Geno Bisconte told me, “I kept getting depressed because here I was 20 years later, barely making a living at telling jokes.”
We were both sitting at the bar at Standup NY. I was so scared I was about to vomit.
It was the first time I was doing standup in over a year and Geno Bisconte was the MC. He recognized my name from my books and came over to talk to me.
“And then I realized,” he said and he brightened up right away, “I get to tell jokes AND make a living in NYC. I have the best life ever!”
And he was right. He was creating his life. He was telling jokes and making a living.
He looked at this tension, “barely making a living” at “telling jokes”.
He reversed it: “I get to tell jokes” and “make a living doing it”. And this is what became his reality.
A few months later he released a comedy album. Which led to the next time I almost had a heart attack.
He was having an album release party at the NY Comedy Club. He asked all his favorite comedian friends to be on the lineup to do ten minutes of their material in celebration of his release.
And then for some reason I still can’t figure out, he also asked me.
The guy before me was DESTROYING. Aaron Berg. He was ripping through the crowd and they couldn’t stop laughing. I couldn’t stop laughing. And before that was Michael Vecchione, who is a comic genius.
And then I was supposed to go on next. There was no way I could do it. I was ashamed to be a part of this talented group.
“I’m gong to leave,” I said to my friend. “Tell Geno I’m sorry. I have to go.”
And I was about to turn around and leave when Geno came up to me and said, “Dude, you’re up next.”
“OK!” I said. And I went up and I…did ok. I didn’t destroy. But people laughed. I held my own.
I did something super uncomfortable. Something that scared the hell out of me. And I got better.
Here’s my rules for growth.
– I love something
– I find a way to make it as uncomfortable as possible.
– I do it.
– repeat. Over and over.
Then I grow. I learn. I get better.
Getting better at something you love is an enormous pleasure. Every neurochemical in me explodes.
Getting uncomfortable, and then analyzing what you did, is the way to “hack” the 10,000 hour rule.
Figure out the micro-skills of what you are trying to be great at. And hack each micro-skill.
Anything worth learning has 100 micro-skills that you have to learn.
Business, among its many micro-skills are: sales, negotiating, management, deal structure, execution, creativity, and on and on. I can list 100s of micro-skills in business.
In chess: you have to learn the opening, the middle game, the endgame, and it gets more granular. You have to master king pawn openings, queen pawn openings, closed tactical situations, open middle games, rook-pawn endgames, and on and on.
In another post I’ll break down some of the micro-skills of comedy I’ve been learning.
But it’s been a huge learning curve.
I’ll give an example though. Let’s say I have a joke that works 20 times in a row. Then, on the 21st time, it doesn’t work. Dead silence. What do you do?
The audience is staring. Waiting. I never experienced this before. They are always laughing at this point. What. Do. I. Do.?
“This is the safest spot you can be,” Geno says in the beginning of his comedy album.
Not because it’s safe from guns, or pirates, or people who hate you. Or your boss or your family.
You’re safe from words. We are killing each other with words. Facebook has divided in half since the election. One side has unfriended the other.
If you aren’t politically correct in every possible way in our instant-twitter world then a flood of 140 character messages demand you apologize.
Maybe this is correct. Maybe not. Words have power.
But that power builds up. We need to understand the tensions they release.
We need to find a safe place to release those tensions to discover what those words really mean, the harm they can (or cannot) cause. To find out who we are as people.
To find the truths inside of us that make us all relate to each other. That bring us back to our common humanity.
This is why the comedians are the modern day philosophers.
“This is the safest spot you will be in,” Geno says and then begins to destroy everyone in the audience. DESTROY.
And they laugh. They can’t stop laughing. His album was great.
“You have to laugh at this,” Geno says, “Because where else are you going to be able to? You’re in a COMEDY club. These are jokes. Are you going to waste your life being the only one unhappy in a comedy club?
I thought this was GENIUS because he’s not only talking about the “hidden truths” of comedy.
He’s also TEACHING the audience how to laugh at his jokes. He’s telling them exactly what he’s going to do and then why they are supposed to laugh at what he’s going to do.
This is a micro-skill. Training the audience to do what you want them to do. To have fun and laugh at your humor. To be a success right there on the stage.
That’s one reason I wanted Geno on my podcast. To talk about these micro-skills, the grammar of peak performance, and how he uses them to get people to laugh.
Even more important. Geno was the MC at my standup six months ago, and at my standup at his release party.
I have the videos. I wanted him to watch both and then give me feedback.
I was selfish! I totally wanted him on my podcast for selfish reasons while at the same time helping him out. This is one of my micro-skills as a podcaster.
And by help him out: BUY his album: “Uncle Geno is Amazing!!” is one of the best comedy albums I’ve listened to.
So in the middle of the podcast he listened to both videos of me doing standup. And he broke it down for me.
He taught me something new.
That very first night I was doing standup I asked Geno. Do you get nervous?
“Sure,” he says, “I constantly do. And I constantly bomb also. You have to get comfortable bombing.
“But people are here to laugh. The key is you only need to remember ONE THING.”
“What’s that?” I said and I couldn’t imagine anything he could say that would make me less nervous.
“If you have fun up there. They will have fun.
“Just have fun.”