DAN NAINAN: Hello.
JAIME TARDY: Hi. He’s a comedian and actor and has been seen in the Last Comic Standing. One of the PC Mac Apple commercials. Hot shows everywhere including the Apollo Theater and Laugh Factory in New York City but he didn’t start out as a comedian. He actually started out as a senior engineer at Intel and terrified of speaking in public. Now I can’t wait to hear this story. Welcome Dan, thanks for being here.
DAN NAINAN: Hey, thank you so much for having me. It’s a pleasure.
JAMIE TARDY: Excellent. So let’s talk a little bit about your background just to sort of get a sense of where you came from.
DAN NAINAN: Okay, great. Well my job was to travel around the world with the chairman Andy Grove of Intel. He is one of the co-founders and really an amazing person. I had to speak on stage doing these technical demonstrations at events all over the world like endless meetings, consumer electronic show and so forth. Sometimes I’d be in front of hundreds or even thousands of people and other times I’d be in front of millions on TV if they were broadcasting the event. So now, of course, designing the technical demonstrations came easily for someone who is half Indian and half Japanese, like I was bred for that. In fact, one of the things I’ve been saying is when I applied for the job at Intel they said, “You’re Indian and Japanese, you don’t even have to interview. You could be vice president.”
But the tough part was speaking on stage. That was something that I really wasn’t used to and I was terrified of that. They had us do some speaker training where they brought these people in and they taught us how to be better speakers but that still didn’t work. Then I joined Intel’s toastmasters club and toastmasters is a fantastic organization that costs something like $20.00 every six months where you make speeches and it’s a non-profit. It’s wonderful. But the problem with that was I was only in front of 12 other computer nerds like myself.
JAMIE TARDY: I know exactly what you mean.
DAN NAINAN: Right and that just wasn’t enough of a challenge and I thought I really need to do something that’s really going to push myself and I thought I’ve always wanted to comedy. When I was young I kind of had, you know, would do these voices and imitate people and so on. I thought, you know, I’m going to take a comedy class and I took the class and I can expand upon that a little bit but that’s what led me into doing comedy.
JAMIE TARDY: So first of all, it sounds like you got pretty high up in Intel. Was your whole plan to always be an employee or did you always want to work for yourself?
DAN NAINAN: Well, I didn’t really know. I’ve always had this desire to do something artistic and I really wasn’t able to do that in the beginning and it was kind of funny how I got into doing something artistic through doing something which is a lot more I guess, you know, what is it called, left brain or is it right brain? I can’t remember. One of the two, I mean my brain is so confused I don’t even know which is which. But I always had a desire, I play five musical instruments and I always wanted to do something that was artistic and so, I don’t know, I guess I got out of school and I didn’t really know what I was going to do but I did work at Intel for about five years and that’s what got me into comedy by accident.
JAMIE TARDY: So tell us the story of how you went from just taking that first comedy class to knowing this is what I want to do.
DAN NAINAN: Well what happened was the final exam, if you will, for the comedy class was, of course, a performance at a local club in San Francisco where my friends and relatives were invited and everyone invites their friends and relatives and so the place was packed as it turned out, just absolutely packed. Now the thing was the first time I took the class, the first class was just kind of everyone getting to know each other and these exercises and then the second class was when we actually started to tell jokes and everybody was laughing and laughing and laughing at my jokes. I was like this is fantastic. I mean they’re laughing at everything and I’d been writing for a couple of years by that time before I even took the class so I had a whole bunch of jokes.
The thing is though the second I did my jokes and nobody laughed at a single joke. This was just absolutely devastating and I seriously considered quitting the class. I said, “That’s it, I have no talent for this and I’m going to quit.” Then I thought, you know, I just quit so many things in my life and I thought I really think I’m going to stick this out and see what happens and now of course I shutter to think about how close I was to quitting that class and how my life would be different now if I had. I mean it was just that close I came to quitting.
So now it was really terrifying the thought of my first performance and so I decided that what I was going to do was be very, very prepared. I had about a seven or eight minute set and I just practiced it over and over and over in the week leading up to the show. I practiced, on the day of the show I got in a conference room at Intel and just stood there alone doing my lines over and over. I called up my ex girlfriend at the time and did my set for her and she laughed at some of the jokes like Twitter, the whole bit, or tittered I should say. Not Twitter, titter. It’s a Freudian text slip actually.
JAMIE TARDY: I know, right. Geeky people like to do that.
