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Do This ONE Thing Comedians Do to Master Delivery

Chris Rock slap

Written by Shukuru Amos

Tanzania's most followed marketer on LinkedIn. Content Alchemist; building and executing content strategies for B2B brands, Founders and Solopreneurs.

The best moment in my marketing career was an embarrassment. In 2021, I had a client I was helping with LinkedIn. She was a foreigner, an expat.  Our first meeting was at Serena Hotel where we discussed the project, expectations, and deliverables.

On our second meeting, the next week, she came with her husband. And it was he who humbled my perceived expertise in marketing. He told me he viewed my LinkedIn profile and was impressed.

Then he tried to engage me in a conversation that ranged from human behavior (psychology), Lehman Brothers (banking and economics), Rory Sutherland, a TV show called Mad Men (advertising), and other topics I barely kept up with.

To his surprise, it turned out I hadn’t heard about Rory Sutherland or watched the Mad Men show -which is kind of like you claim to be a  Christian but you haven’t heard of Moses or read Paul’s letter to Corinthians.

He expected me to have the sophistication of someone who is well-read and has a complex sense of perception. Or at least live up to the impression he made of me from LinkedIn.

I learned a precious lesson that day. A lesson I later discovered the masters of delivery such as comedians know very well.

How comedians deliver battle-tested jokes that land

In The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel uses the example of comedians to describe the concept of tail events in investment. He says:

No comedic genius is smart enough to preemptively know what jokes will land well. Every big comedian tests their material in small clubs before using it in big venues.

Chris Rock was once asked if he missed small clubs. He responded:

When I start a tour, it’s not like I start out in arenas. Before this last tour I performed in this place in New Brunswick called the Stress Factory. I did about 40 or 50 shows getting ready for the tour.”

One newspaper profiled these small-club sessions. It described Rock thumbing through pages of notes and fumbling with material. “I’m going to have to cut some of these jokes,” he says mid-skit.

Practice, practice, practice

Enviably articulate people were not born that way. They take a crazy amount of preparation before they deliver their message to us.

The Dave Chappelle you see on YouTube is hilarious and flawless. But the Dave Chapelle that practices in smaller clubs, or in his room is just OK.

In his words, Neil DeGrasse Tyson ( a master of delivery himself) said on Masterclass that 90% of the words that come out of his mouth publicly —he has written them before. They existed in written form first, which allowed him to organize his thoughts before someone judged him in that instant.

He also adds on that Masterclass,

“You need to be 10x prepared in order to make it look like you did not need to prepare at all. To make it look like you just walked in and start flowing”

The stakes are high when it comes to presenting before an audience. It doesn’t matter whether you are a priest, comedian, a general in the army, CEO, or a school teacher. The rules for impactful delivery still apply.

Practice, practice, practice.

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