As a comedian, you have to know yourself. Know your movements. Know your voice. As a performer, comedy becomes a study of yourself. It becomes a narcissist's trade--not at bad as actors, but pretty damn close.
My problem is that I don't fawn over myself in the mirror. You'll never catch me checking out my reflection as I walk past a store front. The thought never occurs to me.
...I have always depended on the kindness of strangers...
You're thinking: Lucy, what about if there is spinach in your teeth? Or fresh gooey brain nuggets protruding from your skull? What do you do then?
My answer is: Like Blanche DuBois, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.
And don't worry! I reciprocate! Even if I've known you for less than 5 secs, I'm the first to tell you that you have falafel residue on your cheek. I think it's only fair. Because I always follow the Golden Rule: Treat others as you want to be treated. That's gospel to me!
The latest bit I'm hearing from comedians is that they record their performances to gain further information about themselves. One comedian told me that he never knew he swayed side-to-side before he saw himself on tape. Good to know, right? With that information, he quickly edited 'the sway' out of his performances.
In this trade, you end up studying yourself, much like sports teams watch their gameday videos. You need to video tape yourself to watch what you look like on stage. You will learn so much just by watching your performances. You notice if you're a swayer, a pacer, a hide-behind-the-mic'er, a gaze-down-at-the-floor'er, or a look-out-at-the-audience'er (which is the best problem to have). You hear how many 'um's, 'uh's, 'ah's there are in your act. You gain a ton of information, you adjust your nuances and your performance, and ultimately you grow as a comedian.
The one thing I've learned in my performances is that you have to be okay with silence. It's okay to have time and space between your jokes. It's okay to use that precious pause in between (and sometimes during) jokes. That silence builds confidence. You know all eyes are on you. I've been told time and time again, you need to own the stage. Not only do you own the stage, but you also have rented that microphone, and for that time being, you occupy that space. (Until the landlord gives you light and then you have to vacate!) Don't let the audience taunt you. Don't let the people offstage (managers, bookers, other comics, etc.) freak you out. You have to get into your head that you are "da man" (no offense, ladies).
I heard about one comedian who purposely paced the stage---giant, giant steps. He would walk the perimeter of the stage and take his time before each joke. Each joke, of course, was a zinger and it killed. But in between each joke, he took about 15-30 secs. 30 seconds?!? That's a lifetime! (You can especially relate to this if you've ever been on stage or made a speech!) Imagine this guy just pacing--just walking, like he owned the stage--owned the performance. Of course, this guy was a huge football player type--I think he was black, not that that matters. But maybe it was easy for him to get into that "frame of mind." Whereas I, 137 lbs, post-NYC heatwave, have to learn to "own it."
But maybe being scared isn't so bad. There seems to be a consensus amongst comedians that the best type of comedy stems from when you're scared. When your back is against the wall, you're cornered, and you have to perform in order to get out. That is when true comedy develops.
Maybe that is the transition. Maybe that's the rite of passage. Where you go from scared fledgling to fiery phoenix. And that's why I have this blog--to document the inevitable ascent.
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