I’ve got headphones on but no music is playing. I don’t know why I put them on to begin with. I suppose out of habit. When the writing begins, the headphones often follow and soothing piano soon drowns out the sounds of my surroundings.
I don’t have anything against the sounds. I quite like them, actually. That’s why they’re so distracting. I could sit here and listen to the sounds of the café for hours and that would be just swell and dandy, wouldn’t it Randy? Shanty McSlanty is in the house! For some reason lately I haven’t been able to get the phrase “scantily clad” out of my head.
Ah, you’re looking quite scantily clad today, madam! I’m not sure it would go over great if you told a woman she was scantily clad, but I’m not sure. It’s such an absurd thing to say that it might just work. I doubt a high percentage of people even know what scantily clad means, anyway. I know I didn’t. (It means, “inadequately clothed.”)
Seems awfully subjective to me. I mean who decides what the right amount of clothes is? Maybe adequately dressed to me is no clothes at all. No clothes is enough clothes. That’s my motto, and I’m sticking with it. Birthday suites for everybody!
Anyways, I’ve been thinking about social dynamics lately. (I should make a collage out of all the random transitions on the blog. Birthday suites to social dynamics is probably one of the more sensible ones.) I’ve realized a lot of my struggles on stage come from the same place as my struggles in social environments or my struggles with women.
I’ve always had the tendency to fade into the background. I was a shy kid, have always been quiet, and have never really been the center of the room or the life of the party. I used to throw parties just so I could see everyone else having a good time. I’ve always been okay with that for the most part. Sometimes I find myself in situations where I wish people would notice me, but most of the time I’m happy going relatively unseen.
The problem is when you’re on stage, the last thing you want is to be unseen. If you’re an entertainer, the audience wants to be consumed by your performance. Keeping eyes on you is the goal. I’ve realized that I must learn how to capture the audience. I’ve been putting all of my energy into creating material, and none of it into creating a performer out of myself.
If you watch a lot of comedy you’ll realize a lot of things, but one in particular is the value of cadence and voice. Sometimes a comedian will say something that isn’t particularly funny or clever, but it sounds like it should be. The way they deliver makes it sound like a joke even if it’s not. For example, a lot of comedians will raise their voice at the punchline (or lack thereof) to signal to the audience: “this is where you’re supposed to laugh.” And people are sheep (especially in crowds) so they do.
Sometimes performing is directing more than anything. You can’t ask the approval of the audience. It won’t work to have the mindset of “do you guys think this is funny?” You have to maintain the mindset of “I know this is funny and I’m going to make you all understand just how funny it is.” The audience is looking for you to lead them. Most people are looking for someone to lead them in most situations.
People often look to someone to make a decision for the group. We’ve all been in a group where someone asks “where should we eat?” and everyone goes “uhh, I don’t know.” But once someone says “we should go here” then that’s where the group ends up going. A lot of the time it doesn’t even matter if the people in the group actually want to go to that place or not, the deflection of having to make a decision alone is enough for everyone to submit.
I’ve noticed in social situations, the guy who speaks like he knows what he’s talking about is the one who everyone follows. Whether he knows what he’s actually talking about or not is seemingly irrelevant. If he’s able to capture everyone’s attention by being talkative, loud enough, and convincing enough, all eyes are on him. He believes he’s interesting, so everyone else does, too.
I remember somebody close to me tell me something when I sent her a clip of a local comedian who’s very funny and killing it here in Austin. I said, “look how funny this guy is!” And she said “Yeah, he’s funny. But you’re funnier. He’s just convinced himself that he’s funny (and you haven’t.)” In order to be the funniest person in the room you have to convince yourself that you already are.
I’ve always had a fear of looking cocky or full of myself, and I’m starting to understand how that has affected my confidence. Confidence is being good at something and knowing you’re good at it. There’s congruence. It’s okay to be good at something and acknowledge it. Being cocky is incongruent. It’s when you’re not so good at something but you pretend that you are, or you might be good at something and you use that to put other people down. Understanding the difference between cocky and confident is something I’m gaining more of a grasp on, which is helping me become more comfortable in my confidence.
Applying this confidence is useful not only for comedy, but many aspects of life. For example, I used to convince myself that attractive women would never like me. And then they didn’t. Rather, they did, until they realized I didn’t believe in myself. I was creating this reality that I couldn’t be attractive, and then I would seek validation from the woman. Then I would wind up in a relationship with a girl who was obsessed with me because I needed all of her validation since I had none of my own. Not good for anyone involved.
I’ve given up trying to prove myself to women, because I don’t need to. They can prove themselves to me if they want to. The difference is night and day, and I know it’s going to help me in a lot of areas in my life, including comedy. I don’t need to prove anything anymore, I just need to believe in myself.
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