Nearly two years ago, I was a cast member of a monthly improv show called Angry Kitty’s Choose Your Own Adventure. Much like those Goosebumps books I used to read when I was a nerdy fifth grader, at key plot points in the hour-long set, we’d stop and ask the crowd to choose what would happen next. The only problem was that the 12-person team typically outnumbered the crowd that came to see us.
When it came to promoting the show, most of us earned an F for effort. The only people who did any real work getting the word out were the show’s three creators. It was thanks to them that anyone came to see us at all.
Creative types, like improvisers, are a naturally humble (or faux-humble) bunch, which means were pretty bad about promoting our work, even when our efforts in that area literally mean the difference between success and failure.
It doesn’t matter if you round up Marc Maron, Wyatt Cenac, and Louis CK (my fantasy comedy threesome) and force them to perform a free show at The Fox. If you don’t tell anyone the show is happening, how can they be expected show up?
We all have that “friend” on social media who constantly spams statuses and tweets about their upcoming yoga classes or this one weird trick that’s making doctors furious, and we write off the whole enterprise of self-promotion. We’d rather play to an empty auditorium than be like that person. But that’s not self-promotion, that’s being an annoying spambot.
Yes, it seems honorable to quietly do amazing work and not waste time tooting your own horn. But the world won’t find you. It doesn’t work that way. You have to let everyone in on the secret. Just…not like your annoying friend. There’s a genuine, authentic, and tactful way to go about self-promotion (more on that in a future blog post).
“You can’t just launch something and hope that it does well. You have to launch something and work to make it do well.” – Paul Jarvis
If you love something, if you’re proud of it, if it adds value to someone’s day, week, month, year or life, you have to get the word out. It’s selfish not to. If I actually got my fantasy comedy threesome to perform, wouldn’t it be pretty rude to hoard the experience for myself and not tell any of you?
Two year’s ago, I was afraid to tell people about Angry Kitty’s Choose Your Own Adventure show because I was convinced people had better things to do on a Sunday night than watch me and my friends improvise. Maybe they did. But who was I to make that decision for them? We were producing a solid show that was ultimately cancelled because we couldn’t pull a big enough crowd, and I take a portion of that responsibility. Maybe if each of us had had a little more confidence in ourselves and the show, I’d have the opportunity to perform for you next Sunday night.
Check back soon for Part II of this post. I’ll be discussing specific strategies I’ve used for self-promoting in a tactful way that have resulted in 50-100 reads per blog post and 50+ person audiences at my shows.