DAN NAINAN: And then I practiced it in the car on the way up to the show itself and I got on stage and the first thing that struck me was other than four people in the front row I couldn’t see a single person because it was so, the lights were so bright in my face, I told my first joke and the place just burst out laughing. I actually still have a tape of that very, very first show. Just from there it was like floating because they were laughing literally at everything. There was one that kind of went over everyone’s head but other than that, I mean people were just laughing and laughing and this was a great start and everyone said, “Hey, you’re really talented and you were the best one.”
So I was in Vegas with Intel for the CES show and I had mentioned that I had taken this class. Someone said, “Hey, well why don’t you show us the tape?” because I happened to have the tape with me. I showed it to them. They said, “Why don’t you perform at the team dinner tonight for the entire Intel team?” kind of like a last dinner. I said, “Okay, sure.” So my second show I’m performing for 250 people telling some Intel jokes and making fun of Andy Grove who has a very thick Hungarian accent and they loved that. They were just dying and then someone came up to me and said, “Hey, do you want to perform this at the annual sales conference in a couple month in San Francisco?” I said, “Well how many people will be there?” He said 2,500.
So this is my third show ever. I’m in front of 2,500 people. It’s a Monday morning. Nobody has been drinking, right? Most people have been out partying, you know, because everyone has just gotten there and there is salespeople from around the world like India and Brazil and Mexico and Amsterdam, Holland, Vietnam, I mean, and what we did is we set up a little roost where we decided I would pretend that something has gone wrong with one of my technical demos and I said, “Okay, you know, here is what I am willing to do, I’m going to tell you some jokes while we fix this” and I launch into my impressions of Andy Grove and the place just went absolutely crazy and people were banging on tables and applauding and just rolling.
People came up to me afterwards who didn’t know me and said, “You know, you’re not really in the demo group, you’re not an Intel employee. You were really hired as a professional comedian, right?” I said, “No, I’m really in the Intel demo group.” And that was when I kind of got the first inkling that I could maybe do this for a living.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s an awesome story from one to three shows being able to multiply like that. So how scary was that though going from not being comfortable on stage and just sort of getting the gist, you know, almost quitting right beforehand to three shows later, 2,500 people.
DAN NAINAN: It was terrifying and I remember very distinctly that, you know, I just did a corporate event about three months ago and I was in that same ballroom again and it was just such a memory. What happened was I remember that behind the podium my left leg was literally shaking I was so terrified.
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah, good. It’s good to hear that other people were extremely terrified doing things that, you know, I mean people are more scared of speaking on stage than they are of death, so good. Even someone who has been doing it for a living now forever were scared too. That’s really good to hear.
DAN NAINAN: Right, right, right. Well someone once told me, my ex-roommate, said to me a saying which is do what you fear and the death of fear is certain. That is something that I have lived by since I heard that. It’s such a great saying. I didn’t write it, I wish I had but someone else did.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s excellent. So now you’re sort of getting this confidence in being able to be a real comedian. People think you should do it for a living. How did you go and step into doing it for a living?
DAN NAINAN: Well then for the next year or so I just did the occasional Intel event because they found out that I had an almost perfect impression of Andy Grove so they would have me do his voice at conferences and do these things at Intel events and do routines at Intel events and then I decided I had to get to either New York or Los Angeles in order to really get into comedy. I wanted to be a little bit closer to my parents so I chose New York and it turned out that there was a job opening two levels higher in the sales division and I applied for the job and fortunately I was able to get the recommendation of the senior vice president of marketing.
JAMIE TARDY: That helps.
DAN NAINAN: And of course that was, oh definitely, because you know we had done some demos, some shows, events before and he recommended me. I got the job, moved to New York and unfortunately and fortunately the job turned out to be really boring compared to my first job. I didn’t travel anywhere. I was home based so there was very little socialization. It was sales so there was very little geeking out with technology and then I took it for a year and then I finally said, “You know, I just really have to try and make this leap. I don’t like this job.” I could go back to my old job which was great but I’ve always believed in going forward so I thought, you know, I’m going to submit my resignation and cash out my stock options and go for comedy.
All these people were really negative like, “Oh no, you can’t do that. It’s really difficult to make a living in comedy. You’ll lose your health insurance and you got a six-figure a year job.” I mean I heard every piece of advice about why I should not do it. You’ll have a hole in your resume, etc. I mean every objection. But I listened to my instinct and I left and the cliché says, I’ve never looked back.
JAMIE TARDY: I mean that’s a really important point talking about your instinct in general because you usually hear of starving artists. I mean you hear that a lot. Like I told you before, my husband is a performer and has been doing this all his life but most performers have day jobs, you know, and then they pursue their craft on the side.
DAN NAINAN: Yes.
JAMIE TARDY: You’ve taken it to a whole new level and you made that crazy leap that a lot of people can’t. So besides instinct, or tell us a little bit more about how you made that decision based on instinct.
