by Allyson Bills
“Social Savvy” is the column where we interview creatives in our community to talk about the impact and challenges of navigating through this crazy world of social media, as well as how social media has affected promoting their craft.
“Where’s all the dudes?” is the question that you find in the “About” section on The Bro Show’s Facebook page.
On a surface level, one thinks it would be ridiculous to ask such an obvious question. However, if you are familiar with Phoenix’s comedy scene, those “dudes” you see having a ball onstage are comedians Courtney Walhstrom (C-Dog) and Dana Whissen (Angus), creators/producers of The Bro Show, an all-women stand-up/sketch comedy show as a vehicle to expand their comedic writing as well as poke fun at male stereotypes.
The Brow Show had their first show in 2017 at the now-defunct comedy club, Comedy Off Main in Mesa, before moving to The Sic Sense and Valley Bar, where they began their meteoric rise into the upper echelon of comedic notoriety in Phoenix, selling out shows left-and-right. They also garnered a spot at The Big Pine Comedy Festival in 2018. The Bro Show gives women (“Guest Bros”) in comedy both a voice and the opportunity to create a character specifically for the show, while having the opportunity to participate in fun activities, such as The Bro Olympics (beer pong, anyone?).
All-in-all, according to The Bro Show’s Facebook bio, “men need a safe space in the comedy world, and that’s what we’re here to offer.” This showcases the tongue-in-cheek nature of the show all while having a blast.
Both Wahlstrom and Whissen have also been prolific in expanding The Bro Show brand into the musical realm. In 2018, they released their first single, a rap song called “Netflix Special” on SoundCloud. They also offered Phoenix’s answer to Coachella, “Brochella,” which occurred in May and featured rising stars of the local music scene such as Critical Miss, Sex Lasagna, and Shannon Ramsey. With this notoriety, The Bro Show is getting their first major break and taking their talents to Stand-Up Live on July 11, which will give them an opportunity to reach a wider audience of people who love sketch comedy and dark jokes.
In the midst of the preparation for The Bro Show’s July 11 debut at Stand-Up Live, both Walhstrom and Whissen took a break to sit down with me on a Sunday afternoon at Walhstrom’s Tempe apartment to dish about why Facebook is a necessary evil in social media promotion, the misconceptions about The Bro Show, and advice to be mindful of how to promote on different social media platforms.
Allyson: How did you both get your start in comedy and promoting on social media? Which platforms did you both start using?
Dana: I started using Facebook, writing just one-liners back before I was even doing stand-up. I started getting some attention that way from local people with all of consistent stuff [posts] and the videos. Then once I started doing stand-up, I began using Instagram and Vine. Vine was the best and it’s not there anymore! You can’t even find your archived Vine videos [anymore], but that was the best.
Courtney: I started stand-up through a friend-of-a-friend and attended local sketch company shows. Then one of the people that were in the troupe also started stand-up, and I was literally one of those people like, “Oh, my God, you’re so funny. You should try to stand-up.” My [Facebook] memories came up, two years [ago], I posted inviting people to come out with me at an open mic: ‘I think I’m gonna do Catalina’s tonight, it starts at eight.’ For social media promotion and shows, I use mostly Facebook and Instagram. That’s where I have the most people [followers]. I think [part of] marketing is just being annoying or including something people enjoy in an advertisement.
What mistakes have you guys made on social media? And what did you learn from these mistakes?
Dana: I used to be angry online or talk about jizz. Then I started noticing that guys liked my posts, and I was, ‘Ooh, they like me, oh my God.’ I just didn’t like a lot of the things I was saying, and I had to hide my mom from all my posts, which I didn’t like because she’s active on Facebook. I regret doing that and saying too many personal things online. Even though I’m open about my mental health, I regret saying all the things I said about my mental health online when I was younger. Now I don’t really like voicing my opinion online at all, if I can’t help it because you never know when people take it wrong or take screenshots because I take screenshots of everything.
Courtney: I was 12 when I had MySpace and I was 12 [or] 13 when I made a Twitter. All the dumb, social media mistakes I’ve made were in my formative years, so now I’m pretty much content with everything I post. I tend to be a little edgier online still than most [people], but I keep getting banned from Facebook saying “men are trash.”
I think social media is a learning process, but I think people don’t understand if a tweet posted, and it gets two “likes,” that doesn’t mean that forty people didn’t see it. So I think I’m just mindful of who’s actually seeing the post, even though a lot of people don’t interact with you. Any social media post most of the time, I try to pretend that everyone in my friends [list] is going to read it. Also, I’ve learned to share and elevate other people’s platforms.
What are some things that you guys have differently with promoting The Bro Show on social media than with your individual comedy endeavors?
