Monday, November 25, 2013

Giving thanks for Sarah Silverman

Like many of you, I am busy this week with all sorts of preparations on the domestic front for the great Thanksgiving feast. And I am trying to tie up some lose ends in my office before the long weekend of food, friends and family. As my readers outside the U.S. may know, there is a particularly American story attached to our celebration on the fourth Thursday in November. In practice, however, Thanksgiving has much in common with other cultures' harvest festivals of thanks.

So I'm not going to unpack my latest sure-fire speaking techniques or reveal any *new* tips-you-can-use this week. I just want to recommend that you take a minute while you are peeling the potatoes or ironing the tablecloth to check out Sarah Silverman's interview with Scott Simon on Weekend Edition this past Saturday. One, becasue she is funny, with an engaging interview style that will at least bring a smile to your face. But also because she addresses two issues I spend a lot of time discusing with my clients. And, though we have never discussed this, she feels the same way about them I do. She talks specifically about the difficulty of actually getting a joke to work (it takes a lot of tweaking, even for a professional. And still sometime the joke falls flat), and the utter impossibility of "reading" the audience ("Everyone can be laughing and if there's one person with their arms folded, it tends to be the person comics focus on....And it has nothing to do with you, it could have everything to do with their day, or how they're hearing your comedy, you know, in the context of their lives. You know? And you can't control it, but it can really get inside a comedian's head, like an illness.") Good stand-up comedians are the experts; they are extremely skilled at people-watching and listening. And even one as great as Silverman knows there is danger in amateur public joke-telling, as well as assuming you know what a listener is thinking. Imagine the trouble these fixations could cause a speaker who is is not a professional entertainer!

Listen and learn from this funny lady. 
And enjoy your holiday! 

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