What were you addicted to growing up? Was it positive or negative? I realize I’m dating myself, but I was addicted to video games when I was young. This was way before HD graphics. I’m talking about the 80’s when Asteroids and Pac Man were in. Just after Pong. (If you are laughing or smiling, you are old like me!) I even remember walking from school over to the mall and going into Sears to play on their display game until they kicked us out.
Growing up I was told, “We can’t afford it.” I remember leveraging my mom’s cooking and inviting friends over who had the games. When you are addicted, you find a way. Sometimes it can be good.
According to Dictionary.com, addiction is defined as
“the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
Though the word addiction has a negative connotation, there is a yin to that yang. Later in high school, it was lifting weights for me. I especially loved the bench press. When lifting became a consistent habit, I realized it could lead to results. One of my nicknames back then was “Chester.” The habit got me noticed and complimented for my great pec muscles. (Special note: That was a long time ago. LOL.)
Considering the true definition, it felt like an addiction, but I guess it does not fit completely: “to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”
So I’m not exactly sure of the right word. Maybe there isn’t a perfect word, for example, for the feeling I got on the night when I got my very first laugh on stage. For me getting laughs felt like a positive drug. Being addicted to getting laughs kept me going when there was often no real reason for it. It kept me studying, taking classes, and driving to comedy clubs five nights a week just to pray for stage time. The result I craved so much kept me going even after the nights when my tiny laughs were drowned out by a quiet ceiling fan. After a string of failures, I was ready to quit, but I had one more gig that I had committed to, and Bam! It was like God had orchestrated an amazing audience, and laughter poured out, and I was addicted all over again. You may have heard my quote:
“God did not give me the gift of making people laugh; He gave me the persistence to learn how.”
Anything can be learned. Sometimes we get frustrated because we can’t learn quickly enough or do not notice our own progress. Decades later I’m delighted I stuck with it, but I still have jokes that bomb on occasion. I still have things that I think are funny, but when I try them on stage they don’t work. Getting laughs is not a science; it’s a subjective art. One CEO I was teaching humor to said, “I just want one joke that works all of the time.” I laughed. That was funny and unrealistic. When the setting is right, the audience has been warmed up, and you are on your game, you can have a joke that works most of the time. You take away any of those components – a good setting, a warmed-up audience, or your good delivery – and even consistent laughs will elude you.
Remain a student of humor. The increasing results you get as you grow will serve you and all of your future audiences. No one has mastered anything by trial and error alone. Many people come back to my Humor Boot Camp again and again and get more each time.
Is it worth it? Does it feel good? One of my comedy mentors, Dave Fitzgerald, said it best in our documentary, Healing, Hope, and Humor. It‘s an inspiring story about his battle with cancer and how laughter gave him hope.)] He told me that when he was dealing with chemo treatments,
“The only time I did not feel pain was when I was on stage, making people laugh.”
I can relate. When I have had bad times in my life, getting laughs was a temporary, but beautiful, respite. It was like a drug. The cool part was that it didn’t reach the “. . . extent that its cessation causes severe trauma,” but it was a positive escape for both me and my audience. I don’t regret the time, energy, and effort I put into learning to get laughs as an emerging comedian and speaker. At the time, I did doubt if what I was doing would ever result in laughter. The great thing about humor is that if they laugh, it’s funny. You do not need any one particular person’s approval.
Get addicted to the result you want down the road. Don’t beat yourself up if results don’t happen quickly. It’s like a test to see how serious you are. If you want to master anything, get addicted to the positive result, and surround yourself with some good people who will point out your progress as you go. Small results build on top of each other to give you momentum. Remain hungry, never stop learning, and go make ‘em laugh!
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© 2017, Darren LaCroix. All rights reserved.