Dana: I guess it’s like promoting a business, and that’s something we’re learning. Also, we cuss a lot and some of our content might not be approved by Facebook. We tried promoting a video on Instagram, but they denied it because there was cussing, but we still got a lot of views. I think we got some engagement on that post. But that’s [the cussing] part of The Bro Show: that’s how we are. We’re bros. We want to show that content online.
Courtney: Yes, we want people to have some idea of what they’re walking into, but it’s hard. But then, on the other hand, Facebook and Instagram have totally cornered the market. With the Facebook page, you just pay money for them to show your a post to the people would have “liked” your page.
I think you have to post a lot – people forget things.
Dana: Yeah, you have to remind them. Remind them of stuff you’ve done, remind them who you are, show them, etc. You have to post things so people know what happened at the last show, like, “oh, that looks cool, I want to see the next one.”
Courtney: And promoting an entire production versus just yourself. If I want someone to come see me do stand-up from, ‘hey, I’m on the show, I’m doing eight minutes’ versus ‘come sit through this 90-minute long entire thing with other opinions and voices’. It’s a different type of responsibility because when you’re just a regular stand-up, all I have to be responsible for is what I say.
Dana: We’re not just selling ourselves, we’re selling a show at a club.
What are your guys’ favorite platforms to promote The Bro Show on social media?
Courtney: I also like Instagram, but I use Facebook more because Dana does our Instagram. I just really like Instagram stories because I think I get the most interaction. When I post a story, and I go back, it gets a 100-something views. But on the other hand, I’ll just click through people stories. So for my own stuff, I like Instagram.
Dana: For Facebook, I like it more for just conversations or seeing what people have to say. I [also] get a lot of views and responses to my Facebook stories. I’ll just post one video a day on Facebook story because if I post more [than one video] the number will go down from 50 views on the first one to 20 on the second one. Posting a video in my regular feed usually doesn’t get a “like” or a comment. So what I’ve been doing lately is with a few of The Bro Show videos it’s just of me. I’ll post something that says, ‘Oh, hey, I have something important to say,’ I’ll get a few people to comment and “like” it, then I’ll go back and edit, and then I’ll put the video there and I’ll say,”Bro Show,” etc. More people will see it that way.
Overall, that’s why I like Instagram better for videos because you can control without money and who goes to your page with hashtags and locations.
How do you guys work to overcome the algorithm?
Dana: Still working on it.
Courtney: Dana is really good with Instagram and all the hashtags. If I’m tagging someone, I’ll tag them multiple times.
Dana: In the caption; that’s just another way to tag, too.
Courtney: I’ll always try to say something witty. I don’t like to blanket-share posts. We still don’t really understand the algorithm. We know there’s certain types of times of day that work better when you post. When we released our single, I copied the link and sent it to 200 people personally.
When we were first starting out, I used Facebook a lot to message people [about The Bro Show] or directly send them Facebook event instead of just an invite.
Dana: I’ve been doing that a lot on Instagram, messaging more people about shows or directly sending a few people of our videos – people I’m not worried about getting annoyed with my stuff. I haven’t been doing as much engagement on The Bro Show as I’d like to because it’s hard getting comments and getting people to start that conversation.
Courtney is really good at the Facebook page.
Courtney: Yeah, I think we got we got a ton of engagement from The Brochella daily posts. One of our posts reached 1,700 people. [Facebook’s] not set up for small, independent creators to do anything.
Do you guys find paid advertising effective for The Bro Show?
Courtney: I don’t think so. I don’t know if anyone has ever watched a [The Bro Show’s paid advertisement] video and cared. If I see an interesting post and then I see it’s an ad, I’ll purposely scroll away from it. Twenty dollars here-and-there isn’t going to get people to come to your show.
What are your guys’ least favorite social media platforms to promote The Bro Show? And why?
Dana: Twitter because I’m not on Twitter [much]. I just haven’t figured it out and I don’t want to figure it out. I know how to use the hashtags on Instagram now, but then on Twitter, it’s just completely different. And it’s never worked for me.
Courtney: Honestly, Facebook is my least favorite. I use it the most, but I don’t like it. After the first or second The Bro Show, I made the Facebook page. But I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to [for comedy purposes].
I think it should be easier for you to see the posts [on Facebook] that you “like” and the pages that you subscribe. They make it super hard. They want people to use their promotion things [tools]. But there’s pages that I “liked” two-years-ago that I never see anymore, and then I’ll search [the page] and I’ll see a post-per-day for the last few years. We have, I think, 450 “likes” on Facebook. If I just make a regular post, and I don’t do anything else with it, it will say “40 people reached.” I get that you can’t “like” 100 different things and see everything in your newsfeed, but it’s definitely catered towards people that are willing to pay for advertising.
What are your experiences as a woman promoting on social media in the male-dominated industry of comedy?
