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.