“The Charisma Myth” Quotes

I recently read, “The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism” by Olivia Fox Cabane. Below are the quotes I found most interesting. If you like them, buy the whole book here.

“Charisma is the result of specific nonverbal behaviors, not an inherent or magical personal quality.” (4)

“When we first meet someone, we instinctively assess whether that person is a potential friend or foe and whether they have the power to enact those intentions. Power and intentions are what we’re aiming to assess. ‘Could you move mountains for me? And would you care to do so?’” (5)

“When you meet a charismatic person, you get the impression that they have a lot of power and they like you a lot… A final dimension underlies both of these qualities: presence.” (5)

“The three crucial aspects of charisma: presence, power and warmth.” (6)

“Three quick tips to gain an instant charisma boost in conversation:

  • Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of your sentences.
  • Reduce how quickly and how often you nod.
  • Pause for two full seconds before you speak.” (10)

“People will tend to accept whatever you project.” (19)

“Someone who is powerful but not warm can be impressive, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as arrogant, cold, or standoffish. Someone who possesses warmth without power can be likable, but isn’t necessarily perceived as charismatic and can come across as overeager, subservient, or desperate to please.” (20)

“We can’t micromanage charismatic body language.” (21)

“Our body language expresses our mental state whether we like it or not. Our facial expressions, voice, posture, and all the other components of body language reflect our mental and emotional condition every second. Because we don’t control this flow consciously, whatever is in our head will show up in our body language.” (21)

“To be effective, charismatic behaviors must originate in your mind.” (22)

“Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu reportedly said: “To know others is knowledge. To know oneself is wisdom.” (24)

“Because your brain cannot distinguish imagination from reality, imaginary situations cause your brain to send your body the same commands as it would for a real situation.” (24)

“Whatever your mind believes, your body will manifest. Just by getting into a charismatic mental state, your body will manifest a charismatic body language.” (25)

“Charisma has three essential components: presence, power and warmth.” (26)

“Any physical discomfort that affects your visible, external state – your body language – even slightly may affect how charismatic you are perceived to be.” (29)

“Signs of fatigue can easily show up in people’s body language as lack of enthusiasm.” (30)

“Check in with your face from time to time; notice if it is tense.” (31)

“Responsibility transfer:

1. Sit comfortably or lie down, relax, and close your eyes.

2. Take two or three deep breaths. As you inhale, imagine drawing clean air toward the top of your head. As you exhale, let that air whoosh through you, washing away all worries and concerns.

3. Pick an entity-God, Fate, the Universe, whatever may best suit your beliefs-that you could imagine as benevolent.

4. Imagine lifting the weight of everything you’re concerned about this meeting, this interaction, this day-off your shoulders and placing it on the shoulders of whichever entity you’ve chosen. They’re in charge now.

5. Visually lift everything off your shoulders and feel the difference as you are now no longer responsible for the outcome of any of these things. Everything is taken care of.

You can sit back, relax, and enjoy whatever good you can find along the way.

The next time you feel yourself considering alternative outcomes to a situation, pay close attention. If your brain is going around in circles, obsessing about possible outcomes, try a responsibility transfer to alleviate some of the anxiety. Consider that there might be an all-powerful entity-the Universe, God, Fate-and entrust it with all the worries on your mind.” (34-35)

“Try a responsibility transfer to alleviate some of the anxiety.” (35)

“Few things impact people’s performance more than how they feel about themselves.” (38)

“To destigmatize, remind yourself that this internal discomfort, whatever it might be, is a normal part of the human experience and a by=product of one of our brain’s survival mechanisms.” (44)

“Depersonalize the experience. Rather than saying “I’m feeling ashamed,” try “There is shame being felt.” Imagine that you’re a scientist observing a phenomenon.” (50)

“Neutralizing Negativity

Use the techniques below anytime you’d like to lessen the effects of persistent negative thoughts. As you try each technique, pay attention to which ones work best for you and keep practicing them until they become instinctive. You may also discover some of your own that work just as well.

• Don’t assume your thoughts are accurate. Just because your mind comes up with something doesn’t necessarily mean it has any validity. Assume you’re missing a lot of elements, many of which could be positive.

• See your thoughts as graffiti on a wall or as little electrical impulses flickering around your brain.

• Assign a label to your negative experience: self-criticism, anger, anxiety, etc. Just naming what you are thinking and feeling can help you neutralize it.

