The last time we talked, I told you about how The Power of Full Engagement really changed the way I looked at life, rest, work…everything really. Long story short, the book basically said:
With my big spot on Quinn’s show coming up, I needed to get on stage as much as possible. I decided to go to an open mic, and proceeded to bomb my fucking ass off.
Rest leads to Recovery
Following the book’s advice, I recognized that I needed to rest and recover emotionally from the jarring experience. So, I took my time walking back to the subway.
After much reflection, I realized that I was going on stage haphazardly, sometimes thinking about my set beforehand, other times just going up without much preparation whatsoever. I lamented that if I wasn’t coming to open mics completely prepared, I was wasting my time writing material.
Most importantly, it dawned on me that I was missing was a clear, structured ritual to help me get into the right frame of mind and body before hearing my name called.
Actually scratch that – most importantly, I realized that I also needed a ritual for after the set, especially if I did bad, so that I could learn from my performances and move forward with my spirit intact. If I could figure out a way to handle bombing in an emotionally uplifting way, I would’ve gained a power that I believe a lot of comedians never solve. Well, never solve soberly, anyways.
Ivan Lendl: Rituals In Action
In the book, the authors tell the following story about Ivan Lendl, the famed tennis player:
|He was far from the most physically gifted tennis player of his era, but for five years he was the number-one-ranked player in the world. His edge was in the routines that he built…
Each time Ivan stepped up to the line to serve during a tennis match, he predictably wiped his brow with his wristband, knocked the head of his racquet against each of his heels, took sawdust from his pocket, bounced the ball four times and visualized where he intended to hit the ball. In the process, Lendl was recalibrating his energy: pushing away distraction, calming his physiology, focusing his attention, triggering reengagement and preparing his body to perform at its best. In effect, he was programming his internal computer. When the point began, the program ran automatically.
I wanted a ritual like that…
My Prestage Performance Ritual
It’s still a work in progress, but this is how my ritual looks right now:
The major things that I’m trying to achieve with my ritual are the same things that helped Ivan Lendl, i.e:
Pretty sweet, eh? I planned a couple of open mic visits last night and couldn’t wait to put my ritual to the test.
To be honest though, when I got to the venues, a huge part of me just wanted to throw my carefully crafted ritual right the fuck out…
Trying To Sing Like Sinatra
When I got there, I saw comics chilling, talking, and otherwise having fun before their sets. I, on the other hand, tried to sit alone with my phone so that I could go through my ritual. As you can imagine, it wasn’t the coolest thing in the world.
Furthermore, when I saw those same comics do exceedingly well on stage whereas I bombed (both times), it made me think,
C’mon son, you don’t need that shit. Just go up there and fuckin’ be funny and forget all this ritual bullshit.
But that’s wrong. I was comparing myself to comedians with anywhere from 3-15 years of experience. I shouldn’t expect to approach the stage like Sinatra when I have the experience of a choir boy. But…that’s what I wanna do, though…I want to be able to go on stage like Sinatra! It’s cool to do things in a seemingly unprepared way yet have the performance scream of talent and confidence. And because I saw people going on stage nonchalantly, something inside me said that maybe if I tried to mimic their approach, maybe I’d be able to mimic their success. But I don’t think that’s correct.
In university, I remember that there were more than a few gifted people who were able to get amazing marks without really having to try that hard. Furthermore, I realized that I had to study harder than most to receive the marks that I wanted. So, I sucked it up and studied in the school’s basement where I couldn’t tell what time of day it was so that I wouldn’t get sleepy.
And you know what? This muhfuh graduated with honours, son! And you know what they say about students that graduate with honours, right? Well, they say, um, oh wait – they don’t say anything about them, do they? There are no valedictorians after graduation.
Like I said, I bombed a couple times last night. I performed in venues that had completely different crowds, so I knew that my material would need a TON of work. That realization made the December 16th Quinnopoly deadline seemed constrictingly close. On the way home, I started to feel down on myself again.
But after going through my Post-set Review Ritual, I realized that I was performing material that, for the most part, had never seen the light of day. I was able to emotionally recover from the bombing by reminding myself that not only was bombing a part of the game, but it was also a good sign that I was confident enough to take unproven material in front of a crowd and lay it all on the line.
Now, to be honest, the next time when I see a big crowd I’m going to do my A-material, but hey, as long as I’m bombing forward, I’m fighting the good fight and living by my values.
A Reason To Stay
On a few occasions, I’ve gone to an open mic only to miss out on the lottery spot or get turned away because they ran out of time. Usually when that would happen, I’d just leave and head home.
But now, because I’m working on perfecting my ritual AND trying to strengthen my comedy, I’m staying for the show, pretending that I’m going on stage after every comedian and trying to come up with innovative ways to follow different performers.
The cool thing is that not only has my Pre-Stage Performance Ritual gotten simplified, but I’ve also come up with a lot of new material simply by going through the writing motions.
I got in around 1AM last night, and didn’t get to sleep until about a couple of hours later. There are two more open mics that I’m doing tonight, and I’m excited because I know that I’m closer to turning the material that is bombing into material that can kill. More importantly, I’m one step closer to becoming a comedian who can kill.
And that’s all I really want to be able to say to myself at the end of the day. I realized that wanting to be a killer comedian is a great goal, but I shouldn’t let it make me feel bad about where I am right now. As long as I can channel everything that I’ve learned thus far into my performances, I’m doing all I can do.
When I went to bed, the TV was on, and Dancing with the Stars was screaming colours at me. A white couple was dancing salsa to, ‘Don’t Hit The Black‘ which I found disrespectfully hilarious. But then again, when you make a song about slavery sound this good, who can blame them?