DAN NAINAN: It was a little bit easier for me because having built up some savings and a nest egg from the stock with Intel, I wasn’t coming at this from a starving artist and I don’t know if I would have had the guts to do that because it’s hard to leave a six-figure job if you have nothing. But I did have a nest egg and so on, so that made it a lot easier. I mean I was able to have the luxury of flying over to another city to do a show if I wanted and I think, I mean I had a lot of advantages that artists starting out do not have.
JAMIE TARDY: So how did you get that? And were you planning that or just good personal finance instinct to begin with?
DAN NAINAN: Right, well, I think the two keys to amassing wealth – one certainly is to make a lot of money but then the other is to be very, very frugal with what you earn and I think a lot of people, especially in America, and this includes celebrities or actors or athletes, people tend to spend everything that they make no matter whether they’re dirt poor or some people who are really wealthy, especially people who get wealthy quickly like the nouveau riche don’t know how to handle it. I mean I’ve heard stories of athletes or entertainers like MC Hammer just all their money just comes in and it goes right out again and they’re spending it on their friends and flying them around in private jets and this, that, the other. Part of the key is make a lot and then save a lot.
JAMIE TARDY: I was reading in one of the articles you’ve written that you live in a small apartment and have like a $30.00 electric bill. So that’s an amazing thing to be doing now even when you’re so successful.
DAN NAINAN: First of all, you know, in New York City, pretty much most people, my apartment is a decent size for New York but you know if you compare it to something like Mobile, Alabama, it’s tiny, or New Orleans. But if I sold it I could probably have a nice place pretty much anywhere else in the country.
JAMIE TARDY: Just for New York, yeah.
DAN NAINAN: Exactly. As far as the electric bill, that’s the one thing I’m trying to, I see so many people just over-consuming. I mean I have friends who claim that they’re green and you go to their homes and they leave all the lights on even if they’re not in the room and the TV is blaring and I just don’t think that’s the right way to live and to live a conscientious lifestyle. Americans, we have 5 percent of the world’s population and we consume 20 percent of the resources. I really don’t want to live that way. And this would be true if I were a billionaire or a millionaire or poor.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s a great thing to sort of show that no matter who you are, whether you’re rich or whether you’re poor, that conserving resources and really trying to live consciously in the best way you can is really important.
DAN NAINAN: Right. I mean even when I go to hotels, I mean I’ll sometime be in these hotels and then I notice that when you get there they’ve already got the air conditioning blasting and sometimes if I get there say at 11:00 p.m. I know that the air conditioning has been blasting since 2:00 p.m. or whenever they cleaned the room and turned it over. That’s like ten hours of air conditioning just because some people are too, I guess, they’re like I don’t want to go to a room that’s hot and wait five minutes for it to cool off. I mean it’s really amazing the consumption or I’ll say, “Look, please do not change my towels or my sheets.” Especially if I’m there for only two or three days because I don’t do that at home. There’s no need to do that. I unplug the TV because I don’t watch TV and I know that it uses electricity and sometimes they’ll deliver the newspaper in the morning. I say, “Look, don’t give me the newspaper. I don’t need it. It’s wasteful.” So I’m trying to do my part. Unfortunately, I do have to do a lot of jet travel but I really don’t have a choice. But when possible, I’m trying to do my part to save the environment. It has nothing to do with my own financial position. I think it’s something we should all do.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s excellent advice for everyone anywhere. I appreciate that. So let’s go back to sort of the beginning stages of your business. So you were an employee and you decided to become a comedian. The good thing is that you had a big nest egg to be able to rest on and stuff but how did you actually start marketing and getting shows?
DAN NAINAN: Well, that’s a thing, when you first start out in entertainment it’s a little bit different from say if you want to study to become a doctor or a lawyer or an accountant. In most professions you have a very clearly defined career path. You have to take these tests. You’ve got to take this amount of school and so on. In comedy there’s no real template to follow. There’s no clearly defined path that you have to take or path to success and since a lot of comedians and artists in general are kind of like out for themselves; they won’t really help you. So you have to kind of learn a lot of this on your own and make mistakes and learn from your mistakes. My boss at Intel who was kind of a comedian himself, he said, “Boy if Dan learned from his mistakes he’d be a genius.”
JAMIE TARDY: It’s great to have your boss tell you that.
