6 Human Needs and Standup Comedy
I first got into stand-up comedy as the result of an NLP project where I was tasked with using NLP modeling approaches to figure out how to be funny. I chose a handful of comedians to model, one of them being the British comedian Jimmy Carr, and created a rudimentary “cheat sheat” for how to write and perform comedy. To test it out I booked a performance at a comedy night and was surprised when I got a positive reaction, particularly from a couple of professional comedians in the room who said I should give stand-up comedy a go. This wasn’t my intention but I thought it would be a laugh. Pun intended.
In my first couple of years of standup comedy, my reactions were hit and miss. Often I would get a great reaction from the audience, but at other times it just didn’t work. The thing that frustrated me at the time is that more experienced comedians would do well in the rooms that I didn’t, so I had no-one but myself to blame. When I spoke to the more experienced comedians they told me that I just needed to give the audience what they wanted. But what did they want? And how was it possible to figure that out in a the short time I had on stage? So I decided to ask another question, which was “What do the audience need?”, which I then generalised to “What do people need?”. Because surely if a comedian gave the audience what they needed on a psychological level, that would be more powerful than giving what they want.
The 6 Human Needs Model
Looking back at my NLP study there were a few different models to explain human needs, and the one I found I particularly useful was the Robbins 6 Human Needs Model. I had previously used this model for creating effective presentations in the workplace, and found that it also fit perfectly with stand-up comedy. Looking at my performances with the 6 Human Needs model in mind, it became clear to me why the best comedians were better than me, and what I had to do to improve.
The model theorises that people strive to satisfy six basic human needs; Certainty, Uncertainty, Connection, Significance, Contribution, and Growth. The first four needs, Uncertainty, Certainty, Connection, and Significance, are the primal needs that we all meet in one way or another. The last two, Contribution and Growth, are spiritual needs which are not as important for survival but add fulfillment to life. The more needs an activity gives us, the more we will be drawn to that activity.
Stand-up comedian fulfils these needs for their audiences as follows:
Audiences enjoy comedy as it gives them a different experience from their day to day life, which is uncertianty in the form of variety. The comedian says and does things which the audience don’t expect, often by taking something that they audience are familiar with and twisting it in some way with comedy logic. Uncertainty is heightened when the comedian is deliering the setup to a piece of humour, tension builds, until it is released when the comedian reveals the punchline.
Certainty is created once a punchline to a piece is delivered. The audience go from not knowing what is going on (uncertainty), to knowing what is going on (certainty). Often if the uncertainty is higher, then the swing to the uncertainty is more exciting. Comedians also give the audience certianty when they first deliver something funny, the audience are now certain that they know what they are doing and they belong up on the stage. The same occurs when the comedy character is coherent and understandable, the audience then “get” the comedian and relax into enjoying the show.
Comedians do a whole lot better when they can connect with the audience. The swing from uncertainty to certainty is enough to get an audience laughing, but to really connect with them on a consistant basis, more is required. Comedians establish a connection with their audience by looking at them, building rapport, and using human emotions and attitudes that the audience can relate to. The comedian makes the audience feel that they are with them, and this takes the comedy relationship to a whole new level.
Related to connection is significance. Connection is enhanced if the comedian gives the audience an experience that they feel is just for them, and that if they came on a different night then they wouldn’t have experienced it. The comedian achieves this by acknowledging the audience, the room they are in, and the area the comedy club is in. Often they will make a remark about the local town or a faux derogitory remark about the neighbourhood rival town. Often they will remark upon certain characters in the room, often being characters who are known and liked by the audience.
The comedian makes the audience feel that they are not only watching and experiencing comedy, but contributing to it. Comedians will take information given to them and weave it into something new, and the person in the audience who the information was provided by or derived from feels they contributed. Comedians often prepare material that can be smoothly transitioned to after audience interaction, giving them the feeling that they contributed even though it was contrived. Audiences also feel contribution if they add energy to a room, which is often elicited on cue with interaction such as “Give us a cheer if…”. The audience cheer, energy increases, and they feel part of that.
