Sunday, March 15, 2015


If you are not current-mainstream-society's-definition-of-physically-perfect, you are in luck: you have a body built for comedy. And the further you are from current-mainstream-society's-definition-of-physically-perfect, the more ideal your body is for comedy. You may receive nothing but negative messages about your body from those people and institutions who subscribe to current-mainstream-society's-definition-of-physically-perfect (or, fuck it, C.M.S.D.O.P.P. from now on), and that sucks, but once you're on a comedy stage, you will wipe the floor with everyone if you know how to use what you got.

Love your body, if for nothing else than its comic potential. But seriously, love it because it's yours, and it's the only one you'll ever get. If you loving your body is difficult for you, there are other blogs devoted to this. Go to one of those, and come back here once you've made some headway. Loving your body is crucial to your performance work, and fuck, to being human.

Back? Okay, good. So whatever your body is, you love it, because it belongs to you, and because you suspect that it will get you laughs if you know how to use it right. And you are 1000% correct about that.

If you have a body that looks like it does not exert itself much, guess what? Remember that anything that feels like a special, rare thing, an audience will cherish. So if you look like a bit of a couch-lover, but you are onstage dancing a tango or crawling like a tiger across the floor, you will quickly, quickly receive a lot of audience adoration. You will receive it way quicker than a yogi or an acrobat will. The audience expects the yogi and the acrobat to do physical things; they are not expecting that from you. Surprise those fuckers and win their love.

Also make sure to accentuate your body with your costume. A costume that reveals the contours of your body is generally a good idea, especially if you are not C.M.S.D.O.P.P. We'll talk more about what to wear later. 

But oh no! What if you are C.M.S.D.O.P.P.? What should you do with that idealized form of yours? Well, for starters, you better be ready to do your yoga and your acrobatics, if need be. And you also need to exploit whatever so-called "bodily imperfections" you do have. The good news is that C.M.S.D.O.P.P. really applies to like 2 people total. So chances are there is something about your body that is not, as they say in the trades, strictly ballroom. You're too skinny, you have a big beard, your knees look weird... there's gotta be something, Cindy Crawford! And/or this could be where some strategic padding or posture-adjustment could come in handy. We'll talk about that stuff later.

Your goal is to get a laugh the moment the audience sees you. There are so many ways your body can accomplish this. Choose yours.

Monday, March 9, 2015


I know what you've heard: many performers, even successful ones, have fragile egos. You may even be a performer who considers your ego a little on the shaky side. You're not alone! But now, get over it, immediately.

Here's the thing: maybe back in the Stone Age, when the fire was starting to go out for the night and everyone in the tribe was bored, tribal ha-ha-man Grog might have been a little shy and delicate. And that was okay.

"Come on, Grog! Please stand up near the mouth of the cave and do your impression of Ug-Ug having babies in the field!"

"Oh noooo," Grog would say. "Grog is scared and shy! You didn't laugh when I did that this morning!"

"But that was when we were distracted by the sun and the wind! Now it is night and the fire is almost out! We are bored and need something to distract us from the pain of being human!"

"Ohhhh kay," Grog says, ambling onto his rock-stage and assuming a crouching position. "Ouch," he cries, "my babies are coming!"
The tribe applauds wildly.

Those times are over. No one is begging you to entertain them anymore. Now there are 500 million ways the rest of the tribe can distract themselves from the pain of being human. 499,999,000 of those ways do not even involve putting on pants or leaving the comfort of an upholstered piece of furniture.

The time to be a performer with a fragile ego is loooooong gone. It's the audience's turn to be fragile now.

Think about it: they have put on pants. They didn't want to put on pants, and they're not even sure the pants look good. They didn't want to leave the comfort of their upholstered furniture that still has their smell. They have made a brave choice to come out into the scary, scary world to seek their entertainment. They are concerned they may have made the wrong choice. Nine times out of ten, they have.

You are the one on stage; you are in charge now. Your purpose is to assure them that they made the right choice—that they are sooooo courageous and wonderful for putting on their goddamn pants.

It matters not what crazy-fucked-up-trying-to-(dis)please-daddy reason got you on stage to begin with—once you are there, you are no longer the child seeking approval. If you're not mentally healthy and stable enough to be on stage and take care of your audience, you know exactly what smelly couch you should be on, and what degree of pantslessness suits you best.