DAN NAINAN: He was really funny. But in the beginning it was all about just, I went to this fantastic comedy school in New York which incidentally I still go to when I’m off the road because the teacher is just magnificent and this class taught me a lot about the business and I was actually able to not make a lot of mistakes that new comedians make, that even some experienced comedians make such as getting down on the crowd when they don’t laugh or sayings, the kind of the classic, “That’s my time” at the end or a million different things like that. So I was able to progress very quickly up through the club scene and then within a year and 11 months I got to open for the late Robert Schimmel who is one of the top comedians of all time and he liked my act so much that he asked me to perform with him and tour with him all over the country and that was a huge step. That happened after only doing two years of comedy and there’s a lot of people who have done comedy for eight, ten years and they don’t get that opportunity. So I was very fortunate in that sense:
JAMIE TARDY: Wow. So how many shows were you doing? Was it a slow build? I mean in two years you were able to tour with him which is huge but was it a one show here and one show there being able to work up to through the clubs.
DAN NAINAN: Well, yes. To work up to that, you know, I think that just like when you go to the gym and let’s say you want to lift a certain amount of weight, you have to do it little by little every day. You can’t just suddenly do it one day and expect to be able to lift a huge amount. You have to build up and you have to build up. And every time you step on stage whether it’s at a club or an open mike or say a senior citizen’s home or a cancer ward which I’ve done some cancer shows for cancer patients, every show makes you just incrementally, I guess, 0.01 percent better so you just have to keep doing your shows. You have to get stage time. New comedians asked, “Hey, how can I get to what you’re doing and get paid?” I say, “Well you have to just go and perform and perform and perform over and over and over and over again to become good enough.” And so that was what it was, going down to the club, going down to, I mean just perform. I even performed at a couple of AA meetings and I not only don’t drink, I never heard. I performed at a narcotics anonymous meeting and I’ve never even smoked pot.
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah, you were a go-getter, being able to do shows everywhere. That’s a great point though being able to really not only hone your craft but be able to find opportunities in order to do that. That sounds like you were really trying to find opportunities wherever they lay.
DAN NAINAN: Right, right and the key is to be able to just performing, performing and sometimes it’s tough to get into the clubs in New York so if you can find alternate venues to perform in, you think of hey you can go down to your local restaurant and say, “Hey, how about at like 9:30 to 10:00 at night we have a comedy show because all of your customers are probably going to be gone or finishing up dinner so we can have a show in here for some late night and you can sell some more drinks and this that and the other.” You can create your own opportunities if people won’t book you then you can become the person in charge instead of just having to beg for spots.
JAMIE TARDY: Let’s talk about how you priced your shows. Because I know at the very beginning you can’t charge a lot and I know you must be charging a ton more. So tell me about your pricing strategy through the years of performing.
DAN NAINAN: Well in the beginning when you go to the clubs in New York or Los Angeles or wherever you’re not going to make any money at all and in fact, sometimes you have to do what are called bringer shows where you actually have to bring five people in order, I mean you basically have to pay, you got to sell tickets in order to be able to perform. You have to bring five friends in order to perform. So in the beginning you’re not going to make anything. I remember after a year or so the first $5.00 I made was I had to stand out in Times Square and busk or bark and say, “Hey people there’s a comedy show, please come to the comedy show, etc.” and I would get a dollar for every person that came to the show. So my first actual paid show was $5.00.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s excellent. So where are you now? Tell us about where you are now.
DAN NAINAN: You mean in terms of pay?
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah.
DAN NAINAN: Oh sometimes I get as much as $15,000 for an hour. Actually I got, $15,000, I only did about 35 minutes and those are the corporate events that pay that kind of money because, and it’s interesting because, you know, you think well things are depressed because of the economy and so on but the interesting thing is some companies are saying, “Okay, we can’t afford Jay Leno for $200,000 or we can’t afford for Jon Stewart to come for $200,000 so let’s cut our budgets and maybe we can get a comedian for 5, 10, $15,000. So that actually works to our advantage, to the less well known comedians who are not household names sometimes.
JAMIE TARDY: It’s a great story to go, you know, to really start at the bottom with you making $5.00 doing comedy all the way up to $15,000. What had to change in your mindset in order to go from charging $5,000 to $15,000? Was it just skill and knowing you were $15,000? How did that work for you?
DAN NAINAN: Here’s the thing. I have a friend who videotapes weddings for a living and he told me that when he used to charge $500 he had no business at all and then when he raised his rates to $5,000 he had more business than he could handle. He told me something, just people have this perception that if something costs more that it’s better. It’s really amazing now, I don’t know if I should bring this up, but there was a, you remember the case of Eliot Spitzer in New York?
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah, I used to live in New York.