• Depersonalize the experience. Rather than saying “I’m feeling ashamed,” try “There is shame being felt.” Imagine that you’re a scientist observing a phenomenon: “How interesting, there are self-critical thoughts arising.”

• Imagine seeing yourself from afar. Zoom out so far, you can see planet Earth hanging in space. Then zoom in to see your continent, then your country, your city, and finally the room you’re in. See your little self, electrical impulses whizzing across your brain. One little being having a particular experience at this particular moment.” (50)

“We’re learning here to neutralize unhelpful thoughts. We want to avoid falling into the trap of arguing with them or trying to suppress them. This would only make matters worse.” (51)

“Because trying to suppress a self-critical thought only makes it more central to your thinking, it’s a far better strategy to simply aim to neutralize it.” (51)

“When people are induced into a negative emotional state and then asked to suppress negative emotions, their internal negative experience often remains unchanged and they sustain elevated stress responses in their brain and cardiovascular system.” (52)

“But what if you happened to learn that this apparently reckless driver was actually a distraught mother whose baby was choking in the backseat, and she was desperately trying to pull over into the breakdown lane while reaching back to save her baby’s life? Would that immediately reduce your anger?” (52)

“Deciding to change your belief about what happened (technically called cognitive reappraisal) effectively decreases the brain’s stress levels.” (53)

“Researchers concluded that deciding to change beliefs was a far more effective and healthier solution than attempting to repress or ignore emotions.” (53)

“In most situations, we don’t know for certain what motivates a person’s actions, so we might as well choose the explanation that is most helpful to us and create a version of events that gets us into the specific mental state we need for charisma.” (53)

“I sat down at the desk, pulled out pen and paper and asked myself: What if this unfortunate, unpleasant experience is absolutely perfect just as it is – the insomnia, the nausea, the fact that this is happening the very night before a high-profile assignment? In what way can this turn out to be absolutely perfect for me?” (54)

“I continued to write all the possible upsides of this unfortunate experience. I made this new reality as detailed and sensory-rich as possible: describing what I said, what the audience looked like, when and how they nodded and laughed throughout my speech.” (54)

“Write in the present tense: “The speech is going well…” Or, even better, in the past tense: “The speech was a complete triumph…” (56)

“Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.” (57)

“Putting It into Practice: Getting Satisfaction

• Think of one person in your life who has aggrieved you.

• Take a blank page and write that person a letter saying anything and everything you wish you had ever told them. Really get into this-you have nothing to lose. Make sure you write it out by hand.

• When you’ve gotten absolutely everything off your mind and onto paper, put the letter aside.

• Take a fresh sheet and write their response just the way you wish they would respond. You might have them taking responsibility for their actions, acknowledging and apologizing for everything they’ve ever done that hurt you. You don’t need to find any justification for their actions, just an acknowledgment and an apology. It’s your imagination, so you get to decide exactly what you’d like to hear.” (57)

“The answer, surprisingly, is to delve into those very sensations of discomfort. That’s right. Though it sounds counterintuitive, rather than trying to suppress, ignore, or power through them, your goal is to give your full attention to the very sensations you’d instinctively want to push away.” (61)

“The next time you do this exercise, aim to create images that are even more detailed. Guided imagery must be precise, vivid, and detailed to be effective.” (70)

“When clients ask me if they should use visualization before an important speech, I answer, “Only if you want it to go really well!”” (72)

After fifteen years of speaking professionally, I find that doing even thirty seconds of visualization makes a substantial difference to my performance. It greatly affects how charismatic I am on stage. In fact, every time I don’t run through a visualization just before stepping on stage, I regret it. Even when I know the speech so well I could say it backward, it’s worth using visualization to ensure that I get into the right charismatic mental state.” (72)

“Before key meetings, she’ll imagine “the smiles on their faces because they liked me and they are confident about the value I’m bringing them. I’ll imagine as much detail as I can, even seeing the wrinkles around their eyes as they’re smiling.” She visualizes the whole interaction, all the way through to the firm handshakes that close the meeting, sealing the deal.” (73)

“A twenty-second hug is enough to send oxytocin coursing through your veins, and that you can achieve the same effect just by imagining the hug. So the next time you’re feeling anxious, you might want to imagine being wrapped up in a great big hug from someone you care about.” (73)

