Friday, October 5, 2012

World Series of Comedy

It's the greatest comedy competition you've never heard of.  And this year I was there in the thick of it.

It's called the World Series of Comedy(WSOC), an annual event in Las Vegas where over 100 comics from around the US and Canada come to compete and more importantly, network.  If you've read my blog before (and chances are you haven't) you know that I am no fan of comedy competitions.  To me they are a necessary evil that we comedians must do to get work and recognition.  The World Series of Comedy is slightly different for several reasons.

First of all there is no prize money at all.  This may seem like a crazy idea, but since in most competitions the winner is the only comedian who takes home any money, I never go to a competition with the thought that it will be profitable.  Instead of  money the comedians who take the top spots at the WSOC win weeks of work as a feature at various clubs around the country.  Comics who make the top 8 are guaranteed at least one week of work, while the winner can basically fill his or her entire calendar for a year.  To comedians this is far more valuable than most cash prizes.  It's like the story of teaching a man to fish, except in this case the fish is a club in the Midwest.

Another reason this is better than other competitions is because the shows are judges by club owners and bookers. These same bookers also take part in a meet and greet event, where comedians have a chance to shake their hands and ask questions about how to get into their clubs.  As any comic knows, one of the hardest parts of the industry is getting a booker to watch your material, and when they are forced to watch your set and then meet you personally it is a golden opportunity.

In addition to the comedy the WSOC also includes chances for comedians to get new head shots (which I did), attend joke writing seminars, and socialize with several planned events such as a bowling night and poker tournament.  Basically it is like a convention of comedians, which is an interesting mix of boredom and excitement. 

As far as the competition side of the event goes there is good news and bad news for comedians.  On the plus side there are very few big name comedians at the event, as most headlining comedians aren't interested in getting feature work at clubs that they already headline at.  On the negative side there are over 300 comedians who submit to the competition, of which only 101 get invited to the main event, 50 of those have to compete with a five minute set in a wild card round to get a spot in the main competition.  With so many comedians it's hard to shine.  Fortunately for me, the tape I submitted was good enough that I was granted a spot in the main competition and I was able to skip a lot of the early rounds.  Despite this, and despite a decent but not great set, I didn't move on to the finals. 

Another plus, as far as competitions go is that the comedians who do win, are almost always the best comedians.  Something that is very rare at competitions (see my previous blog).

Because the competition is judged by bookers who have seen a lot of comedy they can often weed out a genuinely good comedian from a group of average ones.  The winner of this year's event was a comic named Landry.  Earlier this year he won the Boston Comedy Festival, and by almost all accounts he is an amazing comic.  Even so, I've talked to some bookers who had complaints he used a stock joke in his set:  "Once you go black, your a single mom."  (An original joke, but a premise that has been beaten to death by black comics.)

While I didn't move on to the finals I was selected by the organizer of the event as one of his top 10 favorite comics.  According to the e-mail he sent to bookers I was one of the comics who almost won my round and could have possibly won the entire thing on any other night.  This will hopefully help me get a foot in the door with some of the clubs.

It has been two weeks since the competition and I have just started my follow-up e-mails to clubs trying to get work.  It's hard to say if I will get any work out of the competition.  Even if I do I may not know it for almost a year. 

Comics always ask me if I think the World Series of Comedy is worth the investment of traveling to Las Vegas and spending a week in a hotel room.  I always encourage them to do it.  I understand the fear of spending a good deal of money on something that has no guarantee to pay off.  That kind of money is even more scary when you get paid as little as a comedian does.  But you have to think of it as an investment in yourself.  If you always do, what you've always done. You'll always get what you always got.

It doesn't matter if you're the funniest comedian in the world.  If someone from the industry doesn't get a chance to see you the only people you will ever make laugh are your friends at an open mic. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Read My Blog, My Mom Says It's Really Good

I've been getting a lot of positive feedback about this blog.  And by that I mean my Mom keeps telling me it's really good.

Of course, just because she's my biggest fan doesn't mean she's my only one.  I do get a lot of encouraging comments from friends and fans who read it.  None of them ever write anything in the comments section of the blog, but TRUST ME they are real people. 

Since I've started writing this blog it has gotten more than 1,200 page views.  To put that in perspective, that's as many views as a video of a cat playing pick-a-boo will get on Youtube in 83 seconds.  With this kind of following it's a mystery that I haven't been offered the head writer job of my own sitcom already.  I'm sure I will get a phone call any day now with that offer, but until I do I promise I will keep up with the demand from both of the people who have signed up as regular followers of this blog.