Here's a paradox: your job as an entertainer is to pay total attention to how the audience is responding to you. You are there to serve them and to please them. But here's the funny part: if you act like you are at the audience's mercy, and will be crushed if they do not love you, they will never love you.

Think of a parent with her child. A good parent will know what is going on with her kid at all times. A good parent will let the kid know that he is seen and heard. But a good parent will not let the child feel totally in control. A good parent gives the kid boundaries, and does not get all butt-hurt if the kid is not happy every second. Remember who's got the power. 

Here's a useful mantra: Oh, you did not like that, audience? That's okay! That's totally fine! Get ready for THIS thing, audience! You will totally love it!


Don't get me wrong: it sucks when an audience is not loving you. There may be just one asshole in the middle of the audience, sitting there not loving you, but it still sucks, and it happens all the time to everyone, even Dermot Mulroney. But if you get mad at them, or take it personally, no one wins. Forgiveness is your best choice. When an audience sees that you forgive them, they start to like you more. They think to themselves: Hmm, this performer has failed to entertain me, but he seems aware of this fact, and he is not blaming me for not being entertained. In fact, he is making me feel okay about my feelings. Perhaps he is worthy of more of my attention, and maybe, eventually, my love.

Of course none of this is to say that you have to be totally sweet to your audience at all times. Yell at them from time to time, sure, make fun of them if that is your thing. But everything you do, you must do because you're taking care of them, and not vice versa. 

They've been so good, right? They deserve a cookie. As the tribal fire dies down, as the pain of being human rears its insistent head, be the grownup and give your audience the goddamn cookie they came for.

Sunday, March 1, 2015


I'll tell you two workshop stories today.

One is about a man we'll call Philip. Philip is a bit of a physical Adonis: very buff, very tall. When it comes time for Philip to try to entertain us, he isn't trying hard enough. He half-heartedly moves an arm, or a leg, but nothing is firing. Then I ask Philip to start doing pushups and situps for us. He is concerned.

"If I start doing anything too physical on stage, I'll sweat," he says.
"And that's a bad thing?" I ask.
"Well, I am a BIG sweater," he tells me.
"Great!" I say.

Philip is sort of right. He does sweat. But once Philip starts sweating, we start laughing. We can see his effort, his commitment to keep the audience happy despite moistening his clothes in the process. We begin to see him as a performer who will do anything for us, and his lovability increases. And when the audience loves a performer, the audience is a thousand times more likely to laugh at something that performer does or says. Philip knows how to kill now, because he knows that if he's sweating, he's doing something right.

Next up: Jen! Jen is blond, pretty and serene-seeming on stage. I ask Jen to show us her ferocious monster impression. Jen scowls a little, bares her teeth a little. Nobody laughs yet.

"Be even more ferocious!" I suggest to Jen. "It's okay if you drool a little!"

Jen is surprised by this direction, but she takes it in. She starts working up some saliva to present to us. And as she is doing so, she starts giggling uncontrollably.

I'm going to go off on a tangent for a second to talk about "breaking." A lot of people in my workshops ask about that: what happens if I start to laugh at what I'm doing? Doesn't that ruin it?

It all depends. If you come out on stage "breaking" already, you're right, we will not be into it. We will think you gave up too fast. But if you come out and try your best to not-laugh, and laugh a little bit uncontrollably, that is totally a different thing. Think of Harvey Korman on The Carol Burnett Show. Harvey Korman "broke" often. But the thing was, he didn't break immediately. He did his best at whatever ridiculous character he was playing, and sometimes he couldn't take it anymore, and he started giggling. But he tried not to giggle. He turned red, he cried, his cheeks puffed up. And we the audience felt privy to a real-live human experience, and we were riveted.

Back to Jen, mouth full of saliva, face beginning to contort with laughter. We are enthralled. A little bit of saliva seeps out of the corner of Jen's pretty little mouth. We start to laugh. How often does this girl drool in public? We're guessing never! We are witnessing a rare and beautiful thing, and we cannot get enough!

So drool, sweat, moisten, leak, wet your pants a tiny bit. Don't do it maliciously, or if it comes too easily. Do it when you can't help it. Your audiences will love you for it, and wet their pants a tiny bit, in sympathy with you, in perfect unison.