After reading an article about a standup comedy class, I finally got up the courage to sign up for a six week class with Jeff Justice. I had no illusion regarding my comedic skills, but I had heard that the class also helps folks hone their presentation skills. As a single, middle aged mother on the dating scene, I knew that I plenty of material.
The first class was the most intimidating because we had to learn how to take the microphone and introduce ourselves to the class. Although taking a microphone off the stand and addressing a room full of fellow comedy students sounds easy, it’s actually quite challenging to accomplish when you’re nervous and in front of a bunch of strangers. After five attempts, I was able to confidently get the microphone and introduce myself. Jeff explained that if you fumble with the microphone and then nervously introduce yourself, you’ll immediately lose the audience. Whew…the first night was rough, but I got through it. Let’s face it, getting in front of any audience takes confidence.
There were a few rules regarding our material. First it had to be original, without profanity and last four minutes. Once you start looking at the world from a perspective of humor, it’s easy to take a terrible situation and turn it into something that makes you smile.
We wrote and rewrote our material (yes, some words are funnier than others), and then we had to practice, practice, practice. Most comedians memorize every aspect of their routine, so I practiced my routine over 100 times. But you also have to be prepared for the occasional heckler.
After six weeks of class, we were ready to graduate in front of over 200 guests at the Punch Line. The most nerve wracking part was right before I got on stage, but once I accomplished the microphone task successfully, it was easy. Having an entire room of folks chuckling at your jokes about the highs and lows of middle aged dating is kind of addictive. Hey – I am funny (or at least they were kind enough to laugh at my jokes).
I had such a good time that I participated in a few open mic events at Eddie’s Attic and I was actually paid for one show. (Okay – my “pay” only covered my $15 bar tab). I also met some very talented folks including TJ Young and John Crow.
So what did I learn…
1) It’s important to approach presentations with confidence
2) Always use your own material and be authentic
3) Practice, practice, practice
4) Life is funnier when you’re trying to write jokes
5) Take a chance and have fun
And oh yeah…..don’t forget to appreciate the funny folks around you.
My standup experience is one of the most rewarding things I’ve done, and it has helped me with my presentation skills. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to explore the funny side of public speaking.