Have you done something new? I did!
I tried something new last year - stand-up comedy!
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, but when I first saw an online class for it, it was only a month after my dad passed away. I wanted to honor my grief first. I also didn’t want to cry on stage when delivering my set.
After two and a half years, I finally joined. It was perfect timing. It was a five-week comedy class, and then we did an actual set in front of around 100 people! A couple of days after that, I did another set but in front of other speakers at the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers Conference in Calgary! It was a wonderful experience.
As I go through the five things I learned from my stand-up comedy class, think of something you’ve done that's new. Or maybe think of something you're wanting to do. My hope is you'll learn something from these and it’ll help you to have more success and an easier time.
#1 - You’re not as good as you think
I think I’m a humorous person. I like to think I tell really good stories, that I'm quick-witted and can pop in little comments and make people laugh. I definitely can do that. I thought, “Ah, I'm going to go and do stand-up, and I'm going to be awesome. I'm going to be so good.”
Yeah, I'm not a stand-up comedian. That's what I learned pretty quickly.
If you've watched someone do something, and you're like, “I can do that.” Don't say that until you actually try it. Stand-up is so much harder than I could ever think. I thought, “I'm a professional speaker. I speak in front of groups. I'm comfortable with a microphone. I have no problem moving around. I'm a funny person.”
Well, it doesn't matter. That doesn't make you great at stand-up comedy. Shocking, right? Absolutely shocking.
You're not always as good as you think. Walk in with humility so you don't embarrass yourself because I was feeling pretty confident. Just don't say those things because you can look stupid when you suck. Thankfully I didn’t and I realized pretty quickly how hard it was.
#2 - We can do hard things.
We can totally do hard things. I did five classes plus a dry run of the show. Then all of a sudden, I'm in front of an audience of 100 people. Then two days after that, I did a longer set at CAPS, which meant I was throwing out jokes at the last minute. Literally, I was in the hallway, sitting at a table writing jokes on a cue card to then go and deliver it 45 minutes later on stage in front of, I don't know, 150-170 of my professional speaking peers. No pressure, right? No pressure. We can do hard things. In the end, I did it. I did it twice in three days. That's pretty amazing. When you think of it, I've been a professional speaker for like 10 years. I've been a stand-up comedian for two gigs in three days.
I wasn't paid for them. Actually, I had to pay to be at the foundation night of CAPS. It's a fundraiser night, so I’m happy to pay for it. But it's just kind of funny how my stand-up career has started, though I don't think I'm actually going to be a stand-up comedian. The only open mic I did was in my dream (or nightmare), so I might just keep it in front of friendly audiences, rather than actually go and hit the stand-up comedy circuit. But what I want to do is move into humorous speaking, giving keynotes that are humorous and bringing my jokes there.
#3 - Follow how others model it.
Notice I didn't use the word "copy" at all. The number one rule in stand-up comedy is don't copy people. Don't use their jokes. You don't need to do that. But you can follow how other people model it.
Think about whatever it is that you want to do. Do you want to learn the piano? Do you want to take up painting, calligraphy, or ice skating? What is the thing that you want to do?
When I was up there I had my phone. I don't know if my eyes are really bad, but it’s hard to read jokes on your phone. It's just too hard. I needed to make the font bigger. I'm trying to read from here. I didn't practice in advance. I literally was in presentation mode: here's my joke, here's my joke, here's my next joke. That's not how you do it.
Instead I needed to follow how other people did it. There were a couple of people who had graduated from the class that jumped into the class again. I took my cues from them. They started to act out by moving their body, moving their face in different ways to get the laughs, and they paused. They gave space for the laughter to come. And KEY thing, they brought cue cards in to read their jokes off of every week.
Watching those three people do their jokes helped me so much. Then I decided, why am I not watching Netflix and all the comedian specials that are on there? So I did. I started learning about pausing better, started learning about repeating certain sentences that were getting the laughs, and I was like, "Oh, okay, now I know what I didn't know." I was unconsciously unconscious of how hard comedy is.
There are formulas for how to write a joke. I didn't know that. Did you know that jokes should be one to three lines max, and you hit a punch line, and you make people laugh? If you're going to tell a story, the thing I learned is there needs to be laughs every three lines to keep the audience engaged. Those are just a couple of tips if you do feel like taking stand-up. Learning is you can definitely do something hard, even if you're not as good as you think because you can follow how other people do it.
#4 - Have someone give you feedback in multiple ways and honestly.
On the first night, our teacher Jan said, "Do you guys want me to be really honest with you so you do a great job and you don't embarrass yourself at the showcase? Or do you want me to be super kind?" I yelled out, "Be honest with me."
I would rather my coach, teacher, trainer, whoever it is, tell me, "Hey, you got broccoli in your teeth" or in this case "That joke wasn’t funny" so that I don't go out in the world and feel awkwards or embarrassed. It's the whole bring your mess into the learning/coaching so you could be magnificent, but you need to have someone who's going to give you that honest feedback and support you to be better.
I'll tell you, she was honest. She gave me feedback on my delivery. She gave me feedback on my jokes. You know, she'd say, "Yeah, that one where you just kind of blabbed on about being Christian. Yeah, we're gonna cut that. That doesn't sound good." It helped me to know, this stuff's good, and this stuff's not good.
I'll tell you, one step further. Have someone actually work with you on it. If you're learning the piano, have them play the keys. If it's painting, maybe even have them hold your hand and brush stroke with you so that you can really be immersed in it.
