Go ahead, promote yourself

Go Ahead, Promote Yourself

Improv Nerd comedy podcast at Stage 773One of the hardest things for me to do is to ask people to come to my improv shows. I have been performing on a regular basis for more than 20 years and it’s still difficult. I tell myself “Oh, they don’t really care,” or “Why would they come see me?”

You may be performing at one of the big improv theaters where the crowds seem to come in by themselves, so if that is the case you can stop reading. But for those brave people who go off on your own and start something from the ground up, this is for you.

We are performers and we need an audience. Let’s be honest: If there’s no audience, it’s a rehearsal.

Audiences don’t just show up by themselves. And just because you post an event about your show on Facebook doesn’t mean they’re going to come. To get an audience, you have to ask people to come.

Asking people to come to your show is important because it’s about letting myself be seen, it’s about getting support and it’s about telling the universe, “Guess what? I am serious about what I am doing here; I am legit.”

I grew up in a family where you could not express yourself, where you were supposed to play small and hide. Self-expression did not exist. It was about being invisible, not being a burden — you would not dare ask for what you needed.

When I was a kid and I had a baseball game or a show, I would discourage my parents from coming. If they did surprise me and show up, I would feel sick. I’d get a pit in my stomach and want them to leave. I couldn’t take in the support and I didn’t want to be seen in life, so I certainly did not want to be seen on stage. I did my best to keep my worlds separate.

Now that I’m in my late 40s, this how I still look at things: Asking someone to come to my show would be a burden, because I am burden. Welcome to my world.

So when I started doing Improv Nerd, a comedy podcast and live show, I relied heavily on public relations, Facebook and posters to get the word out about the show. I got some incredible press on the show, and I thought this was enough to pack the house.

It wasn’t. It never is, because promoting is an inside job. You have to believe in yourself; the words have to come out of your mouth. Instead, I was hiding behind Facebook and putting off the inevitable, that dirty little word called self-promotion.

I can tell myself all sorts of lies about self-promotion: that people will think I am a jerk, or that I am bragging, or my favorite one, all I want to do is show up and play. But really by avoiding self-promotion, all I want to do is continue to hide.

This season, my wife, Lauren, encouraged me to do the scariest thing possible, which was to promote myself by telling my friends about Improv Nerd, in person. I was afraid to ask, but I knew this would help me grow.

So I started to ask people — my students, my friends — and every time, when I pulled a post card out of my pocket, I thought I was having stroke. I would stammer a little, my voice would go softer and my heart would beat harder, and I’d say “Hey, I’d love it if you could come to my show. I could use the support.”

And here is the painful part: People actually came. I was filled with lots of gratitude and wanted to run away all at the same time.

These were the feelings that I had been avoiding since childhood. It’s still really uncomfortable for me, and I don’t do it perfectly, but I feel like I have started.

Oh, by the way, my last performance of Improv Nerd this season is this Sunday at 5 pm at Stage 773, and I would love it if you could come. I could use the support.

6 replies
  1. Angie DiMaso
    Angie DiMaso says:

    I’ve been asking your DAD ABOUT YOU ESPECIALLY SINCE MY GRANDSON IS DOING STUFF AT SECOND CITY AND Northwestern in improv. I was trying to get him to the show this Sun but he also plays for the games (trumpet.) I’m am going to try to make this Sun but do keep me apprised of your doings. I’d
    like Nick DiMaso (my grandson) to meet you.

  2. Bob
    Bob says:

    This is very interesting, but I beleive as a performer asking friends, colleagues, students and other improvisers will not help you to grow. These people are pretty much obliged to like you. When you do something on stage, they might like what you do but they also partly like that YOU are the one doing it, because of the connection. And people who are connected to you very rarely give negative feedback.

    The real hard part is asking strangers to come to your show. People who are not obliged to like you. Most improvisers can go for YEARS before they are faced with an audience of strangers.

    It is hard. You have to go out and hand out flyers. You have to have an budget for communication.

    But it is critical that you play to strangers. Not to people you know.

  3. GarethOW
    GarethOW says:

    I’m with you 100% Strangers are important but you have to start with friends and family. They’relike investors getting the business out the ground until the customers arrive.
    An audience of friends will spread the word and chive the show legitimacy while giving you confidence to fail.

  4. Cynthia Raxter
    Cynthia Raxter says:

    Gosh! I am much more likely to hear constructive criticism from my friends than strangers. Maybe it is just my friends know that I like honesty and genuine feedback.

    Strangers see the show – gush – and then leave. I am still very grateful for them being there and applauding and laughing. But I am lucky if I get one or two Twitter followers from a packed-house show.

    Friends. They are there. They tell me what they like and they tell me what worked really well and then they tell me where we were dragging. Most times I know the draggy parts! But when I hear their positive feedback I know it is real.

  5. Cece Hedrick
    Cece Hedrick says:

    I’m really glad you promoted this blog, when you came to Omaha. Otherwise I may have never discovered it, and I’m really enjoying reading it.


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