It is less common for comedians to fulfil the audiences need for growth. Comedians who have a social message often leave audiences feeling they’ve learned something they can take with them. Comedians who are “intelligent” might make the audience feel more intelligent by experiencing their material. The audience experiencing an ultra-confident comedian may feel the comedian’s confidence rubs off on them.
More information about the use of the Six Human Needs model will be included in future Metaphors of Comedy training events and literature. For more information, visit www.metaphorsofcomedy.com and sign up to the newsletter below.
Punchlines vs Surprises
In comedy lingo, a “punchline” is the point at which a comedian delivers a line from which they expect a laugh. I would like to suggest another idiom, and instead refer to it as a “surprise”.
While still idiomatic, “surprising an audience” is more accurate to what is happening than “delivering a punchline”. Punchline implies that the comedian is applying a force to the audience, so implies a one-way relationship where the comedian has the control. The reality of comedy is that it is a two-way relationship with the comedian offering their comedy to the audience, and the audience either being surprised or not. The latter encourages the comedian focus on the audience rather than themselves, and to adjust accordingly if things are not going to their initial plan.
Also, surprise is a broader idiom than punchline. The comedic activity that preceeds a laugh may be a line, but it may not be. Often a comedian will get a laugh by a look, a movement, or even the omission of a word. Focussing on delivering surprises therefore gives the comedian a broader scope of what they can do to envoke laughter from the audience.
Lastly, but probably most importantly, “punchline” aligns with several other conflict-based comedy phrases, such as “killing it”, “smashing it” and “dying out there”, implying a broader metaphor of conflict. This doesn’t fit the reality of standup comedy, which is that an audience are volunteering to be there and the comedian’s desire is to entertain them. Thinking of standup performances as a conflict contributes to the stress and anxiety commonly experienced by stand-up comedians.
Surprise is one of the key elements of Metaphors of Comedy, particularly the comedy writing and performing method of Explaining Surprises Clearly. More information on these approaches will be included in future Metaphors of Comedy training events and literature.
See www.MetaphorsofComedy.com for more info, and sign up below for email updates.
How to Make Coffee with Jokes
So today I am going to teach you how to make coffee with jokes. And by that I mean that the instructions are going to include jokes, not that the coffee will be made of jokes because that would be stupid.
First up, stack all of these things on top of each other, from bottom up.
Pour water in to wet the filer. Make it ASDA Eden Falls branded water. Seriously, it's the best for coffee and really cheap. The reasons are because it's got the right amount of minerals and herbs and spices that the coffee distributes properly throughout the water and lends to better flavour.
THROW AWAY THAT WATER. It is evil water and tastes really papery. And if you forget to pour this water out, your coffee will taste like paper. And paper doesn't taste very nice with coffee, only by itself.
Get some beans! Here are some criteria for good beans:
Grind the beans in a grinder, on a medium-course grind. This part is a bit of an art, as the best grind can really depend on factors such as the origin, roast, and age of the beans. But just try it medium-course, and if it tastes horrible then try something else. But if it tastes as bad as Starbucks, then get your grinder and throw it through the closest glass window because you are never going to succeed at this ever and may as well give up now. Oh also I forgot to mention before but you'll need a grinder, and I find the Baratza Encore to be a good mix of value and quality. Or should I say quali-coffee? Ha, see what I did there, quali-tea, quali-coffee... (I did promise jokes).
Boil some water and pour it into a goose-neck kettle. The reason it's called a goose-neck kettle is because the bit where the water comes out of looks like a goose neck. Although goose necks are actually quite thick, and I think they should have named it a swan-neck kettle. Although the Queen apparently owns all the swans so maybe they avoided it just in case somehow the word got to Her Majesty that people were pouring boiling water in actual swans. Yeah that's probably it. Oh also leave the water in the goose-neck kettle for a minute or so before moving on as you want it to be less than boiling.
