Actor/Comedian Damon Wayans Jr and Special Guest App Co-founder Kristopher Jones
Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive! Podcast Episode 016
Actor/Comedian Damon Wayans Jr. and his business partner Kristopher Jones at Collision conference. Their Special Guest App will interest all performing artists.
Damon Wayans Jr & Kris Jones Podcast Episode Show Notes:
Hello and welcome to episode #016 of Sing! Dance! Act! Thrive!
I recently attended Collision, North America’s fastest growing tech conference now making Toronto home for the next few years. As media, I had the opportunity to be a part of some press conferences and Q&A’s featuring talent such as mega-producer Timbaland, global superstar Akon, Christopher Leacock aka Jillionaire from Major Lazer, and actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who will all be on upcoming episodes.
They are all involved in various tech companies that you will hear about, but I decided to begin with actor-comedian Damon Wayans Jr. and his business partner Kristopher Jones because their Special Guest App will interest all you performing artists.
Damon is known for acting roles in shows Happy Endings, New Girl and various movies and as part of the legendary comedy family the Wayans.
Damon was saying that he was frustrated seeing a lot of his performer friends struggling to make a living because the traditional talent booking process is so difficult. He wanted to provide a platform that made it easier for talented people who were underrepresented to find work.
Special Guest is 100% FREE for Talent. You get 100% of your booking rate. They are the world’s largest talent buyer and get paid by bars, restaurants, clubs, private parties, corporations, and other event planners to book talent.
As this was a public Q&A I wasn’t the one asking the questions, however, I will pop in a few times to explain what the question was that was asked. I didn’t want to use anyone’s name or voice without permission so I cut them out except for Sharon Fletcher from Blacks Inspire and Melissa Rolston from Breaking the Stigma who both received great feedback from Damon, Kris and the audience for their hustle.
Damon Wayans Jr & Kristopher Jones Q&A from Collision Conference
When it comes to making movies, what are the challenges that frustrate you the most that the general public may not be aware of?
Damon Wayans Jr 2:55
We wait around a lot, you know, so I’ll get called at like 11 o’clock in the morning. And then I won’t actually shoot anything until seven o’clock at night. So I’m just hanging out in my trailer, taking naps, passing out, eating food that makes me fat. And yeah, that’s pretty much it, that’s a cool thing. Also, they have this thing, ever seen in movies where they like kick each other in the balls? Sorry, they have this strap thing that they put on your feet inside your pants so that they can’t actually get you in the giblets. Bet that you didn’t know that. It’s the secret sauce, guys.
Kris Jones 3:36
I wish I had a funny next joke. But no, I actually had an experience with Damon on TV, we were on the first and only season of Apple’s Planet of the Apps. And I had never been on TV before. And it was amazing to have David there with me because he knew what to expect. So what he just described, we had 13, 14 hour days, for sometimes like multiple days straight. And it was kind of reality TV as well. So I would have probably jumped off a bridge, quite honestly, if I didn’t have him there to coach me to say you know what? Yeah, they kind of know how, where they want to take this, but let’s like take it where we want to take it.
And so and by the way, there were some other people that were cast on that show that also had friends in reality TV, which also behind the scenes were giving us at least giving me some advice. It was really, really interesting. So if you ever get cast on a reality TV show, number one, don’t do it. But number two, if there’s a pot of gold at the end, consider it. And number three, if you do decide to do it get a lot of coaching because you will literally turn into like an emotional mess and basket case because TV is all about like drama, and emotion. And you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that.
How do you see TV changing in the future with technology? And what implications Do you see?
Damon Wayans Jr 5:02
How do I see TV changing? I feel like the way it’s being shot is still pretty traditional. But you know, definitely the mediums that people are viewing TV on, shows and movies has definitely changed, screens are getting smaller. I feel like eventually, it’ll just be in our head, like in Black Mirror. You know, we are just going to be watching TV or watching what’s happening right now. But home on the toilet. You know what I mean, something like that.
Yeah, I think, I think it’s just the way that we’re viewing things is changing. And there’s so many different places and platforms for these shows and movies, I’ve never seen so many productions happening at the same time, you know, like people weren’t shooting in Georgia, you know, back in the day, people weren’t shooting in Toronto all the time back. You know, so it’s definitely changing. And it’s expanding, and I’m excited.
Kris Jones 5:54
The only thing I would say because that was really towards someone that’s on TV is as a consumer I love the change of habit and consumption, kind of like on our own terms like we could fall in love with a show on Netflix or Amazon Prime. And we could watch it and just like totally binge it. By the way, when I travel and I’m in hotels like I watch Making A Murderer one in like, less than 36 hours, I don’t even know, like I must have like not slept, but you get the point like you get to consume it differently.
