Why did the identical twins cross the road? To tell NSFW jokes at the Improv!

smash_brothers_cory_n_chadIdentical twins Cory and Chad Baumgartner — “The Smash Brothers” — have a unique approach to the business of comedy they’ve used to fuel their careers as comedians. They operate their act under the perfectly named company: Identical Entertainment. Born and raised east of Los Angeles, the brothers had a challenging yet character building childhood:  they attended more than 14 schools! To help make friends they embraced the role of class clowns. It worked!

Those experiences drew them close to each other, strengthening already genetically close ties. They now consider themselves each others best friends. Interestingly, even though they look alike, Cory and Chad are very different: Cory is the “Good Twin” with a laid back style and calm demeanor (he  doesn’t drink or party). Chad is the “Evil Twin,”a bad boy type, who, with his wild party stories, always keeps Cory on his toes.

Their lives are intertwined at almost every level:  they have switched college classes, broken up with each others girlfriends, showed up to work for each other, and even used each others drivers licenses (allegedly). You really never know what to expect with these two: although they are identical twins, their act is one of a kind!

I first encountered the brothers after I praised the Hollywood Improv on how effectively they leveraged their Facebook page. I added that, whenever I teach public speaking courses, I always discuss the impressive public speaking skills of successful comedians. Shortly thereafter I received a message from Cory and Chad offering to come speak to a class of mine.

Comedians Cory and Chad with Matthew Gilbert at National UniversityA public speaking class I teach at National University — COM103, Public Speaking — was a perfect fit. On Saturday, June 4, 2011, they spent nearly 2 hours (with their colleague Mark Gonzalez).  They enthusiastically shared their experiences as comedians with my students. Cory and Chad also provided my students with inspiring and insightful ideas about pursuing their passions. It was a sincere and soft-spoken experience (especially considering how energetic their stage act is).

On Friday, March 30, 2012 everything came full circle: I attended their show at the Hollywood Improv. This was my first time attending their show; it was as wild and whimsical as I imagined! After the show, they spent time with me, sharing insights into their entrepreneurial experiences and efforts as independent comedians. They discussed how, in addition to social media, they continue to use traditional marketing tools (something I stress in my classes). They also mentioned that the marketing tricks they use can translate to any small businesses or entrepreneurial effort.

You can watch the interview in the video below. Note: This video contains some mild profanity (Cory and Chad speak from their hearts). As a result, you might want to avoid watching this at work or in mixed company (or wear headphones). But, I assure you, the insights Cory and Chad share are invaluable.

Here are the top 10 tips from the interview:

1. Accept the Benefits of Bombing: accept that bombing on stage is a good thing; it will light the fire under you to do better next time and improve your act.

2. Be Patient, but Persistent: Comedy is a tough business; it takes years to “get paid” and finally realize results from your efforts.

3. Dedicate Yourself to Your Dream: work for the recognition of your writing and the reward of making your audience laugh; you’re going to hear “no” a lot so anchor yourself to your idea and let that motivate you through the tough times.

4. Embrace Word of Mouth Marketing: Cory and Chad worked every audience after each show, handing out flyers and building relationships with their audience.

5. Invest in Marketing Yourself: the brothers paid people to place 5,000 flyers on cars at concerts or other events. Their expectation was a modest 5 people from each effort; they were willing to invest the money on the exponential potential of getting their name out their and leveraging their brand awareness.

6. Make Your Money on the Road: Building your brand in comedy is not something you can do casually or comfortably; you need to hit the road and tour comedy clubs across the country — around the world if possible too!

7. Maximize Every Moment: the brothers got their break while joking in line at a Starbucks; a club promoter was also in line and thought they were funny. Cory and Chad said they were stand-up comedians and he gave them 5 minutes on stage at the Improv that night!

8. Promote Yourself and Believe in Your Potential: don’t expect a comedy club to promote you; take responsibility for your own marketing and put your heart into it.

