Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How Drew Carey Made Me A Better Speaker !

   I used to work with Drew Carey a lot and he taught me several things that have helped me in my career as a stand up comedian and a speaker. The most  significant was his overwhelming confidence while he was onstage and off. In the world of show business this is a rare trait. Yes believe it or not most performers are  racked with insecure feelings and thoughts that torture them most of their careers. Especially in stand up comedy where you have to prove yourself on a nightly basis. It doesn't matter how well your show went last night you have to prove yourself each night. This is what draws a lot of people to this profession and yours truly is just one of many.

Drew and I started working together just before he started to get national exposure as a comedian. We worked cities like Pittsburgh ,Cleveland ,Virginia Beach and several others up and down the eastern seaboard. He was fun to be on the road with and had a great attitude about what was going to happen to him moving forward in his career.  He had a unique ability to put things  into perspective in the crazy nomadic road life that we were leading. We did a lot of shows to packed houses and to sometimes unruly audiences. I remember on one  occasion  in particular where we had problems with several members of the audience who were chatting away and who distracted  others who were trying to enjoy the show. Finally Drew had to address these folks before they totally destroyed the show. He asked to have their attention so he could speak to them and actually walked toward them trying to single out the loudest ones and separate them by asking their names. Getting even closer he asked one particular woman what she did for a living and she answered as she sank in her seat while her face became beet red. Another man totally oblivious to what was going on was still talking with his back turned until Drew  put his microphone to his mouth and he heard his voice echo throughout the room. The man was stunned to say the least. Within seconds these disruptive audience members were quiet and sitting up straight. The closer he got and the more pointed questions he asked these people actually started to get embarrassed only now realizing that they had infringed on not only Drew's act but the others who paid to see the show. Drew was able to finish his show and in fact got a standing ovation.
Now this  may not seem like a big deal to most but let me explain what happened as compared to what could have happened. First of all Drew was in a situation where he could have done what a lot of other comedians  have done. That is, he could have made fun of them or made crude remarks to them or simply have security throw them out. Comedians usually choose one of these options  because idle chatter is a killer to a comedians act.  Comedians and speakers alike need   intimacy with the audience and anything that interferes with that needs to be eliminated. Throwing people out of a show is usually a last resort but sometimes a necessity however it brings the audience down and is often extremely ugly event. Moving on with show is often a tough road to hoe. Making fun of the trouble makers works for a little bit but if they continue to talk or heckle moving on is impossible. Crude comments may work for some audiences but it sets a tone for which unfortunately there is no return.                 
Drew's choice not only preserved the entire audience as participants in the show but also the shows integrity. In a very civilized manner  and without making fun of anyone he had the confidence to approach the disruptive audience members and politely moved on with his show. As a speaker in business this is something that parallels the comedy world. In my experience in the past 25 years I have seen several audience members who ignore and chat while someone is presenting. What's worse some spend the entire time working on their cellphone. Comedians and speakers alike have an obligation to their audience to ensure that they can receive the intended message free of interference. Now in business it is highly unheard of having security throw people out and is not an option to make fun of people or make crude remarks. However if you ever find yourself in a situation where the professionals are acting anything but maybe you should try the subtle and highly effective technique  that Drew taught me.  I was so impressed with this I have used it many times since and  I have come to realize that  in this situation if you approach people who are disrupting a presentation they will usually hang themselves.   I haven't seen the Price is Right recently but I wonder if Drew has any plans for a current edition of Hangman !


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