One more thing about George Carlin. He rehearsed a lot. It was one of the things that made him great. And it’s a lesson we could all learn.
I once took a comedy class from Jeff Justice, who has been teaching stand-up in Atlanta for years (check out Jeff Justice’s Comedy Workshoppe). He taught us how to write and deliver jokes and it was a great class. But one of the things that most impressed me was his emphasis on the importance of rehearsal. The class graduation was at The Punch Line in Sandy Springs, Ga. Before letting us go live in front of an audience, he made us rehearse our five-minute bit over and over until we had the timing down perfectly.
The reason, he explained, was that comedy depends on saying the words of the joke just right. “One word out of place and it might not be funny,” he told us. “So you have to practice saying it just right.” He was right. All of us in the class learned that much of stand-up depends on perfect word order. So we practiced a lot.
Watching George Carlin, you could see that he did the same thing. His humor was extremely verbal. He was a true word lover and it was obvious that he practiced saying things a certain way to ensure that they were as funny as possible. You could watch his routine five times and it would be almost exactly the same each time.
Now, I’m not saying that you should memorize your presentations word for word. Unlike stand-up comedy, a presentation does not depend on saying every word just right. But rehearsal is extremely important. The best presenters practice a lot. They may not say things exactly the same way every time. But they do have a strong sense of the words they want to use and where. I’ve practiced my presentations so often that I say almost the same thing every time. The result is that I appear to be speaking extemporaneously.
It’s a lesson I learned from comedy. And it’s a lesson we could all learn from the late George Carlin.