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#4: Start with an ATTITUDE.

Photo: Jorge Alvariño

Another thing I learned in stand-up:

The jokes aren’t the only important part. Your attitude while you’re telling the jokes is equally important.

Everything about performing is much easier if you start from emotions, not words or ideas.

Here’s an example of attitude in comedy, provided by two old friends of great talent: Eddie Pepitone’s conversation with Marc Maron in this clip from Marc’s show, “WTF“.

If Eddie didn’t have such a strong attitude, would he be as believable? Would the scene be as funny?

Mark Maron’s attitude is also perfect for the situation. He’s the classic “straight man”, playing it natural as the calm, receptive listener to Pepitone’s angry, ranting persona.

Their attitudes make the scene seem real. They convince.

The same goes with singing at AK. A strong attitude will carry the performance more than the words or even the voice. Here’s an example. See how her attitude is established from the first moment, and the rest of the performance flows from it?

So before you get onstage, besides thinking about the words or how the tune goes, think about your attitude. How do you feel right now? How will you feel up there? Aggressive? Tender? Seductive? Charming? Angry? Vulnerable? Sleazy? Elegant? Passionate? Sarcastic? Heartfelt?

Many of us, at some time or another, have chosen songs purely based on our attitude of the moment. Did you ever have a bad day before coming to AK, and pick an aggressive song to vent your rage? Or have you ever directed a song towards someone you love? These are examples of letting your attitude determine your act.

But the attitude doesn’t have to be a slave to the song. Here’s a creative use of attitude, where the performer expresses an attitude that clashes with that of the song:

This is acting! But, as acting teachers say, “Acting is believing.” To have an attitude, you yourself must believe in it. If you believe, the audience will too.

An attitude is different from a pose. A pose is a cheap plastic mask. A pose is pretentious. It’s fake behavior to cover up what you’re really feeling. It’s a way of hiding.

An attitude is an authentic feeling that comes from within you, that you push out into the world. It’s something you share with others.

One nice benefit of using attitude is that it allows you extra space if something goes wrong in the performance. Say, for example, that you forget the lyrics. Your voice blows out. You trip and lose your balance. The mic cord falls out. If you already have your attitude in place, you can ride that magic carpet of confidence through any fuck-up. The attitude carries you through everything. And the audience will be too focused on you to pay attention to these little problems.

Attitude is the great convincer.

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