Last week I was watching Jay Leno on the Tonight Show. Normally, I just watch the monologue. For one thing, it’s always nice to end the day with a few good laughs. Though, as a professional speaker, I also enjoy watching to learn how a master like Jay presents and responds to the audience.
On this particular evening, I stayed up a while longer as Bill Cosby was going to be the first guest. I figured, why not? Let’s see how another master works his craft. I was not disappointed – the timing, the facial expressions, he makes it all look so effortless. But we know he has practiced, and practiced, and practiced. After his short bit, Mr. Cosby moved over to the couch to chat with Jay. They relived some of their experiences from the ‘old days’ when they were both doing stand-up. This is when Bill revealed the true nature of mastering your craft as a comedian, which also applies to virtually any other profession, whether you are in sales, marketing, or customer service.
Mr Cosby described a particular evening when he was to do two 30 minute performances at a jazz club here in Chicago. It was a venue that he had eagerly anticipated getting booked for. He was all charged up and ready to go, but as the first performance grew closer, some doubts about his abilities crept into his self-talk. He then proceeded to give a 34 minute performance in 18 minutes. He bombed! He told the producer he wasn’t coming back for the second performance, to which the man replied, Good! - we don’t want you back. But could you do me a favor, he asked? Please make sure BILL COSBY shows up for the 2nd performance – because he’s good! And that’s what happened. The real Bill Cosby showed up, relaxed and engaging, and displayed the mastery that he’s known for. What a great lesson – just show up and be yourself! Now, that’s the right way to do it. And if it works for the masters, then I’m certainly going to give it a try. How about you?