To be honest I never have considered myself a good writer.  I've always felt I can write a decent joke, but when it comes to a professional publication I fit in as well as Shakespeare would writing dialog for Wrestlemania. 

Ernest Hemingway said writing a novel is one of four things a man must do in his life to prove his manhood.  If that's true I might as well hang up my testicles now.  I have a better chance at fighting a bull (one of the other four things Hemingway mentioned.)  Still, if a million monkeys sitting at typewriters can eventually write the next great novel, a stand-up comedian with too much free time should eventually be able to produce a decent blog.

As I've mentioned before, my parents are the ones who encouraged me to pursue stand-up comedy.  After realizing how little money I make doing that they've turned their attention to this blog as a potential career path.  Lately they've been encouraging me to see if I can use it as a launching point to get a regular humor column in a newspaper or magazine much like Dave Barry and Patrick McManus.

I have no idea how you would get a job like that, but I'm sure it doesn't include the phrase: "Read my blog.  My Mom says it's really good."

Odds are, if you are reading this then you've probably seen me perform stand-up comedy and picked up my promo card after the show.  If so, thanks for the support.  Please tell a friend.

It's my understanding that if enough people start reading this blog on a regular basis then eventually I can make some money with ads through blogspot.  I don't imagine it's a lot of money, but speaking as a road comic who just spent three days living on Hot Pockets, I could use the cash. 

Some people have turned their blog into a big money maker.  Comedian and expert story teller Mike Birbiglia has tens of thousands of followers on his blog: "My Secret Public Journal."  He has been able to use that following to get a regular spot on a national radio program and produced two comedy albums telling stories straight from his blog. 

The twitter feed "Shit My Dad Says" gained over 3 million viewers and eventually lead to an ill fated sitcom on CBS.  Sure no one remembers it, but at least it was better than that Geico Caveman show. 

I would be greatly surprised if I ever make money as a writer.  To me this blog is just a fun thing to do and share with some friends and fans.  Of course there was a time when I never thought I would make a career out of stand-up comedy.  And now I make enough take-home to place me just above the poverty line.  That's a lot better than most comics and writers can say...

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hell Gig in a Church

I'm considered by most people to be a clean comic.  By that I mean that I don't swear that much, I'm not overly crude, and most of my jokes don't offend people.  For the most part my act isn't anything that you wouldn't see on late night TV.  Unfortunately "clean" is a term that is relative to each audience and my version has it's limits.  

I found this out recently when I was offered a corporate show performing for what I was told was a "church group."  This was a bit of a concern for me because my jokes may be TV clean, but they aren't necessarily "church clean."

I told this to the booker who offered me the show and added that I could probably perform an hour of "church clean" comedy, but that it would not be a very solid show as I would have to use some of my B material.  This, I was told, would not be a problem as long as I was able to perform for the entire hour.

Whenever a booker tells you that a comedy show doesn't have to be funny it's never a good sign.   It means that he knows the show is going to be bad no matter what and he is just trying to collect some money.  I realized this right away and should have declined the work.  Unfortunately, I have a hard time saying "no" to a good paying gig and decided I could tough out an hour at a bad show for a few bucks.  I just didn't realize how tough it would be.

I knew that a church group meant the show would have to be clean, but I was lead to believe I would be performing for a group of adults celebrating a night at a dining hall.  When I tried to confirm details about the show I was given vague information by the booker until just days before the show.  It was then that I learned that I would not just be performing for a church group I would be performing IN THE CHURCH ITSELF!

I'm a religious person, but the idea of performing my material in a church is beyond intimidating.  What might be a harmless joke in a club could be a damnable blasphemy on holy ground.  I had visions of the statue of Mary crying blood tears and a lighting bolt zapping me through a stain glass window.    These fears were only made worse when I was told that it would be a BAPTIST church.

I don't have a lot of experience with Baptists, but in comedy they are considered the religion with one of the worst senses of humor, second only to Muslim extremists.  Now I would have to try to make them laugh and on their home turf. 

Despite the odds stacking up against me I tried to remain optimistic.  After calling the show organizer (the church Reverend), I discovered that I wouldn't be performing in the church exactly, but rather in the cafeteria attached to the church.  Not quite holy ground, but still close enough for lightning strikes.

