Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

From Zing! to Ka-Ching!

Magazine article Phi Kappa Phi Forum

From Zing! to Ka-Ching!

Article excerpt

My friend Carl, age 15, aspires to be a stand-up comedian. The high school freshman writes very funny jokes and has performed a few amateur gigs with his dad near their Iowa home. Carl sent me a note recently letting me know that he was working on a 30-minute act, the minimum amount of material a comic needs before going pro, and in the email he asked me The Question: "What is the secret to success?" I replied with the answer I give everybody, and it's all about accountability: "Show up. Tell jokes. Get paid."

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Carl is a great kid with a bright future but also part of a generation that tends to equate accountability with big business in a bad way instead of linking it to show business in a good way. To me, accountability means obligation.

Like Woody Allen says: "Ninety percent of life is just showing up." I have the luxury of promoting my shows on national radio. Once I do that, I have to show up, which I do in about 100 different places every year. I never know if there will be a huge crowd, a small crowd, or, okay, I'll say it, virtually no crowd, but I treat the arenas, theaters and clubs all the same. And I don't really care if the marquee mangles my name--"Bob Any: Sold Out!"; "Now Appearing: Bob Nany!"; "Coining Soon: Bob Zanzy!"--or if my name shares space with a description of the buffet. I know that people, who shelled out good money, are expecting me. And besides, I love all-you-can-eat shrimp.

As I've mentioned here before, I consider very few subjects off-limits. If people are talking about it, fighting over it or scratching it, I should (be allowed to) joke about it. That's my policy. Which means I have made a few people angry over the years. Complaints rarely concern sex, religion, politics, or topics discussed on TV's The View, The Talk, or The Chew. Instead, objections usually occur when a bit gets taken personally. My favorite--comedians are required to have a favorite--involves a story I told on the radio about a trip to a friend's farm, a true story that took place in and around a corn silo. Shortly after telling it, I received a furious voicemail rant about corn silos. On my toll-free phone line. So not only was this guy livid, lie was also livid on my dime. The story didn't even have a punch line, just the facts, but he went on and on about a distant relative and a tragic accident, punctuated by lots of "1-low dare you! …

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