Ichi-go ichi-e: this is the moment
The need for sleep

Stand and Deliver: The comic & the presenter

Stand_deliverI've said many times before that the art of the live presentation has a lot in common with the art of stand-up comedy. Few things are more difficult than standing with nothing but a mic in hand in front of a crowd who expect you to make them laugh. Good stand-up comics tell good stories, and story, among other things, is about emotion. Presenters do not have to be funny, but they do need to evoke and to engage, something stand-up comedians know very well. The best stand-up comedians are wonderful performers, but my favorites are the ones who make it feel natural and conversational, as if they are doing the routine (or having "this conversation") for the first time. That is, they perform as if they were not performing. Good musicians do this too. Although they played the song a thousand times before, when they played it for you it felt fresh and new. Maybe you have experienced this recently?

George Carlin on "stuff"
Below George Carlin warns of the danger of attachment to things like...stuff.

Adam Hills
I discovered Adam Hills while watching one of the early morning talk shows in Sydney last week. Seemed like a very likable guy. Liked his material on YouTube (and I even understood his jokes about Australia). Here's a short clip below.

Lewis Black
Here's a short clip of Lewis. (Warning: Lewis Black uses adult language and has a point of view — you have been warned).


Mitch Joel - Twist Image

I have not bought a DVD in forever, but I did buy one recently simply because, as a presenter, I felt like I was watching it in a completely different light.

I think all people passionate about presenting should rent, buy and devour the documentary Comedian starring Jerry Seinfeld (including you Garr ;).

It is the movie that aligns perfectly with this Blog post. To watch Seinfeld grapple with new material, work it out in front of an audience, refine the flow and the stories, rehearse, plus, on top of it, the isolation that all speakers feel was scary (and brilliant).

I highly recommend it.

Michael Sporer

George Carlin and Lewis Black are my 2 favorites! To me, Carlin is the inventor of "modern" comedy, and Black is insightful and extremely funny. His mannerisms make the show. I never saw Adam Hills before, but he seems to have a great stage presence.

Some people are have a gift and are just brilliant. Even with that brilliance, they practice incessantly to get to that point.

There was one movie scene that was memorable to me. Robin Williams playing Mrs. Doubtfire in the restaurant; "Carpe Dentum, Seize the Teeth". What a masterful piece of work!

Jeff Brenman

Great selection of clips Garr! Comedy gold :)

Joe Miller

Great post! Some time back you used Demetri Martin in a post to talk about simplicity in presenting visuals. He is also funny and is natural with his unique rhythm.


Adam Hills has a reputation for being one of the nicest people in stand-up comedy. How many stand-ups do you know who have a sign language interpreter present for pretty much every show?

Ric Bretschneider

Great post Garr.

How interesting that we were both working on comedy yesterday! I combined parts I and II of the "Stand-Up Comedy and Stand-Up Presenting" podcast you mention in one download and posted it at http://talk.presentationsroundtable.com/2008/07/13/all-present-standing-up.aspx

-Ric Bretschneider

Lisa Braithwaite

I find myself writing about comedians over and over on my blog, for the similarities to presenting.

I like watching Kathy Griffin's show because we see her writing new material, trying it out, preparing for shows and dealing with occasional nervousness. Here are a few posts I've written about her:

I also like Eddie Izzard, because he tends to forget where he is and has a lot of clever ways of dealing with that:

Dan Roam

Here's something else interesting about the presenter/comedian connection to add into this wonderful stew:

Tony is a business consultant and good friend who lives in LA who used to book comedians.

We got talking about the similarities between being a business presenter and comedian and agreed that there are many.

But then he told me the big difference. It's this: comedians are generally considered (by those who know and work with them) to be among the most messed-up and unhappy people on earth.

I said, "Huh? Unhappy? But they laugh all the time -- how can they be unhappy people?"

Tony told me to think about every comedy routine I've seen. They always start with the "You know what I hate?" line, and then the laughs begin. ("I hate the Prius", "Don't you hate bald people?", "I can't stand people who tell jokes", etc.)

Sure enough, he was right. The Tony told me to think about the comedians I really like. John Belushi: unhappy man. Dana Carvey. Richard Pryor. Dave Chappelle. Hmm.

Sure, there are exceptions, but in the case of comedy they do see to prove the rule.

Tony's takeaway? Use the lessons of comedy (timing, humor, enjoying your audience), but don't let love of pleasing the crowd get to you. It can be a slippery slope.

Something to think about.

- Dan

Aisyah Saad

Great post! Totally agree that it's quite a challenge to make your 100th presentation or performance feel fresh and new. Garr, can you share some tips on how to do that?


Thanks everyone! And Dan Roam -- good point. I think the master comic does not get upset or take it personally when the show does not go well (the the joke bombs -- live and learn). but the grass hopper comic gets upset or depressed when the material does it work. He takes it personally. This is what I have heard anyway. Very hard not to take it personally when the joke bombs...

The comments to this entry are closed.