Probably one of the biggest hurdles new comedians face is overcoming stage fright.
I know because I had severe and visible stage fright when I first started in stand-up comedy.
The irony was that I was a teacher and had no issues at all standing before a group of new students. But that wasn’t the case when I hit the stand-up comedy stage in the beginning.
In a nutshell, stage fright stems from a connection made on a subconscious level that associates getting in front of an audience as a “danger” situation, not unlike being cornered by a wild animal.
This triggers the autonomic nervous system (also known as the fight or flight response), resulting in increased adrenalin flow, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, and profuse sweating among other unfavorable symptoms.
The key to overcoming stage fright is to break the “danger” association on the subconscious level and replace it with a non-danger association.
Otherwise, the “danger” association with public speaking or getting on stage as a comedian tends to get reinforced, making it more difficult to get rid of. So, here’s what I did initially…
First, I went to a hypnotherapist to see if I could overcome stage fright using that avenue. It didn’t work for me.
That’s not to say that hypnosis doesn’t work. But I discovered after the fact that only about 25% of people are highly susceptible to hypnosis, 50% are susceptible in varying degrees and 25% are not susceptible at all (which was me).
Still, I knew that if I were to make progress as a comedian, I had to get rid of the stage fright and be completely comfortable and “at home” so to speak when I got on stage to perform.
To make a long story short, I managed to completely rid myself of stage fright in 30 days. How?
I had gotten a hold of a self-help book (called What To Say When You Talk To Yourself) that focused on producing statements to replace the “negative” subconscious programming you have with “positive” programming.
And here was the interesting part – there was no requirement to believe that the process would work. Repeated exposure to specific, prerecorded statements was all that mattered to get results.
The process was very simple – using the guidelines in the book, I wrote out 15 statements then recorded those statements on to a cassette tape.
Then, I simply recorded those initial statements over and over again onto another cassette tape.
I had a 20 minute drive to work at the time, so instead of listening to the radio, I listened to my recorded statements over and over again while driving to and from work.
After a couple of days, I didn’t even actively hear the statements I had recorded. It just turned into background buzz.
But by the end of 30 days my stage fright was gone (and I include this process in my online course for comedians).
Another easy-to-use and proven process for getting rid of stage fright involves using NLP (neuro linguistic programming).
While the term sounds complicated, the methods are not and it basically involves techniques to replace negative or unwanted “connections” with positive or wanted connections (these connections are referred to as anchors in NLP).
And if you do an online search, you can find a variety of NLP courses available like this one that deal specifically with overcoming stage fright or fear of public speaking.
There are also certified NLP practitioners who will work with individuals on a one-on-basis to help conquer any number of issues that folks may have.
The main thing I want to point out is this:
There are any number of ways to overcome stage fright other than simply “toughing it out” by accumulating stage performances.
There are few things on the planet that are as exciting or personally rewarding as standing in front of an audience and causing them to laugh long and hard.
But I will also say that becoming a comedian is challenging enough without the additional layer of difficulty that dealing with stage fright adds to the process.