by Alan Matthews
I don’t know how familiar you are with the world of stand-up comedy but here’s a list of some comedians (past and present) from the UK and the US you may have heard of:
Reginald D Hunter
(Sorry if I’ve left out your favourite).
If you have seen or heard any of these comedians, I’m sure you will have a pretty clear idea of what they are like – the sort of things they are likely to say, the type of material they talk about, where they stand on certain topics, whether they have essentially an optimistic or pessimistic view of life.
All top comedians adopt a persona of some sort, they portray a character. This might just be an exaggerated version of themselves or it might be a completely different character (like Al Murray, the ” Pub Landlord”).
You may like it or you may not, the point is that you remember it.
Comedians aim to establish their character very early on in their set. You “get it” very quickly. Then you start to see the world through their eyes. Their material makes sense because it fits in with the character they have established. If it doesn’t, it sounds wrong.
For example, Jack Dee is known as a grumpy, miserable character who complains about other people and life in general. So all his material supports this. If he suddenly came out with a really positive, optimistic comment or started smiling, the audience would find it confusing. That’s not what they expect of him.
Why do comedians do this? It’s a sort of short cut. The audience can identify their point of view within a couple of minutes and this sets the context for what they are saying. The next time they see that comedian, they already know what to expect and they can get into the act straight away. Comedians don’t change their character from one gig to the next.
It also helps the comedian to choose material to use. He or she has a criterion to use to judge new material – does this fit with the character I am trying to get across?
But the main reason is that it makes the comedian far more memorable.
Comedians who are just starting out, touring the clubs, trying out material, tend to take a while to “find their voice” and to establish this character. Until they do, their material may veer all over the place and not hold together very well. And audiences will not associate them with any particular stance.
As a result, they will be much easier to forget than the people who have established a clear stage persona.
If you are a speaker, you can use the same technique to engage your audiences quickly. Establish your personality and character right from the start. Make it clear what your attitude is to your topic, set out your viewpoint so people can see that what you say is consistent with it.
You can do this by making a statement, telling a story with a powerful message, expressing a strong opinion, taking a stand, using a challenging statistic or quotation.
This will help to establish a connection with your audience and, most importantly, it will make you and your message more memorable.
Of course, some people may not like your stance. They may disagree with you.
I’m afraid that’s just a fact of life – not everyone is going to like you. But, at least, they will understand you and see what you stand for.
And you will make yourself far more memorable as a result!
About the author
Alan Matthews is the author of How To Design And Deliver Great Training and The Successful Presenter’s Handbook, available from Amazon. You can get his free report, “8 Steps To Excellence – the 8 key habits that make top trainers and presenters stand out” from the website at [http://www.alanmatthewstraining.com] You will also find lots of articles and videos to help you become an outstanding trainer or presenter.