By Jason Tanamor
If you’re ever looking for advice in the financial market, ask Bob Presman. If you’re ever looking for a laugh, you can also ask Bob Presman. That’s because, Presman is both. The Financial Advisor/comedian is apparently a right and left brain individual who would love to give people advice, whether it be wrapped up in an IRA or wrapped up in a joke.
Zoiks! Online recently spoke to the comedian about his Clark Kent life as Financial Planner versus his Superhero life as comedian.
Q – OK, let me get this straight. You’re a Financial Advisor who decided to do stand-up? That doesn’t seem like good financial advice. Please explain.
A - My career as a financial advisor and my avocation doing stand-up comedy are completely separate. Actually my success as a financial advisor has enabled me to devote more time to doing stand-up.
Q – I used to do stand-up, but I also have a BA in Accounting and worked as an accountant for a while. Now I do this. But I’ve always believed that making people laugh is the best feeling ever. Being in the finance world you don’t often get a chance to riff with clients like you do as a comedian. Is there a deep down personality of Bob Presman that lived inside you as a child that forced you to go into comedy like there was for me?
A - I also believe that making people laugh is the best feeling ever. I can remember in grade school making up fictitious characters and stories to amuse my classmates. I became a financial advisor in 1992, but before that, I was in radio as a news director and doing play-by-play sports at a station in Rockford, Illinois. Completely by accident, I also ended doing a bit on radio called “Stump Mr. Baseball.” I'm a baseball and sports trivia buff, and listeners would call in to try to stump me with a baseball question. It became a daily comedy bit. Mr. Baseball had his own identity on the air, separate from Bob Presman, News Director. He lived in the nearby town of Chemung and had his own cast of characters. The bit proved to be very popular and even though I haven't done it for more than twenty years, some people in Rockford still refer to me as Mr. Baseball. During this time I was also invited to emcee different events, do roasts of local celebrities and perform for different functions as Mr. Baseball. This seemed to go over very well and I even had some people say I should try stand-up comedy. So yes, there definitely has been that comedic personality that wanted to get out, and now I have that opportunity.
Q – Does your material consist of your day job? What types of things do you talk about in your act?
A - As I mentioned previously, my life as a financial advisor is completely separate from my doing stand-up. It would not be a good idea to mix the two, although some might say the financial industry has been a real joke the past couple of years. My material is from everyday experiences, about life and love and has a theme of the differences between men and women. Pretty much, if the premise is funny to me, I write a bit about it and then try it out at open mikes first, and then may refine or edit it before adding to my full act.
Q – How do you separate your life from a Financial Planner when you’re on stage doing stand-up?
A - I haven't had any problem with people separating my two careers. When you see me at the office, you would never know that I also do stand-up and vice versa.
Q - The two (Finance and Stand-up) are very different in terms of seriousness, especially with the economy the way it is. I mean, do you find people NOT wanting to do business with you because having their money in the hands of a comedian doesn’t seem like a good thing to do? That’s like saying, “Hey Louie Anderson, what’s a good mutual fund?”
A - I think most people realize that everyone has another life away from their job or profession. But I agree, I don't think I'd want to ask Louie Anderson about mutual funds. That would be like electing Al Franken to the United States Senate and asking him to reform health care.
Q - Do you ever get that a-hole in the crowd yelling, “Tell me about the one involving the Series 7 license”? What’s the worst heckler experience you’ve come across?
A - So far, I haven't had any major problems with hecklers. Just a word or two that I've been able to ignore or dismiss with a quick line. Although, I do practice comebacks for these types of situations - because as you know, IT WILL HAPPEN.
Q – Even though the two professions are antitheses of each other, one can argue that with both, you’re “selling” yourself to the audience, whether it is with financial advice or jokes. What do you think about this? And are there similar methods you use in both jobs?
A - That's a good point about selling yourself to the audience. When you're a financial advisor, the most important thing is for your clients to like and trust you. The same things apply to stand-up. A friend of mine who's been doing stand-up for twenty-seven years told me the audience has to like you, referring to your like-ability quotient. If the audience doesn't like you, it makes it much more difficult for your material and delivery to carry the day.
Q – You started doing stand-up when you’ve had a deluge of work experience under your belt. What advice would you give to someone thinking about making a drastic career change like you did?
A - I feel career changes are not only good but absolutely necessary with most people. I already made one drastic change when I went from radio news and sports to becoming a financial advisor. I believe we all need new challenges, otherwise life can become pretty boring. The most important thing is to be doing something you like. Think outside the box and don't discount attempting anything, as long as it's something you want to do. It will be scary. I'm both excited and terrified about doing stand-up. Both of those emotions are what make life worth living. You have to challenge yourself.
Q – How much traveling can you do knowing that you still have a day job to do to? How much time do you dedicate to stand-up versus Financial Planning?
A - So far I haven't had to do much traveling for my stand-up, but I'm fortunate that my schedule is very flexible. I'm part of a team of financial advisors, so there's always someone who can cover for me. Right now, more of my time is spent as a financial advisor but that will gradually change.
Q – Do you want to end your career as a comedian or a Financial Planner? What is your ultimate goal with your life?
A - As my career as a financial advisor winds down over the next few years, I hope my career as a stand-up comic will grow. At some point, I would expect only to be doing stand-up. My ultimate goal as a stand-up comic is to play the Improv at Harrah’s in Las Vegas. If it becomes more than that, so be it.
Q – Anything you wanted to promote, like a website or a tour?
A - There's no tour scheduled right now. But if that changes, I'll let you know. As far as a website, I’m still trying to figure out all those crazy things out there - Facebook, MySpace, etc. In fact, I have a bit in my act all about that topic!
Jason Tanamor is the Editor of Zoiks! Online. He is also the author of the novels, "Hello Lesbian!" and "Anonymous." Email Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Jason Tanamor