Being a comedian in the era of social media can be fun and rewarding and at the same time bring a lot of anxiety that comes from the importance of staying relevant and hitting all the important marks to succeed in this business.
Just like many other professions, the importance of having (enough) followers is getting into our brains that are already packed with an insane list of things we are supposed to be and do on a daily basis. It’s not a secret that nowadays comedians have to be so much more than joke writers. You also have to be a great performer, actor, storyteller, write sketches, produce shows, edit videos, manage your social media, network, be your own agent and manager before you get to land one, etc. It can become too much too soon, especially if you are an introvert which a good percentage of comedians are, but everyone is trying to do these things so you better get on board and get noticed.
For the purpose of this article I wanna focus on followers only - who your true followers are and where your family and friends fit in. Are they also your followers? The real answer is no, not really. They can be there for you but they are not your customers. Let’s dive in.
I’m sure that many of you who chose comedy spent many years being “the funny one” in every social setting, especially the ones that include your family and friends. For me, I was just that kid that would always say or do something silly that would crack my whole family up and that followed me way into my adulthood. I’m my most comfortable when I’m a comedian. For many of us our closest circle was our first audience.
However, one of the first things you learn as a comedian is that entertaining strangers is so much different than making your friends laugh because of one simple reason: these people don’t know you, your friends and family do. They might have grown up with you, they know your personality, you share some inside jokes and when they see you on stage they have a collection of everything you represent in their life. However, making strangers laugh and relate to you is a completely different thing and, naturally, one much harder to master.
In order to connect with strangers you have to be very self aware and observing and have enough creativity, confidence and stamina to engage the right way with people and gain followers. Followers then have a potential of being true fans - people who are interested in your work and admire you as an entertainer to the point that they follow every project you are involved in and are simply ready to pay for your work.
Followers are people who are focused on you as a brand and social media is emotional.
When you post and you get a lot of likes it’s because the post strikes an emotional chord, and speaks to an experience with which any of us can identify. Your followers will always want to hear what you have to say next or what your opinion on a certain matter is. The chances are they are following a bunch of other comedians and the world of comedy in general interests them. These are the people that will be open to buying a ticket to your show, and seeing you live, especially if you master that deeper bond with your fans. In order to do that you have to identify your target audience and then create a stronger connection through advertisement and promotional channels.
Unlike followers, your family and friends are in your life regardless of what your profession is. They might love you and support you but they are not your clientele. Even those who are really into your comedy should not feel pressured to support you every single time. It’s unfair to them and in a way belittles your relationship. As comedians we strive to perform every week, almost every night, we can’t really expect for the people in our life to buy a ticket for every time we hold a microphone. Even if the show is free, people have lives, they are busy, your show is not their priority. Not to mention that comedians are developing their material for years so your friends could be listening to the same jokes over and over again. That’s not fun for them and you should not expect them to be there for it. Your friends can give you an input about what they like/dislike about your work, what they wish to see, but that’s about it.
So give your friends a break and focus on becoming the best possible comedian you can be. That should be your first goal, and believe me, once you become undeniably good, people will want to come to see you, they will even bring their own family and friends to your show. You have to be patient and focused on building yourself as a comic and as a brand FIRST. You simply must enjoy the process, which is a marathon, not a sprint, because if you are just focused on getting followers this comedy life will leave you stressed, depressed and resentful. Create a solid product and the demand will follow.