Comedy Lessons From a KungFu Master
The microphone at my gig the night before I made this video blog kept cutting in and out on me. I was performing for a packed, yet intimate audience, and it was still a lot of fun despite the microphone problems.
I always have fun. Always have fun. They will have fun with you and you’ll never have a bad show. And that’s exactly how it went down.
However, there was HUGE potential for disaster, considering the microphone problems.
We did a sound and microphone check before the show started. Seemed to me like maybe some knobs needed adjusting on the sound board or the battery replaced in the mic (it was cordless). But nothing too major.
As soon as my opening act took the stage, the mic went out. She performed her 10-15 minutes with no microphone at all! Which kudos to her. I have done that before and it’s no easy feet.
I once delivered a full 45-minutes in front of 400-ish person crowd at a casino with no lights or mic!
That said, I DO NOT LIKE PERFORMING WITHOUT A MICROPHONE! I do voices and sound effects. I use the mic as a prop. I pace a lot and act out characters and situations in my show. The microphone is so very important to be able to do all that effectively.
So even after the battery was changed in the microphone, it was still cutting in and out. And usually at the worst possible time- right as I was about to deliver a punchline.
So now what?
A lot of comedians would freak out, cop an attitude, maybe even walk off the stage, maybe not even do the show.
I don’t believe in that. What are you going to do when you’re faced with a difficult, seemingly impossible challenge? Are you just going to curl up and die? Or are you going to face it head on, and overcome?
I was reminded of this lesson from watching the movie Kill Bill. There is a scene with Uma Thurman’s character training with a kung-fu master. He puts his fist through a huge block of wood, and asks Uma Thurman if she can do that. She says, “Yes, but not that close.” Then Pai Mei screams at her “Then you can’t do it! If your enemy was that close, what would do? Curl up in a ball and die? Or put your fist through him?”
Eventually, through the cruel tutelage of Pai Mei, Uma Thurman is able to chop her way out of a casket after being buried alive 6 feet in the ground.
Performing live comedy can be a cruel teacher. Especially when the conditions are challenging. If you can’t effectively deal with those challenges, overcome adversity, and conquer your enemy (in this case, for me, shitty audio) then you can’t do live comedy.
I’ve found the key is to accept the reality of the situation. Don’t wish for the ideal circumstance. Be fluid. Bruce Lee once said, “Be like water.” Water will find all the little cracks and crevices to flow through. When faced with a challenge, on stage, I try to find all the metaphorical cracks and crevices to flow through.
I appreciate every challenge and setback as an essential lesson in my development as a performer. Because I was forced to speak slower and project my voice louder, it caused me to slow down my thinking. I came up with new material. I discovered some new ways to deliver older material, freshening it up.
The audience appreciated the extra effort they saw me putting forth. They became more attentive. So it worked out.
Be in the moment, aware of the the dynamics at play, and make them work for you. Use all the little lessons from to toughen up, grow, become stronger.
I don’t care what level you’re at, there’s always something to learn. You’re not a master, until you can put your fist through your enemy.
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