And so David and I are actually working on a project, where you know, we may have an opportunity to select whether or not this project goes on a platform like Netflix or whether it goes on mainstream TV. And you would think if and I don’t know, but if we have both opportunities, like the old school, like assumption would be like, oh, we’re just going to go on mainstream TV. But being able to not only binge but watch multiple times and on your terms is really really attractive as it relates to the content. So that’s my two cents from a non-acting, more consumer point of view.
Sharon Fletcher 7:00
Hi, I’m just gonna get in here because I’m filming for my social media audience. So welcome to Toronto, it’s so great to have you here. I wanted to Thank you and your family for being pioneers in comedy, and having wonderful images, and a wonderful space of comic relief for us in a world where you see lots of other you know, sad stories and not so wonderful stories. I love you in New Girl. That’s when I first discovered you in the new girl comedy. That was fantastic. In the q&a, yourself and your business partner spoke about an app that you are creating that will help actors. You said something about it being a minority business and only 10% really get the exposure and fame. So you want to do something to help the others. So tell us a little bit about that.
Damon Wayans Jr 7:53
Yeah, so the app that my co-founder, Kris Jones and I created is called Special Guest. It’s basically a platform that allows anyone anywhere to hire talent on demand. That was the goal. The goal was definitely to you know, make sure that the people who are just as talented as me or even more talented, whether it be acting, stand up comedy, music, party clowns, anything you can think of that is live, that they are serviced, and that they’re able to pursue their dreams and get paid for them, you know? And so that’s kind of where special guest, that’s how it came about. Yeah. Yeah. Did I answer your question?
Host: I think we got to give a round of applause for the hustle. That was unbelievable.
DW: You crushed it, also the hair …bangin’
How do you balance the work that you do with the special guest app and everything else that you do as an actor and comedian?
Damon Wayans Jr 8:52
I mean, that’s a very good question. You know, I am very thankful to have such a great, I’m looking at you. This guy takes care of the day to day. So he is very, very involved. And I’m very thankful to have him on board because I’d be lost without him. And so that’s it’s a, it’s a partnership. So that’s kind of how I navigate and continue to build this app out is with his expertise and his help. Would you like to add to that?
Thanks for the question. And I really think he just downplayed the role that he plays. He came to me, we actually were introduced through a common friend, several years ago. He came to me wanting to help. The next Damon Wayans Jr. He came to me wanting to create opportunities for talented people to get discovered, and to get paid. That’s it. We don’t you know, we’re not going to cure some crazy disease. We have a social cause to help talented people get discovered and to get booked and he was really like, blunt about it. Like it wasn’t about necessarily celebrities or fame. It was like, why is it that the other 85 to 90 95% of talented people struggle all the time? Let’s go after that problem. And so to your question, one of the things that we do is we collaborate in his world. So we leverage his world. I mean, for those of you that haven’t heard of special guest, check us out at specialguestapp.com, where you’ll see,
Just as an example, this is profound. He was out promoting his TV show last year on The Ellen Show. And in pre-production, Ellen’s producer said, hey Damon, that app that you have, Ellen thinks that’s really awesome. Do you mind talking about the app on her show? Now for me as a technologist, as an entrepreneur for 20 years, and as a growth marketer, Ellen and Damon gave special guest, the best digital asset that I’ve ever had in my life. For those of you that are techie and nerdy and data freaks like I am the conversion rates on this thing. What this ad or not, what the video has done in terms of going viral is amazing. So it’s a really cool partnership that we have, yes, I have the background and entrepreneurship. But Damon is along for the entire process. And he continues to, you know, get more involved in some of the things that we do as entrepreneurs in terms of like growth, marketing and data analytics, and like Facebook ads and all that fun stuff.
Did you hear that Toronto is the fastest growing tech city in the world? Would you consider building more tech companies here?
Damon Wayans Jr 11:44
No, I didn’t. But I’m impressed. Absolutely. I would definitely. I mean, first of all, I’m familiar with this weather. I was. I was born in Vermont, not a lot of people know that about me. So I embrace the cold when it’s cold. But this place can also get hot. You know what I’m saying? And I’m very impressed with that. With that, uh, that this is the fastest growing tech. Good lord. That’s great. Yeah, I would definitely do it here. It’s beautiful. Smells good. I mean, the lights are a little long to change. That’s a little. I was waiting on the sidewalk for like, a solid seven minutes. But that aside, man, it’s beautiful. Everybody’s nice. And yeah, we would definitely do that.
It’s part of North America from the design of our app. This isn’t an announcement, but as we globalize Canada will be the first country that we move to.
Someone mentioned other celebrities that are involved in tech companies and asked what other tech companies Damon may be interested in investing in.
