Heidi Vanderlee on getting a job in comedy and music PR

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Heidi Vanderlee of Shark Party media.

Welcome to the first installment of our new weekly career focus, loosely called “get your ass in gear Mondays.” (You got a better name?) First up, some probing questions for Heidi Vanderlee, a publicist for Shark Party Media, a PR firm that represents all the funny people in Brooklyn and some musicians too. Heidi’s own clients include the “weird” teen book and zine publisher All Ages Press, Shonali Bhowmik, The Chris Gethard Show, The Cush, Brokelyn alumnae Sue Smith and Jo Firestone, the Snarky Sidekick webseries, Keisha Zollar and Sara Benincasa. She also helps out repping Reggie Watts, Wyatt Cenec, John Hodgman and others on Kathryn Musilek’s client roster at Shark Party. You can actually get paid for this? We asked Heidi how. 

How did you wind up representing all the funny people in Brooklyn?
I don’t represent all of them yet, but I’m sure going to try. I’ve actually been somewhat involved in the comedy world for a few years as one of the music bookers for The Chris Gethard Show, so I’ve been really into the UCB scene for a while. Once I started working with Shark Party, word kind of got around with my comedy friends and people started referring their friends to me. Also doesn’t hurt that I get to help Kathryn with her incredible roster.

What’s your favorite part of your job? What’s your least favorite?
Seeing my clients get coverage in publications who really understand and appreciate them. I also love going out to see my clients be the talented, amazing people they are on stage! My least favorite part is probably the totally necessary but incredibly time-consuming data entry and paperwork. I need an intern. Are you that somebody?

What do you do over the course of a day?
Oh man, that varies. It always starts with a big cup of coffee. Then I make a list of what I need to get done and just try to stick to it as best I can. I might go down to the Shark Party office in South Brooklyn, or hang out in my apartment with my cat, or go to a coffee shop (where I drink tea, like a nerd).

As clients, are comedians different from soap manufacturers and insurance companies?
I have no idea! I’ve never worked with non-creative clients. Not that soap can’t be creative. You know what I mean. I don’t know if I’d be good at working in a non-creative field. I’m pretty bad at pretending to like things.


Sue Smith, former Brokelyn writer, now one of the 10 funniest people in NYC. (She was, then, too.)
Sue Smith, former Brokelyn writer, now one of Time Out’s 10 funniest women in NYC. (She was then too.)

What type of person will be good at PR?
Someone with ADD who is also able to harness that weirdo energy and make it work to their advantage. Good writers. Extroverts.

Who will suck at it?
Someone who wasn’t originally interested in whatever it is you’re publicizing. People who really like numbers, because PR is so hard to quantify. People who haven’t realized that Google is magical unicorn that can find anyone.

How does an aspiring PR avoid doing seven internships in a row and actually get hired?
College was a long time ago for me, so I’m not sure what I have to say is super-relevant, but… what I can say, having had several interns at my old day job — is to treat your internship like an actual job and try to be as helpful as possible. Pay your dues, within reason. If you don’t love the first job you get, stick it out for at least six months so you have employment history and good references when you interview for your next job. Also, don’t do a phone interview for another job while you’re at your internship and within earshot of your boss. Yes, that happened.

Here's looking at you, Keisha Zollar.
UCB alum Keisha Zollar is on OITNB — and Heidi’s client roster.

Anything you want to plug? The stage is yours!
Well, since you asked… let me just plan out your next month…
Every Tuesday night at 9: Come see Sue Smith host Amazingtown Comedy and eat free pizza at Bunga’s den.
Tuesday, January 27: Go to We Don’t Even Know, Shonali Bhowmik’s live podcast taping at HiFi on w/guests Greg Barris and Seaton Smith.
Friday, February 6: Go to the Women of Letters reading series at Joe’s Pub featuring Molly Ringwald and other kickass ladies.
Wednesday, February 11: Go to Jo Firestone’s Friends of Single People live dating game at Littlefield.

Some of your clients are already famous, but not all of them. How does someone who’s just starting out get a PR rep?
I take on clients based on what they’re doing and not necessarily how famous they are—if they’re doing something cool and creative, that’s a story in itself and will help them get noticed. That being said, they also need to have somewhat of a budget—PR is hard work!

jo firestone
Hey, that’s Jo Firestone, who wrote for Brokelyn, then got famous. See how it works?

Know anyone with a cool job who deserves to be profiled here? Tell us all about ’em at brokelyn [at] Thanks!

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