Updated: Aug 23, 2021
"You've just got to find your voice, don't worry you'll find your voice, have you found your voice yet?"
(everyone in stand-up ever)
This is Stand-up Comedy's big question - the centre point of advice from other comedians and it's often presented as a quasi-mystical quest - a holy grail of comedy (pythons not included).
In stand-up comedy, the phrase 'find your voice' is everywhere.
So what the hell does it actually mean?
Find your voice = Find out who you are
So, throw away your copy of 'riddles for dummies', shake the wise-woman's hand and say "no thanks, I've got this".
Swan on over to Merlin, Obi-wan Kenobi and Gandalf take them to the side and kindly hand them their pink slips and say "you did good kid". Then grab them by whatever the collective noun for beard is and chuck them out the door.
Finding your voice in Stand-up Comedy means,
finding out who you are up there.
"When you put a person in front of a room of people, [they] are going to perform, when in this situation bits of [their] personality are no longer necessary and will be dropped, whereas other parts of their personality will aid the situation.’
(Tony Allen, 2014)
Tony Allen, The 'God father of Alternative Comedy' as he's affectionately known, would call this your 'attitude' displayed in 'defence mode' it's what separates Stand-up Comedy from other styles of performance.
It is live, it is now
it is you
in front of others.
You are a person, a personality and a persona
WARNING: you might want to go and crack open a window, it's going to whiff of pretension in here for a minute - but I promise it's worth it.
Stand-up Comedy is a crash course in learning
who you are
how you are
what it is about you that engages other people
(something I truly believe everyone has the potential to do & should learn how to)
Stand-up Comedy is not just an ego on display -it's you under a microscope
On face value it can look like Stand-up Comedy is just the ultimate act of extraversion, 'look at me, look at me!' but no it's not...well sort of... it's more of a 'yes-but-no-but' situation.
Stand up comedy is like an act, but it also requires a constant act of introspection
So enter Johari's Window
This is you, you are a window - congratulations - there's only one panel we can all see through, but we can work on that.
In short there's a you...
that you know and others know too
that you don't know, but others do
that you know, but others don't
that even you don't know and others don't know either
Try this example on for size:
I like cake, I am a cake lover - and we all know it
I like cake and you think I'm obsessed with it - I didn't know that
I love cake - I hide them under the bed - you're not supposed to know that
The truth is, there's no such thing the cake is a lie
What does this have to do with Stand-up Comedy?
This is the process
of Stand-up Comedy
You're up on stage, the light is focused on you - you are literally highlighted - the microphone amplifies your voice - you are the loudest, brightest person in the room; you are not just working out the audience, you are working out yourself
Here's how it works
The open self is you on stage sharing your experience with others.
The blind self is the audience reactions, you write a note about what works and what doesn't.
The hidden self is you at home, trying to figure out what is worth talking about.
The unknown self is you back on stage, in the moment something works and you have no idea why - you try to catch it and do it again - it doesn't work - you have no idea why - you go home and try to work it all out.
The whole process is you in negotiation
A Stand-up's to do list: write at home, test it out, reflect in the moment and after the fact, react in the moment and try again, go back home and do it again.
Stand-up Comedy is a crash course in learning who you are
It's a constant iterative cycle of trying and failing, working and reworking and the only way to learn it, is to do it.
You can close the window now, I think the whiff has gone and you need to get to work on giving it a clean so we can climb through the looking glass.
Want to find out more?
This is part of a series called:
'So I studied Stand-up Comedy:
and don't forget to