Making Dreams Come True for Comics and Speakers since 1984
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Your Next Gig: When Things Get Dire - Inspire!

When doing a gig, you have to be willing to give up everything you planned. Your gig is never going to go the way it went when you were practicing in your shower - and that isn't necessarily a bad thing.

A while back, I had a gig in Germany for English speaking women. It was the first of a series of gigs for a client, and obviously, I wanted it to go well so they wouldn't regret committing to me for the rest. I planned my points, my jokes, my exercises, and my vulnerable heart stories. I had every beat of my talk figured out down to the minute.

So, I put on my power suit, and I get to the gig and -- it's in a bakery! A noisy German bakery where my group was in a corner, surrounded by Germans, who speak German -- loudly. There was no stage, no mic, just me standing at the end of a long table.

(Really? I'm supposed to make jokes about my cellulite and talk about my disturbing Jewish family, while surrounded by Germans eating strudel?)

I thought, "This is not going to go well."

I started my speech and yes, I was right; what I planned was not going to go well. The ladies were unable to hear me, so they weren't even looking at me. And people who aren't looking usually aren't laughing - especially if they're eating strudel.

So, I let go of all my material, and sat down at the table with them. I went completely off script, and just had a down-to-earth, honest chat with them as if I were at a Passover (or, maybe Thanksgiving) dinner. We went around the table doing some exercises, and at the end, they shared their own heart stories. By then, the noisy lunch crowd was gone, and what was left was a group of women connecting and sharing, and I wasn't the speaker: I was one of them.

Afterwards, we hugged, and I signed copies of my book, "The Message of You™" while encouraging them to share their stories and messages.

When I looked at the follow-up surveys, I was surprised to see I'd received a perfect score.

Sometimes what seems like the worst thing that could happen - (that everything you planned doesn't fit the situation) - can be the best if you can let go of your preconceived ideas -- and just be truly present with those around you.

Next time you're in front of an audience, take time to ask yourself, "Am I really connecting with my audience - or am I just 'performing'?"

14 comments:

Karen Post said...

Great post. I went to one of workshops years ago in Palm Springs, heard you again at NSA laugh lab and really love your blog. Thanks for all the inspiration!!

Karen Post

Brooklyn Dicent said...

Judy this is such a great story and on point. I remember once being hired to do a training and like you I suited up and was ready to take on the world. When I got there the training was in a small dark room in a pallet making warehouse. The room was 20 pallet making guys in sweatshirts and jeans. So I went to my car and changed to be more like them. Going off script to meet the needs of the audience is key. Thank you for reminding us!

Diana Tenes said...

Thanks Great story,

My first Comedy open mic, I was one of three women comics with 20 other guys . They were all extremely dirty, obscene etc. I did my Barbie and Zombie jokes anyway. I got the biggest laugh at the end with my applause sign without saying a word! who knew!

Ruth Frechman said...

So true Judy. Sometimes I feel like I am performing. Will make an effort to make a personal connection to be more effective. Thanks for the advice.
I started my last presentation with humor, using your list of 3. I was a little apprehensive to try it but got a huge response. Love it.

David Deeble said...

I performed for some all-German audience while living in Germany, but the half-British, half-German audience I performed for onboard the Queen Mary 2 was a real pick-your-poison moment for me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for reminding us to be flexible and adaptable for the benefit of ourselves and others.

Mike Domitrz said...

Well said, Judy.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! It's like you took off the parachute but still landed safely. Thanks for sharing.

I'm only posting as anon because I don't want to sign up for more stuff.

Jen McDonough said...

Judy, this is inspiring to see. Being a newer speaker, I get a little concerned about being too "connected" with the audience as I think I should preform a little more. I can chat with a tree if it came down to it and find that engaging with audiences in a conversational way is easy, but was having doubts on if this was the "correct" way to do it.
Just booked my 3rd association talk since your conference. Your last blog on procrastination came JUST at the right time as it got my butt in gear to get my talk written out - wow, was that ever helpful. This blog is perfect timing as well as it affirms that authentic and engaging is encouraged versus trying to be all polly perfect.
Thank you!
Jen

Susan Orlins said...

Great story, Judy. I wish I had read it before a book talk I did at a public library on the campus of University of Pennsylvania. It was a balmy early evening last spring and only three people showed up: my best friend from college, with whom I had lost touch for 40 years, her sister, and a woman I had never met.

I talked for 45 minutes, as I would have done if the room had been filled with 50 people. How great it would have been to have just shared some of my stories and also listened to theirs!

Next time!

Benji Lovitt said...

Question, Judy-I had a comedy gig for a group of educators recently where there was loud music coming from next door and people could barely hear me. I could have tried to go off-script and turn it more into a conversation but I was afraid the organizers were EXPECTING a show because that's what they were paying for. What should I have done? When it's a hell gig, I always wonder, is the audience smart enough to know or do they blame the comic, "boy, he stunk"?

Karen Roberton said...

I love the way you improvised!!

I bought a little mic that wraps around your had and has a wire to a little box no larger than a wallet. When you end up with no mic, this thing is a gem. I've used it in a rec room of an assisted living, the banquet room in a restaurant, a family reunion, and to do an graveside funeral. It's great. I just leave it in my car or suitcase wherever I go. Works like a charm.

Judy Carter said...

Thank you ALL for your comments. Benji - sometimes the physical elements just go against a successful presentation. Sometimes you can adapt, i.e. if there is a big dance floor between you and the audience, you can move. But, you can't move noise. so happy to get feedback! Judy

Lynn Rose said...

Brilliant Judy! Thank you! SO ON POINT! I had a similar experience one time when I was booked to speak to a group of direct selling women who sell adult toys ("For Your Pleasure" was the name of the company). It was in Vegas on a Sunday morning after they'd been partying all night and they were there hungover, miserable and I could see they would care less about me and my planned presentation on how they can have better presentations - and what the hell do I know about how they run their business anyway? So I threw away the powerpoint, the planned presentation, threw away the idea of being on the stage and got into the audience with them, told them what matters is hearing what's up for them - what are their problems when doing presentations and made it like a town hall meeting having them voice what their experiences were and offering advice but letting them interact with each other too (where I became more like the facilitator). That went great and they LOVED me. So much so that they gave me a gift bag filled to overflowing with...you guessed it...every kind of sex toy and lube you could imagine! LOL (and its the gift that keeps on giving...*wink*).

LOVE you Judy - you ROCK!