The two things that I'm very grateful for are that our teacher Jan said, "If you send me your setlist, I'll go through it.” She looked at our jokes for the night and cut things down, made them shorter or switched the order and gave us feedback. When she did that, I then saw clearly, 'Ah, I get it now. That's how you take a four or five-line story joke and cut it down into 1-3.' That's how you take a very long sentence that it takes a while to say, and actually get a laugh.
She challenged me by saying, “Make something crazier at the end.” It really pushed me.
I'll tell you one of my jokes I started off with,
“I wrote my Christmas list, and as a mom, these are the three things I want.
Pretty good joke, right? You guys understand it. You're like, 'Yeah, as a mom, as a dad, as a caregiver, as a busy person, I just want 10 minutes to myself, too.'
That is a set of three: boring or average for the first two, and then the third one has to be wacky. Is “10 minutes to myself” wacky, not so much. I changed it. The new version, and the one I delivered on stage:
“So I've got my Christmas list ready, and there are three things I want.
On the first night, he was in the audience, so I just yelled out, “Hey hubby, can you take care of that for me?” There we go. Her pushing me to go wackier, and wackier got me to sister wife. I wouldn't actually move forward with getting a sister wife. However, it’s funny because if you're a busy woman with kids and a husband, is, 'Wow, could someone else come in and do all these other things for me?'
So think of that thing that you're wanting to do, that new thing, that maybe seems scary to do, and how can someone give you honest feedback so you can have more success at it.
#5 - Jump in and figure it out.
This is something that I grew up doing: “Sure, I'll sign up for that. Sure, I'll do that.” Then, in the end, you've got to figure it out. I do believe everything is figure-out-able. Over the past few years, probably since 2019, I haven't felt fully myself with the challenges and stress. I just don't handle it as well as I used to.
The problem with that is, I have to cut back on what I do. I've been experiencing a lot of anxiety lately. I used to have one event every night of the week, sometimes even two, and I would rush from one event to another without understanding why people found it stressful. "Oh my gosh, I have to go to two events this week." I'm like, "I’ve got seven, and I'm running five of them or something." I had a high tolerance for stress, but not in the past few years. I haven't felt like myself completely. It's not just because of my father's death, but also because of other things like COVID. We're all still figuring out our new normal, right?
But the idea of me doing stand-up is stressful, yet I jumped in and just thought, "I'm figuring it out." That was my first commitment. I went to classes and did what they said so that I could have good results at the showcase.
A few weeks later, Mark Black was putting on the foundation's fundraiser event for the CAPS Convention and they needed another comedian. I thought, "Okay, I'm going to jump in and figure it out." You know what, I learned other things like providing a one or two-sentence introduction that's not my work bio, but can be interesting or funny. I played up on that.
Then I took my joke set from my class's show and thought, "Ok, the audience are speakers, trainers, emcees, my colleagues, and my peers. I need to come up with some special jokes for them." That pushed me to create some other jokes. Then I wondered if the audience could handle some edgy topics. I asked some humorists in the group, and they said, "Oh, yeah, bring everything."
I still kept it PG, but I shared some things. The whole "jump in and figure it out" mentality led me to even add jokes at the last minute, causing me to bring my cue cards on stage that I had written only 45 minutes prior. I was okay with that because I'm not doing a Netflix special as a stand-up comedian, and I am not promoting myself as a stand-up comedian.
The bonus point I'm going to give you is about your ego. Leave it at the door when you’re trying something new. Thankfully I didn’t get caught up in my ego about stand up. I gave myself permission to be average at it, to be okay at it, and to have notes. I don't have to be perfect. But I did it! How great is that? When you don’t focus on being perfect at it, it makes it much more enjoyable experience.
Is there something you've been considering doing, but you're worried, “I'm not going to be really good at it or maybe I'll embarrass myself.” Change that worry to… who cares? Think instead of the benefit, you have another tool in your toolkit!
I have a whole new appreciation for stand-up comedy. I also have a new hobby, which is watching stand-up comedy. It has also improved my relationship with my hubby because now we watch live comedy together, which is really fun. It's made our relationship more humorous.
So many things are coming from this. It's pushing me in my career, especially in my humorous keynote I’m developing. I could go on and on. I have gained friends in the class. People at CAPS said, “Wow, your set was really good, Diane, and your cadence was amazing.” They told me my pacing was great, and I sounded like a stand-up comedian, and that my jokes were hilarious. That's amazing. They enjoyed themselves, and that's what matters most.
Now, in their eyes, I have this other aspect to me. The truth is you might find this too when you do something new. I have always thought of myself as a funny person. I just haven't always shared it with everyone.
As you are reading this message, I want you to know that I'm committed to adding more humor to what I do. When I'm with my friends or hanging out, telling crazy stories, or throwing in one-liners or being witty and bantering, that's me, that's who I am. I just don't always get to show it. Sometimes I come across as super professional, polished, and put-together “here's your inspiration for the day” or “here are your five ways to do this thing.” I'm going to move away from doing only that. So just be ready.
I hope this encourages you that if there is something on your bucket list that you haven't done yet, go do it. It doesn't have to be stand-up comedy. It can be cooking, knitting, running, or anything that can make you enjoy life a little bit more.
P.S. Want to connect more or hear some jokes? Join the Dynamic Women Online Summit 2023 happening on April 21 and 22. Get your FREE ticket or upgrade to a VIP ticket to get access to recordings, courses, bonuses, and gifts in the mail! https://summit.dynamicwomen.biz/
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