“To boost your charisma, choose figures who represent complete self-confidence, or warmth and caring, or calm and serenity. Or you might even find some figures who embody all the elements at once. Visualize yourself going to these figures for a “pep talk” anytime you feel you need one. Thanks to the brain’s wonderful placebo response, this will produce effects even if it doesn’t feel real.” (74)

“One way to invoke a sense of gratitude is to focus on little things that are physically present.” (76)

“Another good gratitude-enhancing tool is to view your life through a third-person lens, writing a narrative about yourself cast in a positive light.” (76)

“​​When our only aim is to broadcast goodwill, it takes the pressure off.” (80) 

“Goodwill is the simple state of wishing others well.” (80)

“One simple but effective way to start is to try to find three things you like about the person you want to feel goodwill toward… even if these are as small as “their shoes are shined” or “they were on time.”” (80) 

“When you start searching for positive elements, your mental state changes accordingly and then sweeps through your body language.” (80)

“In any interaction, imagine the person you’re speaking to, and all those around you, as having invisible angel wings.” (81)

“Paul Gilbert describes the process of accessing compassion as follows: first comes empathy, the ability to understand what someone is feeling, to detect distress; second, sympathy, being emotionally moved by dis-tress; and third, compassion, which arises with the desire to care for the well-being of the distressed person.” (82)

“You can think your way into compassion even if you don’t naturally feel it.” (82)

“Putting It into Practice: Compassion

Goodwill and compassion give you warmth to balance your power, and can save you from appearing overconfident or, worse, arrogant.

They can also be a stealth tool, a silver bullet that turns around difficult conversations.

Take the three steps below to practice compassion for someone you know:

1. Imagine their past. What if you had been born in their circumstances, with their family and upbringing? What was it like growing up in their family situation with whatever they experienced as a child? It’s often said that everyone you meet has stories to tell, and that everyone has a few that would break your heart. Consider also that if you had experienced everything they have experienced, perhaps you would have turned out just like they have.

2. Imagine their present. Really try to put yourself in their shoes right now. Imagine what it feels like to be them today.

Put yourself in their place, be in their skin, see through their eyes. Imagine what they might be feeling right now-all the emotions they might be holding inside.

3. If you really need compassion dynamite, look at them and ask: What if this were their last day alive? You can even imagine their funeral. You’re at their funeral, and you’re asked to say a few words about them. You can also imagine what you’d say to them after they’d already died.” (83)

“Helen had plenty of self-confidence. So what was she lacking? Warmth. People were impressed by how much she knew, but they didn’t feel cared for. Helen couldn’t emanate warmth because she had a hard time feeling it-whether for others or for herself.“ (84)

“Self-confidence is our belief in our ability to do or to learn how to do something. Self-esteem is how much we approve of or value ourselves. I’s often a comparison-based evaluation (whether measured against other people or against our own internal standards for approval). Self-compassion is how much warmth we can have for ourselves, especially when we are going through a difficult experience.” (84)

“Self-compassion is feeling that what happened to you is unfortunate, whereas self-pity is feeling that what happened to you is unfair.” (85)

“defines self-compassion as a three-step process: First, realizing that we’re experiencing difficulties. Second, responding with kindness and understanding toward ourselves when we are suffering or feel inadequate, rather than being harshly self-critical. Third, realizing that whatever were going through is commonly experienced by all human beings, and remembering that everyone goes through difficult times.” (86)

“Displaying confident body language will actually make you feel more confident; these feelings will in turn affect your body language.” (91)

“For confidence, assertiveness, and to be able to emanate gravitas, imagine playing the role of a military general, take a wide stance, puff up your chest, broaden your shoulders, stand straight, and confidently put your arms behind your back. Feel the effect of this posture internally.

For a boost in both energy and warmth, stand up, stretch your hands as high up as possible, inhale as much as you can imagine your rib cage expanding, doubling in size make the biggest smile you can and look upward, hold for a second, and then relax everything.” (92)

“I decided that I was a movie star incognito.” (93)

“Just as professional athletes and performers do, plan a gradual warm-up to reach your peak charismatic performance. Before important events, avoid experiences that would impair your mental state and plan warmth- and confidence-boosting activities instead.” (97)

“As always, body language trumps all other signs of charisma. Even if all the other signals are present, a body language of insecurity will undermine any possibility of authority charisma.” (105)

“To project power and confidence in your body language, you’ll need to learn how to “take up space” with your posture, reduce nonverbal reassurances (such as excessive nodding), and avoid fidgeting.” (106)

“Clothing, essentially, is modern-day tribal wear.” (118)

