What do stand-up comedy and filmmaking having in common? A lot actually. This week we delve into the world of comedy with David Roth and talk about advertising, finding your voice and the struggles of learning a new craft. Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
From the outside looking in, stand-up comedy looks like a dream. It costs nothing and you can practice it all the time. Wouldn’t it be great if we could practice our filmmaking at open mic nights? David Roth shares the last 3-years of his experience, from getting his start to finding his voice.
A Career in Advertising
David Roth worked for 8 years as a full-time copywriter including a stretch at Goodby a Silverstein & Partners where he worked with Timothy on a Modelo campaign. He now freelances in advertising but is working to divide his time so he can get more and more experience on stage.
The challenge of being in advertising, he says, is finding your voice because of the different layers of feedback coming from Creative Directors and Clients. And at the end of the day, advertising is not personal. It’s about writing for products. Timothy says he believes the same is true for commercial directors.
During an employee performance review, David’s boss told him “we know you can nail comedy but if you want to be a leader at this organization you need to be able to do all different kinds of ads” and that’s when David realized he didn’t want to do anything but be funny.
“Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t have to be emotional or smart, he just does funny”
So he quit full time advertising and took a class in stand up. He now works freelance and splits his time between advertising work and comedy. Keep a look out for David’s J.B. Smoove and Jim Gaffigan commercial.
Stand Up Comedy
David is currently performing 4-5 nights a week. He tells us about finding stage time and why San Francisco is a good place for him right now. In filmmaking, we’re often told that if we really want to do it we need to move to Los Angeles. Is New York the same for comedy? David tells us about the different reputations each city has and how San Francisco fits into it.
Believe it or not, Alrik has an interest in trying stand up. Does David think Alrik has a chance of being any good right out the gate?
Right now David is getting paid very little for stand up, (sometimes it’s only a half of a sandwich). So if it’s not about the money, what is it about? Well, it’s about finding yourself and finding your point of view. And being funny. The goal is to make people laugh. In filmmaking, we only get to practice our craft on occasion. David gets to practice every week. Can we apply that mentality to filmmaking and try to make a movie every month just to keep our skills honed? We break down the benefits of doing small projects but also the value of scaling up.
Finding your voice
Talk about a healthy goals, David is working towards a stage time and not worried about the money or fame. In short, he’s not worried about the results. He’s focused on the craft and figuring out who he is as a comedian. His biggest struggle is finding his voice. He’s got good jokes, but who is this character he’s playing on stage?
He’s currently going for the lovable loser, but is that working for him? He had a conversation with a friend last night who says it’s not and he should try something else. David admits there’s an inconsistency with his performance and that sometimes he’s crushing it and sometimes he’s failing hard. As he thinks about his point of view and how to perform his jokes we have a conversation about David’s real-life personality versus his stage personality and how he plans to make a decision about what his voice will be.
We apply the same philosophy to filmmaking. There’s the voice you want to be and then there’s the voice that’s true to you. The trick is finding that voice and building your skills onto it. But what is your voice and how do you find it? And is finding a voice a conscious or subconscious activity? How self aware do we need to be?
An insightful conversation with Rob Chester Smith about breaking in as an actor/writer in Los Angeles. Once you’ve reached your goal what do you do with the feeling “I got here, and now what?” Listen to this episode now or visit iTunes to download it to your device.
Rob is an actor and writer from Iowa that currently lives in Los Angeles. He’s been in a zillion commercials and his TV credits include the most recent episode of “This is Us.” His short film I Love You Dad (which Rob wrote and starred in) played at the American Pavilion in Cannes & Rob and Valentyna in Scotland played at Sundance (Rob co-wrote and acted in this one). And let’s not forget Timothy’s short film Man’s Best Friend.
A Breaking-In Story
Rob shares his journey from small town Iowa, to Northwestern University, to Chicago and finally Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting and writing. He moved to Los Angeles when he was 29 years old and kickstarted his career with two things: a role in a Mitsubishi commercial and a recommendation from a friend for representation.
But moving to LA wasn’t an easy decision. Rob hesitated to leave Chicago for many years until his future wife forced the decision.
Next up: How do you get an agent? Rob tells us a few ways you can get a commercial agent and how it happened for him.
We talk about Rob’s mindset when he moved to Los Angeles and his hopes and dreams. His ideas of fame. His ideas of success. The magical thinking “that all you need is people to see you and that will be it.” Rob tells us the story of booking a pilot, getting an agent and manager, taking general meetings, and how it didn’t lead where thought it would.
An Actor’s Life
Rob spends 2/3 of his time Acting and 1/3 Writing. He’s currently writing for FX Movie Download. When he’s not working he spends time with his family.
Rob paints us a picture of his day-to-day life as an actor.
He has a Commercial agent, VO agent, and Theatrical agent.
He acts mostly in commercials and some TV.
How often does he go out for auditions?
What is the audition process like and what is Rob’s advice to actor’s out there?
How often does he get callbacks?
How often does he book a job?
We talk about the isolation of being an actor and writer and the biggest challenge of writing is writing.
“I Got Here, and Now What?”
You claw your way into one aspect of the industry and you have kind of made it where you wanted to be, but at the same time it doesn’t look the way you thought it would. Rob now feels that he’s reached a plateau in his career and he wonders what he’s doing. What’s the next mountain to climb?
“I don’t know anymore what my ideal thing would be.”
Is Rob having a midlife crisis? Alrik, of course, offers some optimistic words and tries to help Rob find his passion.
Is it inevitable that after a certain level of success and experience, everything turns into a job? Is there a way to avoid that? Is this feeling an indicator that something is wrong?
We ask a lot of questions in this section and maybe don’t have a lot of answers for you, but there are going to be a lot of you out there that will relate. Tell us your thoughts. Send us an email or contact us at one of the links below.
We celebrate our two-year anniversary by inviting listeners of the show to dial in and talk about what’s on their mind. This week we talk to Lindsay Serrano, Jeff Palmer and John Muth for conversations about low-budget filmmaking, film school and giving/receiving feedback.