Comedian Mike Cannon will be releasing his new stand up special Life Begins on his own terms– Independently and 100% free. After Mike’s 2017 special I Think It Just Kicked In was released at number one on iTunes, he has been exploring new ways to present his material to comedy fans.
In an age where stand-up specials have started to oversaturate streaming and premium cable services; talent can often be overlooked if the performer is not considered a big name… or if their style doesn’t fulfill a quota for the platform. When a lesser known comedian has a chance to drop a special, there’s a risk of the performance getting lost in the mix. The current convention for releasing specials doesn’t always fill the demand for an audience seeking entertainment from a performer that they can identify with and begin to support.
The Independent gratis release has become a channel for comedians to explore. If a performer has something to offer… give it to your fans. The special can be shared freely and then lives on your terms, without being hidden under the metrics or analytics of a platform. The fans who accept the latest offering will spread the word through social media & make the performance more accessible. The special itself may not be particularly profitable, but the opportunity for a bigger following and to direct new fans to your body of work, your podcast & tour dates is undeniable.
Diving head first into the independent model, Mike Cannon’s latest standup special, Life Begins, will be available 100% free on YouTube and at MikeCannonComedy.com starting 1/24/2020. The new special was taped during two sold out shows at the opening of the New York Comedy Festival this year, and was captured for both an audio and video release. The audio only will be released on ITunes and other platforms as a full stand-up show, but the completed video portion will feature exclusive material presented in a “mockumentary” style. Life Begins will not only showcase Cannon’s new material, but includes wraparounds and interviews with fan favorite comedians that provide insight and commentary into some of Cannon’s “opportunities” in the stand-up business.
In keeping with the absurdist traditions of the stand-up comedy world, Mike tells us that one of the biggest breaks in his career came when Colin Quinn had a heart attack– and Cannon was asked to fill a spot at NYC’s legendary Comedy Cellar. Life Begins features cameos from superstars in the stand-up world addressing Cannon’s big break… and of course hilariously taunting him, “I had this idea for almost a mockumentary stand-up special… And some amazing people agreed to get involved… Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Bobby Kelly, Rich Vos and Keith Robinson, man… these guys are my heroes”.
Cannon’s arc is coming to an apex as a maturing comic. Having seen a preview of his new hour, it’s clear that Mike is coming to terms with being an adult and accepting that comedy is truly his career. Cannon is moving beyond some of his hilarious recreational drug stories and found material in evaluating his marriage and the birth of his new son. All the while, he does not eschew the naughty boy charm that has made him a favorite to fans. It is encouraging to see that Mike can carry the same impish style into more grown up matters– relatable to an audience that has been growing with him.
A few weeks before his taping at the New York Comedy Festival, I had a chance to see Mike’s new material at Uncle Vinnie’s comedy club in Point Pleasant, NJ. After the show, we spoke about his new special Life Begins, his Irish Goodbye Podcast on the GAS Digital Network and his take on life as a new father.
The Interrobang: Your new special Life Begins will be available for free on YouTube in late January, Judging by the set tonight are you all grown up now?
Mike Cannon: It’s all about new chapters and being a father, about being an adult. In the beginning, when you’re making enough to just get by, you figure you can just do comedy, and this will be your life. That’s OK if I’m only ruining my life, even when I was only taking my wife down with me, I was fine with that. Now with my son, there’s this brand new person that has done nothing to deserve my narcissism, and he’s in the mix. It’s funny because my wife has been my primary muse so far, my first hour recording was centered around her. For the new special, I had an hour written in about 18 months, and I’m actually grateful that new life came along– because it made it completely different then the first one. Initially, my new material was the same type of message… because I was the same type of dude. Then I got my wife pregnant, now we have a kid… I’m a different guy. You have to be open to the new stuff— and the material has not only leapt in quality, but it’s now a different topic of conversation. So I’m not beating people over the head with the same information as before… like 10-minute mushroom stories.
The Interrobang: Your last special I Think It Just Kicked In was done in 2017 and surprised a lot of people when it was released at number one on iTunes. Did the immediate success of your debut album help to open new doors?
Mike Cannon: It opened up a lot of opportunity for touring, especially in the last year. It’s funny that we’re talking here at Uncle Vinnie’s, because this is the first club that ever headlined me on the road before I released anything. They let me earn it the old-fashioned way, and I was doing well, and now I’m headlining full weeks. I feel like this was almost the impetus to record the first hour– so I had an example to prove I was able to headline on the road. Then I made the decision “Okay… now I am a road headliner…this is now what I do”. I wanted to establish this life because TV and all that shit can go away, if I’m doing this then I’m proving I am self-sufficient.
The Interrobang: It’s amazing that so many iconic conditions are coming together for the taping of your new special. You’re opening the NY Comedy Festival, You’re performing at the Village Underground, and you have some heavy hitters lined up for cameos once you drop the video version.
Mike Cannon: I’ve been obsessed with the Comedy Cellar for a long time, so the fact that I’ll be recording at the Village Underground…and filming it there… it’s blowing my mind a little. All these things I held so dear even before I did comedy are now a part of this project. I have Colin Quinn, Jim Norton, Bobby Kelly, Rich Vos and Keith Robinson helping out… these guys are my heroes. I looked up to all of them before I even dreamed of getting into comedy. I called in every favor I could. So it’s a big swing, and I’m throwing everything I got at it.
The Interrobang: Is that the approach… besides your stand-up it’s also going to be a mockumentary?
