~ The Checkerboard Guy's Blog ~

Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Thoughts Following A Recent Photo Shoot

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

For those of you who may have actually checked in on my Blog when I was writing on a more regular basis you’ll realize that I’ve been on Hiatus for about seven and a half months, and it’s not like this post really triggers my return to regular blogging , nor am I following the sort of guidelines that I set up at the very beginning for trying to spew out certain content on certain days… That’s all the disclaimer part… Now for the meat of the post…

A week ago I went back into the studio for a photo shoot with the specific goal in mind of capturing some more images to promote the Street Show and Festival work I do. The photo above is an example of the sort of stuff that came out of the shoot and for the most part I’m really super pleased with the shots we got! Kevin Clark, the photographer I worked with is awesome and is willing to put himself in almost harms way to get great shots! Also in attendance was my Manager, Corwin Heibert, who’s awesomeness is hard to describe. Corwin brought treats when he arrived, made sure props where where they needed to be, created a shot list to make sure we covered all of the ground we were hoping to cover, he generally oversaw things so that Kevin and I could play and worry more about capturing the fun nature of what I do than the pesky details that make any endeavour run smoothly.

Yesterday I swung by the studio to pick up a couple of discs worth of raw materials… In the two and a half hours (give or take) that I was at the studio last week we had nineteen set-ups, four costume changes with minor tweaks along the way, multiple props and a whole lot of fun capturing just over four hundred images.

While the experience is still reasonably fresh in my head and as I pour over the images on my screen, I wanted to make some notes (as much for myself as anyone else) about the things that worked and the things that I maybe could have improved upon so that the next time I go into the studio I’m more prepared and get an even higher percentage of awesome shots. Here then, in no particular order is a list of observations and self reminders for ‘the next time.’

  • Having Corwin at the shoot was awesome. Having someone to assist with props, keep the shoot moving forward and make sure all of the things that need to be in place are in place made the shoot go really really smoothly. This was great!
  • I occasionally use my yellow jacket when I’m doing street work, but I think I probably featured it more in the photo shoot than I should have. I don’t think I really got as many ‘non-jacket’ shots as I might have liked.
  • There’s a difference between doing what I do and getting a good studio shot… I like the shots of me posing with my ladder far more than the shots where I’m actually climbing the ladder… In future, remember to capitalize on being able to set up ‘posed’ shots in the studio and worry about capturing action shots when I’m in performance.
  • Check Check Check my hair each and every time that I put on a hat. Trust those around you, but don’t rely on other people in the studio to tell you your hair’s OK… I know how I like my hair to look much more than anyone else and many shots were compromised because I neglected to run a comb or brush through the haystack on my head after I’d had a hat on.
  • Interesting studio shots can involve the use of props in ways that have absolutely nothing to do with how those props are used in my show. This was true in the case of the ladder example above, but was true at other times during the shoot as well. Don’t pass over props that don’t seem as dynamic because you can make anything interesting if posed correctly and sometimes these possibly skipped over props can create some of the most interesting images.
  • Many things can be cleaned up in Post… I did a shoot wearing my stage outfit and forgot to wear my bow tie. I actually went in and did a second shoot with the bow tie, but some of the shots from the first shoot were so good that I ended up having the bow tie cut out from some of the shots in the second shoot and put into the shots from the first shoot. Photoshop can fix a world of pain!

Getting a shout out from Nature…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I love spring in Vancouver! Not that our winters are very harsh or anything, but the abundance of new life as the gardens burst into life is just awesome. Particularly awesome in our front yard as a few years ago my wife decided to plant some checkered lilies and every spring I’m greeting by natures little tribute to my geometrical pattern of choice.

This is perhaps marketing that only I get to enjoy which isn’t necessarily the best sort of marketing, but still, it puts a big smile on my face ever time I see it!

Pixel Pushing

Uploaded by onemoreprod. – Watch original web videos.

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Got an email in my inbox from Jeff Moche with a little video he wanted me to check out.

Went, watched it and laughed… I think in our modern world a lot of what we do in the realm of marketing amounts to pushing pixels around. This video was a funny take on what might happen if we push those pixels too far.

Well worth the watch.

