In Praise Of Checklists

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Work out your principles during moments of calm so you can refer to them quickly during times of panic. .

I keep a checklist for everything I require for a full show, which covers everything from plastic grocery bags to a marshmallow. Because I know my checklist is comprehensive – created as it was during a period of reflection – it frees my mind to focus on more important things before the show like the specific needs of my client.

Consider the amateur actor who invests so much time “identifying with the character” and “investing emotionally” in the script only to walk onstage only to realize that he hasn’t memorized his lines.

Recently I got to thinking about Gene Krantz, the legendary vest-clad flight director of NASA’s Apollo space program. What a high-pressure job I thought. Imagine being the sole person responsible for green lighting a launch of human beings into space.

But then I got to thinking: Wait a minute: this guy has numerous others in charge of every conceivable aspect of the mission. Responsibility is broken down into incredible detail. Krantz’ job was basically ensuring that the vote is unanimous. He’s just a straw counter!

There’s the guy in charge of the rocket’s hydraulics. The mainframe computer. Even the lowly flight surgeon is on hand to monitor the astronauts’ heart rate. What does that leave for Krantz? Nothing other than the awesome responsibility of saying “You’re go for launch, Apollo”. Put me in a vest and I could do that job.

“Ah!” I hear you say. “But what about when something goes wrong like on Apollo 13?” Are you kidding me? That’s the easiest press conference in the world: you simply gesture to the guy in charge of that aspect of the mission that went to pot and say “Look – he said we were good to go. Now you’ll excuse me – I’m going to get quietly hammered.”

Return to daviddeeble.com or learn about my laugh-out-loud corporate presentation Winning With A Bad Hand.

Whipping The Audience Into A Frenzy Is Your Job, Not The Audience’s

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There are two ways to get the response you desire of an audience: earn it or demand that they fake it. The latter is characterized by the badgering of the audience over their insufficient zeal.

I understand you need energy. But why not energize the audience by doing something energizing?

I recently performed in a show emceed by a very nice guy who constantly reminded the audience the urgency of being whipped into a frenzy at all times.  I’m not complaining about the rote “Please give a warm Jacksonville welcome to…” I’m talking about the show business equivalent to North Korea’s forcing its citizens to out-wail one another over the death of Kim Jong Il.

“How you doing, everybody?!?! C’mon, you can do better than that, people! Let me hear you say APCA!” The college students gamely supplied what the emcee was desperately seeking: empty cheering which vanished the moment they were directed their attention to the next bauble.

One of those baubles was me. My approach was not the emcee’s: I believe that if the if the audience has shown up, shut up and given you their full attention then you can’t ask more of them. My job, as an entertainer, is to evoke a certain response and then to shape it, be it laughter, applause or even nervous silence.

By the time I came to the stage the audience had been participating in this showcase/social experiment for several days and were now downright Pavlovian in their response. There might as well have been digital Applause signs flashing on each side of the stage. I had anticipated this (even the most obstinate can’t help learning a thing or two over time) so I knew long before taking the stage that my task was to get this Ticonderoga-class ship to stop on a dime and begin responding more naturally: that is, without prompting.

Audiences are you like you and me, though: if you do a thing worth watching then they will tend to watch it. The key then becomes maintaining their engagement.  My philosophy is that whether you’re a teacher, sword swallower, speaker or comedy juggler, you must strive to be be interesting every moment from beginning to end.  Some things naturally make doing so more difficult (a drunken heckler) while others make it easier (a 4-year old drunken heckler).

Am I nuts? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviddeeble.com.

 

Happiness Is Hard

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In my home there lives a baby who loves taking a bath but who often must be dragged kicking and screaming to take one. There’s also a boy who eagerly anticipates his reward for completing his homework yet must be goaded into actually doing it. There’s a woman whose mood is boosted by exercise yet sometimes goes days without it. Finally, there’s a man who finds sharing ideas with others enormously gratifying yet often lacks the wherewithal to do just that.

What’s wrong with us?

Our problem  – most people’s problem – is that we think in terms of ease and comfort rather than happiness. Happiness takes an energized body and an engaged mind. Comfort requires only a decent-size sofa.

I know that preparing a new dish for my family will greatly increase my happiness. I know that shopping for the ingredients and working in the kitchen will increase my happiness. But I also know that there’s a yet another frozen pizza in the freezer which can be rendered delicious in less than 20 minutes. And that I can check out my latest Facebook post while I wait.

The next time you consider engaging in any activity, ask yourself “Will it make me happy or will it make me comfortable?”

Comments? Leave them in the section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch a me attempt to juggle while wearing a volunteer’s glasses.

Funny vs. Not Funny: A Primer

Extreme shortness: funny

Height extremes: funny

Well-defined abs: unfunny

Well-defined abs: unfunny

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

People ask me all the time: “Mr. Deeble, can you teach funny?” I always say the same thing: “You will address me as Dave or David: I believe I’ve earned it”. Which brings me to tip #1: be funny right off the bat.

Let me save you some time: despite proliferation of books, workshops and comedians which purport to teach you how to be funny, comedy cannot be taught. No one considers a particularly funny person and thinks “Boy, she’s really well-taught”. Why can’t comedy be taught? Because comedy requires comedic instincts and great comedy requires great comedic instincts. And you can’t teach instinct.

Take an example: well-defined abs. Few things in the world are more unfunny than a chiseled pack of six-pack abs. A thought experiment: recall of one of the funniest people (famous or otherwise) you are aware of when you were witnessing him at the height of his hilarity. Was it your co-worker at that time at the Christmas party? Was it Brian Regan talking about how great it’d be at parties to be one of the men 12 who’s walked on the moon?Whatever it was, remember what it was like to experience in real time what this person said or did that struck you as so hilarious. Recall what it felt like, both physically and emotionally, to engage in that wonderful thing called uncontrollable laughter. Got it? Good. Now imagine once again but this time imagine the hilarious person with chiseled, six-pack abs. He just got considerably less funny, didn’t he?

Probably it has something to do with the discipline, vanity and low-fat diet that great abs connote. If possessing one or even two of these attributes makes being funny an uphill battle, then great abs are the trifecta of unfunny.

Let me be clear: merely having great abs is not disqualifying. But like a medical doctor educated in the Caribbean, it’s best to keep it to yourself. In other words, don’t be this guy.

As long as we’re talking about physical attributes, being a “little person” is about as funny as you get. And not just because the term “little person” seems more offensive than the term it replaced, though that helps (offensiveness is funny. We’ll call that tip #2). And though I’m not a “little person” in the clinical sense (I can drive a car and stuff) I’m sufficiently diminutive to get away with jokes like these.

Which brings me to one of the great things about comedy: good looks are hindrance (call it tip #3 for maximum clickability). If you’re regular-looking, you’re ahead of the game. You may even be able to get away with slightly-above average looks. But people with aggressive good looks have a hard time of it, especially when they first come on stage. It’s distracting! The sooner the audience stops looking at you and starts listening to you, the more success you’ll have.

If you want to be a success at comedy but suffer from inordinate good looks, take my advice: give it a couple decades.

Thoughts? Comments? Leave them below.

Return to www.daviddeeble.com or see why I’d make a lousy magician.