Kevin McShane on Marketing Improv Comedy

6677854665_ddf54cf667_z

If  you google marketing improv comedy, Kevin McShane is the first name that comes up, right above Tina Fey. You’ll find an article on why no one can market improv.

You’ll find an article on the sleazy side of the Dorito Video Competition.

You’ll even find an article on him as fake Stan Lee. Here’s Fake Stan Lee meeting the real Stan Lee. It’s kind of awesome.

He’s successfully doing what I want to be doing. He’s on a regular team (Trophy Wife) at one of the biggest improv theaters in Los Angeles, he’s working as an artist through his Photography and Design, and he even wrote and shot a pilot, even if it wasn’t sold.

He does all sorts of promotion for Trophy Wife from live streaming the shows to teaser trailers to posters like this:

It’s far beyond what you’ll find any other improv group doing.

I wrote him a letter, more or less along those lines:

I came across your website by way of googling marketing improv, and after looking at your website, I have this gnawing suspicion that you're me, but 6 years in the future.

I realized that I'd actually seen you perform plenty, and am consistently  impressed by the Trophy Wife Posters/Trailers at iO [blah blah blah a bit about me, etc] Anyhow, I'm really not sure even what I'd ask, but I'd love to pick your brain, if you'd be up for getting together for coffee or lunch or some such - if you're willing, I'd really appreciate it.

I guess mostly I'm curious how you've succeeded in juggling the same half dozen things I tend to juggle.

He was happy to get together. I just got back from lunch with him (or rather, on Monday, earlier this week).

I had two main questions for him. The first was, "Does all of the promotion you do help get butts in seats?"

While it gets a couple more people to the shows, he said, what it really accomplishes is recognition at the festivals. They’ve been flown across the country to do workshops and had their videos assigned as homework to groups in cities where there isn't any great improv.

"I started putting them up because my mom and dad wanted to see the show," he said.

These days, for better or worse, it’s not unusual for the shows to get three to four times the audience online as they do at the theater. The promotion sets the group up as an authority, which isn't an exact yes to my original question.

You can see them every Wednesday at 9pm at iO West.

My second main question was "How do you balance the 6 different sides of your life? Doesn't the lack of focus on just one take away from the others?"

The basic answer was yes, but that's kind of the point. If one really takes off, he'll let the others compete for second.

His current view of improv is fairly zen, but it wasn't always that way. He sees it as a wonderful creative outlet, complimenting the money he makes through directing, photography, and designing. Four years ago he wanted it as an end in and of itself, but he doesn’t think of improv from a business point of view as much now. It makes him sharper, he loves doing it, and others love watching it. For now, that's enough.

He gave me a couple of websites and books to look at. He said I should read Getting things Done, a book that changed his life and his ability to manage his time. He also agreed that marketing has a dark side that's an easy pit to drop in to and said I should check out: http://bajillionhits.biz/ - a guy making fun of all of it. It's a healthy antidote to all of the endless self promotional mouth talkers I listen to.

--------------------

I really appreciated Kevin taking the time to answer my silly little questions and helping me figure out what I could be doing better. Even if his responses largely were “It seems like you’re doing things all right” and “The big thing is to take on projects right now, now that you don’t have that many responsibilities” (which is true. I don’t. I’m able to spend time writing blogs like this rather than actually working.)

It was great talking to him, and seeing that everyone, even those at the very top of improv marketing, are still struggling. Still trying to figure things out, waiting for that big something to strike. With improv, it's not about the ten other jobs we all juggle or the grand plan down the line. What's important, is to just enjoy the moment.

All images by Kevin McShane
ImprovJeremy Shuback