I also learned that the "group" would consist of roughly 300 members of the church, many of whom were senior citizens, however there would be several younger families in the audience including more than a dozen young children.  The "event" was an ice cream social that they held once a month with family friendly entertainment.  This month that entertainment was me.

So to recap, I found myself performing comedy in the cafeteria of a Baptist church on a Sunday afternoon in front of nearly 300 people eating ice cream.  Many of them senior citizens as well as a handful of children.

I know there are some comedians out there who could rise up to this challenge.  They would take the stage and dazzle the audience with their wit.  Make the old people smile and the children laugh.  I'm sure they could keep it clean and funny and end the show to a standing ovation.  Someday, maybe I'll be that kind of comedian, but right now I'm not even close.

To be fair I did not have as bad of a show as I thought I might.  I did get some laughs and I was able to keep the audience entertained for the most part.  However, to say that the show went well would be such a lie that it would make a politician blush.

Before the show I carefully reviewed every joke in my set and made sure that it wouldn't be offensive.  None of my jokes used any swear words, involved any sexual situations, or included any crude topics.  Despite this I estimate half of my jokes received disapproving silence from a majority of the crowd.  Possibly the worst was my closer where I joked that a lot of people use holidays as an excuse to celebrate the 7 deadly sins.  It wasn't until I was in the middle of the joke that I realized religious conservatives wouldn't approve of the idea of celebrating sin, especially using Christmas as an excuse to be greedy.  It seems obvious in hindsight, but I swear it caught me completely off guard. 

Every moment of the show was a struggle.  From the awkward introduction of how I was a last minute replacement for a comic whose parents had just died (a lie told by the booker), to my big silent closer which was tagged with an apology to anyone I may have offended.  I spent 45 minutes working harder than I ever have on stage before wrapping it up 15 minutes early.  If anyone noticed my set went short they didn't speak up.

One way I can tell how bad a show goes is by how much I sweat when I'm on stage.  When crowds are tough I have to animate myself more, pushing energy into the crowd in the hopes that they give some of it back.  On a good night I walk off stage like I'm the star of a deodorant commercial.  On a bad night I might have some pit stains.  If the shows really bad you might see my beads of sweat on my brow.

That night I brought new meaning to the phrase "sweating like a sinner in church."  By the time I got off stage I looked worse than Robin Williams at the end of a marathon.  My shirt was so soaked I could have wrung water out of it.  I'm sure it was obvious to everyone who I met after the show. 

Despite it all I didn't hear a single negative word about the show.  Not from the Reverend, the booker, or the audience, many of whom said they had a real good time.  I got my check and left town as fast as my Camry would take me.  All in all it was one of the most stressful shows I've ever done.  I pray (no pun intended) that I never have to do it again.  Unfortunately, I am not at a point in my career where I can say no to a good paying show and I know if I get an offer like that again I'm sure I'll take it.  May God Help Me. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Political Comedy: Why So Much Drama About What's Supposed to Be Funny?

It's election time again!  At least it will be in a few months, but because this is America the political season began right after the last one ended.  For us comedians politics and elections mean a wealth of material.  At least for those of us who are brave enough to take on the challenge.

Despite the appeal of making fun of politician (many of whom deserve it) some comics choose to stay away from this controversial topic while others embrace it.  Today I thought I would take a look at the reasons why.

For as long as there have been politics there have been people making fun of politicians.  This goes back to the early Cro-Magnon days when cave men would gather around a fire and do impressions of their leader talking about his new hunting strategy.

Today this tradition is carried on by stand-up comedians, especially those on late night television.  Yet many, including myself, try to stay away from political jokes because it is really difficult to do a joke when you know that half of the audience is going to be offended by it.

Politics are one of the topics that many people have a hard time laughing at.  At least jokes that make fun of their side of the aisle.  Even when people are at a comedy show they tend to take jokes about politics very seriously and if they don't agree with a joke they will let you know about it.  For example here is a "non-political" political joke that I started doing after Obama was elected.

"I have a bumper sticker on my car that says "Obama in 08' but unlike other people I put it on my car after he won the election.  I realized it was the perfect size to cover up my "McCain/Palin" sticker.  And I didn't even vote.  I just want people to think that I can pick a winner."

