The Sell is the Hell
Comedians loooove giving advice. Good or bad. I think we all enjoy trial-ballooning some of our own Deepak Chopra-isms on others; we like to see what might stick or get a “Hmm?” or “Yeah, me too.” Self-Demotion
I come from the Albert Brooks camp of Humor (minus the super genius and great movies, of course). But what I mean by that is that I tend to scour my own insecurities for ideas and laughs, which is often good for comedy, but awful for sales. Back in the day, I had so little confidence in my abilities that another comic could have told me to eat dog biscuits on stage in a tutu and I would have thought about it. Fortunately, there are no pictures of me on stage in a tutu gnawing on a Milkbone… as far as I know.
(Note to self: Google “Tim Clue tutu dog biscuit” when blog is complete.)
I wax nostalgic about my mentors because whenever I think back over the multitude of sage advisors I have appreciated over the years, one man stands tall above the rest. He was a self-proclaimed Hippie—or more accurately, “The Last Hippie in America,” so wisdom seemed to come part and parcel. His name was—is—Jim Wiggins. (A collective smile and nod just occurred among every Chicago-based stand-up.)
“C’mere and give me a hug,” Jim would often say. Wiggins was the first comic I ever hugged. Actually, now that I think of it, Jim was the last comic I ever hugged. Have to do something about that.
(Note to self: Go hug a comic. They need it.)
One night at a club early in stand up career, after he witnessed my set and then watched me limp off stage to a tepid but non-abusive audience response, Jim was evidently compelled to heal. He came up to me, much like a faith healer might—if the faith healer was very high… Jim was, after all, a self-proclaimed Hippie and being stoned is a best standard and practice—and he placed his hands on my shoulders, saying in his low, soft, gravelly voice, “Lad—” (Jim called everyone Lad, I think mostly because he’d forgotten our names) and there was a long pause, then, “You have funny stuff, but you’re not telling ’em it’s funny.” A longer pause—I was now firmly under his will; tell me to bawk like a chicken, wear a tutu, what? I’m yours.
“Rather than asking ‘em if it’s funny,” Jim says to me, “next time, try tellin’em.” And then, like liquid silver, he glided onto the stage and told his first joke. Ka-boom! The crowd was his; more laughs, audience members wiping their eyes, crying laughing… his hour passed in seconds, and then thunderous applause. That night Mr. Wiggins could have started his own cult but seemed happy with a few adoring fans and free drinks.
I was still… well—still. Motionless, just staring, with a mind and life forever blown and altered. I was tracing and retracing his words, thinking about their power, density, beauty, simplicity, and yet simultaneous complexity. I think this is what’s called a contact high. But the drug was wisdom and I was its lucky intoxicated recipient. That night and those words powered a re-thinking of everything I would say or do on stage for years. “Don’t ask, tell. Demand. Duh.”
Oddly, years later, I’m still faced with the same stifling insecurities when potential clients ask me to explain what I do, and why I’m worth the dance… or the money. “Ah, well, I, uh, I rarely eat dog biscuits, but…” Truth be known, there remains little in the talking arena that leaves me dry mouthed or speechless. But to this day, the question, “Why should I hire you?” will forever drop my brain into a dry, dark well with no rope, crank or light.
“Eh, because you like me? Because I need your money?”
Now, however, I am pleased to announce that I am no longer going to charge head first into my weaknesses, but instead fully admit in the moment that I am simply the wrong person to ask this question (and the worst person to answer) and quickly refer them to a few videos and perhaps a few happy clients, and leave it at that.
So feel free to click, or better yet, take a look at one of my favorites.
I suppose it’s to remind us all that the new way to sell is not to sell but believe that it’s already been sold. Now if that doesn’t fry your brain I’m not sure what will.
And this: Enjoy a look at a client who was, prior to my speaking, a bit trepidatious about bringing in an unknown (to her!) motivational speaker for an event last month. She's not nervous anymore. And I'm speaking for them again in October.