Jan McInnis is a comedian, a keynote speaker, a comedy writer and author. And for over 26 years, she's toured the country making people laugh and showing people how to use humor in business. And she's also an established comedy writer who sold material to everyone from Jay Leno to guests on The Jerry Springer Show.
NOTE: Complete transcript available at the bottom of the page.
Screw The Commute Podcast Show Notes Episode 258
How To Automate Your Business – https://screwthecommute.com/automatefree/
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
Higher Education Webinar – https://screwthecommute.com/webinars[02:31] Tom's introduction to Jan McInnis [04:22] Changes in comedy due to “political correctness” [07:23] Had it so easy climbing the ladder as a woman [11:14] Doing open mic nights in the 80s [12:47] Marketing skills and wanting to be a comic [18:27] The business side of being funny
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Jan's website and books – https://theworklady.com/
Jan Master of Ceremonies – https://www.comedyemcee.com/
Facebook page – http://www.JanFans.com/
LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/janmcinnis
Twitter – https://twitter.com/janmcinnis
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/jan.mcinnis/
Comedian Stories podcast – https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/comedian-stories/id1446046198
Finding the Funny Alexa skill – https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082T1932C/
Internet Marketing Training Center – https://imtcva.org/
Heidi Richards Mooney – https://screwthecommute.com/257/
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Episode 258 – Jan McInnis
[00:00:09] Welcome to Screw the Commute. The entrepreneurial podcast dedicated to getting you out of the car and into the money, with your host, lifelong entrepreneur and multimillionaire, Tom Antion.
[00:00:24] Hey, everybody, it's Tom here with episode 258 of Screw the Commute podcast. We've got a repeat guest because she is just great and interesting story. Your name is Jan McInnis and we'll bring her on in a moment. I hope you didn't miss episode 257 Heidi Richards Mooney. She built a lifestyle business around flowers and she runs a woman's movement, too. Now I am looking for an accountant that's veteran friendly. I'm reaching out to everybody to find a veteran friendly accountant so that we can get an audit that has to be a CPA, that does actual audits, that will give me a good deal to do an audit on our school so we can take the G.I. Bill. So putting that out to everybody. Grab a copy of our automation e-book at screwthecommute.com/automatefree where you'll get an e-book that has saved me millions and millions of keystrokes and help me handle forty thousand customers and one hundred and fifty thousand subscribers without pulling my hair out it's yours free for listening to screw the commute you find it and screwthecommute.com/automatefree while you're at it, grab a copy of our podcast app. It's screwthecommute.com/app and we have complete video and screen capture instructions so you're not lost and figure out how to use all the fancy functions. Grab that at screwthecommute.com/app. Now our sponsor's the Internet Marketing Training Center of Virginia it's a Distance Learning School. But we are coming up with in-house classes this summer because of the G.I. Bill. So you can either come in class if you are in the Virginia Beach area or you can study from anywhere in the world through our, you know, well-established distance learning portal. And you can check that out at IMTCVA.org. And also tell you little bit later about a quiz we have there to show you how traditional colleges and universities are ripping off families and students. So I'll tell you about that later.
[00:02:34] All right. Let's bring on the main event. Jan McInnis is here. She's a comedian, a keynote speaker, a comedy writer and author. And for over 26 years, she's toured the country, making people laugh and showing people how to use humor in business. And she's also an established comedy writer who sold material to everyone from Jay Leno to guests on The Jerry Springer Show. I didn't know that they had their own writers. So, Jan, are you ready to screw? The commute?
[00:03:04] Yeah. I got nothing else to do these days. Let's do it.
[00:03:09] That's what I'm saying. Yes. So, folks, so if you're listening this later, this was recorded on a big. Right in the middle of the Corona virus thing. And so a lot of events are getting canceled and so forth. So Jan has more time to talk to me today. So she expected to be back on the call. But anyway, tell everybody what you're doing now. Not just sitting around the house, but what you're doing now. Then we'll take you back, see how you came up through the ranks.
[00:03:39] What am I doing now as far as a keynote speaker?
