Stand Up Comedy: What Makes Comedians’ Communication So Effective?

21 Feb

Recently I, along with one of my friends, became Co-Comedy Chairs of the Campus Programming Council here at Washington University.  This position requires us to book a comedian who is brought to campus for a show usually attended by 800 people. 

Throughout the semester we have been watching comedy specials and following the work of specific comedians.  One thing that struck me was the different ways that each comedian communicates with their audience. For example, Kevin Hart tells almost exclusively stories, and often says, “I’m just telling you what I know”. Others, like Bo Burnham, will use music for comedic appeal. Without effective communication their message can be lost very easily.

Although each performer has various persona’s they take on, it wasn’t until I read Steve Cody’s article (co-founder of Peppercom) entitled “Laughing To The Bank: Stand-Up Comedians Win More Clients” that I understood how comedians’ communication skills can translate into the workplace.

Steve Cody states that there were three main aspects of communication he improved upon following his Stand up comedy training:

  • A heighted sense for reading non-verbal cues
  • A new skill for filling uncomfortable conversation gaps
  • Creating a more immediate rapport with clients through comedy

All three of these skills can be very useful when communicating with interviewers, clients, employees or even authority figures. Although this is unconventional; training in Stand-Up comedy could improve business communication drastically.  I, along with many of my colleagues, have anxiety when it comes to presenting in a formal setting. This “Comedy Training” is a new outlook on how to become confortable speaking in front of audiences. Whether it is forming a comedy group with friends, or joining an actual program, practicing Stand-Up comedy is a fun and easy way to begin working on presentation, and communication skills.

This article showed me that the communication employed in comedy acts is not that different from communication used in the everyday workplace.  In both cases it is about connecting with an audience and using verbal and non-verbal cues to convey a message.

by Grant Smith



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