Editor's note: "Have you ever considered approaching a venue owner about putting on your comedy show (be it one-time, nightly, weekly, or monthly)? Do you have an idea for a local radio or television show? Planning to hit Hollywood and pitch your sit-com idea, animation short, or feature length script?
Read this article and do a little reverse engineering. While this was written by professional funny person for "non-funny" people, it is written from a Hollywood insider perspective. So use the principles Bruner offers and adapt them to your comedy projects.
Getting a Venture Capitalist's Attention (And Dollars)
Expert Advice on Perfecting Your 2-Minute Spiel
Part 2 of 2 parts
by Steve Bruner Comedian © April 2000
All rights reserved. You must request permission to reproduce this material in any manner whatsoever.
- I've seen a poor joke get a good response, just because the person delivering it is having a good time. There's something attractive about enthusiasm that is contagious.
Some of the best advice I've been given is that if they don't laugh at a joke, move on. The audience doesn't always know when you've blown it. Sure, it will get a laugh when it's an obvious faux pas, and you must acknowledge those, but the smoothest (and luckiest) I've ever been are the times that I sense there's going to be no reaction, and I just go on to the next bit. The audience thought I was just adding color, and the next joke worked fine.
Also, I say things I like to say, things that make me laugh. I have a joke about pickled pigs' feet that I've told 500 times, and it still works well because I like saying "pickled pigs' feet." No matter how the set is going, when I finally get to the part in my act where I say "pickled pigs' feet," I'm all smiles. (I'm smiling now just typing it.)
Put in a catch phrase, or a comment that is close to you or your group, just to make yourself feel better: a verbal or mental anchor helps a lot. Keeping it in your mind or putting it in your spiel is something that adds to your confidence, and confidence is as attractive as enthusiasm. If you're not confident and enthusiastic about your idea, your audience won't be, either.
- Remember that there are 2 kinds of talent. Some talent we're born with and some we have to work for. I envy the guys who write a perfect joke the first time, or think so fast on their feet that every bit looks polished.
I'm not that guy. I'm a pretty good joke writer, but I still have to hone my material. I practice it and I work hard offstage, and then I work harder on the stage part, too. It used to be that I had good material, and poor stage performance. There are many great gag writers who don't want to, or can't quite, perform -- and I could have sold the bits to other people. But I wanted to deliver the stuff myself, so I kept working on my strengths (the jokes) and I started building up my weaknesses (the performance).
Work with your strengths. If you're attacking as a team, some of your problems are solved more easily than when it falls on one guy. It's possible that your best idea guy isn't the best one to deliver the pitch.
When I wrote for TV, I had a brilliant partner, but when we went to pitch the ideas to the head writer and the producer, I delivered the jokes because I had a stronger comic read. We used to say he was brilliant, and I knew how to type and talk.
Look at it as though it were a comedy team: one guy's the comic (pitch man) and the other person is straight man (trouble shooter). Use the talents of the team, or if it's got to be one guy alone giving the whole pitch, use that person's strengths and shore up his weaknesses. Make sure, though, you don't gang up on your audience (oh, like I really feel sorry for the poor venture capitalist).
- How you dress
- Planning everything you can think of includes planning what you wear. You never want to be the only one with a bow tie in the biker bar, yet there's a reason chocolate kisses come in a bright, shiny wrapper: chocolate is good, but it's even better to be able to see it from a distance.
A guy once told me I was very funny, but he thought I should wear a better watch. If you wear one, wear a good one. If you are going to make a mistake on how to look, err on the up side. You can always lose a tie, but it's hard to dress up those bib overalls.
This is, of course, easier when you're able to plan the meeting with the VC. But if you're preparing for the ambush, on being at the right place at the right time, you should also be ready when it happens.
So you have your good idea, and you have your presentation prepared. Remember the part about enthusiasm: I know people who have handed out business cards and have gotten the call on this alone. Of course they were prepared, and they had enthusiasm. But they also had one thing more: luck.
6. Luck There is, unfortunately, no substitute for this, and there's no way to purchase it either. It does exist, but the other elements matter more. That's not to say that luck can't sometimes be the most important thing. Basically, my only suggestion about luck is to pitch your idea on the day you have it.
Then again, if you have good material and a good presentation, and if you can keep up your enthusiasm and your appearance at all times, then luck is something you may already have.
And if so, then don't forget to let me know when you're going public.
- How to Pitch in the Majors, in Jerry Weissman's $6000 course on perfecting your business pitch
- How to win VC (covers business plans in addition to pitching) on Redherring.com Talking to Yourself in an Elevator, on ClickZ Network
About the author:
Steve Bruner has been a stand-up comic for 13 years. He'll perform anywhere, even in an elevator, but mostly he plays clubs, colleges, corporate events, and cruises.
Writer credits: Haywire, Comic Strip Live, Sunday Comics, and Showtime Cable Network.
Television Appearances: An Evening at the lmprov, Showtime's Comedy Club Network, The Byron Allen Show, Into the Night, lt'z Fritz, and Bob Uecker's Wacky World of Sports
Work with your strengths. Cantu notes:
At one point when I was running Cobb's Pub when it was in its original location in the Marina district of San Francisco, I was approached by a then girlfriend for a couple of comedy related business projects. So we went to see a lawyer about a partnership contract.
Now she was one of those women, who was drop-dead gorgeous and didn't really realize it. I used to tell her if she had any inkling of how beautiful she was, she would never spend time with me. She would laugh and think I was just trying to flatter her, but she was just unbelievably, breath-takingly beautiful.
When we met the lawyer, I realized in a few second that the lawyer had become absolutely smitten with her. He billed us for an hour and spoke three hours with us. He just kept talking giving us terrific free valuable information, as an excuse to spend more time in her company and trying to impress her with his vast legal background.
He had done legal work for Bill Graham in Graham's early days and knew a lot about show business legal issues. He started "finding" himself in the neighborhood and dropping in to see the show and chat afterwards. I got a lot of inside legal advice.
From then on, I took her with me to every to every professional we had to do business with.
I got us the deals. She got us the perks.