Can the Internet be used for good to kick-start a comedy project? Mindy Raf and Kickstarter hope so

If I had a nickel for every time I thought about my own financial plight, then I'd have enough nickels to not be in a financial plight. But enough about me. What about you and your comedy dreams? How can you make them come true in this digital age without begging, whether it be on a subway platform, a public radio/TV pledge drive or a blog? A new site called Kickstarter aims to help all sorts of artists — comedians, among them — get their projects off the ground, and also puts the pressure on them with a deadline to make it happen, or not.

It's new, so not everyone can sign up just yet with their own ideas. Take a look at Kickstarter's comedy projects, which show that folks such as Jesse Thorn and Steve Cooper already have met their financial benchmarks successfully. Now it's Mindy Raf's turn. She has less than a week left in her campaign to make and press her own vinyl comedy record for her feminist chick-rocker alter-ego, Leibya Rogers. On her Kickstarter page, you donate money, and if you donate certain amounts, you get a prize of your own. Watch her video pitch here:

I sat down and she sat down at our respective computers to chat a little more about how Kickstarter may be able to help a comedian out.

So, tell me about how you got involved with Kickstarter? Yes, Kickstarter is currently by invite only. I lucky enough to receive an invite from my boyfriend who was invited early on.

How is the pledge drive going so far? You have one week left, right? Yes, I have just under a week left. I put the project up end of October so gave myself about three months. I think it’s going well. As of today I’m close to 90% funded! It hasn't been all up, up, up though. There have been lulls as to be expected, but overall I'm really thrilled with how it's moved along. Not just with the amount I'm at, but with the number of backers I have, and how enthusiastic they are about the project. That's been so encouraging and has made it really fun.

How does this compare to other ways you've tried getting financial support for your comedy and music? I've sold homemade EPs at shows before, but getting some paid work from performing or landing writing jobs is mostly how I’ve gotten financial support for doing comedy thus far. So this is the first time I’m directly asking my audience to fund the creative process.
The thing I love about Kickstarter is that you not only have to reach out to your potential patrons, but have to get them involved in the project as well. It was a little scary at the start for me, because I’m basically asking people to pre-order a product I have yet to fully create. But I think that’s part of the point, so that you can test out concepts/conditionally sell stuff. Involve people in the creative process right from the start.

Is it easier to convince people to help this way? Yes, I think it’s easier to get people this way because you’re getting them involved. You’re rewarding them with more than they’d get if they were just buying a product. You’re also updating them on the status of the fundraiser and later on (hopefully) the status of creating the product. I also think it’s more fun for the project creators this way too. Plus, it ups the stakes for the creators, and makes it more interesting for the patrons, to know that if the goal's not reached by the deadline, the project doesn't get funded. I think that 'all or nothing' aspect introduces motility to what could potentially be a pretty static thing: asking people to give you money.

Do you find yourself needing to email daily or weekly reminders to friends, family and strangers? Yes, I‚Äôve sent out a fair amount of e-mails about the project, not daily though. Though every day I try to do one or two things to remind people: facebook, twitter, new video etc. Regardless of how popular the site is, Kickstarter doesn‚Äôt do the work for you. It‚Äôs your job to make sure people know what you‚Äôre doing and get updated on the project. It‚Äôs obviously really great if strangers find your project on the site and decide to back, but I think most project creators do a lot of their work reaching out to their already established communities. At first I was reticent about sending too many e-mails or updates, but then I‚Äôd get messages from people saying, ‚Äúoh I got your e-mail a week ago and totally forgot about it, so glad you sent another‚Äù or "oh, just saw you twitter post–totally meant to pledge last week, thanks!" and then they‚Äôd make a pledge.

And is this something you'd recommend for other comedians who aren't already attached to a record label, or comedians looking for support for other causes? Or is still too early for you to judge that? Yes, based on my experience so far I would definitely recommend. I think for comedy especially because there are so many of us in comedy who operate mainly on a DIY basis, and we’re so often testing out new ideas and trying to figure what works and what will bring the audience totally onboard. Kickstarter lets you test the waters, and gives you a good excuse to take that idea you have scribbled on a post it somewhere and really flesh it out. Yes, it's a lot of work maintaining a project and getting people involved, but it's worth it if you can get people to back, and receive funding, and are able to make something happen. Of course, I’m not fully funded yet. But talk to me after it’s all over—maybe after the live recording show? or when the vinyl record comes out? (Hopefully!!)

Raf recently uploaded a new holiday medley. Take us out, Leibya!

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →

One thought on “Can the Internet be used for good to kick-start a comedy project? Mindy Raf and Kickstarter hope so

  1. I love this site! Even if the projects don’t raise enough money, being on Kickstarter is great marketing.
    I heard about something similar a few years ago where this novelist Tao Lin sold shares in his novel before it was even written.
    The internet is making people more resourceful than ever. And if I can support a comedian whose work I enjoy for a few bucks, then I’m all for it.

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