Julie Osborne interview
I think in comedy it is easy to make the mistake of focusing primarily on your performance. Marketing and promotion are essential for anyone who wants to succeed in this comedy business. I was very happy to interview someone who not only has a knack for performing but knows how to get people to buy tickets and support comedy shows. Julie Osborne has been extremely helpful and generous in providing opportunities to comics. In fact, I call her my fairy comedy godmother. Here is a part of our interview:
Kelly: Tell me about how you are approaching your comedy this year.
Julie: I want to make it more about me. I think I’ve been focused on creating opportunities for other people and the business aspect of it. That came very natural. I just want to get in the mix a little more. I’ve been doing it long enough to be strategic. I think I’m doing something that changes the way people look at comedy. There are so many formulas to what happens on stage but what I realized is that the magic really happens when you are not focused on your set but connecting with the audience.
Kelly: I think from the comic’s standpoint, it’s going to be an easier environment to try to make a connection with the audience in your new room at Food Therapy. You have to make eye contact because they are sitting right there in front of you. You have to move around or you will have your back to some of the audience.
Julie: I wanted something that was intimate. I wanted the audience to feel more a part of the experience. It’s an environment that does allow you to be more vulnerable on stage.
Kelly: Rob Stapleton headlined at Uptown a few months ago. He did all act outs. One character was this guy who takes his friend that is a wheelchair to the club. He’s playing the guy in the wheelchair and then the guy pushing him. He did an act out of a mouse in Queens moving his mice kids out of the apartment. He used the whole Uptown stage and it was like a light bulb for me. Kelly, why do you just stand there? You can use the whole stage. You are right, I think a lot of times we do think we just have to stand in one space, and you don’t have to do that.
Julie: or put your hand on the microphone stand
Kelly: you don’t have to do that at all
Julie: I think about that because my mind does race. I would totally have a set together and then something would happen then I would talk about the bird that flew by and who’s feeding the bird? I just got off and although it’s fun for the audience, I still have not worked on a set. That comes natural to me because I am all over the place with my thoughts. So I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t have a structured set where I remember something word for word. That’s not going to work for me because if I see something and a thought comes, I will talk about it. I’ve got to learn to bridge together so that I will not become too focused on remembering the next line because then I will lose that genuine Julie.
Kelly: I struggled with that when I first started because I did write out and memorize my set word for word. I learned that there are instances where a set is not going to fly. It hurt me when I first started because I would still in complete chaos try to do five minutes of prepared jokes. It was a fiasco because no one was listening. I didn’t know what to do so I just kept with my set. Do you see yourself as having a voice on stage or what do you think your comedy says about you?
Julie: I think that’s probably the thing I am looking for this year. I would get so annoyed sometimes. I’m like it’s comedy, it’s supposed to be fun. Sometimes I think the fun goes away. At my shows, I try to make sure the comedians have gas money. After paying them and paying the DJ, sometimes I am walking away with nothing. I have learned so much dealing with people. I have such a huge respect for comedians who are so passionate that they don’t care if they have anything to eat tomorrow. In that aspect, you almost feel like you are not doing enough. I don’t deserve that stage time because I am not out at every club, every night.
Kelly: Do you think you put this on yourself or have other comics commented to you that you aren’t going up enough?
Julie: It’s an unspoken thing. I get comedians that want their own comedy central special, HBO special, that want to go down the path of Chris Rock. I honestly want to go on the path of Julie. I can’t lose. I don’t have any other shoes to fill but my own. The people who see that are successful are the people who genuinely want to see other people do well. I’m genuinely happy to see people do well what I went to on the back end of that, I support them by text or phone call. It’s important for me to show up to other shows. The other part of it is that success comes from work that’s why I have the fan base that I have.
Kelly: You have some experiences that I don’t have. You are a promoter and a booker. Do you have any advice for comics to help them get booked more?
Julie: It’s a business. It’s a good idea to promote the show and deliver strong material on stage, because you could get booked for other events. If the comedian forgets to do these things, I think you cut off so many opportunities because you never know who is sitting in the audience. More importantly, you never know who I know as a booker to give you gigs. I’ve had comedians that did not contact me until the day of the show. How many minutes or what do I need to do? When you get to a certain level if you are expecting to get paid, there’s got to be a certain type of product that you give.
Kelly: What made you decide to do a monthly show at MSR?
Julie: I want to be clear that the purpose of me starting a room at MSR wasn’t about a lifestyle. It was about bringing all lifestyles together and laughing at our ignorance about the different lifestyles. I have so much to talk about because I am a black woman but I have a lot of Caucasian people in my family. I like men. I like women. More importantly, I like someone with great energy and someone that’s spiritual. I have worked in the prison with very prejudiced folks. There were inmates that were brilliant to very ignorant, child molesters and rapists. I worked in corporate America. I mean there is so much that I have to talk about. That’s what my comedy is going to represent. I have created a fan base and I have my own shows and I feel like people will want to hear these stories.
Kelly: Now because you have a fan base, I do think you are different from most rooms in Atlanta. For the show we just did at Food Therapy, you knew all of those people?
Julie: I would say I knew 60%
Kelly: How does that affect your comedy in terms of the writing when you know most of the people in the audience?
Julie: I’m trying to create a certain energy. The thing that makes people come back is not about me being funny, it’s about feeling part of the experience. I feel like at this level, I’m not just creating a facebook fan. I’m creating someone that is going to this party I am having and I want you to meet my 5 comedian friends.
Kelly: One thing that I appreciate about you is that you will give comics several opportunities if someone doesn’t do well. I’ve appreciated that you will give people another try.
Julie: I’ve never felt like there was a comedian that I did not want to come back. There’s always a chance of a bad night or an off night. At the same time, I have had the owners tell me, that person is not to come back. I had someone pull their pants down on stage. That’s just what they did for part of their gig. I had someone who was drunk on stage and outright offensive. You know I often cross the racial barrier so I get it. I do feel what I learned is that I have to respect everyone’s comedy. I may not get it. My thought on starting my own room is that I get to create the energy for the room.