[00:03:42] Yeah, yeah. All this things that you're doing to help people in speaking.
[00:03:47] I started as a comedian and then moved into the corporate comedy. And now to do keynotes for businesses. I go around the country showing people how to use humor in business. It's not about telling jokes. I say, you know, my friends are like, oh, you're just going to tell people how to write jokes, be a comedian.
[00:04:03] No, no. 8 year course. Right. That's out pretty.
[00:04:08] I tell business how to use humor to diffuse tension, you know, kick off tough conversations, handle tough co-workers and colleagues, that sort of thing. So it's it's it's a business skill. And people are learning. It's a business skill. Mama, get booked in getting booked a lot.
[00:04:24] Well, how have you change that over time? Because everybody's so politically correct nowadays as far as, you know, what you teach people. Does that. Have you changed it significantly? Because, you know, you can say one wrong word and people will stab you.
[00:04:40] Well, you know, I do tell people, use your common sense. I mean, sex, drugs, rock and roll politics. Right. You know, away from. But religion probably has a good one.
[00:04:50] Yeah. Yeah. But use your commonsense. I have a couple of rules. Like don't don't say something to someone. You wouldn't say to their face, don't make it. Don't do the easy jokes. You know, I was one time I was doing a event, seen an event and 40, 400 people. And they ran out a. Dinner for fifteen hundred people. Oh, yeah.
[00:05:09] It was their employee appreciation. People were mad.
[00:05:15] I went on stage and I could order an easy, you know, pull the curtain back. Hey, I found them.
[00:05:20] Yeah, but it would've killed a lot of jokes.
[00:05:23] But there was a meeting planned about backstage crying because she's right. Lose her job. And so you'll watch the easy humor. The stuff that you think is funny and the obvious stuff. You know, I spoke to a couple hundred blind merchants and I'm a comedian. I like you're on stage. You go, hey, I'm naked.
[00:05:39] Don't do that either. Right. That is a bad visual.
[00:05:42] But also, it's you know, they've heard these jokes. They've heard all the stuff that the easy jokes, the blind jokes that they even had my contract. No blind jokes. Yeah. You have heard everything, right. You know, you just gotta watch that. And then I tell people where to look for humor. People are always like, oh, I'm not funny. I'm not naturally funny. Comedians we know most of us are just know what we've done. It's along. We know where to look. So that's what I tell this is.
[00:06:09] Yeah. And it's.
[00:06:11] And some people think they're funny and they're not.
[00:06:16] I mean, this is a skill. This is an actual skill. You need to study and hone. I'm not saying to the level that you're out, but you you can't just say, oh, everybody laughs at me in the in the break break room and. And, um, I don't need you. Yeah.
[00:06:32] Yeah. It's got to it's a muscle. It's like you a practice.
[00:06:35] It can't just decide one day. Even comedians, I mean, now are doing this, you know, 20 plus years. I know where to look and it's sort of automatic when I walk into a room. So if you want to use some humor, first of all, don't shy away. Don't wait for someone to give you permission. Start. Start trying to practice it a little bit. And looking around and the different places you can find humor and practice it. And when you really need to use it, when it is a tense situation and you need to, you know, kick off to a tense discussion or something, you want to use a little bit of humor, you'll be able to do it because you'll have already practice. Justin. Know where to look.
[00:07:09] Yeah. And there's so many benefits over. I mean, people like you better, you know, better in negotiations and.
[00:07:15] Oh, yeah. Know what makes you approachable. You know, you want to talk to somebody who's been sort of joking around a little bit and feels a little open.
[00:07:23] Right. Right. Now, now, you've been doing this 26 years and people are going to say, well, well, Jan, you had it so easy coming up through through the ranks as a female comedian.
[00:07:39] Comedian. Yeah.
[00:07:42] Now, I started I started before social media, for crying. I had we had VHS tapes somewhere, I don't know, mailed out a packet day.
[00:07:52] But it was especially easy for a girl because you stood out. You're a unique writer, especially easy.
[00:07:57] Yeah. Good. Good and bad.