Old School 3D

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Went to see the recent Disney 3D feature Alice in Wonderland with Johnny Depp today with my wife and kids and thoroughly enjoyed it. 3D really seems to be making a huge impact these days with lots of animated features being created in 3D and of course the huge success of Avatar and the world that was created and animated in that film. As cool as the latest 3D technology is with it’s funky dark glasses, I was recently reminded of the good old fashion 3D that required the red and blue glasses…

A while back I was doing a post which referenced ‘The Waldo Woodhead Show‘ and stumbled across a  link that took me to a homepage for the former drummer, Witlo (aka Ron Labbe)  for the Waldo Woodhead Show and dropped him an email to see what was what in his world… The internet is, if nothing else, an amazing way to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

Ron wrote back right away and said that he had a 3D image of me in my 1974 Mini Convertible that I had driven out to the Halifax Buskers Festival in 1988. I vaguely remembered him stopping me and asking if he could take a 3D image of me, but had long ago forgotten that it had happened. If memory serves, he had a funky looking 3D film camera that he took the shot with, but I didn’t really think much of it until well over two decades later when he sent me the picture above.

Now… If you can track down some old 3D glasses, the ones with one eye that’s blue and one eye that’s red, the kind that these people are wearing in this picture then you should be able to see the 3D effect. Really cool I thought and a ton of fun to be reminded of that time in my life.

Emails between Ron and I went back and forth a bit as I thought it would be really cool to get an old school 3D promotional picture or marketing mailer made up and send it along with some old 3D glasses as one of those promo pieces that gets ‘talked about.’ I may still get to it eventually. He pointed me in the direction of a 3D Digital Camera which looked pretty cool but at the time there was a bit of an insurmountable gulf between the time I had for the project and the learning I needed to do to make it happen. Sigh…

I’ve had other ideas that sort of tap into the ‘retro cool’ of old school technology as a way to promote my show all of which come back to the same sort of concept which is to have your promotional materials stand out amongst the crowd. Event producers, agents, managers anyone who receives promo kits on a regular basis is so used to seeing a cookie cutter version of things that anything you can do to have your materials stick out and rise to the top or even get a second look will give you an advantage when it comes to landing jobs.

Play nice with Photographers

Photo by: Leif Norman

Where in the world am I today?: Winnipeg, MB, Canada

I’m back in Winnipeg for another great run at the Circus And Magic Partnership and will be teaching unicycle for the next week, but have also been plugged into a couple of performance programs around town, so along with the teaching I’m also doing some performing. Everything is being organized in association with the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival and the people associated with the Festival are smart enough to know how important it is to have good photos from the various events that are being produced, so while I was doing shows at Portage Place Mall and again when I was performing at The Forks Marketplace I ran into Leif Norman who had been hired to shoot a little big of everything over the course of the week.

Now I’ve run into Leif at events produced by the Winnipeg International Children’s Festival in the past so I recognized him right away and made sure to touch base and chat a bit prior to the beginning of my shows. I like photography myself anyway, so I always find it interesting to chat with photographers, but the benefits of being friendly and nice to the pros who are capturing my show in stills has always been something I aim for anyway.

That tired cliché that a ‘Picture is worth a thousand Words‘ is not only true, but having great photos can help ensure that you land gigs in the first place, can make the media department at an event thrilled to work with you, can help generate excitement about your performance before you even turn up for the gig, can, in short benefit you in so many ways that if you don’t recognize their importance you can seriously limit your options professionally.

A lot of the time photographers are really protective about their work and the images that they create, and you need to respect this, because although the image may be of you, it was their skill behind the lens and shutter that captured the key moment that may help launch or further your career. I remember watching an Annie Leibovitz documentary in which Whoopie Goldberg said that one image that Annie had shot had more of an impact on her career than she could have possibly imaged. The value in this may be hard to recognize initially, but the value to you over time is huge and treating photographers with professional respect only makes sense.

So… Leif shows up at Portage Place Mall on Saturday and we have a great chat before my show and catch up a bit. During the course of my show I’m certainly aware of his presence and occasionally play to him a bit, but my main focus is on delivering a great show to the audience who’ve gathered. We chat after the show a bit and he mentions that he’ll be throwing some images up on Facebook… He’s being paid by the Children’s Festival, the Festival is using these images to promote the events that they’re doing, so getting the images up on Facebook benefits all concerned. A day later I check out the images on-line, see the image that’s attached to this post, drop Leif a line and ask for permission to use it with this blog post, he says go for it, and Boom it’s up.