“An easy way to start interactions in a way that both communicates warmth and sends the conversation down the right path is to offer a compliment about something the person is wearing.” (123) 

“Continue with an open-ended question, such as “What’s the story behind it?”” (123)

“If they start asking about you and you want to refocus the conversation on them, use the bounce back technique. Answer the question with a fact, add a personal note, and redirect the question to them, as follows:

Other Person: “So where are you moving to?”” (124)

“Remember, it’s all about keeping the spotlight on them for as long as possible.” (124)

“Instead of saying “I read a great article on that subject in the New York Times,” try “You might enjoy the recent New York Times article on the subject.” Or simply insert “You know…” before any sentence to make them instantly perk up and pay attention.” (124)

“We are about to cover three keys to communicating presence: attentive listening, refraining from interrupting, and deliberate pausing.” (129)

“One simple but extraordinarily effective habit that will make people feel truly listened to and understood: they pause before they answer.” (130)

“When someone has spoken, see if you can let your facial expression react first, showing that you’re absorbing what they’ve just said and giving their brilliant statement the consideration it deserves. Only then, after about two seconds, do you answer.” (131)

“First, think about how you would behave if you were indeed speaking to the most important person in the room.” (135)

“imagine that the person you’re speaking with is the main star in a movie you’re watching right now.” (135)

“I tell all my clients: Don’t try to impress people. Let them impress you, and they will love you for it.” (136)

“Studies have consistently shown that audience ratings of a lecture are more strongly influenced by delivery style than by content.” (139)

“Increasing voice fluctuation means making your voice vary in any of the following ways: pitch (high or low), volume (loud or quiet), tone (resonant or hollow), tempo (fast or slow), or rhythm (fluid or staccato).” (140)

“One classic exercise to hone your projection skills is to imagine that your words are arrows. As you speak, aim them at different groups of listeners.” (141)

“Tempo: A slow, measured tempo with frequent pauses conveys confidence.” (141)

“Putting It into Practice: Vocal Power

The guidelines below will help you broadcast power through your voice.

1. Speak slowly. Visualize the contrast between a nervous, squeaky teenager speaking at high speed and the slow, emphatic tone of a judge delivering a verdict.

2. Pause. People who broadcast confidence often pause while speaking. They will pause for a second or two between sentences or even in the middle of a sentence. This conveys the feeling that they’re so confident in their power, they trust that people won’t interrupt.

3. Drop intonation. You know how a voice rises at the end of a question? Just reread the last sentence and hear your voice go up at the end. Now imagine an assertion: a judge saying

“This case is closed.” Feel how the intonation of the word closed drops. Lowering the intonation of your voice at the end of a sentence broadcasts power. When you want to sound superconfident, you can even lower your intonation midsentence.

4. Check your breathing. Make sure you’re breathing deeply into your belly and inhale and exhale through your nose rather than your mouth. Breathing through your mouth can make you sound breathless and anxious.” (141)

“There’s only one thing you need to do in order to project more warmth in your voice: smile. Smiling affects how we speak to such an extent that listeners in one study could identify sixteen different kinds of ~ smiles based on sound alone.’ This is why it’s worth smiling even when on the phone.” (142)

“Often, just thinking about smiling is enough to give your voice more warmth.” (142)

“Imagine that you’re a preacher exhorting your congregation.” (142)

“​​If your body language is anticharismatic, it doesn’t matter how great your message is.” (144)

“As a leader, the emotions conveyed by your body language, even during brief, casual encounters, can have a ripple effect through your team or even your entire company.” (145)

“The first is excessive or rapid nodding. Nodding once for emphasis or to express agreement is fine and can be an effective communication method, but nodding three or four times in rapid succession is not.” (161)

“The second hindrance is excessive verbal reassurance: making a sound, such as “uh-huh,” or a half-sentence, such as “Oh, I agree.” Done once, and consciously, this is fine; multiple times per sentence is not.” (161)

“The third issue is restlessness or fidgeting (tapping your pencil or foot, or rearranging items on the table). Fidgeting decreases presence, thus charisma. Even when you have warmth, confidence, and are mentally present, if you are physically restless, you can’t be charismatic.” (161)

“Aim to bring your chin down a few degrees.” (162)

“Asking for someone’s opinion is a better strategy than asking for their advice, because giving advice feels like more effort, as they have to tailor a recommendation to your situation, whereas with an opinion, they can just spout whatever is on their mind.” (168)

