Stand-up comedians demonstrate a truly amazing skill-set. They are courageous, inventive, engaging, and daring. They live life on the edge. They expose themselves and their vulnerability, and the source of their comedy is themselves and their lives. They are incredible communicators. They can turn disaster into triumph. Sometimes they fail, and 'die' on stage - but they'll be there for the next show, 'storming it'.
This suggests an opportunity to look at what they do, and draw out lessons to use in us in our own personal and professional development, in departments of everyday life such as:
• building relationships and making connections with people
• gaining confidence and self-esteem, overcoming fears and achieving success
• being persuasive and winning people over
• developing creativity and imagination
• enhancing our appeal and popularity
• developing self-awareness
• dealing with life's challenges, disasters and causes of suffering
• living in the present moment
Fear, courage and confidence
Stand-up comedians demonstrate the ability to handle fear and work with risk every time they go on stage. They can teach us about managing emotion, handling fear, working with risk and danger, coping with being disliked - and more broadly, developing confidence, self-expression and self-esteem.
Coping with disaster
As well as dealing with the potential upsets that face them in the course of performance, comedians are specialists in thinking about disaster, because it's a staple of comedy material. We can learn from them, then, about processing and coming to terms with challenging circumstances and horrible stuff that happens to us - remaining optimistic and holding pessimism at bay.
Comedians have incredibly creative minds, constantly using their mental resources in a very active way - looking at things very differently from the rest of us, exercising imagination, challenging convention and adopting highly unusual perspectives.
Comedians are consummate communicators, skilled at making a strong bond of connection between themselves and an audience, and quickly building a relationship with individuals. They have a great deal to teach us about being an energized, charismatic communicator, about engaging with people individually and collectively, being responsive to people and to circumstances - and being instinctively sensitive to the responses of others around us.
We can also learn a great deal from comedians about being spontaneous and instinctive, living in the present moment, being able to think on our feet, and about how to turn an unexpected and unwelcome turn of events into an opportunity to create value or advantage.
Making sense of life
One of the most valuable things we can learn from comedians lies in their habit of employing their art to study life and the human condition, using themselves and their own experiences to demonstrate with. Inspired by their example, we might become more observational, think about things more deeply, perceive patterns in life and in our own experiences, make sense of them - and cope with life better as a result.
Likewise, comedians need to be very aware of their individuality, their peculiarities, and quirks; this becomes the essence of their comedy material and their unique comedy 'persona' - especially shortcomings, because these are what offers the greatest potential for comedy. There is a lot to emulate here about self-discovery, knowing ourselves, and being our own unique selves - including our imperfections - having our own unique take on life, and using that in our self-expression and in the way we live.
Humour, of course, is central to comedy. This may prompt us to approach life with more humour, not always take things too seriously; to be entertaining, to be able to generate and enjoy laughter; to use humour as a tool for personal development - and to laugh at ourselves.
Finally, professional comedians develop their material and their style of comedy continuously over their whole career. This may encourage us likewise to have life-long curiosity and inquisitiveness, to constantly learn and evolve, and to develop our own personal repertoire of thoughts, ideas, observations - our own style of expression and our own individual contribution to our community.
So let's take a leaf out of standup comedians' book, and do some self development. And have a laugh about it.
Here are some links to ideas on how to put these principles of learning from standup into practice:Suggest a correction