June 15, 2007

What I've learned from Kathy Griffin

Last week, I posted about Kathy Griffin's show, "My Life on the D-List." I can't say I even know exactly when it's on, but when I do come across it, here are some of the reasons I like watching - and learning from a professional performer.

1. She takes her failures with a grain of salt. In last night's show, she bombed at a fund raising event. She had tailored her act to fit the crowd (jewelers), but it still didn't quite work. No one likes to bomb, but Kathy had a professional attitude about it. Sometimes it happens. Move on.

She had this to say about some shows in Michigan that didn't sell out:

"My Michigan shows were lukewarm at best, and you know giving away free tickets is a more painful decision for me than Meryl Streep had to make in 'Sophie's Choice.' There's just something about people who get free tickets that makes them not laugh as hard."

Giving away free tickets must feel pretty crummy, but as she mentioned during the episode, better to do that than perform to empty seats.

2. She's not worried about looking foolish or embarrassing herself. Okay, you might say that the fact that she has a reality show about her life illustrates this point already. But I really enjoy watching her try new things in her act, and in her life, to see what works and what doesn't. How do you know if you don't try?

3. She has great energy. She never just walks out on stage. When she is introduced, she runs full speed to her mark, ready to go, no filler or fluff.

4. She appreciates her audience and she shows it. She knows that she's there for them and that without an audience, she wouldn't have a job as a comedian, "D-list" though it may be.

5. She makes an effort to find out about her audience and what makes them tick. She knows that the more her jokes relate to the audience's experience, the funnier they'll be.

Here's a comment about performing for soldiers in Iraq:

". . . the hardest part about performing for the troops was that I just had no idea what to expect. And I'm not just talking about the fact that they weren't up-to-date on pop culture. We also found out that the soldiers didn't like to make fun of their superiors as much as we thought they would. So great -- no pop culture and no making fun of people... there goes 90% of my act. . . .

But the truth is, the entire time I was over there, I was getting material. The second the plane landed, it was like, 'Hey look at that crappy food' and 'Whoa, who the hell are those crazy looking people?' And that's material. And I knew that the more time I spent there, the more material I'd get. And the more comfortable I got with the troops, the more I'd figure out how far I could push the envelope with them."

I learn a lot by watching hardworking professional performers of all types, not just speakers. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I started out as an actor and singer, but really, there's a lot of overlap between what someone like Kathy Griffin does, and what speakers do. There's so much to learn from actors, comedians, singers, dancers. . . something for everyone!

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...

About being nervous, looking foolish or being embarrassed:

Those who matter don't mind and those who mind, don't matter!

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Right on, Jacki!

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