Getting A TV Set – An Interview with Sammy Obeid

Sammy ObeidA lot of people talk about hard work.  But few people embody that ethic like Sammy Obeid.  On Sept 21st, 2013, Sammy finished 1001 straight nights of doing comedy sets.

There’s no typo in that sentence.  One thousand nights.  In a row.  No breaks.  I’m pretty sure there’s nothing in the world I want to do for 1000 nights in a row.  I don’t care how much fun it is or how hot she might be.

On Day 998 Sammy did his first national TV spot on Conan.  He was nice enough to take a few minutes to answer some questions for me and you to learn about the TV process.  I asked him about  getting the tv set, getting ready for the spot, and how it’s been since.

How did you first bring yourself to the attention of Conan’s talent booker?

I got a reference to Conan from a comic who’s been on the show.   I didn’t hear back at first and just assumed I didn’t get it.  But after 2 months I heard back, and since they heard about my 1,000 days they asked me to be on the show before it ended.

How important do you think your 1000 Nights of Comedy hook was in being booked?

I got booked on the show because of my tape, but I got the date sooner than I would have, had I not been doing the 1,000 days.

Before settling on a set, did they give you any guidelines of stuff you couldn’t do (outside of the usual blue material)?

They saw the set I submitted, and asked me to do certain jokes from that.  We edited out the word ‘blowjob’, but everything else was fine.

Were there any jokes you wanted to do that they vetoed?

I submit a 6 minute tape, and they chose 4 minutes 30 seconds of it, which I pretty much agreed with as the best selection.

How much input did the show have on which material you did?

I made the selection of the 6, and they chose everything from that.  So essentially, it was all my choice, they just refined it some.

Since your appearance on the show have you noticed more attention from industry or the public?

I have noticed some attention since being on the show.  At least more people respond to my emails and facebook messages when I try to get booked on shows.
The thing with TV is that it only has a marginal influence on building a fan base.  And at the end of the day, that’s what everything is about.  However, TV spots are still an important thing to people in the industry because it shows you’ve been “vetted” by someone else before they take a shot on you.
Personally, I could give a rat’s ass about being on TV.  But getting a tv set is one more in the collection of “things” that make both the public and the industry take notice of a performer.  That list includes an email list, social media presence, a resume of bookings, etc.  A late night TV set isn’t an “I’ve made it!”, but a means to and end.  Whatever your particular goal is.
One reason I asked Sammy about the process of choosing the material for his Conan set is because I really don’t like most TV sets I see.  I usually find them very watered down.  Sammy’s, however, was one of the best I’ve seen.  I think I’d also like to talk to another comic who I respect, but whose TV set didn’t do anything for me.  Particularly since I’ve read and heard other stories involving way more back and forth on the material.  And I’d guess that dependent on the show too.
You can imagine that after 1000 straight nights of comedy, Sammy has a pretty good idea of what would work for a particular audience.  But I was impressed that they put some of his more intelligent stuff on the air, as that’s what I usually find missing in TV sets.
So what did we learn here?
– References can help… Keep networking
– Send them the stuff you think will work best and the process may be easier
– You won’t become a star over night, but you’ll get a few more people to listen to what you have to say.
If you’d like to learn more about Sammy Obeid (and you should), he blogged a huge chunk of his 1001 night journey and has a lot of great insights about comedy and the entertainment business.  Check him out at www.sammyko.com
And hey, we may as well see that set too, right?

Update: 

I just spotted this interview with Andy Hendrickson over on Rooftop Comedy about his experience getting on the Letterman show.  Seems there was a lot more back and forth about the material with him.

Most interesting to me is that they posted both the Letterman set and a warmup set, with exactly the same material, at the Comic Strip a couple nights before.  A great lesson in how TV comedy isn’t the same as club comedy.  Very weak laughs in the Comic Strip set. Not through any fault of Andy’s.  That TV format of comedy just comes off as a little too “produced” in a club setting.

It’s also one of the main reasons I really don’t like most TV comedy sets I see.  Something I’ll need to get over to develop my own.


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