REVIEW: DO YOU TALK FUNNY?
PRODUCT (Book): DO YOU TALK FUNNY?: 7 Comedy Habits To Become a Better (And Funnier) Public Speaker
Author: David Nihill
Published by: BenBella Books, Inc. 
David Nihill’s number-one fear used to be public speaking. It’s not an uncommon fear, but it was one inner demon Nihill felt compelled to knock flat.
Unlike most business people Nihill did not join Toastmasters or any other group focused on helping business people develop the confidence they needed to speak before an audience. Nihill chose, instead, to take to the stage as a stand-up comedian for a year.
During his trial year as “the comedian called Irish Dave” (as well as other stage persona), he crashed comedy clubs, festivals and assorted shows. He stood up on stage and yucked it up with the crowds. Irish Dave hung out with some of the finest up-and-coming funny people in the business and he learned from them.
In between the performances he studied the old masters and watched new ones plying their trade. From them he learned about constructing stories and finding the funny in them. He studied delivery and timing and pacing and about how to control an audience.
He learned all of this from working performers who were mastering their craft in the traditional, time-honored way – by just doing it.
THE BACK STORY
Before embarking on this adventure, Nihill had worked as a consultant for start-ups. He was between jobs, having just left a well-paying corporate one, and he was unsure about his next move.
The impetus for climbing onstage despite his self-confessed crippling fear of public speaking was fueled by a desire to help his friend Arash Bayatmakou who had sustained a severe spinal cord injury.
It was Nihill’s idea to organize a comedy show and recruit comedians to raise funds for his friend’s continued physical therapy. The show came together handily with the help of a neighbor who happened to be a professional comedian. However, Arash (unaware of Nihill’s personal demon) asked that David host that show.
Nihill had to try. He had to learn to confidently stand up there onstage. Fast. Compared to the reality his friend was facing, he thought, Nihill’s demon was really a very small thing. But, the standard methods of learning how to speak well before a crowd looked like a quick route to seppuku.
Another friend, hearing about David’s predicament, got him a 20-minute gig in a paid show. Nihill went for it. He did not do too badly, he thought. He even kind of liked it. After that fairly easy baptism of fire, he was even able to pull off emceeing the fundraiser for Arash.
THE QUEST FOR FUNNY
Nihill, at loose ends anyway, decided to keep the exploration of comedic method going for a year. He approached the whole proceeding as a research project, mostly because he did not want to explain to friends and family that he was postponing a more serious job search in order to go tell jokes.
Nihill’s goal was to figure out how to use comedic techniques to transform his (and every other business person’s) public speaking, and to “make the world a lot more entertaining for everybody.”
Besides performing onstage all across Northern California at many of the top comedy clubs as an “accomplished comedian,” he interviewed, observed and read about several thousand comedians, performers and public speaking experts. He tracked down every book and quote and guru he could find.
He collected their thoughts and tips. He broke down the techniques and did a Tim Ferris on them, deconstructing each skill he wanted to master into its most basic components. He applied and tried them out during his own performances. He improved.
Along the way he also began to figure out the most effective ways to gussy up all those yawn-inducing Powerpoint presentations and business conference talks that hit the snooze buttons of every person who ever had to attend those interminable meetings and gatherings.
Nihill’s guiding principle was one discovered by biologist John Medina. In his best-selling book BRAIN RULES, Medina says, “The brain doesn’t pay attention to boring things.” Nihill was determined to figure out how to help turn informational talks into “info-tainment.”
By the end of his year of performing, Irish Dave and his alter egos had garnered accolades and assorted wins at various competitions. David Nihill was an accomplished public speaker by then.
In the course of things, Nihill put together Funny Bizz, an online support group that grew into a community, a conference series and a writer platform that helps business content creators tap into the power of storytelling, comedy and improve to create better content.
The Comedy For A Spinal Cause fundraiser that kicked him onto the stage went so well it became an ongoing quarterly event that brings top comedians together with local communities to raise funds and awareness to help people who are recovering from spinal cord injury.
Nihill also helped his friend Arash become a powerful speaker in his own right.
Oh yeah…and he wrote this book….
I do recommend this lively, well-thought-out, and use-able book for anyone who needs help sparkling up their monologues or their content writing. The “Tipliography” collection of 80 tips and hacks from the book and from the comedians Nihill interviewed is worth the price of the book.
My favorite book-jacket review of this book comes from Marita Nihill, the author’s mother: “This book is great. I haven’t read it yet, but David drew a picture when he was six years old of a penguin drinking beer in a Chinese restaurant and it was clear the potential for slight wisdom and misguided creativity was there.”
Here’s a poem:
It’s a funny thing, the bumblebee.
Everybody says it’s not
Supposed to be able to fly:
It’s too fat and round,
Its wings too fragile,
It’s aerodynamically incorrect
Or something like that….