DAN NAINAN: Right. And they were interviewing this one prostitute in the Times and she said, “You know, I’m not better looking than these other women” but she said that she would charge like $3,000 and she said that it was such difference from between when she charged $300 and she said, “I’m not better looking than any of these people” but she said that, these other girls, she said that just because of the fact they pay you more they respect you more. And so half the battle is just being able to ask. To be able with a straight face, well usually it’s over the phone, being able to say my fee is $15,000 plus air and hotel. A lot of comedians when they get contacted by corporations, they’ll say “Hey we saw you at the club the other night, we’d love to hire you,” they’ll say what do you charge and the comedian will say, “Oh $500,” which means that potentially you’re leaving thousands and thousands of dollars on the table. So my philosophy is and this is so funny because comedians and artists in general are just terrified of doing any kind of negotiation like this. I have friends who are great comics and I say, “Dude, tell them $5,000.” He goes, “No, no, no I’m too scared, I don’t even like doing this part. Can you do it for me? I’ll give you a commission.” You’ve just got to be able to say what your price is and then the key is then maybe their budget is only $10,000. So the key is to be able to negotiate downwards. If they say, “No, no, no that’s too expensive” the art or the skill in the negotiation is to be able to extract the maximum that they’re willing to pay and to determine what that is and to be able to do that without losing face.
JAMIE TARDY: So give us some tips. What do you have for insider tips on negotiating?
DAN NAINAN: I always say $15,000 and then sometimes people say, “Oh no, no, no, our budget is $3,000. That’s way too.” Or other times people say, “Well, our budget is so much less than that” and I’ll say, “Well what is your budget? Maybe I can work with you.” And they’ll say, “Oh no, no, no I don’t want to insult you” and that’s a tough one. So I found a way out of that is to say, “The reason I ask is I have some other comedians I work with that I could recommend to you who charge a lot less.” And then they go, ”Oh okay our budget is $4,000.” And that works because then I can say to them, “Well, let me ask you this. If I were able to do it for $4,000 because I have a cousin that lives in Houston, let’s say, there’s always something which I call the mitigating factors. You think of a mitigating factor as to why you’re willing to do it for less and still save face. So I’ll say something like, which is often true, “hey I have a cousin in Houston I want to see” or “I’ve got a really good buddy from college I want to see that I haven’t seen in a while. I tell you what, just this one time I’ll do it for the $4,0000” Well actually, usually I’ll say, “Can you get up to $5,000?” and usually they’ll say yes. So the key in negotiating it’s a real art and it’s something, I was on the phone the other day and a buddy of mine was over here, is a comedian, and he just said he could not believe what I was doing. And I said, “But this is what I do every day and it’s like natural now.”
JAMIE TARDY: Because you become not only confident in it but just used to it. Once you start doing everything once in awhile it gets something that you’re really used to and comfortable with.
DAN NAINAN: It’s like a muscle. It’s like performing. You know, you perform enough times, you speak in front of people enough times and it won’t scare you anymore.
JAMIE TARDY: I want to talk about the marketing side of the business and then I want to go into some good speaking tips from you because I’m sure you’ll give a lot of people a lot of good advice. So in terms of marketing how do you get your shows? Is it mostly word of mouth or do you actually go out and market often?
DAN NAINAN: Well, it’s funny, I can just sit here and I know that I will get phone calls and I will get emails if I don’t do anything and I get booked at least once every weekend, sometimes twice in different cities. I’m getting a lot of bookings overseas now. Two people saw me on You Tube, two different corporations, and one flew me out there last June and one flew me out there about a month ago. This is in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I got someone who saw me on You Tube and hired me to come perform at his birthday party in Hong Kong, a very wealthy billionaire guy. So I think the marketing, a lot of it is coming from the social media like You Tube. One of my clips has almost a million hits right now and that is a fantastic marketing tool.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s what I was going to say. It’s like 955,000 right now. You’re really, really close so everyone should go check it out too so that way it can pump you up to a million. But that’s excellent. So that really gets you work. That’s great. Do you have your contact info on your You Tube page?
DAN NAINAN: Oh absolutely! People see that and then of course I have my contact inform and the other thing is I take all the calls myself. I have contemporaries, other comedians who use managers, and I’ve actually seen it happen where you’ll call up a manager trying to get a hold of a comedian to book them and they won’t even call you back. It’s like what’s wrong with these people? I mean I did a show in Michigan at a college. They paid me because of my negotiation skills, they paid me $9,500 and I was almost ready to say my college fee is $3,000 but there was something that told me to say, “Well what’s your budget, what do you normally pay?” Well last year we paid $9,500 to the comedian. I said, “Okay, well my normal fee is $15,000 but I think for you guys I’d be willing to lower it because I want to go see this area or whatever.” And so then they say, there are three comedians that we’re interested in booking, A, B and C. I said what’s your budget for the opener? They said $5,000. So I contacted the managers of the three comedians A, B and C and guess what? Two of them didn’t even bother to call me back. And it’s not like these comedians are super wealthy. I saw one of them in a club like months later. I said, “Dude, you know man I tried to get a hold of your manager to hire you and they didn’t even call me back.” He goes, “Really?” And he was like really upset by that.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s horrible.
