Think Big, Act Bigger

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Sometimes I am “lead” to certain videos that I study.  I can’t explain why or how, but they tend to leave a mark on me for a while.  Some are related to comedy while some are related to life as a whole.

I came across a live version of the Queen hit Another One Bites The Dust that was performed at Wembley Stadium in the mid 80s.  The more I watch this video, the more I realize its content can translate over to the comedy stage.  Watch below.

The first thing that struck me is at the start, how lead singer Freddie Mercury was caught off guard by the drummer counting off (starting) the song as quickly as he did.  But Freddie was enjoying himself the playing to a hundred thousand people. so obviously the energy they gave him sustained him.  You can see the look on his face is that of a happy surprise.  Then he gets into the lyrics, improvising during the instrumental bridge, as some musical acts do when playing live, in the end making for a great performance.

After this video, I watched the biography of Freddie Mercury.  He was a quiet and shy person away from the stage, but one who felt better when he walked into a room and had a friend or two by his side.  Before forming Queen, he was with two other bands briefly and left soon after joining them, because his work ethic and standards to give the best show possible weren’t what he expected from his bandmates.

It’s always amazed me how musicians can be so shy, much like comics when away from the stage.  But give them a mic and an audience and look out.  One of the first rules of performing boils down to audience psychology 101.  The audience will be in whatever state the performer is in.  If the comic on stage is positive, engaging and fun, even if they aren’t getting consistent laughs, the audience is still on their side.  You can see smiles and see the audience wanting to root for the comic to see them succeed.

Obviously, there are differences between music and comedy.  The biggest difference is that with music, the energy is continuous.  At a good music concert there are no quiet moments during the song.  The audience is cheering, singing along, or both.  Comedy however, requires silence.  A comic needs a cooperative audience to sit and listen to the setup of the joke in order to get to the punchline for the desired payoff, which is the laughter.  Even if a good comic has the audience laughing during the setup hitting the laugh points, the comic will generally wait until the laughter dies down a bit, but not completely, before delivering the next line to get a laugh.  That’s called working the crowd.

You can learn lots about performing and stage presence by watching others who aren’t in the same field as a comic (ie: a musician).  The way they use the whole stage, their body language, the way they engage the audience is all part of what makes a concert a unique environment.

It’s just really neat to watch somebody who is the best in their field at what they do.  I hope Freddie is resting in peace.  He was an amazing example of performing to watch.  May we all as comics learn from his dedication and work ethic to being the best.

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