[00:08:00] You know, if I if I did well, I had more than one occasion. People come up to me and say, we need to apologize. And we saw a woman on the stage. We thought we all looked at each other and said, this is going to stink. And you were great. But if I do badly, I'm like bombing for every woman, comedian, everywhere.
[00:08:18] But it's a little harder.
[00:08:19] They won't put, too. They wouldn't put two women comedians on a show together because of that. Then they had to call it a women's show. I got one of the nicest compliments. Years ago, I was working a comedy castle in Detroit. And Kathleen Madigan, very funny. I like her.
[00:08:34] I saw Mark Ridley, the nicest guy in comedy. I don't everyone call him now a great guy. I saw that I was on the show with Kathleen. And I thought, oh, God, they're gonna cancel me. She's the headliner on the feature. And he's going to find out that he's got two women on there and I need the money. And so I was very nervous and got to show week and I wasn't canceled. And we went on and did the show. And afterwards I was talking to him and I said, Mark that. Thank you. You know, I really need the money. Why do you keep us? And he said, both of you are funny. You're not women comics. You're funny comic. Oh, that's a great show. And I knew it'd be an it would be a good show.
[00:09:09] And it was so it was a wreckage of race.
[00:09:12] Was he a standup at all? You know, I don't know.
[00:09:16] Yeah, because I was just loving this comment he made. I think with the Oscars, there's hope there, he says. If he is getting in the face of all the actors and actresses and he says if if ISIS had a streaming service, you'd call your right.
[00:09:34] So although he might he might have a stand over at one time.
[00:09:38] But the hoodie, you know, they use a lot of stand up comedians at these awards things because we're good at one take. You know, actors, actresses, not not I mean, they get they get 50.
[00:09:50] Exactly. You know, we get one. And I do that.
[00:09:52] I did one thing in a TV commercial was two hundred and sixty three takes like that.
[00:09:58] Oh yeah. So I can make any mistakes I want here.
[00:10:02] You're gonna have to edit it out.
[00:10:04] Yeah. So. So. Yeah. So. It was it was easy. Coming up through a female right in the heart.
[00:10:12] Yeah. Yeah. Harder, I'd say a harder just to get it. You know, if it came up to me or another guy comic, especially for a corporate event or something that I would lose to the guy comic. And in fact, at one time I picked up a string of shows and they. The only reason I did was they they called me the agent. The client agent called me and said, are you available this one date? They've got a bunch of shows, but they only want you this first date. I said, sure, I can do that date. And it was firm. A big kind of male dominated corporation. And I did the show and it was rocked. And afterwards, they canceled the other car. Um, excuse me, unless you are a second choice, but because you're a woman, we're free to use you. That comic wasn't available for the first show. You were? I came in rock. It went well. And. And that's why I got the show us. We really wanted you, but we're afraid. And and women had a reputation at the time. I'm not sure now, but we're being a dirtier witch, which I don't think that's valid.
[00:11:09] I know many funny, funny women who are not dirty. So they got some sort of a rap years ago anyway when I was doing it.
[00:11:17] So did you do a lot of those free open mike nights to get started or how did you do?
[00:11:23] Yeah, I did. You know what I did? I did open Mike.
[00:11:26] The first one I did was back in the 80s during the boom. You know, I mean, Matt M sees it in comedy clubs were making six figures too crazy. I was so freaked out by the lights and everything. I didn't go back for eight years. I missed the only guy. Property boom. Yeah, I went in that I thought it just wouldn't go away. And about 8 years later I thought, I gotta try this again. So I went back. Comedy Cafe, Washington, D.C.. Great club at a comedy club on the top. A sports bar in the middle of a strip club.
[00:11:56] Yeah. I could never figure out where the comics went in between the years it turned out.
[00:12:02] But I went up at open mike there and I practiced before the open mike because I practiced with a light in my eye because I had been so freaked out eight years earlier. And I went up and had my five minutes and did three minutes and couldn't remember the rest. But it was killing and stylized. I remember just thinking in my head, stop there laughing. You can't remember to stop. I got offstage, was sitting there doing L.L.C. something thinking, you know, I want to do this again. Note. That was it. Your marketing person not doing this. And all of a sudden I get this tap on my shoulder and it was the emcee and he said, call Pat tomorrow. So who's Pat? You go see books. This place she caught, you're actually wants to give you work. And that was it. Well, I was off.
