Thursday, December 22, 2011

Some Tips on Live Reading for the Virgins in the Group (Post Holiday Spoken Word Showdown)

I'll be reading at the Pizza Shop Collective at 7PM December 26, 2011 in Omaha, Nebrasky along with a ton of awesome performers and writers!


Since a few of them are "live show" virgins, I thought some tips might be in order. Here are 10 of them, in no particular order.

Well, I guess they're in exact order 1-10, but the data is no exact order.

Well, that's not true either, since I use sentences and punctuation and junk so it's all very orderly but...

Fuck it, never-mind.

Here goes.

1) Work off paper. 

You can memorize, true, but your first time your mind may very well blank. Crowds are scary. Having paper ALWAYS there, even if you're not reading it, means you can look down and into safety at any time. Be prepared!

2) They came to see you, so they don't want you to fail. 

You can look at a crowd and say "They're gonna eat me alive" but really they're not. If you bomb, they have a sucky night. So everyone in the room is behind you.

3) Avoid things that are too obtuse. 

On the tubes, you can find an audience for anything. A live audience is different. It's a single organism and not everything will work for it. But we know they like us, we know they like Planned Parenthood. That gives you a lot of implied information on what material works.

4) Slow down. 

Whatever speed you're working at is too fast. "Make a meal of your words." Don't serve the audience fast food.

5) If you can let them be funny; flubs, broken character, skips, misreads can be funny for the audience too. 

My favorite Colbert moments are when he breaks character. Have a sense of humor about yourself.

6) Bring extra material.

 I normally bring about twice as many minutes as I fill. If something gets a muted response, you know it doesn't work for that audience. If that's ALL you brought, or you chose something that takes the entire allotted time and it doesn't work... well, you're in for a long slog.


Don't use half your ass. The audience payed (or donated) for your whole ass. Don't Cinemax them. You don't have to be confident in your material, but you DO have to cut all of the things we use in the real world to modify your statements. Stop worrying so much what the audience thinks of you, if they were on stage and you were in the crowd, you'd want to see someone go balls out. *Note, please do not actually show ass or balls, that was a metaphor.*

8) Don't ever apologize on stage. 

Not "sorry, the pages got stuck together" or "While I'm no David Nesbit, I hope you'll like my stuff just as much." Whether or not you deserve to be on stage is irrelevant, motherfucker. You're there. Don't apologize, ENJOY IT. Everyone in the audience WISHES they could talk and 50 people would listen. When you get all "oh gee I'm here by accident" you sort of squander a lucky talent they wish they had and it's disengenuious. Plus you wouldn't have been invited if you sucked (unless it's an Open Mic, in which case even if you do suck, you'll still not be the suckiest.)

9) If you can get your nerves under control enough, listen. 

When you get an ear for it you can hear what is bombing, and what isn't based on crowd levels. If it's your first read you might not be able to, but eventually this becomes a full contact sport. You learn what jokes to punch, inflections, etc, by watching a crowd.

10) Remember that this is fun. 

That puts a lot in perspective when you realize you actually want to be there :)

Good luck, tl;dr and all that.


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