Damon Wayans Jr 12:56
I haven’t invested in too many, this is kind of my baby, you know, special guests. It’s my first time around. And so I’ve been putting my all into it. And I don’t want to, you know, if an opportunity comes my way, something that’s, you know, really profound and grabs me, I will definitely invest into that. But right now, it’s all about special guest. You know.
One of the things that we’ve been chatting about is I was, this is my fourth of five Collisions. And five years ago, I was on, not this stage, but in Vegas with Christina Milan, an actress, and singer. And so I’ve had the benefit of working with celebrities and athletes. And let me tell you, and be candid, there’s a couple of things that are taking place as to your point with these celebrities and influencers getting involved. Number one, they’re getting really involved, the ones that you see here are active, it’s almost not fair, Damon is absolutely not an investor. He’s an operator, and very, very much a part of the decision making that’s going on in this company. The other thing is he’s super involved with the decisions that are taking place. So the celebrities that you guys see around us here, in this at this event are actually really involved.
We just spoke with Chris Leacock from Major Lazer, and we hung out with him a bit over the last couple of days in the speaker room here. He’s super engaged, learning soaking up information. And so the reason why I’m sharing that is because, you know, having done this before, I want you guys to know that the stereotypes or whatever else that’s out there that they’re selling influence just for equity is absolutely not the case with special guest. And I think you’d be surprised, particularly with the people that come to events like this, that they’re actually here really engaged, learning the language in the same way that I’m trying to learn the language from their world. Right. And so and by the way I am, you know, I’m absolutely a student, as it relates to that in the same way that Damon is, is a very learned student as relates to tech because we this is our third year for special guest. So I mean, you know, take what we’ve learned and taught each other over these last couple of years. And it’s been pretty awesome.
Melissa Rolston 15:12
Hi, my name is Melissa Rolston. And I’m from Toronto, I actually have a question in relation to your app and the data that you’re collecting. First of all, it’s very honorable, that you created this app, I have tons of friends that are artists, and I think it’s incredible. And I’m really excited that you’re coming to Canada for them. But with the data that you’re collecting the talent buyers are rating the talent. So is there evaluations for the actual talent to review, what they’re doing, and where they’re making mistakes? Or where they can grow from? And do you think that you can build out education around that eventually, once you build your database? Bigger?
Damon Wayans Jr 15:48
Yeah, it was a good question. I mean, the goal of this app has always been transparency. And, you know, we definitely we collect as much data as possible. But it’s really, a lot of it is used just to make it easier for the talent and the venue relationship. I mean, Kris can speak to a lot of like, the specifics in the data, but I know that, uh, right now that that we the data that we’re collecting, and the growth that we’ve been having has been a, you know, very educational and profound, you know,
We do collect data, the data is transparent, and it’s available to both the talent, the community of buyers, etc. One of the things that makes us different than some of the other apps that have come before us or that exists right now, is that we actually built out a significant, meaningful team of human beings, human beings that are there to support the talent, not the venue’s, the talent. And so part of what has been the challenge in the entertainment business for up and coming non managed talent, is trying to polish it all up, you know, trying to present yourself in a way where you could stand out. And what special guest does is it provides the technology backdrop, and the feature set to help them do that, we and so we even have a demo stage in our offices, where we invite talent in to perform. We shoot HD video, we bring in a professional photographer, the talent performs for our staff. And at the end of it, they get this professionally packaged video and photography that then they could use for their own both on the app and elsewhere. So your question is an awesome one, you should probably join our staff, although you probably already have a billion dollar company,
Who are some of the talent that are on the app that we should look out for?
Kris Jones I mean, there’s a ton of comedians
Damon Wayans Jr 17:45
Oh, yeah, I can drop a couple of comedian names, stand up comedians. A guy named Tony Baker, really, really funny. He has a, you know, big social media presence, you know, DC Ervin they are all my buddies, and they are all doing well, like individually. But ever since they got onto this app, it’s just, you know, kind of taken, they’ve been taking the states by storm. So it’s definitely some people that you should look at from my comedy world. So just go if you go on to the app, and you just scroll through it, almost all of them are like people that I know and respect. So you know, they might not be extremely famous yet, but those are definitely people you should look out for.
Denny Corby is a magician and an illusionist, who we put on our demo stage. He travels the world, entertaining people with illusions and magic, and a little bit of comedy. He’s awesome. We also have quite a few American Idol finalists and Voice and America’s Got Talent finalists. And then we have even more up and coming talented artists that are better performers than they are entrepreneurs. Through special guest, we’re giving them the opportunity to simply perform and get paid. So there’s literally thousands of them.
I’m excited about the Special Guest App and all the new opportunities opening up for performers to get paid for their work. As a publicist and coach, I help performers with personal branding, image, and marketing, but often the missing piece is the ability to get paying gigs without an agent. Special Guest App is the answer.