Bergman: The echo chamberWritten by Keith Bergman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When I first started doing open mics a few years ago, I took an old Realistic cassette recorder with me to tape all my sets. The hardest thing for me, besides having comics half my age busting my chops for using such antique recording equipment, was the actual sound of my own voice coming from that tiny speaker.
Most of us hate how we sound outside our own head. We have this perception of our deep, rich dulcet tones saying witty and respectable things, and then we hit play and hear some wheezing, whining bed-wetter stammering over every other word. When did that happen?
But getting out of your own body and hearing yourself as others hear you is essential. It’s far too easy to write an inside joke to yourself. Do you explain your premise well enough that someone who doesn’t live inside your skull will know what you’re talking about? Do you slow down and enunciate so that you make sense to an audience? This is basic stuff, but it trips up so many otherwise gifted people.
Slurring a syllable, talking too fast or mispronouncing one word can kick the legs out from under the most lovingly constructed bit. You’re talking through a used public address system, probably older than my tape recorder, and your audience is usually drinking, eating, tallying their share of a bill and probably nose-deep in their smartphone. Care must be taken or what you’re doing won’t work.
There’s a voice people hear offstage, too. Are you aggressive and confrontational with bookers and other comics? Do you constantly brag on social media about how God has blessed your career and how you’re gonna be a superstar? Are you a passive-aggressive pill to be around when you’re hanging out in the back?
One of the hardest things to do is step outside yourself, look at how you’re presenting yourself and imagine seeing it for the first time.
I was in a play several years ago with a director who didn’t like me much, but was stuck with me. He taught me a lot about how I occupy physical space and how it looks when a person my size moves on a stage in front of people. It all seems obvious in retrospect, but I’d been acting and doing comedy for a while when I met him, and none of it had crossed my mind until he brought it up.
Don’t do these things to change yourself into what you think is more crowd-pleasing — that way lies misery and failure. Do them to clarify. Let yourself and your ideas be judged on their own merits, and not dismissed or misunderstood because the message got muddled somewhere between your brain and theirs. ?
Keith Bergman hosts the Two Buck Yuks comedy showcase at The Blarney Event Center, 601 Monroe St, every Wednesday at 8 p.m. Mat Alano-Martin headlines Nov. 13, while Robert Morgan tops the bill Nov. 20.