One of the most common fears people have is glossophobia, or fear of public speaking. Top that with trying to make an audience laugh with the jokes you’ve deemed worthy enough to tell, and that Glossophobia becomes OhfuckwhatamIdoingphobia. Getting nervous is just part of the job of being a comedian. It doesn’t necessarily go away, but as you become more experienced, you find ways to deal with it. When it comes down to it, if you want to be a good performer, you don’t have any other choice.
My level of nervousness all depends on how high the stakes are. If I’m in a big audition or know an important person is in the back of the room, that’s when I’ll put the pressure on myself, which of course only sets me up for failure. The trick I’ve found (that works about half the time) is to ignore the nerves. I just don’t give them power over me. I try to pump myself up by telling myself, despite my crippling self-doubt, that I deserve to be on stage and of course the audience is going to love me. Why wouldn’t they? Then I fight off all the reasons I give myself why they wouldn’t. Eventually one of the sides wins and I hit the stage, hopefully with confidence. Once that first laugh hits… the nerves melt away.
Of course that’s just one way of doing it. I asked other comedians as well, “How do you get over being nervous?”
“I think there is a way to use nerves to drive your desire to become better. When I become nervous, I usually ask myself why, and it immediately focuses me toward fixing what I subconsciously think is weak, unprepared, or poorly structured. Or, I just eat a whole lot.” – @tedtremper (Ted Tremper)
“I remember something a friend of mine once said, which is “Nobody likes to watch someone be nervous.” So even if I am feeling a little nervous, I bullshit some confidence and pretty soon I’ve convinced myself.” – @CoreyRittmaster (Corey Rittmaster)
“I’m lucky in that I typically don’t get nervous. I primarily worry about falling down on stage – that’s seriously a major concern. I wear flats or comfortable shoes. Sometimes I get nervous mid-set if it’s going badly. I try and remind myself to slow down – rushing makes it worse.” – @kristincliff (Kristin Clifford)
“I try to turn it into excitement. Nervousness means you’re doing something new and outside your comfort zone and those moments are wonderful.” – @katiemaryrich (Katie Rich)
“Picture everyone in the audience over the age of 18 in their underwear.” – @Ilanaabby (Ilana Gordon)
“Mostly the realization that no matter what happens, I will be alive when I’m done and things will be okay.” – @andymboyle (Andy Boyle)
“If you do something over and over again, nerves start to subside. I never completely get rid of the nerves. If you’re not nervous at all, I think it might mean you don’t care. Breathing exercises help. I don’t think I would do comedy if it didn’t make me nervous. It wouldn’t be exciting anymore.” – @jamiecampbell79 (Jamie Campbell)
“I hope I always have some nervousness before a show. I think it’s a great way to stay focused and motivated. I honestly believe that when the time comes I don’t have any nervousness it’s time to quit because it means I’ve stopped caring.” –(The Midnight Swinger)
“I’m always nervous. You don’t get over it. You just face it. The stage is a powerful place, better to be nervous on stage than take my fears out on other people via internet comment threads, the closest thing to hell on Earth.” – @dantelfer (Dan Telfer)
Of course if you can’t make the nerves go away on your own, a little outside help can do wonders.
“Alcohol and pacing around.” – @KennyDeForest (Kenny DeForest)
“First it took 150 mg a day of Zoloft to get over an entire life’s worth of crippling anxiety. Now any nerves I have before I go on I’ve learned to harness as energy on stage.” – @goodrichgevaart (Goodrich Gevaart)
“I don’t, and beta blockers.” – @GillianBellz (Gillian Bellinger)
“Run. Yoga. Hike. Generally try to outpace the nerves. If that doesn’t work, one Jack on the rocks.” – @cameronesposito (Cameron Esposito)
BONUS CLASSIC QUOTE:
“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” –Jerry Seinfeld