I received a lovely text today. It said
"IM SO NERVOUS for the show tonight. Any pointers?!?!"
It was music to my ears. This would be yet another friend who is putting herself on stage for the first time to tell jokes to the public. K does her first standup set tonight and I consider my coven of comediennes one stronger.
Here is some of the advice I gave her that I have now given many times to those facing an audience:
1. You are giving a gift. I was taught as a Catholic, sin-avoidant child that getting in front of people to entertain them was selfish or just plain odd. As I began to do it more, I came to a very different conclusion. Taking the time, effort, and bravery to put oneself in front of others for the purpose of teaching and entertaining them is giving a gift. They can accept and listen if they want to. But, you're the bomb for putting it out there. The world needs entertainers and teachers.
2. Breathe. If you can tell yourself "Breathe" every time your panic rises, then breathe just a little deeper, you're doing a good thing. It will help and it will distract you in a positive way.
3. Know that it will be over soon. Finishing is your goal. This event is only small blip in the epic movie that is your life. Like past final exams, tooth extractions, and plane flights in the middle seat, this too shall pass and you shall be wiser and more aware of who you are and what you're capable for having done it. In essence, you'll be a more interesting person. Good work!
4. Everyone is rooting for you. New performers often think of the audience as a terrifying, life-sucking force. That can be true if they're drunk, loud, and want to battle. But, I find that the audience is often wishing for you to do your very, very best. They want to be entertained. They want to be pleasantly surprised, for you to delight them with your unique style of humor and one-of-a-kind thoughts. They'll happily accept anything close to good and, beyond that, they're dazzled.
5. Never ever compare yourself. It's okay to learn from others and pick up tricks and tips. But, if you feel that someone did a great job, that in no way diminishes your ability to do a great job. Every performer has a style, a stamp, a flavor, edge, unique vibe. Your only purpose is to hone and develop your own. I like to play music, bring people on stage to play games with me, and talk to the audience like we're just all having a big chat at the dinner table. Those are aspects of my style that I've figured out over time. Just do things and see what you like. It's all good. It's all learning.
That's it for now. There are more things I can share someday. These would be practical things to do when you're in front of a crowd, like watch the pace of your speech, don't drink too much until you're done-done, keep your posture upright, look side to side, notice if the energy is dropping and do something about it (which might be just acknowledging that fact outloud, "You guys getting sleepy?"), thank the emcee, compliment the staff of the event you're a part of, and much more. I'll cover those in another post.
For now, it's time to go to the show. I'll try to get a pic with K tonight to post here.