Cathe B. Jones is a comedian, published author and rat wrangler–what? More on that later. Today she tells Audacious Ink how she markets herself so successfully and in a variety of fields.
AI: Cathe, you are one funny gal. And I’m not talking about your comedy. Haha. Anyway, as a comedian, what do you do to market yourself? What steps do you take above and beyond to get your name out there?
CJ: Pshaw, thanks! Marketing is about half of a comic’s job, 40 percent is writing material and the rest is on stage. I started back in 1981- so the marketing consisted of handing out fliers on people’s cars, posting notes on college bulletin boards, and other tree unfriendly methods. Now with podcasting, (great method..check out Jackie Kashian and Grant Braccocio), satellite radio, (really great method… check out the numerous comedy networks), and the social networking sites- you can build an audience in different cities just by putting time into letting the world know who you are. I also recommend comedy-fan sites, like iJoke.tv. There’s also sites like Going.com and Event based sites like Demand, which lets fans pick their favorites to visit cities where they live. I also think meeting people before and after shows is one of the best ways to get an audience- you let people know you’re human, reachable, and available, and they’ll myspace you, facebook you, and even twitter you. (Which tickles.)
AI: How have you used MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and that ilk. Does it work?
CJ: Yes, and on facebook, I have a fan page under Cathe B, where I post my upcoming shows, MySpace.com/comicCatheB, where I do the same, plus blog to other comedians in training, or other comics about the comedy scene in Vegas, and Twitter- it’s more of a “did you hear this?” site..you just can be far more random there. Social media is a mandatory- you HAVE to be part of the online world to get people to the live shows. If you are virtual- you are real to so many. If you don’t exist in cyberspace, you just don’t exist- especially on an audience that has been on computers since kindergarten. With a blackberry addicted President, I believe even MORE people will pounce on social media. Peter Shankman is a pro at putting out the importance of it… you can find him on Twitter, where he posts a column called Help A Reporter Out, (HARO). I also have standard web sites, CatheB.com, and CatheJones.com, where fans who aren’t up on mass-marketed-media can browse on their own time.
AI: What challenges do you have in promoting yourself today that you did not have a year ago or five years ago, or when you first started out in the business?
CJ: Well, it’s interesting, and a great question. Five years ago, I had taken a break from comedy. I got back into it because a family member was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lung Cancer, and I wanted to help SOMEHOW. The only way I could was to put a benefit together, as I had done dozens of times for OTHER people’s loved ones. But I was rusty- when you are off stage..it’s not like bicycle riding. You have to get used to the audiences, their likes, their quirks. The biggest change is that the Latino, Hispanic, Chicano, etc.. audiences are HUGE, and very happy to be going to comedy shows. There’s also the MySpace Dane Cook phenomenom that happened- here’s a guy who used “friending” to build an audience when he really wasn’t a name at all. Then, he toured to THAT audience. College kids, High School kids. The demographic changed, so he was transformed into the college kids funny best friend. It worked. But, it also changed a lot of what people expected of comedians. They want immediate recognition- as audience members. ANYone can be famous on Youtube, or Myspace, or the like. And, comics are abandoning stages, to do Youtube…. Brandon Muller’s spoof of Cris Angel’s show comes to mind- check out Mime Freak. Here Brandon builds an audience of people who are gettign a bit more sophisticated in their comedy-expectations. They are now able to pick up subtleties. And subtitles.
So the shorter answer- the attention span is far shorter than ever. You have to show people you are either their best friend or will be- and that was very different from what I was used to . Now that the economy is toileting, I believe that this will continue to be the case. People want to be heard- and comedians listen.
AI: Let’s talk about your writing. As a published author of numerous books, what do you think the key to your success has been in getting your name in front of an agent or publisher?
CJ: Ah. Well, like many new writers, and experienced writers the agent I thought would be MY PERFECT FIT passed on the project I KNEW would make her happy. But we met at a conference, got along as friends, and it wasn’t a year later when her associate, Janet Rosen, (from Sheree Bykofsky and Associates), took on my project. It was a better fit, and I had no idea about Janet before meeting Sheree. The key has been being open to ideas, talking to agents like human beings, and not fearing them at conventions and conferences.
YAI: You are also a “Rat Wrangler,” which begs the question, what the hell is a rat wrangler, and do they have to do marketing?
CJ: We are not lawyers’ keepers, we train actual rodents… and they’re cool! Little dogs with kangaroo tails! (At least that’s what we told our landlord). They had their own website for a long time and that helped me get work in the field. I showed videos of them doing tricks. Now I have RatRoomTV on YouTube and there are some casting directors who need critters for films or TV. They find me listed in the Film Board books, or better yet via the listing with the Department of Agriculture. Because the animals are used in films I register with both. They’re great at being their own marketers. I bring them anywhere, and they gather crowds.
AI: As you look back over your career as a rat wrangler, comedian and author, did you make any business mistakes along the way that you wish you could get a do over on?
CJ: Everyone messes up. Isadora Duncan never danced a ballet before she crawled on her knees as an infant. Michael Phelps never swam in a pool until he learned how to float or doggy paddle. And, The Red Sox had years of not being perfect! A lot of my mess ups were in believing that all people were who they said they were. I’ve since learned to be very cautious- as some hide behind some pretty elaborate masks. I think I would have had a bigger career in film had I not been so naive about people’s intentions. (in animation, not on screen!) I also kept putting other people’s ideas of what I should be doing with my life ahead of what I wanted to do- and that probably prevented me from being a lot further along in my career. Honestly, I believe a lot of women do this. We think we’re supposed to take care of those around us. We are supposed to be loved, and put our relationships before career. There are several turns life has taken because I followed someone else’s heart and not my own. When I stopped doing that- when I shook off the idea that I’m supposed to conform to another person’s ideal- I really found my own voice, my own foothold, and certainly, my own world view. Some days are still battles for Me-before-Thee, but you know, balance is a way of life now.
AI: For someone who is everything but a marketer, you are one of the best marketing people I know. Thank you, Cathy!