Being funny isn’t easy. In fact, trying to be funny can often backfire. Witness my opening at this year’s Canadian Sponsorship Forum?
When I promised some insights on how to rev up your ROI, and my opening slide was entitled “Kick the Bucket” featuring a picture of Michael Jackson, the cricket choir wasn’t what I expected. Or hoped for. Yes, it’s true, MJ is worth more dead than alive. That’s the same for many a celebrity. But I was trying to make a joke.
That’s one advantage comedians have over the rest of us. When you go to a festival, or a show, or an improv night, ostensibly you come in a frame of mind to laugh. If you didn’t, well then you have issues this blog can’t solve.
Secretly, I would have loved to be a comedian. Most of my speeches feature some of my stock material. For as long as my agency is named TrojanOne, the opportunity to pull the “where we got our name from” gags are endless. Especially when I’m doing a speech in a hotel. Often I lead with: “How many of you were concerned about telling your spouse that you’re staying at the conference hotel and attending the ‘Trojan’ seminar?!”
Or when I want to be a dickhead (please laugh at THAT pun), I will always tell the annoying guy in the meeting who asks if I brought samples, how sorry I am that we have run out of extra-small!
But while telling a joke to open a speech is a time-honoured tactic, it does have its perils.
So, I’m jealous of great comedians. Often we laugh before they even start talking. Take one of the world’s greatest, Russell Peters! Last week I saw his “Best Night Ever” Gala in Montreal at the 29th annual Just for Laughs Comedy Festival. Peters strolls out in his t-shirt and sneaker adorned suit, and the crowd is ready to let it roar no matter what. Especially if you happen to be one of the 68 ethnicities he has deemed worthy of attention that show.
I’ve seen his shtick often enough to know what comes next, but I have to admit when he said the key to feigning you can speak any foreign language is to pretend you are angry…it was priceless.
Try it at home. Say, “Get off my lawn,” in and angry tone, with a Chinese accent, an Italian one and then a Hindi dialect to top it off. Go for some Yiddish, Kurdish or Turkish. Doesn’t matter. It works. Freaking brilliant!
GET OFF MY LAWN! GRR…
I know you’re laughing at your computer. All because I told you to. Of course I hijacked Russell Peters and used his voice to tell you. But it was my lips that were a-moving while you were a-giggling.
So, it’s not fair.
I say Russell Peters said something and you laugh. If I told you Peter Russell said it, your answer would be, “Who?”
If I said Mark Harrison said it, you would just roll your eyes at my big ego in action once again.
So get ready to do a double roll with a front-side ollie! I have a confession to make. I want to be a comedian. I do.
I love it on stage. When hundreds of pairs of pupils are on you. When you’re trying to read what is flowing through their minds. When you’re struggling mightily to get them to crack a smile, and the little drop of sweat pops its head out of your arm pit and steadily flows down your side.
Maybe it’s because I realize I’m too old (small, slow, frightened) to be a pro quarterback, and too late to make it up as a coach, and too ugly to be an announcer, and too poor to be an owner. I can’t sing, let alone dance. I can’t swim, let alone ski. I can’t draw, let alone program. I can’t fly, let alone climb.
So my daydreaming options are severely constricted. But I think I may be able to squeeze out a few laughs.
How crazy am I?
Am I not like twenty years late? Do I really want to look like Andrew Dice Clay on this season’s episodes of Entourage? Can I possibly imagine how horrible it must be to play open mics, amateur hours and enter talent searches?
Geez, what is with me?
I don’t know. I harbour the dream. I want to walk on stage at Just for Laughs. See my name in lights. See four thousand strong. And listen to them laugh.
All because my name is Harry Markinson.