At my Stadium Status Summit in Boston a client said something to me that left me thunderstruck. After the workshop he gave me this feedback:
“I’ve known you for 13 years and you’re a real funny guy John. It’s a shame people don’t get to see that side of you in your speaking gigs.”
That was an eye opener for me. And it sent me on a mission to bring that side of my personality to my professional work.
Telling more stories, jokes and just being more playful—in my writing and speaking. Not taking myself or my work so seriously. And why shouldn’t I… I’m not performing brain surgery for a living.
I’ve obviously been a little too “buttoned up” for too long.
So there’s the backstory, now back to the toughest thing I’ve ever done professionally…
Which was take a stand-up comedy course.
I took two this year, the first was an online course taught by Steve Martin. And the most recent was an in-person workshop that just wrapped up last week.
It’s without question the most difficult art form out there. It’s just you and a microphone, nothing else. The audience pays a cover to attend and are sitting there skeptically saying:
“Okay Mr. or Ms. Nobody I’ve never heard of….. make me f*cking laugh!”
And did I mention a bunch are probably drunk and some of them may heckle you if you suck?
It’s one thing to be funny when you’re sitting at lunch making wise cracks with your friends. It’s another whole thing to try to be funny in a context where you are absolutely expected to be non-stop funny 100% of the time, start to finish.
How do you do it?
You write and write and write. Observe, edit, re-write, and test in front of live audiences. And then repeat that whole process bit by bit until you have something that works.
It’s the ultimate in economy of words, there are no filler or “accidental” words thrown in to a performance. It’s all been scripted with surgical precision down to its shortest possible, clear and concise form.
But nobody ever says “Wow… Jerry Seinfeld is such a great writer.”
They just say “Wow… Seinfeld is such a great comedian.”
The irony of it all is that you can’t be funny on stage without first writing funny content. And you can’t write funny content without spending so much time writing and editing that you’re practically bleeding on the page.
I didn’t take the courses to become a stand-up comic, I took them to get better at:
- Economy of words
- Injecting more humor in my speaking
- Creative writing
- Pushing my comfort zone
By that standard it was a success.
BTW, Entertainers make a lot more than teachers for a reason. And leaders who think of their work as a performance will earn way more than those who just preach or teach. What kind of better results? Stadium Status results!
If you want to get paid more like Seinfeld than like Seinfelds’s 10th grade English teacher, here’s your guide: