to your audience. It can be a good way to freshen up your content. It can be a good way to freshen up your own perspective and your own enthusiasm, because you can talk about a similar thing but in a different way and look at it in a different angle. A lot of times it can illuminate different things for you and different things for your audience. That is part of being a great showrunner who delivers something remarkable to your audience. So always be on the lookout for those things.
Just make note of them. You may not always know exactly where it’ll fit, but make note of it. Later on, you never know, it might connect with something you want to say anyway. I will leave you with this, a reminder to go to Rainmaker.FM/StudioPress and check out StudioPress Sites. And also this question, which we have been asking you at the end of these episodes: “What could happen if you launch a podcast in the next 30 days?” Or, if you have a podcast, “What could happen if you commit to making your podcast better in the next 30 days? What could happen?”
We want to help you answer that question, so we have a guide, The Beginner’s Guide to Launching a Remarkable Podcast, which is a no-frills, simple, nine-step plan to getting your podcast off the ground. Or, frankly, they’re all fundamentals to where, even if your podcast is already off the ground but you want a refresher or you want to find something new that you could add to it, this guide will help you do that as well.
You get this by going to Showrunner.FM/Report, along with a really cool email course that Jonny put together that will ask you some additional questions that — no matter how long you’ve been running your show — it’s important to know the answers to. So go to Showrunner.FM/Report. Get that. Get that guide. Get that email series. And it will help make you a better showrunner. Showrunner.FM/Report.
Jonny Nastor: We’ve only been call-to-actioning or CTA-ing the report for the last — this will be the third episode. As of the recording of this right now, over 400 people have already downloaded the report. I think that’s pretty awesome, because we put a lot of effort into it. Rafal put amazing design work into it, and it really outlines our thoughts and philosophy and some action steps of how to launch a show in 30 days. It’s pretty cool that that many people have taken it up. Head over there and grab yourself a copy, too.
Jerod Morris: Have you ever thought about doing stand-up comedy?
Jonny Nastor: I have.
Jerod Morris: Really? How seriously?
Jonny Nastor: I won’t. No, not seriously. But it’s crossed my mind. I love comedy. It seems like something that would be really hard, so those kind of things tend to push to me to want to try them, things that are hard. I don’t think I will, but it’s cool.
Jerod Morris: I’d be too terrified that I’d come up with some metaphor on the spot that would crash and burn.
Jonny Nastor: That’s not like you at all.
Jerod Morris: No, not at all. All right, everybody, thank you for listening to this episode of The Showrunner. We will talk to you next week on a brand new one.
Jonny Nastor: Take care.