Making Dreams Come True for Comics and Speakers since 1984
  Judy Carter's Comedy Workshops  

How to Never Be Boring

Last night I had a EUREKA MOMENT.

As I prepare for my Story and Speaking workshop in NYC, I have been trying to figure out why some stories are so captivating -- and others have the same effect as Ambien.  I woke up at 4am with the answer.  Let me know if this makes sense to you.

We’ve all heard boring speakers drone on about the events in their life, sucking the life out of a room like an energy vampire.  Their story usually ends with a "Well, I guess you had to be there” moment.

But then you hear stories that make us lean in, put down our phones, and stop tweeting, because we don’t want to miss a word.  These are the stories that make us laugh, give us hope, and are more interesting than our friend’s latest FB status update.

What is the difference?  OK, before I tell you, let me tell you how I got this.

One of my clients was expressing their fear of forgetting their material.  I launched into a story about how I forgot a huge chunk of my speech at a very important gig.  I went into detail about what happened and my panic.  But, then I took a breath, made a joke about it, and everyone laughed.  My memory came back and from that point on, I had the audience in the palm of my hand.  Moral – sometimes when the worst happens, and we acknowledge it, we become more authentic, and a better speaker.

Are you seeing what a good story is?  You’re telling them every day.  A story is only good and relevant if it is told in REACTION to your AUDIENCE'S PROBLEM.  For instance, if a dear friend of yours is talking about how she lost her job, lost her lover, and is worried about her health -- most of us would tell a story along the lines of "I understand.  I was there where you are.  And I struggled.  And in the end, I found my true career, I found the love of my life, and I recovered my health."

These stories are never boring to the listener because the story is generated to GIVE hope, recovery, and inspiration.  The story is geared toward the listener's problem.  When the speaker’s story is motivated by empathy for the audience, it  naturally truncates the story because it makes the speaker focus on the MESSAGE rather than details motivated by narcissism.  When the motivation for telling the story of your life is because YOU think it’s interesting – you’re only telling it because of your own need for attention, approval, and laughs. You become a TAKER.  When the goal of your story is is to provide the troubled listener with a message of hope, you become a GIVER.

You can’t have a successful story without understanding the needs and problems of your listener.

Back in my blog, Get People to Love You in One Minute, I explain the exercise of actually interviewing audience members before you perform.

Stories can be a powerful form of communication in speaking, in business, and in your personal life -- if your approach is based on GIVING -- rather than TAKING.

Will a Female Comic Ever Host Late Night?

The LA Times called CBS’s choice of Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman, “Not a Conservative Choice.”

Really?  Come on.  I love Colbert, but casting another white male comic in the coveted Late Night hosting spot is as radical as choosing vanilla at 31 Flavors.

I was one of the few female comics touring clubs in the 80’s.  In 1986, I was doing my first comedy special for Showtime.  This was a big deal because it was produced by Paramount.  It was four comics, and I was the only woman on the show.  I was backstage listening to Howie Mandel introduce me:  “And our next guest is uh, ah, is a woman, she’s a woman!  And I know that cause I’ve seen her (two things that start with T) …. They’re real!  Here is Judy Carter…”

Yes, I was being introduced as if my gender was a gross abnormality.  Stomach churning, I summoned my courage and decided not to respond, certain that the producers would cut out the offending introduction.  But, they didn’t, as you can see here:  (Please don’t judge the big hair).

So much has changed since the 1980’s.  We have an African-American president, female CEOs, and gay people can get married.  And, on late night TV, we have… wait for it… wait for it… all white guys with ties!

Really?  Have the career opportunities for funny females not improved in 30 years?  My friends are surprised that I’m surprised.  They refer to a comment by Eddie Brill, former talent booker for Letterman, who explained to the NY Times why he booked more male comics than female comics.  He said, “There are a lot less female comics who are authentic.  I see a lot of female comics who, to please an audience, will ACT LIKE MEN.

This statement is confusing, as it seems that Mr. Brill LIKES male comics.  Wouldn’t “acting like a man” be an advantage for a female comic?  Unless, of course, funny females are being judged, not solely on their comedy talent, but on their f-ability.

Every time a comedy with women hits the big screen, such as, “Bridesmaids,” or “The Heat,” I get a call from the media asking me the same question: “Are women funny?

I’ll tell you what ISN’T funny – that tired old question.

Yes!  Stephen Colbert is EXTREMELY talented.  So are Ellen DeGeneres, Chelsea Handler, Aisha Tyler, and many, many others.  Guess what?  You don’t need to go to the bathroom standing up to be funny.

But… on the positive side, (hey, I’m a motivational speaker now, I have to look on the positive side), when a door is slammed in our faces, a window opens.  That window of opportunity is the millions of people who LOVE female comedy.  And that’s why I, along with other funny women such as Jeanne Robertson, Amanda Gore, Loretta LaRoche, and others, get paid well to perform for audiences of over 2500 people.  Maybe it’s because audiences CAN’T see us on TV that they download our videos on YouTube, and come to see us live.

The good news is: capitalism trumps discrimination.

Steal This Blog...Please

I was watching a speaker open with something really funny.  I know because this speaker was opening with MY JOKE!  The Internet has become a place where people post jokes and stories that their grandma emailed them and, somewhere along the line, the name of the person who wrote those jokes gets removed.

Nobody seems to care as stealing is becoming acceptable.

You tell me – is this really weird?

I got a call from a speaker who watched my acronym routine on YouTube and requested a transcription of it.  Why? Because she wanted to use it!  How lazy are you that you need additional help from the very person you are stealing from -- to write out the routine you want to steal?

As I ripped her a new one, she was shocked and said, “It's not like it's so original.”

Now, she's dissin' the very material she thought a few minutes ago was good enough to steal!

So – here is why stealing is SO wrong:

1. It doesn't look good for you to do material that people have heard elsewhere. If your grandma emailed you a joke, chances are it's gone around.

2. An audience will sense that material is NOT authentic to you and thus destroys credibility.

3. You are undermining your own creative process. Stealing says, "I can't create."

You CAN write your own material and I can PROVE it!  Comedy material is not just relating the so-called funny things that happened to you or memorizing Internet jokes. Comedy is where you take something that is UNFUNNY and you do SOMETHING with it.  You act it out. You compare it to something. You discover the irony. You DO SOMETHING.

For instance: A pen is NOT funny.  But let's do something with it.  Answer this question:


Don't be scared – try it.  WRITE YOUR JOKE in the comment portion.

Congratulations!  You’ve now engaged in the creative process.  You are now GIVING rather than STEALING.  Doesn't it feel good?  Continue on!