Athletes warm up their muscles, chant, kiss a trophy or other weird superstitions to get into the right mindset for the game. Comedians also have their pre-show rituals and superstitions. Personally, I never shave my beard before a big show. Mostly though, before I perform, I do what I can to relax and calm my nerves.
If it’s an improv show I joke around with the other players and get in the mindset of just having fun. If it’s scripted, I’ve gone over my material on the ride to the venue and in the few minutes before I go up on stage, I do a quick run through of the beats of my set, just to make sure I know the order. I also adjust my clothing or fix my makeup in an almost OCD way, but that’s less of a ritual and more of a neurosis. If I’m working on new material, I’ll hang out in a corner alone. Note: if you see me before a show and I’m doing this, I’m not being anti-social. Unless I don’t like you, then I might be. Then, depending on how nervous I am and if I still have Weight Watcher Points left, I’ll have a beer and remind myself to just have fun.
For this weeks INSIDE A COMIC’S PROCESS, I asked my awesome comedian friends “What is your pre-show ritual?”
“I like listening to my favorite rappers, who remind me that confidence and charm is just something you can make up.” @bizmichael (Mike Levine – Headline Contributor for the Onion and Onion News Network, Heeb Magazine)
Some are a little more compulsive than others.
“I rehearse my set 3 times and say 1 thing in my head “have fun.” @tamerkattan (Tamer Kattan – entertaining the troops USO tour Afghanistan, Edinburgh Comedy Festival, Comedy Store LA)
“Stare at a mirror for a long time deciding how fat or not fat I look. This is not a bit. It can go on for upwards of 20 minutes.” @natalinasp (Natalie Shipman – Second City Touring Company, ComedySportz, contributor to BroJackson.com)
“I write “You are a superstar” in my tiny notebook 157 times before each show. What if that were true? Gross.” @kelsiehuff (Kelsie Huff – Chicago Laugh Factory, producer of The Kates, will perform for cupcakes)
And having a preshow drink certainly isn’t an original idea.
“I practice my set in the car — over and over — on my commute home, and then again while I’m getting ready. But the real key is having two beers before I go on stage, and then taking No. 3 up there with me. Even if I don’t drink it, I like having that beer next to me on stage. It is like my binky. Wait, is that what an alcoholic says?” @m_k_jenkins (Maggie Jenkins – The Kates, Chicago Women’s Funny Festival, She’s Crafty)
“A shot of whiskey and some toe touches.” @newalltimelowe (Jessica Lowe – Boom Chicago, Second City, feature film debut in Warner Brothers’ Blended)
“I usually have a beer or two, and remind myself that no one likes to watch someone be nervous.” @coreyrittmaster (Corey Rittmaster – Second City, Le Cordon Bleu spokeschef)
The common theme though, seems to be to just relax.
“Basically I try not to be have eaten right before going on and try to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible.” @justlikestephen (Dwayne Colbert – Writer for Nickelodeon, Second City and appeared on Tosh.0.)
“I worry. If I am not worrying I start to worry about why am I not worrying. On stage I am relaxed. Being relaxed the whole time is probably best.” @BenBergman (Ben Bergman - opened for Bill Burr, JFL Fest, and the most impressive, playing soccer in both Humboldt & Lincoln Park)
“I like to get dressed and totally ready a full hour early so I can just relax until places.” @danielstrauss (Daniel Strauss)
“I just try to take in the show/audience to get a good sense of what this particular show is like. I take in the surroundings of the room as I frequently like to start a set talking about that. Puts people at ease. I try to stay away from ritual as the more you worry about rituals the more you think you’ll fail if you can’t perform that ritual for whatever reason.” @goodrichgevaart (Goodrich Gevaart – “Co-Producer at Performance Anxiety, Music Blogger at The Nicest Guys in Town”)