In this sort of application this casual approach to the use of the image seemed cool to all concerned, but were I to end up using one of the images that Leif took for additional promotional purposes, I’d make sure to check in with him again to make sure he was cool with it. It doesn’t take much to extend professional courtesy to people who capture great images of me, but it never seems to be unappreciated or unnoticed. Make the effort.

Juggling Balls as Promo

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

I’m well aware of the fact that I’m not the greatest technical juggler the world has ever seen. A very long time ago I lost interest in ever trying to become the world’s greatest technical juggler because I realized that my gift was not in what I do but the relationship I’m able to build with my audience. I was reminded of this again when I was up in Yellowknife over the weekend when I was told by one observer who enjoyed the show that it wasn’t necessarily what I did that made the show so engaging, it’s how I made people feel during the show what made it a success. Well thank goodness for that.

Success in business is all about skillful relationship building and building a relationship requires a certain commitment of time. On a number of occasions I’ve used three juggling balls and the time it takes to teach someone to juggle as a part of this equation. In fact, when I order the red and yellow bean bags that I use in my show, I usually order dozen’s of them so I’ve got a good supply that I can give away in the months to come.

Giving someone a piece of swag is one thing, but investing the time to teach them something new, something that is very much related to you (in my case juggling) and then giving the supplies away as part of the exchange will leave a lasting impression. How you make people feel in the process of teaching them this new skill will also have an effect on how well you’re remembered.

My friend, Shawn Farquhar, is a great magician who’s appeared on national TV and performs to standing ovations on cruise ships on a regular basis… He makes a point of carrying a slew of ‘Svengali Decks‘ with him as give aways to his technical crew and to just about anyone else he wants to leave a good impression on. The Svengali Deck is a classic ‘trick deck‘ that with minimal effort allows the user to execute a really powerful magic effect. Shawn loves to give these away because he loves to share his passion for magic, but also provide a trick that people are going to have success with quickly. That way, when the recipient of the deck does the trick for his friends and looks like a hero, Shawn, by association becomes a bigger hero for having provided the trick in the first place.

Juggling balls, Svengali Decks, or what ever… It doesn’t really matter what it is that you use, but if you’re successfully able to pull a ‘bit’ out of your show and put it in the hands of the people you work with or better yet, the people you want to work with, you’ll look like a hero and it’s not a hard equation to figure out who a client is going to hire… The guy who looks like a hero, makes an extra effort and makes people feel good or an unknown who’s only made enough effort to send in a promotional kid. Sometimes growing business relationships requires just a little bit of extra effort.

The Fun at Festivals…

Where in the world am I today?: Driving back to North Vancouver, BC, Canada

As I was driving back from Seattle today I was reflecting on all the fun I had over the weekend watching, participating and performing in Moisture Festival. When I got home I had a Facebook notification that I’d been tagged in the photo that accompanies this post… It was shot by John Cornicello, one of the official photographers for Moisture Festival and should you care to check it out on Facebook you can see a slightly larger version of the shot here.

Taking part in a Festival like Moisture Festival allows you all sorts of opportunities to both blatantly and subtly market yourself –

On Stage – Be Great! Do a fantastic job! Have the audience rolling in the ailes and leave ’em wanting more and chances are you’ll get invited back. If you’re easy to work with and do a great job you will be well remembered and when they think back about who they enjoyed having in the line-up, you’re name will likely surface when it comes time to think about who to invite back!

Back Stage – Help promote an awesome hang! Moisture Festival is the sort of event where the hang is as important, if not more important than the pay cheque. Actually, there’s no question that the hang is the most important aspect about this particular festival. Enjoy the hang, contribute to the hang, wallow in the hang, BE the hang. Succeed at this and you will be wanted back! Period!

Off Site – I crashed on an air mattress at my friend Matt Baker’s house and thoroughly enjoyed the visit with him and his girlfriend Lara. Being awesome off site includes doing things like being a gracious house guest. Tidy up after yourself, contribute to the consumables (food and beverage) and when possible contribute to the over all harmony of the environment.

Before going down to Seattle for Moisture Festival I had pre-determined that this trip was all about having fun and that’s exactly what I had! It was a great trip from start to finish! Whether this premeditated determination to have a good time contributed to the fabulousness, was the cause of the  fun or completely unrelated has little bearing on the fact that I got to reconnect with some great friends, meet all sorts of new people who quickly became friends and had a ton of fun taking what I do and sticking it in front of the audiences at the Festival.

