Confession #983 – What I learned from Cyndi Lauper
Cyndi was a great marketer.
It was only a matter of time until I weaved Cyndi into a blog post. Most of my comedian friends don’t realize what a huge Cyndi Lauper fan I was growing up. Weird, I know.
Between the fact that she was prominent in wrestling with Lou Albano, which was a bonding experience for my grandfather and I, and the fact that I thought she was just a tremendous talent (you have to get beyond “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”), I was, and to a certain extent still am, a big fan. If you need convincing, look up her live performance of “Money Changes Everything”.
The name of her breakthrough album says it all: “She’s So Unusual”. Why? Whether you love her, like her or hate her, Cyndi realized the value of having a personal brand. I read an article where she told the reporter how kids used to throw rocks at her for having her own style. In the 80s, she parlayed that into the weird girl with rock solid pipes who shaved one side of her head, dressed like a punk rocker that had an accident with a 5 year old girl’s dress-up play chest at the Salvation Army, dyed her hair red and talked like a cross between Betty Boop and Peg Bundy. Of course, it was an act. But it worked! And, I have to mention this – if you have ever seen her live or even in an interview – she has an awesome sense of humor. That goes a long way with me for anyone.
So, what did Cyndi teach me? It was about cutting through all the “noise” out there. I studied marketing and have been in the marketing field for quite some time now. Differentiation is the name of the game. You never really know how creative you can be until you are tasked with differentiating 256 pages of safety products in a catalog. Let’s be honest, safety gloves, safety glasses and yes, even wipes aren’t that sexy. Though I wasn’t a fan of the company, it was one of the best professional growth experiences I had though I didn’t realize it at the time. It really forced me to think about who I was targeting, how to get their attention and stand-out. We get so pumped by those creative Super Bowl ads. Please – I’d be happy to market Budweiser or Doritos instead of a cleanroom outfit any day of the week. When was the last time you saw someone getting an award for differentiating a nitrile safety glove?
This brings me to comedy. Who is your audience; people with a good sense of humor? That’s like a musician saying his audience is people who like to listen to good music.
In my last blog, I wrote a little about the journey of finding my voice on stage. It is just important to find your audience and what you’re about. What’s your area of focus? I love listening to Louis CK. He’s a master but I could never do his material and make it sound authentic, regardless of how much I may agree with it. However, I don’t know too many Jewish guys from a small town who had their first job out college working with sewage treatment plants and a propensity for getting searched almost every single time he steps into an airport. Now, I just have to find out who that may appeal to. It might be a pretty small audience at first. It’s probably not the same crowd who appeals to other comics but that’s ok. There’s room for us all. We can also appeal to many different audiences.
So, instead of feeling like we’re all competing for the same audience, why not take this to the next level and differentiate ourselves and then help support and market each other? Rejection is par for the course. If I can help a fellow comic out, why not: “Oh – you don’t think my type of comedy works for your club? Ok, how about (insert name here) – she’s hilarious and would work great.”
Stay tuned for future feature blogs – hopefully one from a comedy club booker that will give you his perspective on what he looks for and how a comic could better target the best places that he/she should perform. Also, what do you think? Feel free to leave your thoughts on this site.