At first glance this may seem to be a political joke, but it's really a self deprecating joke about how I flip flop my allegiance with whoever is in power.  What I discovered after a while is that I had to stop doing this joke because it kept offending people.  One time I did this joke on stage in a conservative town and the audience suddenly got quiet.  When I commented on it someone called out "it's because you mentioned Obama."  Another time I did the joke in front of a liberal audience and I had people come up to me after the show and tell me that they really liked the joke until I mentioned the McCain Palin line.

Any comic who decides to talk politics will probably have to deal with similar comments.  Most get around this problem in one of three ways.

The first is the tit for tat method used by a lot of late night talk show hosts such as Jay Leno.  If you ever watch his program (and based on his ratings you probably don't) then you may have noticed that every joke he makes about a politician is followed by a joke about the other party.  The idea is that he makes fun of everyone equally and thus walks the thin line of neutrality.  Unfortunately some politicians are just easier to make fun of than others (I'm looking at you W), and playing both sides against each other means eventually you will need to use a bad joke just so you are keeping your act balanced.

Another tactic is to pick a side.  Bill Maher is probably one of the best examples.  He considers himself a comedian, but many would argue he is closer to a liberal pundent than an entertainer.  On the other side of the coin Dennis Miller plays to the conservative base while balancing his comedy with his pundent role on radio and Fox News.  The problem with such a strong stance is that it's hard for people with opposing viewpoints to put up with you long enough to laugh at a joke.  I imagine in the early days of Maher's career he was chased out of many redneck bars.

Most comedians will rarely take such a strong stance and rather use a third option of letting you know their political views, but not shove them down your throat.  The Daily shows Jon Stewart leans far to the left, but still picks on both sides when they have it coming.  Jeff Foxworthy and his Blue collar boys appeal to conservatives, but with enough balance not to offend liberals too much. 

If you've seen a lot of comedy then you've probably noticed that a large majority of comedians tend to lean to the left.  There are many reasons for this.  Comedians often come from liberal households that encourage the arts, most comedians are well educated and don't make much money, and comedians are very akin to a modern hippie what with the sex, drugs, and rock and roll.  All of these points aside I believe the most simple reason for the left lean of comedy is that conservatives are just a lot easier to make fun of.

Comedy is about the oppressed making fun of the oppressor, or the smart making fun of the stupid.  In other words every hero needs a good villain and when it comes to politics comedians couldn't ask for a better villain than a hard core conservative.

Most people (especially liberals) think of conservatives as one of two main stereotypes.  First there is the white business man who has lots of money from investing in banks, cigarettes, and other companies that screw over the common working man.  Next there is the ignorant redneck church fanatic who loves to tell you why they should be allowed to own a bazooka and why gays should never be allowed to marry.  In general terms these type of people are a lot easier to pick on then an environmentally sympathetic well educated liberal who is living with a modest income.

No one wants to laugh at a persons genuine misfortune and in a world of political correctness an audience will turn on you for making fun of a minority.  Hence the safest targets are the majority.  In politics that means stupid white rich men with staunch religious views.  Sure half of them may be Democrats, but they all fall into the image of a conservative. 

One last thought:

It's been pointed out that there aren't nearly as many jokes making fun of Obama as there were aimed at Bush Jr. or Clinton.  I agree.  Bush was an idiot and Clinton was a slut.  Those are a lot easier things to joke about than an articulate family man who just happens to be the first black president in U.S. history.  Does that mean Obama is getting a free ride thanks to white guilt?  Yup.  Sorry conservatives that's just how the comedy ball bounces.  I promise we comedians will make up for it when the second black president is elected.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Double Down on Comedy

I BET YOU that if you go into any given casino in the country and ask if they have a comedy show they will tell you yes.  At least the odds are a lot better than any slot machine you'll find.  Comedy in a casino is a tradition going back to the early days of Vegas and today it is staying alive in small American Indian casinos in almost every state.  Only instead of a professional performance with a live band like the Rat Pack used to have, you can expect a stage right off the casino floor accompanied by the noise of slot machines.

About a third of all comedy shows that I do are in casinos.  They have helped fill a void that has been left by many closed comedy clubs.  When the economy was crashing for most of the country, casinos thrived and thankfully they are bringing comedy along for the ride.