DAN NAINAN: It’s unreal. I mean it’s, so I want to, since I have a business sense about me, I want to be on top of this and control this myself. I don’t somebody to be representing me because see here’s the thing. The client, if they want to hire me, if I had a manager it’s like they’d have to call the manager, the manager has to call the artist, the artist has to call the manager back and then the manager conveys the information to the client and I think that’s just too byzantine and it’s just too complicated. I want to communicate with the client directly.
JAMIE TARDY: So how much time do you end up working booking all the shows yourself?
DAN NAINAN: Well that’s a variable. Sometimes they call or they email and then it’s a matter of a couple calls back and forth or they talk to their committee or their boss or whatever. Other times it’s a long, drawn out, especially weddings. Oh my goodness sometimes, there was one point when I almost said I’m not doing anything with anymore brides because for some reason brides will initially inquire and then I try and try to get a hold of them and they never call back and it ends up just a lot of wasted time. So it really kind of depends but most of the time it’s just a few phone calls, we negotiate, we send a contract. I send out a contract, they sign it, they send me a deposit. I book the air, we book the air. I get on a plane, perform and it’s easy.
JAMIE TARDY: Excellent. Well let’s go back, really quick, I have one more question about the You Tube. How did you get a million views? Was it you pushing or was it just viral?
DAN NAINAN: No, you know, that’s the great thing about the Internet in general and You Tube in particular, it’s very much of a level playing field. The traditional means of getting exposure, I mean how would an entertainer in the past have gotten exposure? You’d have to perform over and over again and ultimately you would be seen by say a manager or an agent and then that agent or manager might help you get on Comedy Central and then you would gain notoriety that way. Well, there’s this huge trend going on called disintermediation where now you can put up anything you want on You Tube. I mean, this is how Justin Bieber got famous. You put yourself on You Tube if it’s good. If it’s entertaining or if it’s funny or if it captures the imagination, it gets forwarded and people say hey check this out, this is awesome, and it gets forwarded, it gets forwarded and ultimately it goes viral. I think it’s very, very organic. Now there’s certain key words you can use and so on but I think these are all legitimate hits and I mean it’s impossible to hire a million different people to click on your video. I mean this is something, if I have nearly a million hits this means that this is genuinely something that people have found to be entertaining. Not as entertaining as say the sneezing panda which go 50 million hits or Jeff Donamu has 200,000 million or Lady Gaga who has I don’t know, a billion.
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah. Well it’s funny that you say that because my friend did a Coke and Mentos video online in 2006. They live about ten minutes from us. He was actually a professional juggler. Four days after they put up the video David Letterman called because they had like a million views or something crazy. Now they have like 50 million views but they started a whole business over a Coke and Mentos video which is just amazing in the world we live in right now.
DAN NAINAN: How many hits did they get?
JAMIE TARDY: Right now they are over 50 million on a couple different videos that they have but yeah.
DAN NAINAN: That’s amazing. That’s amazing. You see so they by virtue of having 50 million hits are 50 times more popular than I am and likewise, I see these comedians on Comedy Central, they put up their Comedy Central clips and they have a thousand views so obviously I’m a thousand times, so I think it’s very much of a level playing field. It’s just honest and organic.
JAMIE TARDY: That way the good stuff rises to the top instead of the stuff we get thrown down our throats. Excellent. So let’s talk about speaking and I would love to have tips from you as far as how we can all be better speakers, how we can be funnier speakers because a lot of speakers I have seen are pretty boring the way things go so give us some good tips.
DAN NAINAN: I would say that I would do two things. I would definitely encourage anyone who is afraid of speaking to join a toastmasters group and these are, I mean you put in your zip code, you go to toastmasters.org and you can find one literally anywhere in America and around the world by the way and you can get started with speaking in front of people. And speaking in front of people is such an important skill and it can really, really lead to a lot more success at work. If you were someone who can get up there and speak and inspire people or be entertaining or whatever, I mean so many people sit through at work these really boring PowerPoint presentations with somebody droning on and on and on. If you can learn how to be an effective speaker, that can help your career so much. The second and more terrifying thing is I would strongly encourage anyone who wants to be a great speaker to take a comedy class because you will never do anything that is more terrifying and yet you confront your fear and you get to perform in front of 200, 300 people in your final class at the club and I just think it’s just a fantastic kind of a baptism by fire.
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah, that sounds interesting and fun, you know, being put in the hot seat like that. Definitely.
