The travails of pimping yourself |

The travails of pimping yourself

Barry Smith

I love self-promotion. I really do. No shame whatsoever. Over the past 10 years I have had countless opportunities to self-promote some event or another, and I’ve come to believe that handbills are the ultimate self-promotional tool. I call them “handbills” because I think the word is so cool, but they are basically a quarter of a piece of standard paper with all of my event info printed on it. A little bigger than a business card, not quite as cumbersome as a flyer. A postcard, basically. Perfect.Though pimping yourself can be very rewarding, it can also have its challenging moments. It is not an activity for the weak or easily discouraged.For you see, when you hand someone your handbill, they are likely to accidentally make some sort of comment that will sound to you like they are actually considering coming to your little shindig. I say “accidentally” because, well, it’s an accident – they don’t mean to commit, or even partially commit, but something just blurts out that could be construed as such. The few quick-thinking ones will tell you right away – often before you have even told them what you are inviting them to, and when – that they have a wedding to go to. Then they don’t show up, and you wonder where you’ve failed. Believe it or not, I do realize that the act of my handing you a handbill does not constitute any type of legal obligation on your part. I mean, I certainly don’t attend every event to which I am invited, no matter how clever the promotional device. But after years of handbilling, I have learned the language of the handbilled, and now I’d like to pass that wisdom on to you, lest you ever find yourself in a promotional situation and make the mistake of thinking “I’ll be there” means “I’ll be there.”Here are some of the responses you, the self-promoter, are likely to hear, along with their real world translation:RESPONSE: I’ll be there.TRANSLATION: I will be anywhere, and I do mean ANYWHERE, besides there.RESPONSE: I might be there.TRANSLATION: I might do a lot of things … it’s a chaotic, free-will universe, after all. But I definitely will not be there.RESPONSE: Oh, cool. I’ll try to make it.TRANSLATION: Yeah … if I accidentally stumble upon it thinking I’m somewhere else, and even then I’ll probably leave quickly.RESPONSE: Let me check my calendar.TRANSLATION: Let me shove this paper in my pocket, forget about it, run it through the wash until it becomes a little colored wad of promotional pulp, and then curse the mess it made in my pants.RESPONSE: I’ll see if I can stop by.TRANSLATION: Thanks for the litter. I’m not a cruel person at heart, so I’ll wait until you have moved on before I crumple it up and hurl it to the sidewalk in disgust.RESPONSE: Sounds fun.TRANSLATION: Why, oh why, did I ever make eye contact with you?RESPONSE: Thank you.TRANSLATION: Help! Police!RESPONSE: Oh, yeah. Great.TRANSLATION: I realize you think you are the center of the universe, so it may come as a surprise that talking to you for these past two minutes have been the lowest point of my day, and if you think I’ll actually pay money to spend more time watching you on some stage doing whatever the hell this thing you do is, then you should probably lay off the paint chip smoothies.RESPONSE: I can’t make the first date, but I’m aiming for the second one.TRANSLATION: I’m going to forget this conversation before you have even walked out of the door, and when I see you next, assuming I can’t duck out of the way before you see me, I’ll tell you that I totally forgot that I had to go to a wedding. No, that I had to BE in a wedding. And thanks for the reminder that I should keep my office door locked……My one-man show, “Jesus In Montana: Adventures In A Doomsday Cult,” plays this Friday at the Blue Acacia in Glenwood (7:30), Saturday at Steve’s Guitars in Carbondale (8:00) and Sunday at Theatre Aspen (formerly Aspen Theatre In The Park) at 7:30, then goes on to a five-show run at the New York International Fringe Festival. I have made (no kidding) 5,000 handbills for the occasion.Barry Smith’s column runs in The Aspen Times on Mondays. His e-mail address is, and his very own Web page is at

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