I love seeing comedians live.

It’s a very odd thing when you think about it.

Someone gets on a stage in front of a crowd of people and makes them all laugh involuntarily.

Anyone who’s ever given a speech or made a big presentation has some slight inkling of what’s involved.

Getting a reaction out of people can be tough.

I used to get asked to give presentations about my beer work to ad folks all over the place.

And I remember initially I tried the Churchill approach: write a great speech and read it.

And it was awful. I was terrible. I bombed repeatedly.

So then I thought about it. And I stopped giving speeches.

I would simply write down a list of interconnected stories and tell those stories off the top of my head.

This worked really well.

I was being myself. Not a scripted robot.

And the more I did of it, the better I got and the better the reactions to my talks were. I knew what got a laugh.

It actually got to the point where I remember giving talk in Toronto and the crowd simply laughed the whole time I spoke.

I honestly wasn’t quite sure what they were laughing at some of the time. But I didn’t care. Apparently everything I said was funny.

In comedy terms, I killed. They just liked what I was saying and the way I was saying it. It was a great feeling too.

I saw comedy legend Bob Newhart the other night. He’s 82 now but essentially is the same Bob of 40 years ago.

It struck me that what sets Bob apart from his wise-cracking contemporaries was that Bob was always Bob.

He has always had a slight stammer. And rather than run away from it and become Mr. Suave, he embraced it. It became central to his timing and delivery and to his charm.

Part of the fun of seeing Bob’s act is following along closely and working out when he’s being funny.

Bob related a story from his early days in TV.

The director of his first TV series asked him to speed up his halting delivery so they could fit the dialogue to the time.

Bob responded that this stammer had paid for a house in Beverly Hills and maybe they should…maybe they should lose some words.

Because he wasn’t about to speed up for anyone.

Bob being Bob was and is his act. And he wasn’t about to change it just to suit the medium of TV. The medium would bend to accommodate Bob. And it did.


  1. great story.

    i remember my dad saw bill cosby in las vegas, and he was saying the same thing.

    he’s just such a great story teller – there’s not necessarily a punch line. there doesn’t have to be. he’s just up there talking to everyone as though you were sitting next to him on a plane.

    • i think the best comics ultimately eschew jokes and just seem to be themselves on stage. Cosby falls into that zone.

  2. There is one other form of delivery that works.

    Scare the shit out of the audience. In 1990 I made the finals of my university’s public speaking competition. It was on poisons in our food supply coming from heavy industry. People came up to me after saying they were afraid to eat and then cursed me for it.

    Lub Bob Newhart

    • yes howie. scaring the shit out of people can work too. i think the late Sam Kinison had a bit of that about him. tough to do. i’m impressed!

  3. I became great presenter (so I was told; no arrogance here) when I stopped “selling” and started to tell my view on product/service.
    ultimately this is what client really buys, isn’t it?
    plus, my experience taught me that if you fake this stage you’ll have problems implementing “your” concept.

    I think best comedians are just like that. the more they act as themselves the more genuine the show. cause people feel that. they don’t need to rationalize, they just feel you or not. no third option.

  4. Bob Newhart is the extremely distant cousin of food pioneer Owen Richard Fennema!

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