Hey there. I know the last few times I’ve posted, I talked about how I don’t do comedy really anymore, so this might sound surprising: I recorded a comedy album! It’s going through editing right now, and it should be released this summer! Holy shit, right?
It took a few years go work up the nerve. Several people urging me to do it, seeing some of my peers making decent money from their royalty cheques, and “how have you NOT done this yet?” Part of it is that I’m stubborn and resist whenever someone says “you GOTTA” do something. You’ve GOTTA see this show! You MUST go to (some place), how have you never gone? You HAVE TO sign up for (some thing that everyone is doing).
It was my SheDot co-producer Martha who got me thinking about it more seriously. The conversation started maybe 3 years ago..? She pointed out that we produce shows for other comedians to record their albums… why not do one for ourselves? We’re comics, too. Why can’t it be our turn? My knee-jerk reaction was NO. Of course not. Us? Me? Who am I to record an album? I’m not a headliner. I’m not a recording artist. I’m not a draw. I’m not famous. Etc.
Imposter syndrome. I think we all have this insecurity, but I feel it especially as a female. And as a Canadian. We don’t want to be cocky. We think we need permission first. I heard someone say that it’s like we’re waiting for Hagrid to show up and say, “You’re a wizard Harry!” Like we’re not something until someone else confirms it. “You’re ready to record an album Karen!”
The fact that I’m not an active comedian anymore suddenly seemed like the perfect reason to do an album. Some of these jokes are 13 years old; I’m done with them. Ten years ago the only way I knew how to make money from comedy was to drive 8 hours and tell jokes to rowdy rednecks. With an album recording, my jokes can go and tell themselves! They’ll bring in the money through online sales and royalties from streaming services (Spotify, SiriusXM, etc).
It’s also a bit of a legacy thing. Decades from now, the kids can be like: “Did you hear crazy Aunt Karen used to be a comedian? I found her album on (insert however you find albums in the future here).” I might forget how some of my bits go, so now I’ve got them preserved. And the next time someone says “tell me a joke”, I can just tell them to buy my album.
Oh, I want to point out a funny misconception about recording comedy albums. I forget that not everyone lives in our world. A lot of people hear “album recording” and think “recording studio”, like musicians. Like I’m going into a booth by myself and just telling jokes to the sound guy. People were amazed: “Oh wow, you’re doing it LIVE? Is that a common way to do it?” Well, have you ever seen or heard stand-up comedy? THE ONLY WAY TO DO IT IS IN FRONT OF AN AUDIENCE. Someone asked me if it was like a podcast, though I can kind of see why they’d think that. But anyway, yes, it’s a live show :)
I started to realize that recording an album isn’t as daunting as it was in the past. Now people can self-produce anything. Record your own music, shoot your own movies, get famous off of YouTube or Instagram. You don’t need to headline a comedy club or a festival; you can book a venue and produce your own show. Do whatever the fuck you want.
So that’s what Martha and I did. It was a SheDot production: Producers’ Edition :) We got a sound engineer, booked an MC, and hired another comic to deal with tickets at the door. Both of them were also past SheDot performers. We did two shows in one night at a bar, taking turns with who goes first/last. It was a small space and it would sound full on the audio. Everyone who came out knew at least one of us. It’s kind of daunting to perform in front of familiar faces, especially since a bunch of them have heard my stuff already. But I also had the realization that everyone here wants us to do well! There are no randoms walking in off the street. We don’t have to impress anyone, no one will heckle us. I felt safe to make mistakes, and holy shit I did that a lot. I had to admit to the crowd a few times that I had messed up, or forgot a joke, and luckily they were on board. They thought my gaffes were funny, but I feel bad for the sound guy who had to put that mess together somehow. Doing two shows is a lifesaver because that means there are two recorded versions to choose from.
The wonderful/scary thing about recording and producing your own album is that there are no rules. I worried that I didn’t have enough material to make a full album. It turns out, that doesn’t matter. It can be 20 minutes or 2 hours. There’s no law. What goes on the album cover? Absolutely anything that’s not illegal… and even then you can probably put a lot of things on there. The cover can be a photo of you, a cartoon, a picture of a shoe, a blank yellow square… anything you want. As long as it fits a certain pixel size for uploading.
And what do I call it? ANYTHING YOU WANT. Oh no, that’s too much freedom for me; I need some guidelines! Some hints. Of course I’ve named my jokes over the years, but I’ve never named a whole show. I have trouble coming up with blog post titles. I browsed other comedy albums, and it’s really anything.
One of my favourite comedy albums is Patton Oswalt’s Werewolves and Lollipops — a title that has nothing to do with any of his material, and the cover art is truly WTF. A common tactic is to use a line from one of your jokes. But the best line is usually the punchline, and I didn’t want to spoil anything. I say “Amen” a lot as a recurring gag, and thought I might call the album that. Karen O’Keefe: Amen. But I’m already tired of “Amen”, I don’t want to be the Amen lady. I don’t want “Amen” showing up in weird places at online stores.
I did find a title that I like, but I won’t spill it yet in case something changes before the release. Once I figured out what to call the album, I knew what kind of cover image I wanted. The sound guy is cutting it into tracks right now, and I’m still Googling “how to make a comedy album”. But it’s very close to coming together, and I hope that my next blog post will be to tell you all about it.