I used to be very ritualistic about getting ready for a show. I had a list of several things I had to do before each show in order to ensure my best performance. Some of the things on the list were helpful. Some were not. I don't do all these things anymore, but a recent set I had reminded me I need to be diligent about preparing myself for each show.
This list will give you an idea of how Jake Sharon Gets Ready For A Show:
1. SCOUR MY SET-LIST
|A set list I did in November 2012|
At open mics, I'm admittedly a little more lax. Occasionally, I will neglect to even think about my set list until I get to the venue. Then, moments before hitting the stage, you'll see me furiously scribbling out my whole set-list, writing down tags, crumpling notepad pages, then re-writing the set-list. Sometimes, this is good. Sometimes, it is not.
For contests and showcase sets, I immerse myself in that set, a week or two in advance so I have plenty of time to review it and make changes if need be. Then, I'll run that exact set on several stages before ever going doing the big show! I'll still review that set-list several times that night before hitting the stage.
Before performing on "The After After Party with Steven Michael Queszada," I spent 3 weeks going over every joke and every word to make sure I didn't say anything that could keep my set from airing. I ditched certain words, innuendoes, brand names, and anything remotely offensive- just in case. Even after all that review, I still forgot a joke! Oh well.
|Yes, I used to look like this.|
Photo by Crystal Allen
Driving 15 hours to a gig makes you tired. If you have a day job, going to open mics till 2am every night makes you tired too. The audience isn't concerned with that though: They don't know about your travels. They don't care about your job. They just know they are here at a show and they expect your best.
So, to help get my energy up, I made a playlist on my i-pod with a bunch of hardcore punk songs. "We're gonna have to fight! We're gonna have to fight!" Listening to Black Flag, Rollins, and the Cro- Mags, I'd pace back and forth like a caged animal, jumping up and down, getting the blood flowing- before unleashing myself on the audience. Rawr!
I had to stop doing that. Sometimes all that energy was too unfocused. It was getting me too riled up!
To perform the best I can, I also need to be relaxed. I need to breathe slowly so can give the audience time to enjoy each joke.
This used to be a big problem for me. Sometimes, I'd try to cram so many jokes into a set that I rapid-fired my material. My mind was going so fast I'd forget some of the jokes I wanted to do and the ones I did get in bombed! The audience couldn't enjoy themselves; they were just catching up to a joke I did 2 minutes ago!
Food is good. A feast thrown in your face is just a waste!
To slow me down, I quit drinking coffee. No more Red Bull either! One time, before a set in Butte, Montana, I drank 5 Red Bulls before my set. I did 40 minutes of material in 15 minutes. The crowd hated me so bad, the booker got a call the next day and I don't work for him anymore! That was back in 2003 and I still don't work for him!
Good news: I don't ever want to go back to Butte anyway. However, I learned my lesson and quit Red Bull. The most caffeinated thing I'll drink before a set is tea- or hot cocoa.
Now, I do 10-30 minutes of yoga before each show. I get my body breathing slowly. Instead of a furious burst of frenetic adrenaline tearing through my likability, yoga gives me pure, relaxed, easy-flow energy.
4. THINK ABOUT DEATH
Before every show I try to remember "this may be the last set I do before I die." What if I get hit by a truck? What if my hernia finally strangulates my intestines so they explode, causing fecal bacteria to storm my innards? Life is fragile. We can die anytime. I don't want my final set to be garbage.
Moreover, since we all die, I shouldn't worry about petty things like: who got on what TV show or which booker is in the audience or will I win this contest. Who cares? The only thing that matters is that I bring a quality show to the stage every time.
NOTE: I don't contemplate death as often as I used to. In fact, I haven't thought about it in since my birthday. It's not a bad thing to think about from time to time, though...
5. GET READY TO RECORD
I am trying to record all my sets. It is good for me to review my act. Maybe I did some ad-libs that show. Plus, I could always use a better demo tape.
So, before ever going to a show, I need to make sure I check the batteries on my video camera and my voice recorder. Do I have spare batteries? Is there space on both those devices? These are easy things to check at home. They are a pain in the butt to check at the show! Once I'm at the venue, the last thing I need is a last-minute scramble to find batteries or choose which recording I have sacrifice so I can maybe get a good recording this show.
NOTE: Murphy's Law sucks! You always have your best shows when the camera isn't running.... So, just in case, always record your sets!
6. FINAL SYSTEM CHECK
About 20 minutes before my set, I like to do one final check. Did I eat enough? Did I use the restroom? Did I check my fly? Did I do my yoga? What does my set list say? Are there any tags I need to remember? Did I turn on my voice recorder? Is the camera recording?
It's important to make sure you are okay physically- well before hitting the stage. If you have a body function that takes over your act, you may appear uncomfortable. The crowd will think you are nervous. Turns out you're just nervous about soiling yourself.
The following blooper video shows an example of when I didn't do my final check. I wasn't sure when I was going on. I was in the back of the room watching the other comedians and suddenly the emcee called me up to the stage. I was not ready to go...
NOTE: This isn't the first time I neglected to take care of my body before going on stage. I made this exact same mistake in The Seattle Competition back in 2010. However, my wife wasn't there so I handled it way differently! Read about it here. It was awful!
Besides just writing out a set list, maybe I need to start writing out a set-prep list, a list of everything I need to do before my show. I especially need to make sure to spit everything out of my mouth!
Bye! I'm Jake!