9. Put the Effort in You Want to See Returned: show business is just that — a business; to build an empire you need to keep building your brand, work hard, and keep improving your comedic craft.

10. Use Every Promotional Option Available: Cory and Chad have used Craigslist, e-mail blasts, Facebook, MySpace, radio commercials, Twitter, and even 5″ x 7″ promotional cards they hand out after shows.

Smash it!

If you’ve ever been curious what a Scotsman wears under his kilt, don’t ask Wikipedia! According to a June 21, 2008 Scotsman article  the Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC)contends that Wikipedia and similar online research sources were to blame for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates. Excerpts of the original article follows:

Wikipedia and other online research sources were yesterday blamed for Scotland’s falling exam pass rates. The Scottish Parent Teacher Council (SPTC) said pupils are turning to websites and Internet resources that contain inaccurate or deliberately misleading information before passing it off as their own work.

The group singled out online encyclopedia Wikipedia, which allows entries to be logged or updated by anyone and is not verified by researchers, as the main source of information.

Eleanor Coner, the SPTC’s information officer, said: “Children are very IT-savvy, but they are rubbish at researching. The sad fact is most children these days use libraries for computers, not the books. We accept that as a sign of the times, but schools must teach pupils not to believe everything they read.

“It’s dangerous when the Internet is littered with opinion and inaccurate information which could be taken as fact.”

Alan Johnson, the UK Education Secretary, was lambasted earlier this year for suggesting the website could be a positive educational tool for children.

He described the Internet as “an incredible force for good in education”, singling out Wikipedia for praise.

A disclaimer on Wikipedia states “it is important to note that fledgling, or less well monitored, articles may be susceptible to vandalism and insertion of false information.”

Boasting over two million articles, Wikipedia is used by about 6 per cent of Internet users, significantly more than the traffic to more authorised sites, such as those of newspapers. Its articles are mainly edited by a team of volunteers.

Wikipedia was really a trailblazer in the current trend of virtual communities of practice, an area of my academic research interests. However, I know full well that whatever I read might not be accurate. I once heard it said that Wikipedia is a great place to start your research, but a bad place to end it. I feel that is an accurate assessment. I personally enjoy exploring Wikipedia and often find I end up on a page I never imagined I would find.

As an adjunct instructor, I go to great lengths to explain why Wikipedia is not an ideal source for research information — precisely for the reasons mentioned above.  I explain that they can begin their research at Wikipedia — as it is usually one of the top five pages to appear following a Google search — but I tell them to follow the links to the resources cited on the page itself.

However, I am admittedly a bit of a hypocrite as I frequently link to Wikipedia pages in this blog due to the ease with which pages relevant to my topics can be found. Without question, Wikipedia pages are a great clearinghouse of information — a true crossroads of knowledge — and for that reason alone the site is a useful tool. But, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness — one that will forever exist so long as the site remains as it is now.

Carrot-TopI recently demonstrated how easy it is to change a page on Wikipedia to one of my English classes by changing the Wikipedia page for comedian Carrot Top to indicate that he had died unexpectedly on that date. I was even able to change to biographical information in the box that appears in the upper-right-hand corner of the page. In fairness to Wikipedia, one of their editors discovered the false entry and deleted it within seven minutes. Still, seven minutes is plenty of time for someone researching comedians to have found the page and added a citation to their paper that Carrot Top had indeed died.

So I really can see both sides of this issue — though as an educator I make sure my students understand the pros and cons of Wikipedia. Just like the students mentioned in the Scotsman article, I am likely to conduct my research virtually instead of physically in a library. It is hard to not do so with resources such as ProQuest making almost anything you need available at the click of a few keys.

The main issue is to teach students how to properly conduct research and to ensure they understand why certain sources are more credible that others. Sometimes this can be difficult to communicate, especially when it comes to controversial topics for which there might not be a great deal of mainstream research materials available.

Clearly technology offers education an immeasurable advantage, but the key is to learn to control it without letting it control us.