Branded Standup Tours: Road dog eats the fame bug

Branded Standup Tours: Road dog eats the fame bug

I get a call this week from a friend of mine who runs a “challenger brand”, asking if I’ll head up a comedy tour for them. A challenger brand is a brand that may be popular in its native market but needs help competing with the big boys. I say yes, of course. I’m already well into my “20 Years to Kill” tour, which started this past November and runs through my retirement from standup on November 15, 2035. So, technically, the tour is in progress as we speak. I tell that to my friend, who says, “Hersh, I love you. But this isn’t the fame bug calling.” Ouch. With that statement, he’s explaining that by “head up” he means “put together” and he’s telling me that I’m not headlining this tour. Meaning, he’s not calling to make me the next Kevin Hart. “Look, brother,” I tell him, “I’m almost 49. I’m the same age as Will Fucking Ferrell (that said, I’m a year younger than Chris Rock, the elder statesman of standup…and a dozen years younger than Grandpa Jerry). If I’m not Kevin Hart Famous by now, I’m not gonna worry about it. The fame bug is not an issue. And anyway,” I continue, “I’m not seeking fame. I’m a craftsman. I’m a comic’s comic.” A beat, during which I can kind of hear my friend take some air in. Phone etiquette demands that I give him a few seconds to let it out. Which he does. Slowly, and with the hint of a groan. “Really?” he asks. “Which comic?” Now, I have a lot of clever friends....
#Trump #Branding & #Buttcare in 2016

#Trump #Branding & #Buttcare in 2016

I’d planned to write a post about my recent adventure as an unofficial Butt Ambassador at RAGBRAI – the biggest bike ride in the world. I was going to write about the process of creating branded content without being hired by the brand. But the wonderful Erin Schroeder ended up interviewing me and fellow comedian Joe Beadle for her Cornfed Comedy blog, so it’s all here, black and white, clear as crystal: TWO COMEDIANS LEAD FIGHT FOR COMFORTABLE REAR ENDS AT RAGBRAI As such, I’m just gonna share my thoughts about the intersection of politics and branding, something that crossed my mind as Joe and I were shooting this campaign. To be clear, I’m not a political satirist and I derive greater pleasure from writing and directing the occasional comedy campaign than commenting on political ones. But I wanted to evaluate the following branding efforts: Anti Monkey Butt, “Fight friction with Anti-Monkey Butt Powder and keep the chafing at bay!” The Trump Campaign, “Make America Great Again” For the record, neither brand has hired me to do their bidding. Joe and I bought some AMB swag and some product and gave it away as an example of the kind of campaign we might do if the brand hired us. We happened across the Trump bus while filming RAGBRAI’ers in Hiawatha, IA. They gave us free water, with no strings attached. On the face of it, both brands do a good job of messaging, as far as logos and slogans go. The people we met from the Trump campaign – ranging from volunteers to his Midwest Co-Chair Tana Goertz – were...
A Funny Short Film for Father’s Day

A Funny Short Film for Father’s Day

Part of me wishes I could say this film sprung from my twisted mind. The other part is relieved it did not. My twisted buddy Andrew Laurich directed this film, from a script he co-wrote with the twisted Gabriel Miller. Those guys are to blame, and, ultimately, to thank for this touching portrait of a father-son relationship that may yet be salvaged. The film stars the fantastic actors John Ennis (Mr. Show) and Stephen Ellis (from the upcoming Coen Brothers’ Hail Caesar). A Reasonable Request from Andrew Laurich on Vimeo. As Frank Sinatra said, “Happy Father’s Day to all you fathers. And to all you muthas, well…Happy Mutha’s...
The end of Mad Men made me HAPPYish

The end of Mad Men made me HAPPYish

One door closes, another opens. When I watched Mad Men in its original run, I had become disillusioned by the ad biz. I loved the show, but in 2007 the industry was on the verge of stagnation (or at least extreme conservatism), the economy was about to implode and the “good days” of advertising had come to an abrupt halt (or a slow stop beginning in 1989, according to some). So, while I was mesmerized by the characters, the nostalgia had a wistful side that was at times too much to bear (though never too much to watch). As we all know, the show was slow in resolving itself – there were, what, a dozen or so years between the two halves of the 7th season?? In that time, the world has turned, we’ve dragged ourselves through incredibly hard times, truly disheartening inhumanities, insufficient response to global warming (I’m no activist, just not a Koch drinker)…and, for the moment, we’ve survived. So while things aren’t all better yet, we have a sense that we’ve made it through to the next phase: the end of Mad Men. The show ended on a generally upbeat and capitalistic note, making many of us in creative marketing feel just plain good. Because the truth is, once you find your personal truth, everything you say is truthful, even if those truths are told in the form of messages about ideas that may or may not be, well, true. Where to go from here? Into modern times, of course, and the world of HAPPYish, Shalom Auslander’s singular meditation on the two most challenging things a...
SFW: You don’t have to worry about me

SFW: You don’t have to worry about me

A classic story from Eddie Murphy about Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor: When Eddie was starting out, Bill chastised him for using profanity. Richard asked Eddie, “Do people laugh when you say what you say? Then tell Bill to have a Coke and a smile and shut the fuck up!” Decades later, not one of these brilliant comics has been convicted of rape. So, I guess it all worked out. Today, we don’t need Bill Cosby to tell us right from wrong. We have the Twittersphere. This unofficial watchdog group is on call 24/7, ready to lash out at anyone who missteps, misspeaks, or, well, speaks at all. The mayor of Baltimore accidentally said “space to destroy” instead of “space to demonstrate” and caused a near-riot (a second one, she was trying to control the first). This mistake had nothing to do with the issues, which are grave, and should not detract from the work to be done. But Jesus, tensions are high in the US and abroad (sorry, “Geez”). The whole world is on edge. And we thought it was round. Shows what we know. But when it comes to watchdogging, how much is too much?  The more power we give to words, after all, the more dangerous they become. At what point do we see someone say something stupid and just shrug it off? When does our obsession with a sanitized SFW society evolve into “He/she said that?? SFW!” What I love about standup is that the stated intention is to make people laugh. The fact that the club is called the “Funny Bone” or “HaHa” or...
Gen X-bred. Millennial-approved.

Gen X-bred. Millennial-approved.

There’s a lot of frustration out there on the part of old people. I don’t blame them. They’re nearly 40, and irrelevant. What these sad sacks need to understand is that it’s their own fault. In the 90s, they were bouncing along the edges of the dot com bubble, thinking they were the next “me” generation, instead of what they were: chum for the Wi generation. If this sounds harsh, it’s because I told you so. I saw this coming. I knew nothing was going to stop me from aging. I was bound to turn 40 in the late aughts. But I could prepare. Money wasn’t the answer; I knew I’d lose that in the recession. The solution was simple: artificial intelligence. Well, not artificial per se. More, an extension of my own brain. The science isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and I’ll come out with it: in my early 20s, instead of climbing the ladder of success, I started having kids, and I didn’t stop — until I knew I’d won. The biggest problem old folks face is that Millennials don’t take them seriously. Why should they? Boomers, Gen X-ers and the literally deceased have always been grownups, and the one old rule that these youngsters do adhere to is never to trust anyone over 30. I didn’t turn 30 until after my Millennials were spawned, and as a result, I’m one of them. I grew up with them. Sure, there was an age difference, but we went through a lot together. A move from NY to LA, a divorce (mine), a move back to the east...