Matt Kazam is a Comedian from Las Vegas. Comedy has always been something Matt wanted to do ever since he saw a Joan Rivers & Shecky Greene show when he was 10 years old. 35 years later he has a comedy show of his own at the very same venue and in the very same room!
The idea that comedy is a commodity in business has been a more recent revelation, and is now being taken seriously. Presenting is like being in a performance, you play the part and the audience has a set of expectations that you have to meet or exceed. Matt has created a business for the corporate market. He still classes himself as a comedian but feels he is more of an ‘edutainer’.
Matt shares stories about Chris Rock, who like most comedians is painfully shy. Despite this, Chris manages to perform in front of thousands of people, time after time. This is because comedy is a skill that you could turn on and off. Matt’s learning has helped him get through over 6,000 shows.
Comedy can be used as a defence mechanism. As a little chubby kid growing up in New York City, Matt had two options – to fight or be funny. He also used comedy in school to get girls to like him and get people to do things for him.
Humour is good for your physical and mental wellbeing. People underestimate it, but being amused and physically laughing is so good for you. Studies have shown that children laugh four hundred times a day and adults only laugh three to fifteen times. We need more humour!
Humour can diffuse negative situations. It can help us remember things, be more genuine, gain more trust and be more innovative. It empowers us and helps us connect with other people.
People laugh for two reasons, either through commonality or superiority. Commonality makes fun of the things we do and superiority makes fun at the victim in the joke. Comedy is trying to police out superiority humour.
It is important to realise how comedy can be interpreted. We may get a big laugh initially but is it going to backfire, get us fired or people turn on us? It’s about getting the biggest laugh and success rate with the lowest risk.
Matt doesn’t think of each of his shows as a success or failure, but as being one of many shows to learn from.
Breaking performance into 3 stages, helps Matt build confidence:
1) Before the event:
Practice, practice, practice.
Matt’s top tips for remembering his content:
Write things down – hand written notes help us remember
Record our presentation and listen to it before we go to sleep to, this is a great time for remembering
Go for a walk and talk, as we release endorphins that help us remember
By predicting what the risks of something going wrong may be, Matt plans and rehearses so that nothing phases him. If we have done everything we can so that things go right, then we set a very good foundation.
Through planning we are controlling the moment, time slows down and happens in our manufactured idea of what time is. This gives us time to think quicker, to plan our new attack and accept the new reality when things change. They are just different challenges that occur that we can control, they are not going to sink us but we can find a new way and embrace the change.
We also want to plan for when things go right because that is going to happen way more times than things going wrong.
If we are so prepared we can do our show or presentation anywhere, whatever the circumstances.
If we start off in a negative place, only negative things will happen. Matt likes to prepare for the worst but expect the best. So until something happens, he will stay within his original plan. If we are prepared and aware we can make better choices.
Getting people on our side even before we speak is a powerful tool, this is where presentation, body language and tone of voice all have their place.
2) During the event:
By connecting with people as human beings, Matt is able to take negative situation and turn them into a positive.
Audiences don’t expect people to be perfect. Even in shows Matt may stumble on a word but he just moves on and doesn’t draw attention to things unless he has to.
It is natural to talk about challenges, changes or events otherwise they can become ‘the elephant in the room’, so comedy can lighten the mood of situations by using commonality.
There is a formula to being funny. There is the set up where we describe the situation, and then we produce a short a punchline. Comedy loves exaggeration, social taboos and words ending in K! We need to look for the situations that we all have in common, try to connect the story that we have to that, we can then exaggerate and use the right words in descriptions.
Matt feels that in comedy, an ounce of truth is worth more than a pound of lies. Comedy is already inside of you. It is the experiences, the stories of what we have in common, the embarrassing stories, the things that we have to deal with and the things happening around us. It is about finding common ground. Comedy is not just about us and our sense of humour, it is about the audience and their sense of humour.
When Matt goes onto a stage – he lets out a little Whoop so that he knows that this is not him going on stage but an enhanced version of himself. He is not always this guy, sometimes he is himself. Every time he wants to pitch something at a meeting or take over the room, he flicks this switch so things become skills that he can just fall back on.
3) After the event:
When we reflect we can think about …. ‘this is what I should have done or said’, which will help prepare for the future.
We may not have been able to give our best performance this time, but it was worth taking the chance, as we will be doing this so many more times and the experience will help develop something that works every time it comes up in the future.
Building our resilience is all part of excepting the new realities that appear. It is about getting over ourselves, being flexible and getting on with things by learning from what has happened.
The more we realise this, the more risks we take, the more we learn form getting things wrong, so we take more risk and this makes us more resilient. We will only get better by taking action and learning from what went well or badly.
Matt is keen to empower business people with the same humour skills, so they can defuse negative situations, improve communications and make the most of the meetings and presentations that occur.