Sebastian Maniscalco is the funniest, most successful, guy nobody has ever heard of. Last year, touring as a standup comedian, he made $15,000,000.
“I bet you if you go into any comedy club,” he told me, “nobody will know who I am.”
Next month he’s performing in Radio City Music Hall for 4 nights. He sold out all four shows within 30 minutes of the announcement.
I didn’t understand. How does this happen? Last time I was in Radio City Music Hall it was a lineup of Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, Arsenio Hall, and several other well known names. THEY sold out.
Does Sebastian have a huge social media following? I checked before the interview. Less Twitter followers than me. 200,000 Instagram followers but not the millions a Dave Chapelle has.
He didn’t have a TV show that everyone knew him from. Or any movies. Or a radio show. Or…a podcast!
I don’t know? And I wanted to find out. I want to find out every avenue there is for success. I’ve had on 300 guests who are the best in the world at what they do. Every single one of them have some similarities, but also major differences. I like to find out what makes the clock tick inside, so that if I ever want to have a similar clock driving me, I know how to use it.
So he told me.
A) DO IT.
He performed every chance he could get. Up to 5-6 times a night. This seems to be similar among everyone who does anything. Do it. Do it a lot.
B) FIND YOUR VOICE
“It took me about ten years to find my voice,” he said, “where I felt really comfortable on stage.”
C) 1% A DAY
I say “1% a day” because I think this is how it applies to other areas of success.
But basically he did incremental improvement.
“If I was in Akron and got 40 people to show then I wanted there to be 80 if I came back a year later.”
He stayed focused on that slow buildup. But still..how do you do it?
D) BE THERE FOR THE CUSTOMER
This is my mistake. Sometimes I give a talk and then I’m so drained I just leave. Sebastian does his performance and then he waits outside and shakes hands with every single person who came to the show.
He was there for them for the 20 years he was building up. Every single show. Be there. Touch the customer. Let them know you are happy.
“Some of these people will forget me,” he told me, “but next time I’m in town some of these people will tell three of their friends, ‘hey, this guy is good’ and then they’d all come out.”
E) GIVE THEM SOMETHING
When he was building up, he’d put a postcard on each seat reminding them of who he was, what his social media was, how to reach him, what his tour was, etc.
Sebastian’s story reminds me of the story of the origin of the game, chess.
A farmer invented chess and showed the king. The king loved it and said, “I will reward you with anything you ask.”
The farmer thought and said, “I want one grain of rice for the first square of the chessboard. Only two grains of rice for the second square. Four grains for the third square. 8 simple grains of rice for the fourth square. And so on for the 64 squares.
The king thought, “Is this guy an idiot? Eight pieces of rice for the fourth square. This is cheap!
By the 32nd square the king realized he was going to have to give up his entire kingdom. If you double every year, then in just a few years, a small following , a small income, a small dose of success, turns enormous. You can’t be stopped.
After ten years of traveling 50 weekends a year, Sebastian can’t be stopped.
His audience can’t get enough of him. He sells out every show. His book, “Stay Hungry”, describing his story, shows how 15 years of perseverance, of building up the old-fashioned way of touching customers, slow but steady, perfecting the craft, doubling every year, has now led to enormous sell-out-Radio-City-in-30-seconds-15-million-dollar success.
I watched his clips on YouTube. He’s funny. His book is great.
“Is it ever too late?” I asked him, for someone to have success?
“Just start now,” he said.
P.S. We were doing the interview at Wolfgang Puck’s restaurant in the Four Seasons.
Sebastian spent the first 7 years of his career working at the Four Seasons while he performed every night.
“Sometimes I’d make sure all my customers had water, I’d take their orders, and then I’d run out to the comedy club down the street, perform and come back.”
But because it wasn’t a studio, we had people walking around while we were doing the podcast. It was the middle of the day so the only people were his team and the people helping with the podcast.
At one point, some of the people were whispering a little too loudly.
Sebastian had been talking in his “normal” voice. Not the voice you hear when you watch his comedy. But he turned around and turned on his comedy voice (an almost exaggerated Italian accent) and said to everyone, “Hey, can you guys quiet down….we’re doing something over here.”
They all laughed and we got back to the interview.
I feel blessed to interview all of these amazing people.
Links and resources:
- Read Sebastian’s book “Stay Hungry“
- Listen to his podcast “The Pete and Sebastian Show” with Pete Correale
- Visit Sebastian’s website sebastianlive.com
- Find his tour dates here
- Follow Sebastian on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube
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