[00:12:43] Yeah. Good for you. Good for you.
[00:12:45] And my day job, I kept data for a couple of years and then finally just took the plunge.
[00:12:49] Yeah. So that's what I was gonna get through. So you actually those eight years, you had to do something to make a living, right?
[00:12:54] So what? And even before that, the first time you tried. What was that? What were you thinking when you said, oh, you know, I think I want to be a comic? You were in some job, right?
[00:13:07] Yeah, I was a marketing person, which actually helped me. My marketing was better than my act for the first time. Well, I say if you're if you're trying for something, stay.
[00:13:18] Learn as much as you can if you're not where you want to be. And I did I learn marketing and I worked hard at it. I was very good in marketing in Washington, D.C. And I have to say there was a little one other little start and stop it there in that eight years. There was a Jay Leno comedy challenge across the country, and they had said they were doing contests at various comedy clubs around the country. And I had not done comedy in a few years, but I thought, well, let me throw my hat in the ring on this. And you had to send an audio or video.
[00:13:46] It is indeed a tape. I didn't know you had just had a video. I was stupid. You know, I was doing my marketing job.
[00:13:53] I. I did. It was you had to have a postmark the day after Thanksgiving that Friday. And I thought, well, I don't. I have a few jokes from my comedy tribe four years earlier. So I thought, well, my family's funny. I'll just what, follow them at Thanksgiving, write some jokes. And then I will record them.
[00:14:12] I borrowed my dad's money. I'm not kidding. And I walked her out. So nothing funny happened at Thanksgiving or nothing. So the next day I thought, well, what am I?
[00:14:22] That morning, I I I woke up and thought, wow, I don't have any jokes. I'm not going to send this in. I only have a couple for my last set.
[00:14:29] All of a sudden, these alarm clocks that I'd never used in my life went off and woke me straight out of bed. I thought, okay, I'm awake. So I literally Tom, I wrote some jokes. I walked around my condo recording all this record. And I mailed it in.
[00:14:45] And I got a call the next week and they said, you're your jokes were funny. They I said, who? How many people entered this thing? And. And it turned out they had three comedy contests going on. D.C., Maryland, Virginia. I was in Virginia. And they said, we want to book you for this contest. There's eight comedians. And I thought, OK. They had hundreds of people. And I got so I got one of the slots and I remember watching the Maryland contest and I was on two nights later and Art Campbell member Hmm, yeah. Arch Campbell He from Virginia, Maryland, D.C. area, he was on the news talking about he goes, All the professional comedians are vying for a spot on The Tonight Show. And I jumped straight at Ben's a professional.
[00:15:28] I had never done standup at one time and I went into the contest that night.
[00:15:33] I was so naive. We drew numbers and I I I didn't know you draw numbers. So they said, we're gonna figure out who goes first. I said, well, go forth. Everyone looked at like, are you an idiot with round numbers?
[00:15:47] So, I mean, I totally embarrass myself. But I did well in the contest and I didn't win, obviously.
[00:15:52] But I got a mention in the newspaper the next day my friend walked in the officers. We won a contest and nobody saw the newspaper because my mom bought every book. But yes, a long story short, it was a starts and stops and it was not a straight shot to stand up or keynote speaking.
[00:16:10] Wow. Wow. So and this is over a period. How many years?
[00:16:14] I think that was around eight years until I when I finally got that open, mike and they booked me. And then I kept my day job for about two years, two and a half years.
[00:16:22] I had my I really knew I wanted to leave, but I still had to make a living. And I worked on the East Coast up and down the East Coast for a couple years, just about every night and weekend, and did my day job. And it was it was exhausting.
[00:16:35] Well, why be younger? Why do you keep your day job if you were making ten thousand a show?