There’s no substitute for being awesome, so whenever possible exercise your awesomeness and you’ll be amazed at the results. In the midst of the fun you’re having while being awesome, you may not even notice it, but this will be some of the best marketing you’ll unconsciously be executing.

Email Newsletters

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

For a variety of reasons I’ve earned the reputation of having great promo and being great at promoting myself… It, along with some dedication and persistence has allowed me to enjoy a career that’s spanned almost three decades. It always surprises me a little bit when people comment on my prowess as a self-promoter because I’m still trying to figure it out. Every year there seems to be a new way to reach out and connect with Fans, clients and leads and although email newsletters aren’t new by any stretch of the imagination I finally got the push I needed to push one out the preverbal door… There was of course no door that this virtual campaign had to go through when it got sent out, just a button clicked, but it felt like a very new thing to me on some levels.

Truth be told, I actually toyed with the idea of putting out an email newsletter about five years ago and even went as far as to creating one and posting it on-line where I figured I could send people to get the latest news… Email newsletter campaigns have come a long way since then though and it was my Manager, Corwin, who suggested that we go with Mail Chimp as the package of choice for the very first official cbg world report.

Working with Corwin on this was a really great as it really did feel like a collaboration. Job one for me was to come up with a list of email addresses to send the newsletter out to. I went through my address book pulling addresses out that went back to the days when I hosted a performer’s database on my website. In all I had 1337 email addresses that the first newsletter got sent to. Next I created the header and footer graphics for the campaign, third I needed to generate the content. Corwin took this, added a few snazzy icons for the right hand link info section and voila – Newsletter!

There is a fee charged by Mail Chimp to deliver an email campaign like this and for this particular run my bill came to under five bucks. This has got to be one of the most economical promotional vehicles I’ve ever tapped into… Amazing!

So, did it work? Was it a success?

Well that depends on how you judge these sorts of things I guess. Mail Chimp makes it easy by providing a report with all sorts of interesting statistics…

I knew well before we clicked the send button that many of the email addresses were probably no longer valid. Corwin gave me an interesting statistic at one point that amounted to the fact that the average life expectancy of an email address these days is something like six months. That many of the addresses I pulled from my address book were years old I anticipated that many of the messages sent out would bounce… In the end, about a third of the emails sent out did bounce. These will get pulled from the system immediately. The unsubscribe option was exercised by only 17 people who received the message which was an interesting statistic, and interesting to see who did opt out of getting the email news from me in the future. Some weren’t a surprise at all, others were, and gave me a clue as to where I should (or in this case shouldn’t) focus my efforts.

Were I to list the top three things I learned from this first stab at sending out an email Newsletter the you be, in no particular order –

  • There are people who actually want to know what I’m up to and appreciated getting the Newsletter.
  • Some of my best friends found it amusing that I was obviously sending this Newsletter out myself, but chose to write in the third person.
  • This is likely one of the cheapest way to stay connected with a client and fan base that there is.

Will I be sending out more Newsletters in the future? Yep! No question about it, but I’m not going to make it a once a month thing, rather, as Corwin pointed out, it make more sense to send out a Newsletter when there’s something to tell people about. In this instance it was the recent trip I had to India and the work I had been doing during the Olympics.

Didn’t receive the Newsletter? I find that bizarre as I pretty much sent it to anyone I could think of, but if you didn’t get it and would like to have a look at it go here and have a boo. Wanna get the News as it’s published? Send me an email and I’ll make sure you’re on the list for the next round of info.

Cross Pollination!

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Olympics in Vancouver saw so many performers descend on town to perform including six members of the Big Nazo Lab from Providence Road Island… I had no idea that they were going to be in town but ran into Erminio Pinque in costume on the corner of Granville and Robson one night just bringing Art to the crowds and being involved in the excitement on street level.

I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the work that Erminio does not only as a builder of some of the most amazing foam monsters and creatures you will ever see, but also for his love of creating renegade video and capturing the raw energy of the moments that he embraces… It’s awesome!

Anyway, I called Erminio this morning trying to figure out if there was going to be a way for us to hook up and hang out. Over the course of the conversation he told me about the Big Nazo Blog which was launched a bunch of weeks back and helped captured the build up to the gig they were in Vancouver to do. I ended up spending about an hour poking around an checking out stuff that was posted on the blog and getting a better sense of what they had done while they were in town to perform during the Olympics.

