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GUEST POST: Jon Kane on Fear in Stand-Up Comedy Part 2

February 15, 2011

Welcome back to part 2 of this week’s guest post by Toronto comic Jon Kane, about fear in stand-up comedy (part 1 here).  Let’s do this thing.

FEAR NUMBER TWO!  “Talking in front of people is scary!”

This fear isn’t as universal as FEAR NUMBER ONE, because there’s a lot of people that are absurdly comfortable with talking in front of a large number of people.  It exists though, so we might as well deal with it.  I’d actually suggest that this is a residual fear from FEAR NUMBER ONE – a room full of people isn’t as scary when they’re all laughing at your jokes.  So the previous solution kind of applies here.  It’s also worth noting that on most stages the lights are so bright that you don’t really see anyone beyond the first couple of rows.  You can pretend that they’re not there?  BUT NO, I hear you say, WE WANT A SOLUTION.  Fine, be like that, see if I care.

SOLUTION TWO: Just do it already.  And be LOUD.

[This kid just found out about Wiki-Leaks – Caption-crazy Buxton]

If you’re scared of standing up in front of people, then maybe you shouldn’t do stand-up comedy.  I don’t even know why it’d be an ambition of yours in the first place.  Standing up in front of people is a pretty important part of what a standup does (that’s why it’s right there in the title).  There are a ton of ways to be funny that don’t involve standing on stage.

That said, if you still really want to do it, the best way to get past this is to simply do it.  As soon as you do, you’ll realise that it doesn’t really matter how many people are in the room – the experience is pretty much equally scary each time.  You could start at smaller, quieter rooms so you get comfortable on stage, but you’re going to have to bite the bullet eventually.  Have faith in your material.  It’ll be fine.

I’d also recommend making sure that you take advantage of the microphone.  The louder you are, the more confident you appear.  Just don’t be yelling too much, because that can get pretty tiring, both for you and the audience.  There’s a Canadian comic that is hilarious by the name of Bobby Mair. He talks 10% louder than ever other comic on stage.  Dude is funny, but him talking louder makes him even funnier.  [Bobby’s style is definitely unique to him, but a great example of selling edgy material using heightened energy and charisma – Buxton] People associate volume with confidence.  People who mumble don’t project confidence – Use that to your advantage.

FEAR NUMBER THREE! “What if I get up and I get stage fright and stand there in silence?”

This is a good one, because it seems like a lot of people just seem to ignore it and get on stage anyway.  When you read everything I’ve already written, that might seem like a good idea.  Why deal with your fear when you can just ignore it?  But the simple fact is that if you get up on stage and you’re underprepared you’re going to suck.  And trust me, if you spend some time in the open mic rooms in Toronto you see a lot of people who get up on stage and they can’t think of anything funny to say.  Onto the next solution, friends.

SOLUTION THREE: Rehearse, motherhugger!

[HEY!  You god-damned well-adjusted family types!  Less huggin’ and more rehearsin’!

-Couldn’t resist Buxton]

I don’t care where you practice.  I don’t care if you say your set out loud in the shower or pace around your kitchen trying to make your collection of cats laugh.  You have to repeat your set over and over and over until you can say any part of it without looking at any notes.  You need to be careful that you don’t sound over rehearsed, but that’s what makes standup comedy so difficult.  You have to sound like you’re just coming up with this stuff off the top of your head, even though it’s been practised and honed and memorised.

And that’s it, friends.  For those of you who skipped to the end, let me sum it up for you:

I’d suggest that standup itself isn’t scary – a lack of belief in yourself and your material is what really scares you.  However, if you do the work and commit to getting better at the craft – the writing, the rehearsal, getting as much stage time as you can – then the fear will be replaced with a confidence that you can handle getting up in that room full of strangers and making them like you.  Because that’s what standup is all about  – I JUST WANT TO HAVE MY EXISTENCE JUSTIFIED BY THE LOVE OF COMPLETE STRANGERS!

Jon Kane is originally from Scotland and really shouldn’t be considered an authority on anything.  He does stand-up comedy in Toronto and makes people laugh on the regular.  You can see videos of him here, or like him on Facebook here.


That’s a wrap folks, see you next time.  Thanks again Jon for taking part.  If you have an idea for a guest post, please feel free to contact me at joelbuxton22 at Payyyyyyyyce!

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