Now put the ground coffee in the filter, and pour some water on it until the ground are all wet. Usually that's around 40ml of water. If you do this right then little to no water will actually go through the grinds into the server.
Now once you've done that, put your ear up to the coffee and listen. You'll hear a crackly noise, which is carbon dioxide escaping from the ground beans. That's a good thing, because carbon dioxide tastes horrible. Once the crackly noise subsides, continue on. This part is called blooming. You may notice that as a little treat, in this picture you actually see me. Aren't you lucky! There's more of me later so stay tuned.
Now reset your scale to 0. We are going to pour 250ml of water through, but we are only going to do a bit at a time, because of reasons. Also when we pour the water through the goose-neck filter, we want to pour it in the middle of the grinds and in a circular motion, so it makes a tunnel. To do this you need to take it easy, and pour the water lightly. If you pour it really quickly and the flow is too vicious then the coffee will all get broken up and it will taste horrible. And so far this has been quite hard work hasn't it? And do you want to make all that hard work a waste? No. Unless you're an idiot. But clearly you're not an idiot because you're reading my blog which is for non-idiots only.
Pour 100ml in, and then wait for the water to go through. So that's 100/250 done. Congratulations! Now start pouring more.
Pour another 100ml in, and again wait for all the water to go through. So 100ml + 100ml is 200ml, which is 4/5 of the total of 250mls. I can see that I've just lost some of you with this maths, and I really should have prepared you from the beginning that maths may have been involved because with that in mind you might not have been bothered.
Now pour the remaining 50ml in, which makes up 250ml. Wait for the water to go through, then take all the tower of peripherals off the pourer and pour the coffee into a cup. Now be careful with the pouring and make sure none gets on the table because your Mum will be so annoyed. Although your cat might be happy as he or she might lap it up and go off on a caffeinated-cat rampage of fun and pleasure.
Now this is the bit that you've been waiting for, more pictures of me. Oh and also the final step to tell if you have made the coffee right. So start with what I'm doing in the picture on the left, which I call "drinking the coffee". This involves lifting the cup to your mouth and pouring the coffee in. Be careful with this step as the coffee will be hot, although not too hot because if you've followed these instructions then the water will have had a chance to cool down a little. And once you've poured the coffee into your mouth hole, take a moment to reflect on the journey you have been through to get to this moment. Now the way to check if you have made the coffee correctly is to look at yourself in the mirror and if you look like the picture of me on the right then you've done it right. If you look like the picture of me on the right but with the mouth flipped vertically, then oops you messed up.
By Richard Lindesay
Prefessional Coffee Maker
Prefessional = The stage before becoming Professional
Even less to say, Amazon...
So Amazon have come up with a new service called Amazon Prime Now, which can now deliver things to you within an hour. The things they provide through this service are generally things which there is very little to say about indeed, but fear not because below is a lesson on how to review items from Amazon Prime Now.
First up is a product they call "Bread":
The next one is just called "Milk":
And finally, "Cheese":
Nothing to Say Here, Amazon.
I buy a lot of stuff on Amazon. I pay for the stuff, the sellers gets the money, and they send me the stuff. Transaction complete.
But then the next thing I know I'm being asked to write a review about the stuff. And putting aside the aforementioned "transaction complete", there are some things that there just isn't much to say about.
So here's some of the reviews I've given to Amazon products which there is nothing to say about.
First up it's an iPhone sock I bought, which is a sock that you put your iPhone in.
Next up is an Amazon gift card I bought for someone, which is ... well read on...
My iPhone cable was broken so I bought a generic Amazon one which had exactly the same features.
Last up is a coffee bean grinder which does literally one thing.
I will post up more of these as I buy them. In the mean time, if you like this kind of thing then go to the top right of the page and do what it says to get more of them.