Got some time? Then I highly recommend swinging by their blog and checking out some of their fun!

I ended up hooking up with the Big Nazo Crew at Yamato Sushi on Davie Street in the evening and I handed out CBG Ball Caps for the whole gang… On one level this was a promotional move as all swag is, but on some the level I was trying to find a way to say… Man… I wish we’d had more time to hang out while you were in town, here, take a little bit of me back to Providence with you…

Erminio and I dove straight into reminiscing about the fun we had in Halifax the year we met and some of the craziness that took place at the Halifax Busker’s festival. The year was 1988 I ended up hooking up with Brian Hulse and a group called Twist and Shout (Dave Rave and Henrick Bothe) on about day three of the 17 day run and forming a sort of Boy Busker Super Group which we called The Bounty Brothers… Erminio and the Big Nazo Crew did a show at the time that included having a monster come out and eat a small child… The flood of memories was awesome! At the end of the evening as we headed out of the sushi restaurant I took the crew past my car (very much the sort of thing I thought would expect a Nazo creation to drive around in) and took the snap that accompanies the post.

Hanging out with the Nazo Crew and checking out their blog was really good for me as it was a great reminder of how important it is to sometime dream REALLY big and dive head first into the adventure of creating art and performance that connects with people and has a really positive effect on shaking up the status quo

I think if you can mix art and performance with a bit of anarchy there’s something really powerful and really magical that results. After having spent two weeks crossing my t’s and dotting my i’s it with the Robson Square Gig for the British Columbian Provincial Government and needing to be accountable, it was great to have the reminder that sometimes you really do need to shake it up a bit.

Tapping into your Fan Base…

Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

OK… So I admit it… Just two short weeks ago when I posted that I’d created a Facebook Fan Page I was a bit sceptical about the how’s and why’s of it all, but I’m becoming a convert. I think this is in part because at the end of the shows I’ve been doing on Robson Square during the Olympics I’ve been mentioning to people that if they liked the show, they should check me out on Facebook and they have… Someone (Gina Johnstone) even sent me a link to a video she had taken… How cool is that!?!?

OK… It’s not like I’ve got a gazillion Fans who have actually signed up to the page at this time, but I’m starting to wrap my head around the importance of building a bit more of a resource on-line to specifically reach out to Fans and not only for me to reach out to Fans, but for Fans to reach out to me… I Fans can interact more immediately with a Facebook Fan Page than I had at first realized and the ability for them to post pictures and videos to the Fan Page is pretty cool.

I’m a big fan of Steve Martin, have been for years and around about the beginning of this year he posted a little video of himself playing banjo and inviting his Fans to create a video to go along with a song that was inspired by his dog running around the back yard. He offered a cash prize for the best video submission and then sat back and waited to see what people would come up with. What a cool way to create a music video! Let other people do it for you! Ha!

My friends in the Barenaked Ladies have also got an amazing dialogue going on with their fans and have had videos created for them by Fans as well. The BNL boys have actually done a pretty amazing job of reach out to fans and giving them the tools necessary to play with the originally recorded music tracks for creating new and interesting mixes of BNL songs and generally making the relationship flow both ways… Artist creativity flows out but then is reciprocated by some amazing Fan based creativity.

Since creating the Fan Page on Facebook there’s been a slow rumble of interest from people who are connecting to the page and connecting to me and slowly but surely I’m learning how to feed Fan interest with this page… Hopefully over time it will continue to grow and I’ll be able to tap into the the creativity and brilliance of some of the folks who’s watched my show, had a laugh and saw something there they might be able to contribute to – who knows where it might lead. Should be fun finding out!


Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

About five years ago when I first started getting Cruise Ship work through the Don Casino Agency in Miami I was asked to submit my availability on a weekly basis. Every Friday I send them an update on what dates are available and periodically they send me offers from various cruise lines based on the dates that I’ve said are available.

Just recently I decided to dress up the look/feel of my weekly availability reports to Don Casino by turning it into a PDF with a bit more of a ‘branded’ look. My thinking was that if all of their acts are sending in their availability, I wanted mine to stand out a bit from the rest of the crowd. It seemed to me to a perfect opportunity to raise the bar in terms of using this as a marketing vehicle.