“Imagine that just a few hours ago they saw a beloved parent die.” (171)

“Here’s one specific— and surprisingly effective-recommendation for phone charisma, courtesy of author Leil Lowndes: Do not answer the phone in a warm or friendly manner. Instead, answer crisply and professionally. Then, only after you hear who is calling, let warmth or even enthusiasm pour forth in your voice. This simple technique is an easy and effective way to make people feel special.” (185)

“Write out the e-mail as you normally would, but before you send it, simply cut and paste so that whatever pertains to the other person appears first and most prominently.” (185)

“I often recommend that they go through their marketing materials (you can do the same with your e-mails) using two different-colored highlighters, one for things relating to them and the other for sentences that speak to their potential clients. If the second color doesn’t predominate, they have a problem.”” (185)

“It’s hard to have a question-and-answer period as compelling and energetic as your main speech. Almost inevitably, the Q&A period lowers the energy.” (190)

“Personally, I avoid formal Q&A entirely. Instead, my introducer warns the audience that there will be no Q&A session at the end, so their one and only chance to ask questions is during the speech.” (190)

“• Red conveys energy, passion. Wear red to wake up an audience.

• Black shows you’re serious and that you won’t take no for an answer.

• White exudes honesty and innocence, which is why defendants often choose it in the courtroom.

• Blue emits trust. The darker the shade, the deeper the level of trust it elicits.

• Gray is a good neutral, the quintessential color of business.

• Orange and yellow are not recommended. Because they are the first to attract the human eye, they are also the first to tire it.” (191)

“Express high expectations. Sometimes, simply assigning to people the labels you want them to live up to is enough” (202)

“Express this expectation as if you have full confidence that they can live up to it.” (203)

“Giving people a sense of ownership for your success is a great way to prevent resentment and engender good feelings, such as pride and loyalty, instead.” (208)

Liked the quotes? Buy the full book here.

So You’re Not Connecting With The Audience, Now What?

This happens to me more often than I’d like. There’s a few different techniques that I’ve tried, all with limited success:
1) If you bumble your setup, you can just say “oops I got my tongue twisted, we’re gonna rewind time” (make a tape rewind sound, then start your joke again)
2) If your first punch line doesn’t hit, change topics
3) Keep going with the joke, and if three punch lines in a row miss, just acknowledge it, “You’re right, I need to make that funnier” (just don’t get in the habit of always doing this, especially at open mics because it will almost always get a laugh but for the wrong reasons)
4) I have this issue too, but try to commit to the joke more. You might not be connecting because it’s not evident you fully believe what you’re saying. This is particularly true when you’re doing an act out. I have a funny video I need to upload of an open mic I did a couple weeks back where I decided to do the same joke 6 times in a row (it was a 10 minute open mic set) because I decided the joke wasn’t funny and I needed to really commit to it.
5) This is more for a real show than an open mic, but it can work if there’s audience members that aren’t comics: If you notice jokes aren’t working, stop doing jokes and have a conversation with the audience. This is annoying if you’re trying to work out a joke and have limited time, but it will save the set.

You’re in the middle of a joke, or even worse, a set, and you see that the audience isn’t connecting or following what you’re saying. This is bound to happen occasionally (hopefully not too often) and how you deal with it can make or break the set.

Here’s a few different techniques that I’ve tried, all with varying levels of success:

  1. If the problem was you stumbled over your setup, you can just say “oops I got my tongue twisted, we’re gonna rewind time” (make a tape rewind sound) and then start your joke again
  2. If your first punch line doesn’t hit, change topics
  3. If your first punch line doesn’t hit, keep going with the joke. If three punch lines in a row miss, just acknowledge it, “You’re right, I need to make that funnier” (just don’t get in the habit of always doing this, especially at open mics because saying this will almost always get a laugh but for the wrong reasons)
  4. Try to commit to the joke more. You might not be connecting because it’s not evident you fully believe what you’re saying. This is particularly true when you’re doing an act out. There’s an open mic I did a couple weeks back where I decided to do the same joke 6 times in a row (it was a 10 minute open mic set) because I decided the joke wasn’t funny and I needed to really commit to it (video of this is coming soon).
  5. If you notice jokes aren’t working, stop doing jokes and have a conversation with the audience. You don’t even need to try to be funny. Some audiences just want a talk show style therapy session. (I’ve found this tends to happen with smaller crowds of 8 to 15 moreso than with large crowds.) This is annoying if you’re trying to work out new material and have limited time, but it will save the set.

