1. What is your process when creating new music or a bit?
2. How did it go when you flew out to meet with bureaus? Has it helped and yielded any gigs?
3. Why have you decided to stick with the bearded look?
1. Creating New Music or a Bit:
I wish there were a profound answer here. It comes literally down to frame of mind. Usually, if I’m thinking about something, say Lady Gaga for example, and how I could have my children enjoy her music, it took me a few years to chop away at creating “Chicken Dance”, while stewing over others that didn’t work, such as when she sings “Ram-a-ooh-la-la”, I thought Top Ramen, or a French Painter, even things like “Why’d The Dog Eat My Meat Pants?”…and I had to keep it always in my mind as something to accomplish.
Once it seemed presentable I would casually sing it in the kitchen while doing dishes, specifically in earshot of my wife, and if she said, “Hey, that’s funny,” then I’d sing it again to confirm, and then try it on stage. Hahaha.
Other times it just comes out of nowhere. Mostly in the car while listening to comedy or music and something strikes me as funny, that is how Journey’s “Broken Arms”, Gnarls Barkley “Crazy”, and Ricky Martin’s “Doing The Hokey Pokey” all manifested. Shakira’s “I Sound Just Like a Guy” and Enrique Iglesias’ “Buy My Mole”, all were about B+ bits for years and I could never get them to an A, so I dropped them. If you were to ever get ahold of my voice memos recorder on my phone you would be mightily disturbed by the failed parodies, such as Air Supply’s “I’m All Out of Blood”, the 4 Tops “I Just Hate Myself”, and one by Berlin about Angelina Jolie that can never see the light of day…
To really create a good bit I have to reach very far. I am known as a “clean” performer by design as part of my mission to the world, however my natural tendency for those that know me personally is to have a bit of a dark, even warped style, so I go a bit too far with some ideas and then pull back to see if it is presentable. When I am dead, and if anyone can read my handwriting, I assume my journals will go viral because the funniest, best stuff I’ve ever written could never be performed by me. That’s weird, but that’s what it is. Thus THE WORK of creating a bit that is worthy of the stage.
If there’s a process I’d say it goes to ways, either:
A. 1. You focus on creating a bit, write a new story, create a song and it’s real work.
2. You keep it at the forefront of your mind, notes, and rhyme, riff, sketch over and over.
3. You test it out, off and on in casual settings to see if it has any legs, and that tells you where it lands time-wise in your process.
B. 1. You just randomly come up with an idea and you must capture it or it will float away.
2. You record it in voice memos, jot down on scratch paper, or any place to remember.
3. You perform it as soon as possible and see if it’s worth keeping, fixing, or tossing.
2. Meeting with Bureaus and Yielding Gigs:
This past summer I mentioned the expense and effort of flying to different bureaus to meet in their offices, bring some lunch, do some of my Keynote, and see if I could remain top of mind.
What I found was a major road bump: All of the Bureaus have always thought of me, even had me on their roster, as “The Entertainer”.
So when I went in their offices to prove I had content as a Keynote Speaker they listened, but were mostly enamored by the entertainment stuff, and even when I did what content I had they ALL sent me rave reviews from their offices about “how funny I am and what a great after-dinner Entertainer and Emcee I am”.
In other words, it did nothing to help them see I’m a Keynote Speaker.
From what I can gather it was a colossal waste of time and money. My hope is that it may pay off as they hear through the grapevine of the reviews I’m getting from pleased clients, as a Keynote Speaker, because they can’t get it out of their minds that I’m still Entertainer guy because that’s been my brand all along to them, and they didn’t book me as that back then, either.
In fact, recently, one of the bureaus I visited sent my office an email saying, “I was following up with a client who hasn’t booked through our bureau in a few years and they said they had Jason last week and he was the best Keynote Speaker they’ve ever booked in 20 years. Good job, Jason.” So, that’s neat! Maybe that bureau will start pitching me?
So, in my book, the in-house visits were a major fail and waste. Which is too bad. But it just goes to show, you can’t rely on bureaus for gigs, you can’t help people see what you’re trying to sell them on by doing so in an office rather than on stage, and it’s a beast to rebrand 15 years of one particular thing.
However, there are Speakers who go in and really do great things in that setting with bureaus. My friend CSP, Ty Bennett, benefits greatly from these visits, and equally has enough gigs near their offices that he invites them to see him on big stages. Some speakers, like Ty and Hall of Famer Mike Rayburn, even fly the bureau booker to whatever nice resort they want to enjoy, spoil and spend money on them (hotel stay, flights, food, introduce them to client), and land tons of gigs once the bureau sees them in that setting and feels treated like a king. So there are many options, I just have so much work by word of mouth I really don’t need to keep trying to sell the bureaus on me at this point.
3. Sticking with The Beard!
The Beard has been a hot topic for quite a while, and yes, it’s here to stay my friends.
Perhaps in my entire career, nothing has been more polarizing than my beard. It is fascinating.
Here’s the thing – my whole family is a family of beard people, way back to way back when. Our faces are shaped like a full moon when cleanly shaven. Chin jokes abound, shave rashes in winter weather appear, I mean guys, I’ve been shaving since 7th Grade.
As “The Entertainer” it was expected I look young, hip, spiffy, trendy, cool, and have my face be able to become any character I needed it to be, male or female, I could pull off so many good faces.
And then, as I have morphed into Keynote Speaker guy, the beard has done many things, even to the chagrin of bookers that say it makes me look old, has-been, etc.
- It literally makes me look wiser.
- It makes me look more casual and “speaker”.
- It is a departure from where my old videos and face was.
Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty as to WHY –
For YEARS my face has been plastered all over my State, as I was really trying to make a name for myself. I had products in stores, posters on buses and trains, was doing public shows, and literally got to the point where if I didn’t go outside and get recognized I would sing and dance until someone looked.
It was very weird, this need I had to be recognized.
And then I grew the beard.
And WHAM! Not a soul recognized me.
It was incredible. And very freeing.
Add glasses to the beard, and now I know why Clark Kent pulled that whole bit off! It totally works, the glasses especially, it’s incredible. I currently am recognized NEVER. It’s amazing.
Most important, my wife loves and prefers me with a beard. When I have shave it on a whim my family will scream and cry, just like they did in Hawaii when I shaved in stages and freaked them all out a few years ago.
When the beard is gone I have to eat extra avocados and bacon for it to grow back faster (actually, I don’t know what makes it return so rapidly, it just does).
If and or when you see me clean shaven, you will know:
- I’ve lost a bet.
- I’ve been called to a Church assignment that was probably an oversight by local leadership.
- I realize it has hurt my bookings, and book-ability so greatly, that I must revert to looking like a 20-something again, instead of my current age, and brave the fact that the added hair only adds to the years (which at this point, I like playing “The Grandpa”).
- I have shaved it for that day as a joke and it will be back within the week.
Thank you for the questions! This is fun.
Jason Hewlett, CSP (Certified Speaking Professional), CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame, is a Keynote Speaker for the largest corporate events in the world. His primary message, The Promise, is essential for Leadership, Management, Sales, Marketing, Direct-Sales Companies, and is a combination of engagement and entertainment meets inspiration. Jason has even received standing ovations from IT guys. He has been acknowledged as life-changing by Conference Attendees, C-Level Executives and Hollywood Elite. jasonhewlett.com
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