SXSW Comedy: Covering All Things Comedy

"Always own your work," Burr, Madrigal, and Benson tell SXSW

SXSW Comedy: Covering All Things Comedy
Photo by Ashley Moreno

If you’re a new comedian struggling to get noticed and get paid, veteran comedian Bill Burr has some simple advice: “You know you’re getting fucked when they say ‘It’s good exposure.’”

On their Monday afternoon panel, Owning Your Work: The Future of All Things Comedy, comedians Burr (Bill’s Monday Morning Podcast, I’m Sorry You Feel That Way), Al Madrigal (The Daily Show With Jon Stewart), and Doug Benson (Doug Loves Movies podcast, Super High Me) talked the rise of artist-owned co-ops and how they’re helping to circumvent old media models. “Artists are always coming up with scenes, like music scenes or comedy scenes,” said Burr. “And eventually what ends up happening is the business person comes in, corrals all of it, turns it into a business model, and says, ‘Hey, this is great, what you guys have created. All right, we’re going to own it, and we’ll let you know how much money we made.'”

To help protect their work and their livelihoods, Madrigal and Burr founded, an aggregate site of some 60-plus comedians. “We just decided we were going to get the best podcasts that we could get,” said Burr. “And unlike the old-school business models, where you join our network and we own your podcast or you have to give away 50% of it, you get to keep your content. And why not, through the strength of the artists and the exposure we can give each other, we all rise up. And at the end of it, whatever money is to be made, for once the artists get it, rather than having to chase people down and audit people and get labeled ‘difficult.’”

All three comedians stressed the importance of maintaining ownership, even at first, when it can prove difficult. “Don’t give up anything,” said Burr. “There’s no reason to ever do that. It might hurt you in the short run, but in the long run, you should own everything. It’s all about content. If you’re creating it, why shouldn’t you own it? Do that, and don’t ever sign away power of attorney.”

During the Q&A, the panelists mostly offered advice to budding comedians looking to get started. Madrigal offered this tip, which he received from Cheech Marin: “Be nice to every fucking person you meet, because they’re always going to have their 'Madrigal is an asshole' story if you’re not.” To the stuck comedians, unsure where to start, Benson had this to say: “I think Nike said it best. It’s really a ‘Just do it’ proposition for podcasting, for doing comedy, for writing comedy, and doing standup. They’re all things you just have to go out and do. Because the person who sits around asking, ‘Well how do I get started?’ is already stopping themselves from just doing it.” To that, he added: “Develop an act, and then go out to L.A. Stay where you’re at, and get an act together in local clubs.”

One question the comedians struggled with: In the Internet age, when everything’s documented, how do you balance a “sensible cubicle job” and a side career of HR-unapproved jokes? “That’s actually a good question,” said Benson. “I hadn’t thought of that because from day one of my stand-up career, I’ve never had a respectable job. And when I started, the Internet wasn’t an issue. Your stuff couldn’t just get out there.” Burr agreed. “That’s such an interesting thing that I never had to deal with when I was starting out,” said Burr. “Everyone is like fucking J. Edgar Hoover with these stupid cameras. And they do the exact same thing that news media outlets do. They deliberately take it out of context.” Burr did offer this idea: “Don’t film your sets.”

If you missed yesterday’s live taping of Madrigal and Burr’s podcast, All Things Comedy, watch their All Things Comedy Channel for the recording. And there’s still time to catch Doug Benson today at 7pm, as he interrupts Leprechaun 3 with the local comedy troupe Master Pancake. He’ll also record a live taping of his podcastDoug Love Movies this Saturday at 4:30pm .

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SXSW Comedy 2015, SXSW, All Things Comedy, Bill Burr, Al Madrigal, Doug Benson, satnd-up comedy, podcasts

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