DAN NAINAN: Yeah and even if you don’t pursue comedy I think just the experience alone will help you, I mean after you do a comedy show, I guarantee you will never have a fear of doing any business presentation ever again, ever.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s really good advice. Definitely. It’s funny, my husband is a comedian and we have lots of comedians around us and gosh I never want to try that. It seems so difficult to be able to do but if you can do it and face your fear, I mean, you’re right, everything is going to be easier than that.
DAN NAINAN: Exactly. There’s nothing that will be more difficult than doing a comedy act. Trust me.
JAMIE TARDY: Excellent. So tell us more about confident on stage and what you can do to really get that confidence on stage that you have now.
DAN NAINAN: Well that is definitely a function of how many times you’ve done it and again the more times you do it just like lifting a weight or whatever, the more times you do it, the more you’re going to get stronger and stronger and stronger so I think the key is just, like anything else, if you can get up and speak no matter where it is, at a toastmasters or a comedy class or you know, your local, I don’t know, even at a party, it’s just something you have to do and do it over and over again. The great thing about open mikes and comedy classes is you can speak there and there’s no real penalty for failing other than maybe your ego and whatever but I mean if you get up in front of your company and you fail at speaking, that’s very, very bad. Then the consequences of that can be really bad. But if you get up in front of an open mike or a toastmasters or in front of a comedy class, there’s no real downside if you don’t do well as long as you know that you can come back and do it again and you’re not afraid.
JAMIE TARDY: Now to go back, when you were younger, did you know that you would become a millionaire? I mean did you always know that you’d be this successful
DAN NAINAN: I had no idea. I was brought up in a fairly poor family that became successful later on. My dad invested in, you know, he got fired and then he ended up investing in his first six-unit apartment building and then based upon the money from that he built up kind of this real estate empire. Actually he was a slumlord to be honest. No, I’m just joking. He went from nuclear physics professor to real estate owner and investing. But I had no inkling but I always knew I wanted to be wealthy but it’s funny because now, I don’t know, I just really don’t feel that money is something I even think about. It’s almost like an abstract because I really kind of have enough to buy what I want but I don’t really want that much. And I think I’m an anomaly and especially in America because people who, you know, are well off tend to spend a lot and consume.
People who are not well off tend to spend a lot beyond their means. But it’s a little different in New York, it’s ironic because real estate is super expensive here but it’s not about well hey what kind of car do you have because a lot of millionaires in New York don’t have a car. I don’t have one. I don’t need one. I was just thinking the other day, how many times have I actually taken a taxi in the last year? It’s like maybe four or five times maximum and that was only when I was super late or it was really late at night. But by and large, you know, my car is literally right below my building is 800 feet long and that’s a subway and a metro card. I said I finally achieved my dream car. I finally have my dream car. People say what is this it’s none.
JAMIE TARDY: I thought you were going to say a subway.
DAN NAINAN: Yeah, no, no car at all and by and large I mean, you know, walk to things. I mean sometimes I’ll walk five miles in a day and think nothing of it. That’s New York for you.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s a really interesting perspective because I know usually you think of New York City and especially people outside of New York City think it’s all glitz and glamour but it’s funny to hear sort of the other side of things where as you don’t need to have a huge place, you don’t need to have cars, you don’t need to have a lot of stuff to really enjoy New York City.
DAN NAINAN: No, New York City is all about the experience and it’s just this, it’s like a videogame to me. The thing is when you are in an apartment you are also a lot less, you’re consuming a lot less of resources because the energy used, so many people are stacked up on top of each other so there’s a lot less heat loss and you don’t have a yard and using all the consumption that a yard encompasses like the chemicals and this, that and the other. I think it’s just, I really think everyone should live in apartments because it’s just so much more helpful for the environment, instead of these roads most of America, the suburbs, it’s just, every suburb looks the same and then you have to have a car, you can’t walk anywhere and New York is kind of like the actual opposite of all that.
JAMIE TARDY: Very different from where I am. I’m in Maine and it takes an hour to drive anywhere you need to go.
DAN NAINAN: Oh sure.
JAMIE TARDY: Out in the middle of nowhere. So what I want to ask you then is what’s the biggest goal you are working on accomplishing now?
DAN NAINAN: Well, here’s the thing, I think a lot of people, especially comedians get caught up in this game of like, well, I’ve got to have a sitcom or I’ve got to be on David Letterman or whatever and I think the most important thing I guess towards being happy is you just have to, I mean this is such a cliché, but you really have to enjoy every day along the way and so many people are like, well I’ll be happy when, if I get a sitcom or when this and there are comedians who are more successful than me who consider themselves failure. They’re like why haven’t I become famous yet and this, that and the other. I think the key is to be really, really happy with what you’re doing and, I mean to have a goal and work towards it but at the same time, you know, enjoy every day and take it for what it is and not be so caught up. I mean it’s important to be healthy, to work out, to eat right and all that stuff and keep your brain in shape.
