Epic Weekend: Darren LaCroix

I think I have had a pretty Epic weekend (so much so I want to blog about all my experiences) but I need to separate it into multiple parts, to make it easier to digest.

Friday night was the anticipated Humour 101 Event with Darren LaCroix. He is known as the guru of humour. The guru that has the amazing “rags to riches” tale (he bombed during his first comedy routine, and has had to work to get to the funny platform that he is on today). Did I mention he also won the 2001 International Speaking Contest?

As a fellow Toastmaster advised us, the event was worth a hundred times more than the amount of money we paid to see him. It was a small ego boost to listen in on Darren’s speech (his humour alone was worth it) and recognize I knew some of the techniques he laid out. It was a good feeling to see that I knew the Change of Direction (I called it The Twist), and the Rule of Threes (love that rule!), although whether or not I used them effectively may be another story. To some extent, I agree humour does come from tragedy and gives comedians the chance to vent. (Hey, what do you think I was doing every time I said my speech? It was very therapeutic).

I did leave the event feeling a bit dejected. Darren had given the entire audience the chance to work in small groups and practice each of the techniques that he outlined. You know what? I didn’t finish any one of those exercises to my satisfaction. I had words, but I couldn’t figure out how to sew them together to produce something funny. Only something ho-hum. As I drove back home and practiced my own “funny” speech again (to keep things fresh), I had this horrible feeling: suddenly I was asking myself, “How on earth did the audience find this speech funny?”

A couple of days have passed, and I feel slightly better. I’m still in the rut, but I have this sense of determination to keep practicing and keep this speech in tip-top shape. I must give the best version of this speech again on February 23rd: the judges and many of the audience members believed I had a funny speech on my hands. I must not let them down. I must find a way to believe in myself again.

I don’t like to leave posts on a down note, so I will try to inspire by agreeing with a number of other things Darren said that night. The first, is that humour is not easy to write. He referenced all the big names out there (Robin Williams, Jerry Seinfeld, etc) whom would spend hours perfecting their speech. My own humorous speech took a good two hours to write down, only because I had the idea for the speech floating around in my head for a good six months prior. Even then, my first draft looked quite a bit different from the one I presented at the Fall Conference.

The second, is testing. Remember when I said my first draft was quite a bit different? I had way too many stories crammed in, and I had not yet developed my philosophical, underlying message. About two weeks before the club contest, I presented my draft speech as a test run when I knew the attendance at the meeting would be extremely low. All members in attendance that day were extremely supportive and with their suggestions, I focused and expanded on the four strong stories and cut out the rest.

The third, is never turn down stage-time. My speech at the Club and Area contests were not as smooth as the versions I presented at the Division and District contests. Why? I practiced a lot. I continued to work on my speech. I practiced a few more times (at a couple of different clubs) whom gave me feedback with those two contests in mind. In the end it was those revisions and suggestions that helped prepare me for a bigger audience. All that practice time also allowed me to etch the speech into my brain so I was merely retelling a well-known story.


2 thoughts on “Epic Weekend: Darren LaCroix

  1. Vivien, take heart. I didn’t leave there with any epic jokes either. I had the one mediocre one that I told up front but my ‘ethnic’ and ‘profession’ jokes were less than mediocre, and you know I have some gold to work with there. I consider myself a funny person and I was disappointed in myself too. so we need to work a little harder. No big deal. We can do that.

    And listen sister – you didn’t win that speech contest because people felt sorry for you or because you got lucky. You won because you had the complete package. People like you because of who you are and because you are comfortable with who you are. The fact that you are still working on the speech speaks volumes. it says how much you respect your audience-that you want to give them the best you have. Your best is very very good Vivien. You worked hard on a good idea and presented it well. Please don’t doubt yourself. I don’t.

    Question for you: are you saying you gave your humorous speech to your club once BEFORE the contest?

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Paula. It means a lot to me to hear I was not alone in the joke writing process!
      I did, I picked the meeting beforehand where I knew hardly anyone would be there (was afraid of my speech idea bombing altogether). I don’t know what possessed me to do that, other than suddenly having the urge to want to test it out in front of an audience to find out what worked and what did not work, so I wouldn’t be doing the full “testing” on the day of the first contest.

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