We were so inspired by this Tedx talk by comedian Michael Jr. that we had to write a post about it.
The video is a little long, but stick with it! The jokes are funny and the message is poignant.
If you’re really in a rush, skip to minute 13. He talks about his mindset change regarding comedy, then relates that story to life. It’s powerful stuff.
Here are some highlights of the talk.
A Comedian’s Mindset
Whenever Michael Jr. does a big evening comedy show, he also does a day show in a “non-common place” like a homeless shelter or prison. He says these shows are only possible because of a mindset shift he had a few years ago. He says:
Most of the time, when a comedian goes onstage, he wants to get laughs from people. [This time, right before I got onstage,] I felt a shift take place: Instead of going up there to get laughs from people, I felt like I was supposed to give them an opportunity to laugh…I clearly felt like I was supposed to give an opportunity to laugh.
This changed everything, because now I’m not looking for an opportunity to take. I’m simply looking for an opportunity to give.
This is why we can now go to the homeless shelters and all these places. In fact, that very night when I left the stage—I’m outside, people want autographs, we’re hanging out taking pictures—and I looked across the street and I saw a homeless guy. I had never seen a homeless guy outside this club, ever. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there before. That just means before, my mindset was to get laughs from people, so why would I even notice him?
But now I changed my mindset, and I see this homeless guy, and I have the thought, “What about him? How could I give him an opportunity to laugh?” And that’s when we started doing homeless shelters and prisons and making laughter commonplace in non-common places.
Around minute 15, Michael Jr. reflects on a show at a facility for children who were being abused by their parents. He says, “If my mindset was still to get laughs from people, there’s no way I would have been able to do the show. But my mindset changed, so now I have to do the show.”
When we have an others-focused outward mindset, we naturally want to help them—to use our own resources and talents to make their lives better, however we can.
And this applies to everyone, not just comedians: “If you’re a mechanic, you may think you get paid to fix vehicles. But if you can make this [mindset] shift, you will recognize you help people reach their desired destination. That will put your alarm clock out of business. My sense is there are still a lot of people hitting the snooze button.”
How Life Works
Toward the beginning of his talk, Michael Jr. introduces how comedy works: first there’s the setup, then there’s the punchline. The setup, he says, “is when the comedian uses his talents and resources to seize any opportunity to ensure that you, the audience, are moving in the same direction.”
The punchline occurs when the comedian changes that direction in an unexpected way. The punchline sparks “revelation, fulfillment, and joy, expressed through laughter.”
Later, he relates this concept to life: “Your setup is your talents, your resources, and your opportunities. And most of the time, we use our setup to ensure that the people around us are moving in a direction that serves us.”
But a good punchline is unexpected. Which means that in life, a good punchline is when “you actually use your setup for other people. The results are the same, yet multiplied: revelation, fulfillment, and joy” for the recipient and for yourself.
Most people know their setup, he says. We know what we’ve received and what we have in life—our houses, our cars, our accomplishments. But what is our punchline?
“Your punchline is about what you’re called to deliver. And if you only know your setup and not your punchline, you’ll make the mistake of trying to add more setup…But what you really need is to know your punchline.”
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