I don’t know why, but many people have this overwhelming fear of going on the stage in front of people. That is the number one fear. There’s nothing that people fear more than public speaking. Death is second. Second. Can you even fathom that peopel would rather die than speak in front of an audience. I can only assume where this fear is coming from. It must be that you’re scared it won’t go the way it is supposed to go and the audience will think bad thoughts about you and that will in turn cause you to screw up even more. It’s built on the assumption of non-duality. The fact that those people out there are different from you and are making judgments based on how you’re doing. Now, that’s one way to look at it, but it can create an amazing amount of fear because it’s like 100 people to one-you. Now I can understand that something of that framework can be very frightening, but if you look at it a slightly different way, you can eventually transcend fear.
This is a technique borrowed from Steve Pavlina’s podcast about Overcoming Fear. He said that what if the assumption about there being other people out there is wrong? What if this life is only a dream and those people are you just like the stage and your body are you? Meaning that everything in your awareness is you. So imagining that the people in the audience are making naegative thoughts about you will create that becasue the people in the audience are you. That’s why if you go out there confidentlly and imagine positive thoughts in the audience’s minds, then this will eventually shift into a reality. Even if you don’t believe in this way of life, using it to transcend fear is very valuable. I’ve tried it myself and it’s worked wonderfully. There is no need to imagine the audience in their underwear. I only do that for specific audience members.
I recall Jerry Seinfeld once saying that comedy is not a monologue, but a dialogue with the audience. Do you think it’s possible to have a consistent dialogue if one of the participants is afraid of the other? I doubt it. I’ll admit that the first time I went onstage, my whole body was shaking and I felt like I could screw up and forget my material. To date, however, it was one of my better performances. I got quite a few laughs and a lot of clapping. I was very happy about my first performance. So I kept going and going and going.
Other peole have a fear of success. They think, “How can I top the last performance?” Well, if you’re not so glued to external outcomes and just go up there to have a good time, you’ll probably be looser and not have so much trouble remembering your lines. I remember one time I went onstage with no material whatsoever. I had just heard of a gig and I was unprepared, but I still went on. After I said a couple of safety jokes to start it up, I just admitted I had no more jokes. So I just mingled with the audience. I’m pretty good at that sort of thing. Being very loose and with no pressure, I was able to tap into my intuition and give some very quick and witty responses to audience comments, making my performance go over even better.
That’s why being a comedian is full of adaptations. You have to be adaptable to different circumstances. If things go wrong, they go wrong. Don’t worry about them before they happen. If the mic goes dead, then you’ll have to shout your act. Or you can do whatever comes natural. If that ever happens to me, I’ll mime my act. It should get a laugh or two. But getting onstage is very crucial in your step to becoming a stand-up comic. Otherwise, you’ll just be this guy with a bunch of jokes on his computer that nobody’s ever heard of. And that would be a damn shame.