When you tell people you perform comedy, they all say the same thing:
Tell me a joke.
Well, here’s the joke. The best communicators in the world aren’t the techy CEOs with the lengthy LinkedIn posts and the best life coaches aren’t the internet gurus who ask for your email before they ask for your name.
The best are the comics who’d rather study a dick joke than study to be a doctor.
That’s the joke.
Great comedians are master communicators and teachers. Armed only with their wit, words, and performance, they concur the world one audience at a time. When the show is over, we adore them for giving us nature’s best medicine… ̶m̶o̶r̶p̶h̶i̶n̶e̶. Laughter.
After five years of standup and a lifetime of appreciating the weird and witty, I’m convinced that not only has comedy taught me how to communicate more effectively, but it also taught me how to handle life. I want to share what I learned.
Improve Your Story Telling
Somewhere in Idaho, a farmer is sitting in his basement, tin-foil-on-head waiting for an alien invasion.
He figured it’s only a matter of time before it’s all over so he decided to get the jump on the alien overlords.
Unfortunately for our tin-foiled friend, he’s preparing for the wrong invasion because aliens aren’t taking over the world; good storytelling is.
The reason Netflix, books, movies, and Hell, Medium.com is so popular is simple. People love stories. It’s hardwired into our DNA, and when we get around a great story, time suspends.
Great comedians recognize that and use all the tools of the trade to improve their storytelling. They are lovers of words and study language using alliteration, exaggeration, metaphors, similes, etc all to do one thing… make you laugh.
Read below and enjoy the energy. Notice how the greats arrange their words so you feel the emotion and are hit with a punchline at the end. The punchline makes us laugh and proves a point.
“Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?” — George Carlin.
“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, “Where’s the self-help section?” She said if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” –George Carlin.
“Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.” — George Carlin.
“We sleep in separate rooms, we have dinner apart, we take separate vacations — we’re doing everything we can to keep our marriage together.”- Rodney Dangerfield.
The next story you tell, channel a comedian’s love for words and play with your message like kids play with sandcastles at the beach. Try to save the surprise/punchline for the end so you get that extra kick. That extra kick is exactly how you make your point stand out.
Remember, words are powerful because they play movies in people’s minds. Make sure you’re giving your audience an Oscar Winner instead of an Oscar Weiner.
Facing Your Fears
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ― Jerry Seinfeld.
The first time I did stand up, it felt as if I was eight years old and was on a rollercoaster.
Fun Fact. When I was eight years old, rollercoasters terrified me.
As the hour drew nearer to my stage time, my rollercoaster slowly crept up the hill, and finally, my name was called. The rollercoaster started to plummet down the tracks.
Since you are reading this article, good news, I lived.
When you perform standup, you willingly go onstage and spread your ideas with the world, risking public rejection. This is scary, really scary. For many comedians, the entire time your performing, your ego is screaming because it doesn’t want you to embarrass yourself. But after you’ve done a few gigs you learn an important truth. In comedy, eventually, everyone bombs, and life goes on.
Comedy taught me that most things are typically scarier in your head than in reality. This lesson is worth the price of admission. So take the leap and try the goals that scare you. Decide to face your fears and live to tell the tale boldly. Who knows, you may get a few laughs along the way.
“She told me I needed to be more present, so I put a bow on my head and sat under a Christmas tree.” — My feeble attempt to write a present joke.
Great comedians are great because of one defining principle: presence. They live and breathe in the moment. Hell, they’ve got a wife and 2.5 kids and an annoying-ass neighbor named Barry that lives in the moment.
Watch a great comedian at work and notice their sense of presence. If they tell a joke, that lands… bam! They let the punchline breathe for a few more laughs. If they tell a joke that misses its mark, they simply acknowledge that it didn’t work and end the awkward moment before it can spread.
Later in the show, they’ll call back to the punchlines that landed for a few more laughs. They are actively taking in information and catering the show to audiences’ tastes like a master chef.
Presence is powerful because it lets the audience know, “Hey, I’m one of you too.” and it breaks the ice. This is comforting because the one thing we all hate besides robocalls and stubbing our toe is being around people who are unaware.
We can use this lesson in our own life. By simply being present, we can easily communicate more clearly, listen more intently, and experience moments as they happen.
So take the lesson from the great comedians. Be present. It allows you to be in the driver’s seat of life.
Improve Your Sense of Humor
“I don’t like her; she’s got a great sense of humor,” — Said no one ever.
I like funny people. Given a choice between working eight hours a day with someone born without a funnybone or twelve hours working with the funniest people in the world, ̶I̶’̶d̶ ̶m̶u̶c̶h̶ ̶r̶a̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶c̶h̶o̶o̶s̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶e̶i̶g̶h̶t̶ ̶b̶e̶c̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶I̶’̶m̶ ̶l̶a̶z̶y̶.̶
I’d rather work with the funny misfits because time would fly, and I’d laugh my ass off.
A healthy sense of humor allows you to take the mundane and turn it into the marvelous which is important for carrying on.
Too often, we take life so seriously that we forget to enjoy it. Our generation, in particular, may have a harder time enjoying life due to the pissing contest that is social media.
Each day we’re constantly bombarded with stories and images of people seemingly living the life of your fucking dreams. Although we can try not to compare, it’s hard not to when it’s in your face.
I’ve come to find that a sense of humor is the best shield to fight off the stresses of life. When you’re laughing, there is no thinking, only pure enjoyment. The sense of humor also teaches you a humbling lesson, don’t take yourself so seriously. None of us are getting out of here alive, so lighten up and take a joke. Life, after all, is cosmically funny.
“There is something sacred about humor. If you can laugh at yourself, then you can forgive yourself. And if you can forgive yourself, you can forgive others.”— Bianca L. Rodriguez, LMFT.
Improve Your Discipline
If you want to write one good joke, you need to write ninety-nine terrible jokes. It goes along with the popular lyric, “I got ninety-nine problems, and they’re all jokes.”
And if you’re following the math — writing a hundred jokes takes… discipline — a headache worth.
And that’s probably a good thing…. The discipline, not the headache.
Because in today’s world, where we have everything at the tips of our fingers, having to work towards our harvest is an ancient reward.
What discipline and standup have taught me the most was not to half-ass things.
You can’t go on stage, hardly prepare, and expect to get outstanding results just like you can’t half-ass your life and expect to change it. Discipline teaches you to work for what you want.
Look at Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most popular comedians of all time. Many people think he was born funny but don’t appreciate how hard he actually worked to succeed. Each day he would lock himself in a room and write a joke. Anyone who has ever written anything can appreciate the eye-bleeding struggle that is staring at a blank page. This man signed up for this torture repeatedly.
Over the years, this daily labor of love would go on to build his empire. His secret? Be disciplined.
“Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.”-Abraham Lincoln.