Public speaking is a fear a lot of people have, even extremely funny ones. With this article, I will try to help you get over your fear and at least try your hand at comedy. I myself had a tremendous fear of getting up in front of people. I hated being called on in class (it didn’t help that I stuttered until the fourth grade), and when I was in the military, it was actually comedy that helped me deliver my presentations in front of my peers. When I started performing, it was debilitating. Once I was opening for this guy at Oregon State University, and when I looked out at this sea of people, I seriously thought about giving it up. I was about to go outside and call the promoter and tell him I was done with comedy, but something told me to do it and I did.
Memorize your material- This is important. Remembering what you want to talk about can calm your nerves. We are afraid of the things we don’t know and what we can not control. The one thing that you can control is knowing your material. That way you won’t have to fumble with papers or your phone. When you have the confidence that you at least know what you are going to talk about, it can steady you before you get on stage.
Give it time- If you have your material in your head ready to go, then when your name is called take a deep breath and when you are on that stage, give yourself a second or two to take in your new environment. That couple of seconds can give your mind the time to see that it isn’t that bad! Take those couple of seconds to take a couple of breaths and get ready to perform. Most crowds want you to be funny, they don’t want to have wasted their evening listening to terrible comedy, so you have that advantage. Now that you are centered and you have let the room in, start crushing.
Use more of the stage- Pacing can help you redirect those nerves somewhere else. When you get on stage and you need your notes, put them somewhere that you have to go to. For instance: put them on the bar stool and make sure the bar stool is a couple of steps so you can pace and keep your notes within reading range. Now you can pace and work off the nerves that are built up and your notes are there in case you need them. If you have your material memorized then use the stage as the nerves hit to keep it from messing with what you are trying to do on stage.
Eyes and hands- Comics that are afraid will sometime grab the mic stand as an anchor. That mic stand works as like an antenna and it can alert the entire audience to your predicament. Comics who are comfortable on stage and are using it as more of a cane have a different posture than someone that is wringing the hell out of it because they are scared out of their minds. I would suggest against keeping the mic in the stand unless it helps you use both of your hands. Noise can travel through the mic stand so if you are holding on to it for dear life, everyone in the room can hear it. Put that other hand in your pocket or talk with it. It’s a bit harder to see your nerves if you have your hand in your pocket or you are using it to add flourishes to your performance. What I used to do for years to help with my nerves was I would not look at anyone in the audience. I had my material memorized and I went up and reacted to the laughs. I would look at empty seats or look right past people. It really helped me get a hold of what I was doing on stage.
Start easy- An almost sure fire way to settle those nerves is to get the room laughing when you get up. Start off with a nice, even keeled joke to get the crowd on your side. If you start by antagonizing the audience it will not help get those nerves down because you know the crowd isn’t hoping you make them laugh anymore. This is especially true at open mics where the audience doesn’t care as much about your well being. They just want to laugh.
I hope these steps help you. They may not work for everyone but there is something there for at least someone. I would advise against drinking or drugs to calm your nerves. Now, taking a shot may help calm your nerves, but too much could make you more sloppy on stage. I knew a guy that could not go on stage without at least a buzz going. The problem is he didn’t have it down to a science so sometimes he would be drunk as hell when he got up there! He would antagonize the audience and they hated him. He would get sober and then feel bad about his sets. Once he stopped doing that (as much), you could see the real comedian come out of him. I would also advise against bringing a whole group of friends and family because that is like a drug in itself. Your family will laugh at anything you say because they want the best for you (unless your family is terrible). That will give you an inflated sense of what you can do on stage and as soon as they stop coming out (because they will eventually) all it will take is one bad show to strip away that confidence you had built up. It is best to develop that stage confidence slowly to the point where a bad show won’t cause you to stop doing comedy. I hope these tips helped. Thanks for reading!