Five things I learnt from doing 6 minutes of stand-up comedy
Last Autumn I completed half of an eight-week stand-up comedy course in Brighton. Despite my low class attendance I still wanted to attend the graduation ceremony so I found myself performing on a night club stage in front of a live audience of over 100 people! Video. This experience has become such a rich source of metaphors and life lessons that I feel the need to share.
1. Life isn’t serious – even at work
As the owner of a market research business, I feel a constant pressure to ‘market’ Aviatrix. This essentially involves writing an occasional blog for my web site, posting it on LinkedIn and then sending it to everyone on my email database. Personally, I think my blogs are pretty good – witty, interesting and personal thus ticking all the boxes that the marketing gurus say we need to tick. However, 50 views, 3 likes and 2 comments was about my personal best in terms of a response on LinkedIn until my spur of the moment decision to post about my stand-up comedy gig. Remarkably this generated over 2000 views, 70+ likes and 60+ comments so clearly it’s no bad thing to stop taking yourself so seriously!
2. You can’t fake it just to make it funny
From day one of the comedy course all the students had to take it in turns to do a stand-up gig at a switched off microphone. It was horrifically embarrassing to witness the other students fake laughing at my jokes and even worse having to fake laugh at theirs. Of course, it was fab when you got a genuine laugh but it became crystal clear you could never tickle every person in the room. It seemed quite random what did or didn’t get a laugh but I soon discovered that completely making stuff up as I went along simply didn’t work. Whilst I could exaggerate my own personal experiences and get the laughs without some genuine depth of feeling no-one laughed at all. Evidently there is a shared sixth sense about a lack of authenticity and an audience can smell it a mile off!
3. Thinking has no place when you’re trying something new
I was plagued throughout the early part of the course with a nagging doubt – what the hell was I doing it for? This wasn’t helped much by all my family and friends also asking what the hell I was doing it for! This negativity resulted in me giving up the course after four sessions and when I changed my mind and decided to do the graduation performance, I had such extreme stage fright that I was shivering in a boiling hot room! It proved to me that the intellectual thinking part of my mind has nothing especially useful to contribute when I’m trying to do something new and challenging. It’s very good at doing sums and holding enormous amounts of data but sometimes you just need to ignore it if you want to be adventurous – there was no useful guidance coming from the old bag rabbiting on in my head.
4. Having no goal led to greater success than I could’ve imagined
I didn’t especially want to do a comedy course and had no real reason to do one. The whole scenario only came about when a friend making a random comment that I should do stand-up coincided with me meeting someone who runs a stand-up comedy course. Somewhat ridiculously I thought this was some kind of sign and without further ado I signed up.
I felt a persistent need to justify this decision but simply couldn’t and had zero faith that I was likely to learn anything meaningful. I continued to search for a reason for signing up but despite none emerging I remained intrigued. Even after the performance I felt nothing other than a neutrality and a compelling peacefulness that was annoyingly lacking in the drama I like so much. I normally feel that everything I do has to have a goal with a consequent sense of achievement earnt by lots of effort. What I’ve learnt is that just doing something for no reason at all is a huge relief, so much more fun and can reap totally unexpected rewards.
5. You are born, you do stuff and then you die!
I’m not entirely sure how I got to this from doing the comedy course but it seems to me the more stuff we do, the more we experience, the more we learn and see the truth of life. For me that truth is that life can offer us an incredible playground to explore without there needing to be a prize or an end game. Even if there is some shared utopia we’re all meant to be aiming for why shouldn’t we have a lot more fun along the way!