With a comedian for a brother, I see quite a bit of stand-up and it often reminds me of yoga teaching. As I’ve written before, yoga and comedy have a lot in common. In honor of my brother, (Sean Keane or @LLCoolS as he’s known on Twitter), and because it is his birthday, I thought it was time for another point-by-point comparison of comedy and yoga teaching.
Moving to L.A.
Comedy: At a certain point in your career, you have to move there (or New York) to move up to the next level. In fact, after Sean won his Goldie and won KQED fame, there was really no place else to go but to the city of angels. That’s where the opportunities are. That’s also where other people looking for opportunities are.
Yoga: Ok, you don’t have to move to L.A. to teach yoga, but you do have to if you want to be Madonna or Sting and Trudie’s yoga instructor. And should you want to do a Bikram Yoga training, you’ll have to at least live there temporarily and shell out around $15,000 for your certification.
Working the room
Comedy: Right away, you have to assess the crowd, and be on your toes to draw them in and get them laughing in the time you have. Sometimes it means adjusting your material accordingly. Are they drunk enough to laugh at anything? Do you scrap the new material for an easy laugh? Or is it that “on” night where the crowd is with you the whole set?
Yoga: When you begin the class, you have to gauge the ability – and energy – levels of who is in the class. This often means throwing away any class plan you had when five newcomers and several people with major injuries show up. It might mean throwing in a new arm balance when you’ve got the bendy brigade there and eager for more. Like comedy, those “on” classes are the ones that remind you of why you keep teaching.
Physical condition of the crowd
Comedy: Varying degrees of inebriation
Yoga: Varying degrees of injuries
Edge: Comedy. Alcoholic impairment usually enhances performance and there’s less counter-indications with comedy.
Dealing with problematic venue logistics
Comedy: Sometimes it’s poor sound quality or odd lighting. Other times there’s a poorly thought out stage set-up in a venue not necessarily designed for comedy shows. You hope these happen the nights where no video is being recording and Dave Chappelle doesn’t drop by.
Yoga: Lack of climate control, lack of props, lack of cleaning, and lack of any kind of soundproofing are among the most common shortcomings. That’s when you hope people brought layers, their own mats, and good natured tolerance.
Edge: Yoga. You can always make theme of the class: “Dealing with unfortunate circumstances.”
Stuff you say every time
Comedy: Tip your bar and waitstaff! Keep it going for all the comics you’ve heard tonight!
Yoga: Breathe! Keep it going!
Edge: Comedy. It’s shockingly hard to keep your breath going.
Comedy: You get better by getting up there on stage every night. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the more confident you get. Good comedians go about daily life with an observational ear for what might make a new comedic bit for the stage.
Yoga: You get better by getting up there in front of the class week after week. The more you practice physical adjustments, the easier it gets. Yoga teachers go about other yoga classes with a teaching mind always looking out for new techniques and teaching approaches.
Edge: Comedy, if you’re Sean. After all, Sean’s been practicing since his early years as both actor, director, and co-producer of our living room Christmas Eve plays we put on as kids. Many years, many notebooks of jokes, and many stage appearances later, he’s come a long way. And I’m pretty damn proud of him. Happy Birthday Brother Sean!