Back in the 70's and 80's, if you wanted to be a stand-up comedian, you had to have about as tough of skin as you could. I interviewed a comic that got his start in the early 80's, and his description of the business is not something that I'd choose to encounter. Basically, he was told he was funny all his life, so he went to a few open mic nights and tried to get his start. He usually played to a pretty sparse crowd but got some laughs here and there. He had a few regulars that would follow him around and they started to talk about him. Eventually he got an opening performance for a fairly well-known local comic. He wasn't making any money but he was getting exposure by working with this person. He worked his tail off for eleven years before he was known anywhere outside of the Twin Cities area. It took 70 hour work weeks of not only performing, but marketing himself through mailings, word of mouth, and writing new material. If material got stale, the audiences would bail.
He looks at the comics of today and sees a completely different story. These comics are creating Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. They use every type of social media they can to market themselves. They post YouTube videos of their most recent shows (of course…only the best ones). They even set up interviews with sites that use real-time commentary with the audience. This allows the comic and the audience to interact on a more personal basis. Perhaps the comic has some new material to try out. He uses it in this interview to gauge the response it will get. Perhaps an audience member says something that inspires the comic? Perhaps it's just a way to connect on a more personal level on each side. The audience gets a clearer picture of who this comic is and what he is all about the comic gets the benefit of reaching a whole lot of people at once and being able to converse with them like a friend.
Social media isn't going away. Tweeting is commonplace and it seems every person and company now has a Facebook page. This old-time comic I talked about? Yes…he's now using social media too, and he's flabbergasted at how much attention it creates. He's also not afraid to say that it's slightly frustrating that he had to work so hard for something that, although still incredibly hard work, seems much easier today.
Not that he's complaining a WHOLE lot about it...he's nationally known and doing just fine today.
Tamara Day is a writer that's living life in a northern town while dreaming of a southern one, while having interactive discussions with comedians on http://www.tawkers.com