Then I got to thinking that sending out regular availability updates is something I should probably be doing for other clients/agents as well. Sending out weekly, bi-monthly or monthly updates to certain clients I work for on a regular basis or agents who frequently get me work severs a dual purpose. First it gets my availability information into their hands, but beyond that it keeps me in the client’s mind by showing an ongoing enthusiasm towards getting more work and delivering great shows!

The theory of this makes perfect sense, but the reality of putting this system into action is eluding me a bit at the moment. After getting back from India on Sunday, this ‘Monday blog post’ has been delayed in being posted as I scrambled to get my body and mind ready to start shows as part of the Celebrations on Robson Square that are going on during the Winter Olympics in Vancouver. I’ve had a very very full week and am just now (Friday) getting around to writing this post which has been bouncing around my head waiting to get out… I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to get the rest of the week’s posts out of my head today as well and get caught up…

But I digress… Back to the original topic. Sending out a regular-ish message to past and potential clients letting them know that I’d love to work with them just makes good business sense. There is a fine line between being persistent and being annoying though, and everyone has a slightly different threshold when it comes to this, so taking the time to check and see if this sort of regular update is appreciated or just considered annoying is likely a good idea before you start bombarding people’s inboxes with daily updates. If you can get approval for this sort of steady communication it can only increase your opportunities to land more gigs and keep you working!

Facebook Fan Page

Where in the world am I today?: Mumbai, India.

OK… I’ve got to admit that I’m still not an entire convert to the world of Facebook. I know so many are and so many are now doing business and staying in touch almost exclusively via Facebook… The ability to quickly update your Facebook Status is like simple blogging for the masses and here I am writing a more traditional blog and have the gall to not fully embrace a site and it’s technologies… I feel like an old man clinging to the way of the past at times, but I’m slowly starting to cave.

I started working with a manager a while back and one of the things I asked him in one of our recent meetings was –

“Hey… Should I have a Facebook Fan Page?”

Yes was his immediate answer and beyond the yes, he told me he’d create it for me. Now I should also point out that my son Koji created a Facebook page for me too called –

I bet we can find 10 000 pope that like The Checkerboard Guy

And to my surprise a bunch of people actually signed up for the page, but the new Page that my manager, Corwin, created for me is much more a page designed for Fans of the show and can be found here –

The Checkerboard Guy Fan Page on Facebook

Now it’s going to take me a little while to get up and running with this newfangled Facebook Fan Page and I’ve done ZERO promoting of the page, but again was surprised that a couple of people who came to my shows in India tracked the page down and became Fans… Amazing… I’ll be curious to see if posting this to my blog generates any additional interest as well… Feel free to swing by and become a fan if you like.

Though I semi-resist Facebook, I’m well aware that it has become an essential part of the overall promotional presence that one needs to have in this electronic day and age.

‘Migration of the websites…”


Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

The decision was made recently to migrate my various websites to a single location and the process of making it happen really started today… I gathered all of the passwords, user ids, email addresses, server addresses, blah blah blah, you name it and constructed a master document to help make the move as painless as possible…

I sort of view this like the process of upgrading software or a computer operating system. OK, I’ll admit it, I’m a bit of a tech geek and am easily convinced that upgrades are a good idea even though they sometimes mean re-learning how to do something I already know how to do… Perhaps I view it like a sort of Sudoku puzzle to figure this stuff out… It’s my way of keeping my brain young by forcing it to relearn systems that have worked ‘just fine’ for months if not years…

Does this mean I’m a sucker for punishment? Well… Perhaps…

As much as I’m a bit of a tech geek and would love to know everything there is to know about everything I sometimes get distracted and my focus strays from the things I should actually be working on. To help gain a bit of perspective I’ve started working with a hired gun who’s keen to update some of the systems I have of marketing and promoting my show and help me keep my focus on the things that will actually benefit me more than getting bogged down with minutiae. He’s good! I’m excited about the direction that things are headed in, and this week’s project is the migration of my various websites –






– all over to a single domain hosting service. It’s all part of the master plan and although change is sometimes scary, the timing of the move feels good or various reason.

The hosting service that Mr. Hired Gun suggested was, etWEBHosting.com which is also the home to my friend David Duchemin’s various projects. Apparently the customer service and support are off the charts – cool… If the migration of the various bits and pieces comes off with out a hitch I’ll be thrilled. If things go sideways and you (or I) can’t access the blog, you’ll have been given a head’s up.