Courtney: I think we are always expected to be speaking for all women at all times anytime we say anything. Anything The Bro Show does is [perceived] either as uplifting or oppressing women. I think that’s been hard because, I guess, we’re considered a political show even though we don’t do insanely any political stuff on the show. It’s a little more geared towards fun, but I think we’re (perceived) as either “too feminist” or “not feminist” enough.
Or dudes are like, “oh, we just hate men.” It’s hard being expected to hold this standard of “we’re perfect feminists, and we’ve never done anything wrong, don’t cancel us.” My middle school, high school best friend–she also bullied me–came out to one of The Bro Shows and said “we weren’t inclusive enough” because we didn’t “touch on feminism enough” in the show. That show specifically, at least if not more than half of the lineup were women of color and we dabbled a couple queers in there. I’m queer, so I get a pass.
Being taken seriously has been hard, too: not from people that have seen the show, but from people that only know about it online.
Dana: There was a comedian, before he went to the show, he was, “I don’t want to see that show. It sounds dumb.” But he gave it a chance and he wins. And he ended up loving and appreciating it. It’s fun having a woman-focused show, especially when a lot of the local shows are run by dudes.
Courtney: I think, because there aren’t a lot of women that do comedy or get booked to comedy, we have the ability to not only give other women a voice, but make it fucking good. I see so many dudes say, “uuhh, there’s not that many women (who do comedy). Women just aren’t out there.” We’re always overbooked. Albeit we don’t do the show weekly or now monthly, but even when we were doing it monthly, we had no problem booking people.
Dana: This is entertainment. Here-and-there, we might sprinkle a little feminism or a little political stuff, but it’s also a chance for women to play hilarious characters and show people a different type of comedy.
Courtney: Women are allowed to have fun and be good at something without being fucking revolutionary. Our show is attractive to a wide audience because it’s not all just political and making people uncomfortable.
Dana: It’s hilarious when C-Dog and Angus do “coke” or when we rap together. In the Bro Show, we do raps and a lot of improvised stuff. That’s one of the best parts of the show, how silly it gets and how much talent all the guest “Bros” have and all the crazy shit they come up with. I get why people might go into the show thinking, “oh yeah, this is going to stand for something. They’re gonna burn bushes onstage.”
Courtney: Because we’re women in comedy producing an all-women show, we’re still very political at the base of it. I think the main message is that we don’t have to give a Ted Talk at every show for our opinions to be valid and for our show to be good. It’s a huge creative writing exercise because all the comics are creating characters for our show. It’s just showcasing that women can be good at shit.
Do you guys have any funny social media troll stories?
Courtney: This dude comments on everything I post. He just says weird, inappropriate things all the time. He came to The Bro Show, and he sent this long message about how he was going to “help” me, or the show is trash.
The first show where I made money off the ticket sales, I swiped right with everyone on Tinder and just sent the same message: “go to this ticket like to come see my show.”
What have been the most rewarding experiences promoting The Bro Show on social media?
Courtney: Limp Bizkit commented on one of our posts.
I used to post about The Bro Show Dream Lineup Twitter, and I said Beth Stelling, Maria Bamford and Tiffany Haddish…then all of them “favorited” the Tweet.
Dana: It’s just cool seeing people “like,” it knowing that they weren’t at the show or seeing people “like” our stuff who’ve been to a bunch of out shows. That just always makes me happy seeing people who have been supporting us for a long time, still supporting us online.
Courtney: A group of our audience have been to at least five or more shows.
Dana: A few people drove down to Tucson for our show.
What advice do you other creatives on how to promote on social media?
Courtney: What’s worked best for me so far is don’t be afraid to be annoying, but be the right kind of annoying. I’ll send someone a message, and if they don’t respond, I won’t keep sending them promotional stuff. Be genuine because people empathize and relate and feel more connected if someone feels like they are being honest in what they are doing, which I think we have always done. Regardless how ridiculous we are, we’re still very forward people with everything.
Dana: Figure out your hashtags because I’m still learning. You can use up to 30 (hashtags) in your post. I’ve noticed a lot of local shows that are just starting out not using any local hashtags, which kind of it defeats the purpose of posting that show (locally).
Courtney: For the love of God, stop using Comic Sans.
Dana: For Facebook, they’re different-sized flyers for Facebook (posts) and Facebook stories. Then Instagram is a square. So it’s hard to make a flyer for Facebook, that’s a vertical one, and try to put it on Instagram. (The result is that) you’re not going to necessarily see everything. So a lot of comics’ flyers are cut off. You get the gist of what’s going on, but it doesn’t look right. That bugs me. Just make better flyers.
Make sure to catch The Bro Show at Stand Up Live on Thursday, July 11 at 8 PM. More info and tickets can be purchased through Stand Up Live’s website. You can find The Bro Show on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; Courtney Walhstrom on Instagram; and Dana Whissen on Instagram and Twitter.