[00:16:42] I think I was. But I was a pass. That was a pass the hat show. I think a dollar twenty nine. It was, you know, and it was worth more than surprise that came back.
[00:16:56] One of the best advice I got in comedy, a comedian, Lord caret said stay at the bottom as long as you can. Jan m.c do the because you will build your act if you try to push to get. And this is good business fun for anyone. If you try to push to get to the feature spot, which is 30 minutes, you will end up being a mediocre feature. And there are millions of mediocre features, but you stay at the bottom. Put together a very strong 30 minutes. So when you get to feature, you fly through that last through it up to the headline spot. And that's what I did. And it worked great, but I stayed as a feature for. A lot longer, and I state did open mikes and I did everything to build my myself.
[00:17:36] Now it should be easy to stay at the bottom, right?
[00:17:38] It's a lot of people decide to make a career of that.
[00:17:45] Well, I know a lot of people who spend a lot of time preparing and preparing to never leave. And that's that's a mistake, too. I mean, another woman, it started with me. She she took every class you could take and she, you know, prepared. And she got some good gigs here and there. She never left. Years later, she she kind of faded away. And years later, I am I ran into her in Minnesota and we had drinks. And I looked at her after a couple drinks. I said, why? Why didn't you do this? We talked about being full time comedians. Why did you do it without missing a beat? She looked at me and she goes, because I saw what happened to you at the bar gigs and the heart really terrible night.
[00:18:25] You scared her and got out. All of that stuff scare you off either.
[00:18:29] So. So tell us more a little bit about the business of the song. Do you have an agent or or a booking person?
[00:18:37] I have an assistant who works part time with me. And I do. I don't work exclusively with anyone. I do work through some bureau, some agents. I do some on my own. You have to kind of be a jack of all trades of everything. Got. As you know, you know, Internet, you know, everything from doing some Google ads to to fiber. I know. That's one of your tips to use people in fiber. I do a lot of marketing, a lot of marketing on my own.
[00:19:07] I think that's where the comedy clubs are getting some of their comics. What they went under there?
[00:19:15] Maybe some of car was getting some of their jokes about it.
[00:19:20] But, you know, you just got to do everything. And it's what's the hard thing? And you've mentioned this is the not you don't know what rabbit hole to go down. And that's a you know, sometimes you think, oh, that's a great idea. And this guy's making millions. But you have to figure out how if that's going to work for you. Spend a little time looking at it. But sometimes some things can just suck up your time, you know?
[00:19:43] You've got a book out, right? I've got a couple of books.
[00:19:46] I wrote one on it because I write since I've written for freelance for everyone on the planet. I put a book together. People keep asking me, how do you write so fast? So my book, Finding the Funny Fast How to Create Quick Humor, to connect with clients, co-workers and crowds. And it's some tips on how to use humor, how to find humor. Easy. It's short. It's a small book because, you know, I'm talking about writing humor fat.
[00:20:08] I give you 50 Israeli books. And the other book is Convention Comedian Stories and Wisdom from two decades of chicken dinners and comedy clubs.
[00:20:19] So naturally you're going to be doing more online line now.
[00:20:27] I'm do a lot of writing.
[00:20:28] I picked up some big writing gigs, which is nice. And I'm enjoying I'm enjoying that. Trying to parlay that into that was one of my questions for you, how to get your parlay, some writing gigs into other things. Because I'm getting more writing hits than anything else right now.
[00:20:44] Yeah, well, that's good, though, because they said, you know, I'm sure you and lots of people at this time and in the world are getting canceled because a lot of meetings are getting canceled.
[00:20:54] Yeah. People again. Well, I had an event this past weekend that went fine, but I did. So in Kabul right now. This does not sound like either.
[00:21:02] No, no big event canceled.
[00:21:05] So. Yeah. So good things at home trying to find other avenues. I would say as an entrepreneur, you need to find. I have a couple different irons in the fire. Don't just stick all your eggs. Elmo on basket. You know what other skills you have. One of the things can you do. You know, I'm touring theaters with a baby-boomer comedy show. I do keynotes keynoted new comedy, master of Ceremonies, which I've gotten a lot of calls for that as well. I do writing, you know, just a lot of different things. So when one thing is it popping, something else is, yeah.
