Last year, I debuted as a stand-up comedian! I am being quite generous with my use of the word “debut.” A more accurate description would be a humble start of some sort. While my street cred has skyrocketed, people are always intrigued by why stand-up comedy? Stand-up comedy is simply the best personal and professional development I can get as a presenter. So, here are secrets from the world of comedy that every presenter can use. And being funny is optional.
‘All comedy starts by writing.’ This is the first thing my comedy teacher said. DUH! I simply wasn’t expecting that. But, as soon as he said it, it was bleeding obvious. Delivery might look ‘off the cuff’ (and sometimes it is), but every comedian spends time writing and rewriting. From seasoned professionals to rank amateurs, comedians write content into their iPhones, in a trusted black book and on the fly. The key aim with writing is economy of words. Finding the least amount of words that can take you from A to funny. Similarly, if you want to be a brilliant presenter, start by writing down your words. Then edit with the knife of economy. (I never said any of this would be easy!).
Even if airline food jokes have been done to death, they still persist. Why? Because what matters in comedy is your unique perspective on things. Great comedy gets its edge from the comedian’s unique perspective. One of the simplest ways to give your presentation an edge is to bring your personal perspective in¾perhaps through a story or an example. And, if you want to be a presentation superstar, what works best is a funny story.
Comedy comes from emotion, not from a neutral state. It comes from something you were excited about, or that made you mad, or you found funny*. In business, the hard truth is that presentations without any emotion simply flat-line for your audience. We all want to hear from presenters who care about their messages, are passionate (but not evangelical) about their content and connect to the audience through conviction. The alternative is a presentation fail.
You can’t fill from an empty cup. For anyone to enjoy your content (whether you are a comedian or a presenter), you first have to look like you are enjoying it. Is there a bounce in your step, a twinkle in your eye and a smile on your lips? These are visual cues for your audience.
Recently, people doing the ‘open mic’ comedy circuit (which is free for audiences and performers) were surprised to see Dave Hughes performing. Dave Hughes is a huge Australian comedy star with his own radio and TV shows. Yet, he was out there, doing the hard yards, cheek and jowl, with people trying to break into the business. Hughes was demonstrating what all good comedians do¾they embrace a beta mindset. They constantly practice, showcase and road test material. Most importantly, a beta mindset learns from both the bombs and the bouquets.
OK, here’s a video of my debut performance.
Also an invitation to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival 2018 where I will be performing in a ‘Best of showcase’ for newbies. Excited and terrified!
*Of course, there are comedians whose shtick is total deadpan, and that works for them. But remember, they offset this lack of emotion by content that is hysterically funny. So, if your business presentation is hysterically funny, then go for the ‘no emotion’ show.