Drop your jaw. This is one of the keys to my teaching practice. More than any other instruction I give, drop your jaw gets the most immediate laughs and a-ha moments. Why is jaw release such an important aspect of this work?
Remember when you were a little baby? Opening your mouth was the first thing you learned to do. You realized that good things came to you if you opened up and sucked. As a toddler, you continued on your merry way, jaws wide open, ready to put whatever you could straight into your face-hole. It was how you learned about your world, and it was delicious.
At some point, though, somebody told you not to do that anymore. Maybe it was that time you ate the garbage. Maybe someone thought you “looked stupid” with your mouth open. Whatever it was, you learned to stop letting your jaw hang loose.
So your jaw got tight. Anger started to collect there. Sadness started to seep in. Those subtle little muscles around the bottom half of your face got constricted and short and boom just like that you were an adult.
The bad news is, jaw tension causes headaches and grinding and worry-lines and everything we don’t want. The good news is, remembering to release your jaw several times a day can make an enormous difference. The even-better news is that jaw release can be your secret weapon as a comedy artist.
Okay, so how do you do it?
Start at the back of your head. Crazy, I know, but starting back there is actually the best way to experience a deeper jaw release. Find your occipital ridge (those two bony bumps at the back of your head). That is where your skull connects to your spine, and some attachment points for your jaw are back there too. Rub those bony bumps, and as you do so, visualize your jaw falling away from your skull. I also like to send the back of my skull higher in the air (like someone is pulling me up from the back of my head), all the while letting the jaw fall.
Once you feel that separation between your jaw and skull, move your attention to the front of your face. Get a few knuckles in those spots where your jaw hinges are. You know the spots. Dig in there, dig up under your cheekbones, use your knuckles to mush up your cheeks.
Do that a lot! Many times a day. It will make a difference.
Students are always asking me about jaw release. Not because they don’t think it works; everyone can immediately see that it works. But why is it so fucking effective as a comedy tool? That is an ongoing conversation.
There are many answers. When you release your jaw, we see your eyes more (probably because your cheeks have less tension too). Opening your mouth is vulnerable, and we the audience love your vulnerability. Plus, when you stand on stage and release your jaw, we in the audience find ourselves confusing you for the cutest baby in the world, and all we want to do is love you.
An awesome workshop participant came up with a great one a few months ago: “It’s like the face you make when you are looking at skyscrapers, or the Grand Canyon,” he said. What a great way to see the audience! They are your Grand Canyon, and so you drop your jaw, in awe.
Is your jaw loose, right now? Do you feel the universe in that gorgeous cavity inside your head? Your head is free now, clown, and anything is possible.