The most important thing to remember when you are on stage is that it is you who is on stage.
You may find it difficult to forget, of course. You might find yourself gazing out over patient rows of expectant faces, your bowels curdling under the lights as the gags you expected would bring the house down drift aimlessly across the room only to sputter against the far wall like disappointed farts in a week-old balloon. At that point you might find it quite difficult to forget that it is you who is on stage.
No matter what happens, remember that you have a right to be there, people have come to see you, you have the microphone. From the moment you walk on the stage – even if you are playing a meek and nervous character – you must own the space. It’s yours. Look at home in it. Try not to apologise for your presence.
Nothing is more uncomfortable for an audience than watching an act who isn’t convinced that they should be up onstage. From the apologetic way in which they handle the microphone, to the sympathetic ear they lend hecklers, to the self-pitying murmurs of “This isn’t going well” when it isn’t going well, if the audience don’t feel that the person on the stage is in control of the situation it panics them.
And rightly so. It would be like sitting down before your long-haul flight to hear across the tannoy: “Good afternoon, everyone, this is your 1430 hours departure for New York. The temperature at JFK is a balmy… I’m not sure I can do this. I practised for ages, but it doesn’t seem like it’s going very well. Is it going very well? Don’t know why I’m asking you lot, you don’t cre, you vultures. Now, which of these buttons makes it go up?”
The only difference is that the fear your audience will feel will not be that of a fiery, ocean-bound death, but rather of an excruciating five minutes of comedy. All right, so it’s not really the same at all.
But, still, it’s your responsibility to be in charge of the stage. To look like you know what you’re doing, even when you have know idea what you’re going to say next. Like Prince Philip.
When we watched the video back you noticed that your body language changed when you were dealing with the heckler. You physically tried to move away from him and avoid eye contact to defuse the situation. However, comedy is occasionally quite territorial and mammalian. You have to assert your authority over the group using your wit. And the fact that they don’t have a microphone.
You must become a silverback gorilla, throwing the weight of your enormous barrel-chest around, and grunting and hooting your authority to all challengers. Like Prince Philip.
You are the one who is meant to be there. You are the one people are there to see. Bear that in mind and straddle the stage like a smug giant, untroubled by doubt, secure in the knowledge that, undeserved or not, you are in charge of everything you cast your gaze upon.
Exactly like Prince Philip.
- The Comic Relief Crash Course In Standup Comedy Lesson #4: Relax (nathanieltapley.com)
- The Comic Relief Crash Course In Standup Comedy: Lesson #3 (nathanieltapley.com)
- The Comic Relief Crash Course In Standup Comedy: Lesson #2 (nathanieltapley.com)
- The Comic Relief Crash Course In Standup Comedy: Lesson #1 (nathanieltapley.com)