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? I teach a Comedy Class in New York City. I also do private one-on-one comedy coaching (in-person or via Zoom).

More Stand-Up Comedy Tips:

5 Tips for Overcoming Stage Fright

A lot of people are scared of speaking in front of large groups. And that’s when you’re not even trying to get them to laugh. At one of the open mics I go to, a newer comedian asked me how I overcame being nervous on stage. (My hands used to shake while holding the mic and I would never pause after punch lines.)

Tip #1: There’s no real shortcut, getting over stage fright just comes with reps. The more you’re on stage, the less nervous you get. If you can get comfortable with complete silence (when neither you nor the audience is talking) you’ll be well on your way.

Tip #2: Practice deep breathing for five minutes before getting on stage. Focusing on taking deep breaths helps calm the adrenaline and still the mind. Picturing your performancein your mind and hearing the laughs and pauses works well in conjunction with breathing, as long as you can remain positive.

Tip #3: Read “The Inner Game of Tennis” this will help you with most of everything you do in life, not just getting comfortable on stage. The basic summary of the book is to turn off your conscious, questioning everything mind and to trust your subconscious. This book is basically about how to get in, and stay in, “the zone”. I highly recommend reading it even if you have no intention of getting on stage (or playing tennis).

Tip #4: Use external mood alterers. A pro comic I know said he uses alcohol as his crutch and has been doing it for over 10 years. He mentioned that the first few times he did comedy he was sober and wasn’t funny, so he started drinking, felt more at ease and got funny. He said many pro comics he knows use alcohol, pot or cocaine to get into a good state of mind before getting on stage. I don’t recommend this strategy, as you never know when an entire state can run dry on coke. This tip may also be an issue if you’re overcoming stage fright to present at a work conference at 9am…

Tip #5: Channel the nervous energy in a positive way. Being nervous in and of itself isn’t bad, it’s what you do with the nervousness. There was a recent ESPN article about Tiger Woods who was quoted as saying, “The day I’m not nervous is the day I quit… Of course I’ll be nervous. That’s the greatest thing about it, just to feel that rush.” If the greatest golfer still gets nervous (and he doesn’t even have to speak!), it’s okay if you get feel it too. Just try to turn it into something you can use while speaking.

In conclusion, accept that you’re going to have some nerves. Acknowledge that it’s natural, know you’ve gotten through it before (unless it’s your first time on stage) and this should already make you less nervous. Then when the adrenaline occurs, either turn that nervousness into a positive, or do your best to ignore it.

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? I teach a Comedy Class in New York City. I also do private one-on-one comedy coaching (in person or via Zoom).

More Stand-Up Comedy Tips:

9 Tips for Your First Stand Up Comedy Performance

You love comedy. You watch all the great (and some not so great) comics and lots of comedy tv shows. You’ve probably written a few jokes and you’ve toyed with the idea of performing. Here are some tips to motivate yourself to get on stage and what to do when you’re there.

  1. Get on stage as soon as humanely possible. You don’t want to over think it, start making excuses and end up never getting on stage.
  2. Don’t get on stage without first running the jokes by your friends and seeing if they laugh. If your friends don’t laugh at any of your material, you either have terrible friends or terrible jokes. You decide.
  3. Keep a note card in your pocket. No matter how much you practice, your mind can go blank the first time. My mind would go blank at least once a set my first ten or twelve times on stage.
  4. Slow down. You’ll almost certainly be nervous and start to rush through your punch lines if there isn’t instantaneous laughter. It takes a long time to get comfortable with silence, but for now, just talk slower. Think you’re talking too slow? Slow down more anyway.
  5. Videotape it. Or if you can’t afford a camera (most still digital cameras have a video mode), get a $20 voice recorder or download VoiceNotes for your iPhone (if you have one).
  6. When you see a light, that means you have one minute to wrap it up. Don’t run your time. Chances are you’re not gonna be that funny your first. You don’t want to piss off the host and club manager as well.
  7. Don’t stop until you finish all your jokes or time runs out, no matter how quiet the crowd is and how much you feel like dying. Embrace the feeling of wanting to kill yourself, if you get hooked on this stuff, you’ll feel it many more times, even when you start getting paid to perform.
  8. Being nervous is normal. You’re stepping outside your comfort zone so you may feel some nerves or adrenaline before hand. That’s fine and natural. Know you’ll be fine once you’re up there and talking. If you’re up there and feel nervous for more than the first minute, you can say it aloud, the truth of the situation will probably get a laugh.
  9. Try to have fun. You’re not gonna get a half hour special or a sitcom deal from your first time ever on stage (this isn’t the 80’s!). So just try to enjoy it as much as you can.