As far as goals now, one of the things I want to do is I’d like to open my own club and I’ve identified, there’s two areas, one in New York, one in the D.C. area and there’s actually a celebrity that I can’t name but who is interested in opening a club with me and putting his name on it and I think that that’s kind of like my next goal. Of course, we always want to get as much TV exposure as we can. We want to get on a sitcom, maybe a reality show. I did do that Apple commercial which is fantastic. Want to do more of that stuff. I want to write some music. I’d love to become a touring musician one day and my friend was saying, “Hey, if you become a famous musician then one day you can open for yourself.” So for me it’s kind of having my fingers in many pies. I do a lot of radio voices on these crank calls on the radio stations once in awhile. I think it’s really important to I think enjoy every day but have a goal and so I say for right now I have a short term goal of getting a club, my own comedy club open, because I want to be the guy in charge of booking all the comedians.
JAMIE TARDY: Be on the other side of the table.
DAN NAINAN: Exactly.
JAMIE TARDY: Excellent. So for the last question that I have for you is what’s one action that you can give for a piece of advice for the eventual millionaires to take this week to really start them on the path to a million.
DAN NAINAN: I think that one thing would be to figure out how you can save money because again, it’s one thing to make money but you really I think start to amass wealth when you start to save and you see where you can save things. I have a friend who is a comedian and it is amazing. He has no money at all, lives hand to mouth, no health insurance and yet he bought his wife an engagement ring for $8,000.00 and they have no health insurance. It’s ridiculous. And they live in Manhattan a few blocks from me and Manhattan is very expensive. I’m like why don’t you live in Brooklyn or something until you amass some wealth and can buy your own place. Every time you see something like a DVD he wants or some motivation program like Tony Robbins that costs $300.00 he buys it right away like this impulse purchasing and books and movies and I’m like wait a minute, you can get this stuff from the library, it’s free. I’m a huge fan of the New York Public Library because I can go and I can pick any book and then I can say, “Okay, reserve that book for me” and then route it no matter where it is in the system it’ll be routed to the library which is a block from my house. And the library costs nothing and on top of it it’s also more ecologically sensitive and more green because you’re not printing another book, right?
And so I would say that the one thing that you can do or that someone can do now is just figure out how you can save money, don’t spend as much, don’t go to Best Buy or buy it yourself there, get it off of eBay because sometimes it’s a tenth of the cost of retail. Go to Craigslist. I use Craigslist and eBay a lot. You can save a tremendous amount of money because you have people who buy stuff and they don’t need it anymore and it’s way, way cheaper than buying retail and, again, the benefit is you’re buying something from someone so they’re not throwing it out. So that’s helping the environment a lot. I mean there’s like 20, 30 different ways you can save a lot of money and not consume a lot. So it’s like a win-win for everyone.
JAMIE TARDY: That’s really great advice not only for the environment but, you know, if you made a million dollars and spent a million and one you’re going to be broke. So anyone who wants to become a millionaire needs to heed that advice. Excellent.
DAN NAINAN: Yeah, and I think that one more thing, I remember when, you know, in LA, you walk down this row of townhouses and every single person has a barbeque grill on their patio like ten in a row and you only use them maybe, I don’t know, once every few weeks or so and it’s like why not get together and share that and share things like share video cameras because not everyone uses them every day. There’s a big movement now, especially because of the economy where people are actually learning to share these things and I think that’s also a great idea.
JAMIE TARDY: That is a really great idea. Geez, I didn’t even think of things like that. That’s a great idea. Excellent. So where can we find you online? Give us your website, tell them to go look up on You Tube, that sort of thing.
DAN NAINAN: Comediandan.com is my website. Comedian Dan one word .com and that leads to all my videos and my commercials and my schedule and everything.
JAMIE TARDY: Excellent. So I highly recommend everybody go watch You Tube. My husband was wondering why I had my headphones on and was laughing because I was watching the You Tube video of Dan.
DAN NAINAN: Ah, you’re the one!
JAMIE TARDY: Yeah, it was great. So I really appreciate you coming on. I’m actually going to put all the links in the show notes too so everybody can click on it and check you out.
DAN NAINAN: Great!
JAMIE TARDY: Thank you so much for coming today. I really appreciate it, Dan.
DAN NAINAN: Thank you so much. I really appreciate your time.
JAMIE TARDY: Take care.
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