Exercise: Performance Goals

Posted on 22 September 2009

I’m still making my way through Comic Insights: The Art of Stand-up Comedy by Franklyn Ajaye. It’s one of the most intelligent books I have read on the subject for a very long time.

Ajaye speaks largely from his own experience, then presents his interviews with a diverse range of other stand-ups. This gives readers a chance to make their own conclusions, following the advice of those comedians whose style or approach is compatible with their own. Others who have written on comedy have made broad sweeping generalisations without even this much in the way of researched evidence.

In one section of his book Ajaye speaks of performance goals. When you first start out he has found it useful to hold non-laugh related skills development goals. For instance you might have as a goal to make sure you speak in a measured pace, stopping now and then to let the audience laugh, if they are doing so. After the show you can listen to the tape of yourself and judge how well you have achieved that goal and what things you can do next time to improve upon it.

With a short list of specific goals you are more likely to constructively dissect what happened on stage and to build upon your performance. With only a vague notion of what you are doing, you may either not think about what happened and not develop, or tear yourself to shreds. Neither of these are helpful.

Ajaye then suggests creating a broader and more ongoing list of goals. His own list includes: to have a command of the stage and feel comfortable, to add more power to his delivery, and to incorporate more visual and audio variety into his performance. After reading this I took on some of his goals and included a few of my own, for instance: to have fun while on stage and to project that energy to the audience, and to allow myself to be outrageous without fear of uncoolness.

So, your exercise for today, should you decide to accept, is to make a list of at least four personal performance goals.

Peace and kindness,


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