The problem with performing in a casino is it's rarely a good show.  Because the casino is just trying to bring in people the show is usually free.  That means the audience has no investment in the show and talks the entire time.  The noise from the casino floor is also a constant distraction.  And most of the audience is either drunk, or seriously pissed because they just lost a mortgage payment at the craps table. 

Despite all these problems casinos love comedy shows.  For them it's a sure bet.  They attract a lot of people on otherwise slow nights who come in and lose a lot of money.  Comedians can be hired for relatively low costs with the knowledge that many of them will lose half their paycheck before they leave.  In fact the first time I ever performed at a casino I saw the comedian I was working with lose his entire pay for the night in 10 minutes at a craps table.  This happened about 5 minutes after he bragged about being a professional gambler and about 2 minutes before he swore that this sort of thing never happened to him before.

I myself dabble in the gambling, but thankfully so far I haven't lost an entire paycheck.  At least I'm not going to admit that in a blog that my wife can read.  I like to group gambling options at casinos into three categories.  First there are slot machines for those who would like to lose their money slowly, but without having to think too much.  Next there are gaming tables such as blackjack and craps for those who like to lose their money quickly but in front of a crowd of strangers.  And finally there is sports betting for those who like to lose their money while watching their favorite team lose.

Slot machines have a very simple premise.  Push a button, lose some money.  Push it again, win a little of it back.  Push it again and lose some more money.  Repeat until you have no money left.  I've been told the only way to win at a slot machine is to play as many lines as possible and max the bets for each line.  Then pray that you hit a big payout quickly and then walk away.  To my knowledge this has never worked for anyone, ever.   It is however a really interesting way to lose lots of money very fast.  Even if you play the penny slots you can still manage to lose nearly $20 a pull by betting every line to the max.  Imagine trying to explain how you lost $500 in an hour by making one cent bets.

Table games are a little more fun because then you are at least playing with other people.  Misery loves company and that way when the dealer hits blackjack you can take solace in knowing that you may have lost five bucks, but at least you're not the poor sucker next to you who just dropped $300. 

I will admit many of the table games confuse me.  Probably the worst of these is the famous dice game craps.  I've heard that the odds at a craps table are the best you will find in a casino, but then again it's the casino that likes to say this.  The most confusing part about a craps table is there are about 50 thousand different bets you can do.  To make things simple I put money where other people are putting money.  If they cheer when the dice are rolled I know I'm winning.  If they swear I am reminded that I shouldn't be playing casino games when I don't know the rules. 

Sports betting can be a fun way to make a game more interesting, but casinos take it so far it requires a graphing calculator to keep up with what's happening.  Forget betting on who beats the spread.  In Vegas you can put in side bets about which team wins the coin toss, which team will have the first injury time out, and what cheerleaders will be shown when the TV cuts to commercial break. 

Some gamblers can actually win a lot of money on sports by doing research and comparing performances, and other boring things.  Casinos don't have to worry too much about those guys because for every one of them there are a thousand more like me who like to put our money on which horse has the best pun for a name. 

When you look at the big picture I can't imagine casinos are that interested in gamblers like me.  I will lose $5 at the penny slots while drinking $20 in free drinks, meanwhile there are buses of old people betting $50 a hand at blackjack in a desperate attempt to make sure their children have no inheritance.  Of course my luck runs out when those people decide to take a break from their decline into poverty by checking out the casino's free comedy show. 

Sometimes I can hear them mumble as the take their seats, "This guy better be funny enough to help me forget that I just lost $2000."  That's a show where the odds are never in my favor.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Welcome to Tacoma

Recently I had the opportunity to perform at the Tacoma Comedy Club.  A new and fairly successful club in the heart of downtown Tacoma Washington.  Let me first say the club is amazing.  Easily one of the best rooms I've ever performed at.  The staff was professional, the crowds were great, and I set a new record for t-shirt sales in a single week.  The shows were so good in fact that I decided to record a set on my video camcorder.  That is when this beautiful week took an ugly turn.

The show I decided to tape was the early show on Saturday.  It was a sold out show with 250+ people in attendance.  While these kind of crowds guarantee good laughs they also mean there is a good chance that someone in the audience will head to the bathroom in the middle of your set and stand-up in your shot, ruining an otherwise perfect joke.  On the advice of the house MC I decided to set up my camera on a balcony railing above most of the crowd.  The camera was near several tables of people, but out of the way so it likely wouldn't have been noticed. 