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? Consider taking my NYC Comedy Class or booking a private one-on-one comedy coaching session (in person or via Zoom)

More Stand-Up Comedy Tips:

The Comedy Business: Types of Spots

This is a continuing series of posts about the business and production side of stand up comedy that most people don’t know about. Click here to view part one which explains the different types of shows.

The Stand Up Format:

Every stand up show has multiple performers. Even the stand up heavyweights that play in 20,000 seat stadiums like Dane Cook (love him or hate him, he plays huge venues) have at least one comedian perform before them to warm up the crowd.

For well known acts, the format of the evening is usually: Opener, Middle and Headliner, with the emcee coming on in between comics. For clubs that showcase new talent, there can be anywhere from 7 to 25 comedians performing in a given show so the format would be more like: Opener, Middle, Middle, Middle …. Middle, “Headliner”.

The types of spots:

Emcee: Your host for the night, he (or she) usually does some crowd work at the beginning, introduces every comic, and keeps the show running on schedule by giving every comic the one minute warning light. (Comics are told in advance how much time they will be given on stage and it falls on the emcee to remind them when time is running out.) The emcee is not expected to tell many of their jokes, but if a comic “bombs” (gets very few or no laughs) then the emcee is also expected to tell a solid joke or two to win the audience back over before the next comic gets up on stage.

Opener: The first comic that the emcee introduces. He is the opener and usually has the shortest amount of time. His job is the warm up the crowd and get them laughing, so that they are ready to be rolling on the floor for the later acts. It’s interesting to note that even with the same material, a comic will get more laughs later in the show. At the start of the show, the audience is not warmed up and is less receptive.

Middle: Can be one or more comics that go between the opener and the headliner. Some (bringer) shows don’t have a headliner, so everyone is a middle comic except for the opener and the:

Check Spot: Considered the worst spot to get. This is usually right before the headliner goes up and is when all the tables in the crowd are given their check. This is the worst spot because most people momentarily stop paying attention to the show and examine the bill, get out their wallet, and figure out who owes how much. Some talking usually occurs. And since not everyone is able to receives their check at the same time, constant talking is heard throughout the check spot. This spot can also be part of an emcee’s job.

Headliner: The last person to go. Usually, producers “save the best for last”. At major comedy clubs and stadiums, this person’s name is usually the reason you decided to come. Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock are two examples of headliners. By this point, the crowd is nice and liquored up, and is usually familiar with the comic coming up next, so they are expecting hilarity. During open mics, the last comic to go up is also called the headliner but in a derisive /sarcastic context.

How The Lineup is Determined

“The Lineup” (which comic gets which spot) is determined by the producer of the show. A producer can be an individual renting out a performance space, or the comedy club itself (usually represented by a manager). The lineup can be created days or weeks before the show (in the case of well known comics) or it can be created during the show, where a comic is given a 2 minute notice that they are up next.

The producer’s relationship or contract with each comic, how many people came to see a certain comic that night (if it’s a bringer) and the comic’s name recognition / the comic’s level on the comedy ladder (a post about this topic is forthcoming) all help to determine the line up.

Paid vs Free Performances and Guest Spots

The same factors that determine where in the lineup a comic is performing also help to determine whether the comic is getting paid, being given a guest spot, or has to do something in return for stage time (bark or bring friends).

A guest spot is a “present” to the comedian performing. A comedian can be given a guest spot for a number of reasons including: being friends with the producer, doing something helpful for a producer previously (like bringing a lot of people) or because the comedian being given a guest spot also produces a different show and the has “traded spots” with this show’s producer (most producers are also stand up comedians).

Once you are able to make a crowd laugh consistently, you need constant stage time to keep improving your craft. Producing your own show and trading guest spots with other comics is one of the best ways to gain extra stage time, exposure to other audiences and to network with other comedians.

Wanna try stand-up comedy yourself? Consider taking my NYC Comedy Class or booking a private one-on-one comedy coaching session (in person or via Zoom)

More Stand-Up Comedy Tips:

Verified by ExactMetrics