[00:21:34] It's good that you have the writing because you don't have to go anywhere for that. Right. Right. Are in a sitcom, you know, meeting room with five other writers. Right.
[00:21:44] Right. Right. So that's a that's been helpful. So. Yeah. Well we'll wet weather through it.
[00:21:50] Yeah. No, we're. Now the thing about writing for guests on Jerry Springer.
[00:21:57] Tell me more about that. Do you know who real context for that that was?
[00:22:02] I wrote I and I still do actually a little writing for radio prep service. You know, if you're a radio station deejay, you come in in the morning at 4:00 a.m. and you need some stories and you need some jokes and unique. So I write for one of those perhaps services that goes out to, you know, hundreds of thousands of radio stations and they get clients occasionally. That's why I can't say who it was. Right. They are clients. Occasionally they say, hey, we need some writers for this. And so I did. And it was so funny because I wrote these jokes. They were it was I had the right Lancome, a guy wearing a real flashy outfit who's was a pimp. I think in this kind of flashy outfit, you know, shocker on juries.
[00:22:41] You know, jokes like, you know, I didn't know Pepto-Bismol made clothing, one liners like that for the debate.
[00:22:48] This other guy, that same date that I was, I wrote jokes was the Springer guest that morning. That night I was doing a show for doctors.
[00:22:58] That's two different levels. Right.
[00:23:03] So you got Maury still going out there, Maury Povich. He still has crazy guests there.
[00:23:10] There's always some of it is staged to some of it. Some of it really is the baby daddy.
[00:23:15] But some states, they have little, you know, arguments and fights and the.
[00:23:20] Oh, yeah, that sort of thing. Tom, just a let's save you some time if you're watching it.
[00:23:26] I agree. So. So where do they find these books?
[00:23:30] Amazon or you go to my Web site. I have great links on my resume.
[00:23:34] Put it out to theworklady.com.
[00:23:38] The work lady, not the working girl. I was going to say exactly what I have been entered first as the working girl.
[00:23:46] You know, I did the work lady because I do a lot of office humor and nobody can spell McGinness. Yeah, OK. As opposed to trying to get every variation of misspelling a McGinness I went with. Tried something else. So theworklady.com.
[00:23:58] Theworklady.com. Okay. So. All right. Well, thanks so much for coming on.
[00:24:03] And give us give us an update. Wait. I'll turn the radio on. The darn thing is they don't give you credit. You know this job.
[00:24:12] Jamrozik But it's fun, right driving around the country. Are you hearing somebody do a joke?
[00:24:19] Oh, I wrote a friend of mine actually read a top ten list of me once that deejay said. I said, Stop right there. I got it on my computer.
[00:24:27] I wrote that. Okay. Yeah.
[00:24:29] Yeah. And so these are distributed to deejays around the world.
[00:24:33] So. So that same joke could be told on 100 different stations. Yeah. All right. Well, thanks so much for coming on. We will. The work lady, whenever you need to have a real meeting now where people actually are not afraid to come to, this would be a great person to have the jazz and I'll bring my own mike.
[00:24:56] Well, you know, get started doing Xoom meetings, do Xoom comedy for people. So they're there meeting remotely. There you go.
[00:25:05] Somebody actually once asked if I would do that.
[00:25:07] I said, I will try anything. This was years ago. And they didn't end up doing it. But I was like, let's do it. Let's try to Skype.
[00:25:14] Comedy. Yeah, you don't hear them. If I can hear them, I think it might work well.
[00:25:18] What's interesting is, you know, one of the rules of comedy, you want to be as close as you can to the audience. So like three thousand is a little bit of a gap to cover, but of it.
[00:25:30] My cat, my dog and some chairs in front of anybody can do it.
[00:25:33] You can do it. So thanks so much for coming on and catching this up. Oh, thanks a lot. Take care. All right. We'll catch everybody on the next episode. See you later.