When I started comedy, most of my stand up set was storytelling. I would tell stories, mostly true, about something that happened to me and make it funny somehow. For my "Tight 5" minute set (your best five), some comedians would have dozens of "set up, punchline, laugh" style jokes within that time, while my story would be the whole five minutes, after maybe a quick 20 second bit. Now that I do 45min- hour long sets regularly, I would say 50% of my set is story tellings but most all of my material started in story form.
My favorite comedians were (and are) storytellers and I had the pleasure of touring with two of them, Jen Kirkman and Gary Gulman and watching as they developed their stories over shows. I learned how to be a wordsmith and take out the unnecessary beats or information, if and when they did not get a laugh.
For me, the beats of the story are important and getting a laugh or at least a strong reaction every 20 seconds was vital. And of course ending with a huge pop. Truth is vital as well. There is something to be said about a true story hitting harder. I sometimes combine 2-3 stories or details to make one story better, but that is still based in truth.
When I have a new story I want to work on, I outline what really happened and then find a "safe space" where I can try it out, usually an open mic or a "new material night". I then whittle it down to the absolute minimum necessary. By the time I am done, a five minute story is now 90 seconds and a new part of my set.
The best story of all time is John Mulaney's "Salt & Pepper Diner". Check it out if you haven't already.
#storytelling #standup #formerlawyer #jokes
THIS BUSINESS OF COMEDY
Often we forget that comedy is a business. While creative, the important lessons I often hear myself sharing is related to business. One of the advantages of starting comedy later in life is that I had real life experiences which not only included business, but specifically entertainment business knowledge.
I managed and booked bands for years for my company Shoeshine Boy Productions and much of that experience transferred to the comedy world. Booking mechanics are very similar in the sense that comedy clubs seek acts who are not only funny, but can sell tickets. Given that most of the bands I worked with were new "baby" bands, we learned how to hustle and create buzz and shows that could translate to ticket sales. Strategies I employ today with comedy.
Of course when I was managing bands, there was not the social media boom there is today, which actually helps get the word out on for creatives, much quicker than fliers and mass emails. And the social media game changes every week, if not every day with Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn changing its algorithms.
But contacting clubs is very similar to what I had to do when I would contact venues for bands I managed. And just like then, it just feels like a never ending cycle of gate keepers unwilling to take a chance.
One thing I am able to provide newer and specifically younger talented comedians is the sense that this is a business and avoiding pitfalls. I had a conversation with a younger (but far more talented) comedian who wanted to burn a bridge based on the lack of responses and what he felt was disrespect. I often fight the same urges but thankfully I prevent myself from burning the bridge and was able to help this comedian avoid that as well. It worked out for him as he secured a great opportunity. Perhaps that will be my legacy, if I don't become a household name with comedy.
#business #formerlawyer #comedian #standup #comedybusiness #comedy
Recently, I headlined one of the best clubs in the country for the first time. A club that I was trying to get a guest spot (Unpaid short set) back in 2017 and only recently became a regular as a feature. It was a goal for a long time coming.
It was surreal to see my name on the calendar and on promotions leading up to show, next to headliners I grew up watching and was lucky enough to open for in the recent past. I worried about if I would be able to draw people, given the lack of name recognition I have and lack of TV credits. I promoted as best I could and tried to get the word out with multiple clips of my jokes and crowd work. It worked and I had a nice size crowd show up!
I received so many kind messages from people who bought tickets, saying they were looking forward to the show. On the night of the show, I planned to run my new hour of material I want to record next year, but given the crowd vibe, it ended up being something a little looser. I had a blast and it went by way too fast. After the show I met some people who had seen me open for others in the past and were happy to see my success. I was invited to return! Onward! #formerlawyer #comedy #standupcomedy
It's no secret that comedians need to be active on social media. Now more than ever, it's a vital part of being a comedian, more so that even writing every day. A one minute clip can literally chance your status as a comedian over night. I have worked with so many TikTok famous comedians who became headliners selling out comedy shows around the country!
The problem with social media, aside from the negative energy and time sucking, is that it constantly evolves. One day, you need to be posting on Instagram three times a week and then it changes to videos, then reels, etc. etc. Its hard to keep up on your own and hiring people to assist you doesn't always help. Not to mention the added costs and energy associated with hiring people to do work for you, which, sadly they will never prioritize as much as you will yourself.
All you can do it put your work out there consistently and hope for the best. I know there is irony in posting this on social media as well. If you want to support comedians or any art form, please follow their work. Here is a joke I posted today on Instagram as a throwback to one of my first jokes as a comedian. Follow me there (@paulfarahvar) and everywhere!
#comedian #formerlawyer #throwback #standup #socialmedia
I am very fortunate to have had a career before stand up where I earned a very steady income and I also am fortunate to have the ability to do well paying shows for corporations, mostly because of my prior life and ability to relate to the corporate world. As a result, I donate all the profits from my "Better Call Paul" shirts at my shows to charity, most often Parkinson's Foundation. If I didn't have that luxury, however, I think I missed my calling as a t-shirt salesman. Most comedians depend on the money from their merch to as a main source of income.
I have sold thousands of "Better Call Paul" shirts since I started selling shirts, averaging over 100 shirts a month! I was hesitant to sell shirts at shows, especially showcase shows where I only did 10 or 15 minutes or when I was hosting a show. But people want these super soft shirts (They really are soft), either because they know someone named Paul or they love the connection to the TV show (which is my favorite).
Often times, however, its because of the cause. I love hearing from people at shows who have had experiences with Parkinson's as it is cause near and dear to me. Sometimes I get tips on how to deal with it or just bonding with people who are struggling with a family member with Parkinson's. A few times, I have met people who have Parkinson's and it warms my heart to see them excited that someone is bringing attention to their cause. I look forward to the fundraiser we will have at Zanies Comedy Club in Rosemont on December 11th. Hope to see you there and keep buying merch!
#formerlawyer #parkinsons #non-profit #charity #merch #standupcomedy #comedian
Paul Farahvar is a comedian hailing from Chicago, Ill.
Paul Farahvar Comedy