I went on stage and did my time.  Not a phenomenal set, but one that definitely had some good clips I could pull from it.  Unfortunately when I finished I had forgotten about my camera and failed to pick it up.  After the headliner finished his set we stood in the lobby and shook hands as people left the club and sold some of our t-shirts.  Then, as you might guess, when I went back to pick up my camcorder I found that it was gone.  Likely it was taken by an audience member who spotted it on their way out. 

You can imagine I was none to happy.  Not only had this person probably seen me set up the camera and then decided to steal it, but they also had to pass right past me and probably shook my hand as they left the club.  To make matters worse the camcorder had video of my son which I had yet to transfer to my computer and will never be able to get back. 

The amusing part of this story (if there is an amusing part) is that when I was asking the staff if anyone had seen my camcorder, they admitted that it had likely been stolen and then just shrugged and said "Welcome to Tacoma."  Later that night when I joked about the theft on the late show that same line was shouted out by the audience.  The inside joke being that you should know better than to leave a camera unguarded in "this city."  Only in the Northwest can my naivety with theft be blamed on my ignorance of a single city and not of all of humanity. 

For those not familiar with the Northwest, Tacoma is considered Seattle's dirty little brother.  A lot of people around here consider it a shady city filled with sketchy people.  The irony in this is that any other part of the country would consider Tacoma tame compared to their cities.  Do you think if the same theft happened in LA, Chicago, or New York people would make the same joke?  Of course not.  They would justifiably call me a moron for trusting strangers not to steal my stuff.  Only in the Northwest, where cars will slow down to let jaywalkers cross the street and strangers smile when they make eye contact would a city like Tacoma be considered a cesspool. 

Is the person who stole my camera a jerk?  Of course.  Am I an idiot for leaving a family video camera in a place where anyone can grab it?  My wife would say yes.  But is Tacoma the dark seedy underbelly that some people think it is?  Only in a perfect world would a place like this be considered the worst there is. 

As for myself I'm looking for a replacement camcorder.  One that I plan to keep a closer eye on.  And should the thief who stole my last one read this blog someday and decide to save Tacoma's "reputation" I will trade you back my camcorder for one of my t-shirts that reads "I don't care if you have small boobs, I still want to see them." 

A boob shirt for a boob move.  Sounds like a fair trade.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I'll Write This Later...

It has recently been pointed out to me that I haven't updated my blog in a while.  I have a very good reason for this... I'm lazy. 

Sure I have other reasons that may sound better.  My wife and I recently had our first kid.  I started a new job and was then fired from said job.  I've even been booked solid for months on the road and could argue that I've been doing to much travel to write for a blog that only five people read (Hi Mom!).  But in the end it's because I just don't manage my time well and it's much easier to waste time on the internet especially when it's literally just a click away. 

Comedy is a job that encourages laziness.  After all, I only work for at most an hour or two a day.  If I don't have to travel that leaves a lot of free time on my schedule.  Of course I could spend some of that doing something productive such as exercise or write comedy, but it's much easier to spend it doing nothing. 

It's amazing how easy it is to waste a day when you are on the road doing comedy.  Between sleeping in, watching TV, playing games on my smartphone, and screwing around online I am able to do less by 6pm then most people do by breakfast.  No wonder so many comics are overweight and look like they watch a lot of internet porn. 

Even comedy related projects like this blog are easy to postpone.  When you have an entire weekend free you tend to put things off knowing that you'll have plenty of time later.  The same goes for writing jokes, contacting bookers, and updating websites.  This of course becomes a problem from a business point of view. 

People rarely think about the business side of comedy, including many comedians.  Even though our job is to make people laugh, most of our time is devoted (or is supposed to be devoted) to networking with contacts, promoting ourselves and events, and working to get more bookings.  The comics who can't force themselves to spend time on these things are doomed for failure.  This is one reason why so many comedians and entertainers have agents and managers.  We need someone to give us the occasional kick in the butt and sometimes do some of the work for us. 

For those like me who aren't successful or wealthy enough to justify a manager or an agent, a nagging wife will suffice.  There is nothing more frightening then the look on you're wife face during a video chat when you explain to her that you spent the entire day in your underwear watching HBO while she has spent the day working, cleaning, and taking care of a colicky baby.  Once again honey I'm sorry your day was so rough and I promise I'll vacuum and take care of the trash just as soon as I get home.