As the logo above says, etWEBHosting is a division of Electric Toad Internet Solutions, so let’s here’s hoping that Electric Toad know’s what it’s doing!

‘Since 2001…”

2010-02-01Where in the world am I today?: North Vancouver, BC, Canada

Back in the Fall of 2001 I performed with my friend Iori Mikumo at the Shizuoka Diadogei Festival in Shizouoka, Japan. I wanted to see if a story-telling show in the genre of  ‘Sak Theatre‘ or ‘Men in Tights‘ would fly in Japan as I’d never seen it attempted. We took the Japanese Children’s Story “Momotaro” and used members of the audience to play key roles in the story. Great fun and over the course of the five-days we performed the show actually ended up looking like a show and the audiences in Japan ‘got’ the format. It was pretty cool!

As part of the build for the show I threw together the logo that accompanies this post and added the tag “Since 2001” to the logo as a semi-joke because usually ‘since such and such a year’ is supposed to imply a certain longevity in business… That we were saying we’d been around since earlier that same year seemed to be both ironic and comedic all at the same time.

There is something to the notion that being in business a long time as it implies a certain success rate that new clients can derive a certain comfort in. The trick seem to be to imply longevity, but a spirit of innovation and growth that doesn’t make you look stagnant. I sometimes kick myself because I haven’t had a chance to update my promotional videos in years… The look and content is a bit dated and I know I really should update things, but I’ve had no shortage of excuses for not getting to this project, but I digress…

The point I’m trying to make is that this notion of longevity if used properly in your marketing materials can be an excellent benefit to promote to prospective clients. It’s why collecting letters of reference and newspaper articles to include in a promo kit helps sell you. If you’re show has stood the test of time it provides a certain credibility to your claims of being the greatest thing since sliced bread!

I remember watching a video that Willie Tyler uses at the beginning of his cruise ship performances which is more or less a slide-show of some of the moments from his career. Pictures of him as a kid with the very first Lester, shots of him working with Sammy Davis Jr., Shots of him working on Laugh In, Shots of him with Richard Pryor… Not only was it really cool to see some of the legends of show business that he’d worked with, it gave a really nice build to the moment that he stepped out on stage. You were given a glimpse of his incredible history which then made you appreciate his performance even more.

The whole process of selling one’s show requires you to provide evidence to a client that will convince them to hire you over some other act. A successful history in the business can be a very powerful element to this equation – be clever about how you use it and you will definitely glean the benefits!

Uh Oh…Spagetti-os!

2010-01-28Where in the world am I today?: St. Thomas – Antigua – Toronto – Vancouver (a very long day of travel!)

My friend North Darling (formerly of ‘The Three Canadians‘) sent me a link to and Obituary in the New York Times… It was for Donald Goeke, creator of SpaghettiOs.


The obituary sums it up nicely with this short paragraph…

Introduced in 1965, SpaghettiOs has been a fixture in the American pantry ever since. Its memorable advertising jingle — “Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs!” — sung by the pop singer Jimmie Rodgers, is indelibly lodged in the public consciousness.

I certainly grew up hearing that jingle and this product, though I can’t ever remember eating any, is certainly lodged into the annals of my pop culture references…

Getting this obituary elicited a strange sort of sadness… Like a part of my pop culture lexicon had died… It’s weird having never eaten the product to feel this way, but there was an unmistakable connection to the TV jingle and memories of my childhood. The product, for what ever reason had been indelibly imprinted on my psyche, and hearing that it’s creator had died, well… It gave a whole new meaning to the catchy jingle ‘Uh Oh…Spaghettios!’

Spaghettios don’t really have much to do with performing, though I suppose you could create a really fun (albeit messy) routine with them if you wanted to (somehow I’m reminded of the Blue Man Group’s use of Captain Crunch). But this idea of the iconic status of certain products, people or things is something that’s worth considering as one builds a brand and reputation as an entertainer.

I feel pretty lucky to have stumbled across the world of performance and the checkerboard motif that has been a part of my on-stage persona for coming up on a quarter of a century. There’s something magical to finding something you love, pursuing it and finding a way to make a living at it. Tap into a visual aesthetic and an image that helps people identify you in the sea of other performers and stick with it long enough and who know… You might just become a part of someone else’s pop culture lexicon…

Copyright © The Checkerboard Guy. All rights reserved.