Stand up: 5 aspects that I need to keep in mind

I got myself another stand up gig.

You may have read about the last time that I did stand up and how it did not go well.

Somehow, you may be surprised to hear that I have got myself on another stand-up bill. This time I will be travelling all the way to lovely Derry to, hopefully, entertain an audience. More specifically the Cellar bar. I’m excited and am thankful to Danny Kelly for agreeing to have me.

This will also be the first time that I will be performing outside of Belfast. It will be the first time I don’t know anyone there.

Frankly, that makes me excited because I like going somewhere that I don’t know anyone. When no one knows who you are you almost have permission to become a new person. You have nothing to lose, so you are allowed to do whatever you like.

You’re probably thinking that I haven’t learned anything from last time but here is where you’re wrong.

I have five things to keep in mind. I’m going to share them with you. This is also a reminder for myself so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes again.

5: Don’t apologise

I’m not a big fan of apologising. If you apologise for one thing, then you tend to apologise for everything. I try to apologise for things that I am genuinely sorry for, which can suck for those around me because I tend to not be sorry. If you apologise too much then you get a reputation for having no integrity and being insincere.

I forgot all about that guiding principle the last time I did stand up. I kept apologising when I shouldn’t have done so. I kept going “Sorry I haven’t prepared”. This is a big no-no. Stand up audiences are savvy. Stand up audiences are more akin to sharks, a drop of blood in the water will lead to a feeding frenzy. When you perform stand up, you have to project yourself as being low status yet entirely in charge.

Alex told me that I should have phrased it differently. Instead of saying “I didn’t prepare” I should have said, “I like to keep it loose and see where I go”. Both are true, but one sounds better to an audience.

I won’t need that line because…

4: Prepare to stand up

This time is different. I have a script ready this time. I’m a bit strange in that I don’t just like things go well, I like to veer from one extreme to the other. I’m trying to get myself more on board with the idea of consistency. There is this part of the brain that says to me “Why be good when you can frustrate everyone and pull it out of nowhere?”. There have been times when I have been able to do this. Other times when trying to get by on sheer swagger has been a disaster.

This time I’m going to be half ready. I have a 2000 word script that I’m going to familiarise myself with.

When I was first starting out, I used to remember every word verbatim. This led to delivery being stiff. What was worse, the slightest deviation in syllable meant that I would get lost and have to retrace my steps.

Now I am a bit more lose in my approach. There are several points that I want to hit but if I miss some of the minor ones, which is to know.

This is advice I would give to you if you ever find yourself having to make a speech. Know the framework. Familiarise yourself with the essential beats and wing the bits in between.

You could do it like me and go in the complete opposite direction. Do the whole thing by ear and hope the inspiration comes to you. I don’t advise it.

3: Be more physical

I’m a big gangly freak at 6ft4. I’m also quite nimble. My childhood hero was Jim Carrey, and I tried to mimic him when I could. Alex told me that I need to cut loose and be more physical. This is going to take time because here is the thing about stand-ups that I have noticed and I am no different. Some stand-ups want to be the clown, but they also want to have your respect as well. These stand-ups make sure you know that they are smart and cool. I have to let go of this. I have to be the lowest status person in the room.

Uncontrolled movement is a sign of low status. Think about Daniel Craig being James Bond. Part of James Bond’s appeal is that he is always in control. Bond doesn’t move often, but when he does, it is with precision and economy. People are not going to stand up to see James Bond. I’m not James Bond.

2: Don’t mention the other acts

Jesus Kieran, remember when you thought this was a good idea. Never again, you may be trying to make the whole thing more inclusive. At stand up the tone is entirely different. When you were doing Mental Deficiency gigs that was fine. Music is different from comedy. When you mention other acts at stand up, it sounds like your slagging them off. Don’t mention anyone while you’re up there. You are Robinson Crusoe, the stage is an island.

1: Get off sooner rather than later

One of my favourite stand-ups, Harry Hill, gave this advice “If it’s going bad, get off, if it’s going well, get off”. You really can’t get off the stage soon enough with stand up. Better to leave them saying, “I wish he stayed on longer” rather than “We sure got our money’s worth”.

Last time, because I didn’t prepare it meant that I overran. In general, no matter what you’re doing it’s better not to overrun. It’s rude, I know that you know all this. Sometimes I need to remind myself, and this is the reminder to future me “Kieran, get off the stage sweetheart.”

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