Mike Cannon: It’s tough to tip my hand without giving away the entire storyline. But those guys will be doing what they do best… which is talk very negatively about me. I’m so incredibly grateful that they gave me the time of day, let alone agree to be filmed for this thing. The majority of the special will be stand up, the wrap arounds and cameos are so funny and I’m really excited for people to see it. The completed video version is something that I think people are going to enjoy. There have been a ton of projects that involved The Comedy Cellar… and I feel this is a bit different, and it certainly speaks to me personally. Since it’s all from my vantage point, it’s not anything vague or general.
The Interrobang: In an age of streaming & cable comedy specials, is it tough to get something independent like this together?
Mike Cannon: I wouldn’t say that I don’t want big distribution or big backing, because any company that has a lot of money and shows interest in purchasing my work …of course I would want that!
It’s one of those things that happen in this business. I wasn’t hearing from the people I was hoping to hear from on the industry side… so I decided I’m going to do it myself. I’m watching self-starting people like Louis J. Gomez with GAS Digital and younger guys like Andrew Schulz. Everyone is talking about Schulz and what he’s doing with the internet. If you’re a comedian and not going to follow his model, that’s fine… But it should at least motivate people to just create… just go do it. You can wait for your career to start, or you can wait for people to tap you on the shoulder and tell you it’s time to go— and that you’re a real boy now– Or you can just self-validate, and do your own project. That’s what I took from Andrew, he’s an inspiring guy.
The Interrobang: Does the independence of starting a project on your own make other comedians more apt to participate, since it belongs to you?
Mike Cannon: If this experience taught me anything it’s that comedians want to take part in things. They definitely want to help out people that they are friendly with. If you ask, the worst that can happen is that they will say no. It just doesn’t make sense to me to stay stagnant with all the resources we have in each other. Strangely, that’s what I was taught to do early in comedy– that you wait until somebody can give you a half hour, or they can give you something… but it doesn’t have to happen like that.
The Interrobang: You and your co-host Mike Feeney have started to gain a lot of traction with the Irish Goodbye Podcast. In a market that is almost oversaturated, you guys seem to have found your niche on the GAS Digital Network.
Mike Cannon: We initially recorded sort of a pilot, which sounds hilarious to say with an effing podcast. Like we’re doing a pilot episode to see whether or not they pick us up, but they really liked it. We are very open about the fact that it’s basically our version of Tuesdays with Stories (Hosted by Mark Normand and Joe List). Mike (Feeney) and I at the time didn’t have much of a following, and they let us do our own thing to see how the show progressed. Louis J. Gomez always invited me on his Real Ass Podcast, so he was giving us an outlet to his fans. In turn they would hopefully discover our show. We were super committed, and garnered some attention and a following. After like six months we were featured on GAS Digital, and it’s been great ever since. We saw that studio when it was a linoleum floor in a hell hole… and now it’s beautiful.
I said this at the first Skankfest and I believe it wholly, “Despite everybody’s best efforts, Louis J. Gomez is going to be very important to New York City comedy”. He is going to go down as one of the biggest influencers, because he is establishing outlets for people, and he is giving comedians genuine exposure to really good Comedy fans.
I also love working with Feeney… that spindly piece of shit. We immediately started working together once we met. He’s got no problem asking anybody if they want to do something… he was like “Hey you want to write a pilot”, so we wrote a pilot. We pitched it and it didn’t go, but who gives a fuck. He was like “You want to do a podcast”, and I’m like “yeah… all right… let’s do a podcast”. Two years and a hundred and fifty episodes later, and we’re still doing it for fun. There’s no drama.
The Interrobang: In the comedy podcast community fans are often shared. You may hear a comedian as a guest on one show, and that leads you to discover the work they’re doing on their own podcast.
Mike Cannon: You pretty much can’t do your own podcast without going on other shows, or having a presence in some other medium. If you start a podcast and no one knows who the F you are, and you’re not on a network… how are you supposed to be found– It’s really, really difficult.
I also benefited from Sam Roberts getting me into that world. I’ve done Jim and Sam on SiriusXM a lot, and fans have found the podcast from that. But mostly GAS Digital and all the shows that I guest on, like Legion of Skanks. All their listeners helped to elevate us to get some momentum to a point where it doesn’t feel like you’re just spinning your wheels.
Even outside of our world, we became fast friends with the Girls Gotta Eat podcast (Rayna Greenberg & Ashley Hesseltine)– They’re super funny and wildly popular. They’re not on our network, but are touring the country and selling out theaters. When we met them they had no pretense, they didn’t care if we had followings or anything like that. They invited us on their show and exposed us to hundreds of thousands of… mostly white women in their early twenties. They’re great and gave us a huge bump.
The Interrobang: What are your hopes for the release of the new special?
Mike Cannon: The new special Life Begins is all about new chapters, being a father… being an adult.
Now is the time to hit the next level, which is why it’s perfect timing for the special. My last recording was surprisingly successful for my reach, which I am realistic about. It debut as number one on iTunes & made it to billboard, and has 4 million plays on Pandora, which is fantastic. I did something there, but if I continue to do the same stuff, if I’m putting out albums and nothing is changing, then what am I hoping for?
I think people are going to really like the concept I came up with, about how I got involved at the Comedy Cellar. It’s a bit more tongue in cheek than other specials that are coming out– especially since it highlights the reality that only a handful of people are living the high life of “cool comedy”. Since comedy is kind of brutal, I want to showcase that… and be funny as well.
Mike Cannon’s independent stand-up comedy special, Life Begins will be available January 24th for free on YouTube at YouTube.com/MikeCannonComedy and www.mikecannoncomedy.com. The Irish Goodbye Podcast can be found weekly on the Gas Digital network. Mike is on Twitter and Instagram @IamMikeCannon. Special thanks to Uncle Vinnie’s comedy club and Courtney & Kevin for their hospitality in Point Pleasant.