But, because the bumblebee doesn’t read
Those scientific journals, and it doesn’t
Know it’s not supposed to be taking off
And cruising around above ground,
It just opens up wings and flies.
It never talks about its hopes and dreams,
It just hums along doing them,
And the scientists, realists all, still
Say it shouldn’t be able to fly,
And, anyway, it is not flying right.
These same guys will come after you too.
There will always be the realists,
The ones who can give you all the reasons
Why some thing can’t work, and why you –
Especially you – can’t do it:
You’re too unqualified and you don’t know how,
Your head is in the clouds,
Your feet don’t touch the ground,
And anyhow it’s not politically or
Ideologically or something-cally correct.
Be a bumblebee, my friend.
Don’t talk your dreams, just do it,
And when you’ve taken off and flown away,
These wise guys will shake their heads
And tell each other you shouldn’t be able to,
And they’ll tell each other that,
Anyhow, you’re not doing it the right way.
By Netta Kanoho
Picture credit: (book) via Amazon
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14 thoughts on “REVIEW: DO YOU TALK FUNNY?”
I enjoyed reading the history about this comedian that you are talking about. It’s funny how sometimes people can make a drastic career change in their lives, and become successful at it.
On top of that, he managed to make a big difference to people’s lives by being a comedian. This book is definitely a must-have for people who are always nervous when being on stage.
Welcome back, Farhan! Thanks for your visit and your comment. Nihill’s book really is a fun read. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did….
I don’t think this is the road I would have chosen, if I was in David Nihil’s position at that time.
Although it was what might be called an unusual choice, it does actually make sense. He clearly wanted to add some fun to his public speaking or corporate talks, so becoming a short term stand-up comedian does make a lot of sense..if you are a guy capable of doing it, which he definitely was.
Is there another way you would suggest for people with a similar fear?
Hey Michael: You can always start smaller…speak up at meetings when you have something to say, for example. Because I had a similar fear (possibly more pronounced), I never spoke up during the assorted meetings I had to attend. Ideas that might have worked died in my mouth.
I used to get the shakes just at the thought of opening my mouth in front of even a group of people I knew very well. When I forced myself past it and made a tiny point, it was a triumph for me. After a while of forcing myself to do it, the whole thing got easier. Practice won’t make perfect, but facing down the fear every time it comes up does eventually lessen it to the point where it is not such a burden.
Now the only problem other folks have with me is getting me to shut up! Oh, well….
Please come again.
I call it stage fright… It is not easy to stand in front of a whole handful of audience to talk about what you have… I have actually experienced it with children I tutored a while ago.. After putting so much into practicing.. They later went there to misbehave .so I just felt it was the stage fright . This book is a must have.
Thanks for your visit and for sharing your experiences. I know when I used to get into clowning around, it usually was to cover up embarrassment or feeling uncomfortable. You may be right!
Please do come again….
Wow, your website just amazed me. These are the pieces of information I was looking for many days. Your explanations are very satisfying and you are definitely a pro in this.
Happy to gain knowledge about talking funny beyond the stage fear. Some times it works out very well some times it won’t It completely depends on the mood and the crowd response. It is not easy at all. But if you have some humor you can definitely have a bright future ahead for sure because everybody can’t do that.
I will definitely come back to your website to gain more knowledge.
Also, your website is well designed and your points are very clear that no one can ask you about something is not clear. Excellent job and keep doing the good work.
John, I do thank you for your visit and for taking the time to comment. I’m glad the post was a help.
Please do come again….
What an interesting and humorously refreshing article. I really enjoyed this post. I’d never heard of David Nihill before this but I think I’d really like his book. He seems like a really smart and funny guy just from watching the video, and the fact that he embarked on this incredible journey in order to help a friend who had suffered a debilitating spinal injury is even more impressive.
I am one of those many people who would rather undergo a root canal than speak in public and thank God my job doesn’t require me to do that. But if this book is also about creating interesting and entertaining content, well, that’s something each and every one of us could benefit from. Thanks so much for the valuable article!
Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, Sue. I do appreciate it. I hope you find Nihill’s book as beneficial as I did.
Please do come again….
Thanks for the kind words Netta and taking the time to write this lovely review! Greatly appreciated.
David, thanks for the visit and for your comment. I do appreciate it and am really pleased you liked the post. I did very much appreciate your book.
Please do come again.
Your poem is ingenious!!! I am a bumblebee. Critics might say it isn’t possible to achieve the next best dream but impossible spells I am possible. Because of this, our world wouldn’t advance if no one took the chance to believe in themselves. Obstacles represent opportunities to overcome and triumph over all challenges.
Yes, the number one fear is public speaking. However, I’d argue that fear encapsulates more than people or a relentlessly monotone voice — of course, the issue is multi-faceted. I think your book is an excellent guide showing how to talk funny.
Hee! This bumblebee thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, bethebest#126. Buzz on!
Please do come again….