Reality is largely negotiable and how you see the world is how the world is… at least for you.
That’s one of Jimmy’s messages in his book ‘Before and Laughter,’ Part autobiography, part self help book, and plenty of Jimmy’s jokes.
For those who don’t know who Jimmy Carr is, he’s a stand up comedian with a twisted sense of humour, especially when it comes to his deadpan delivery of controversial one-liners.
He might not be everyone’s cup of tea but reading his book gives a realistic observations on life and its trials and tribulations and all with a twist of entertainment.
His reasons for writing this book is because he has a son and he’d like to leave something behind apart from all the dick jokes he talks about in his stand-ups.
We’re going to be covering certain topics that Jimmy distills in this book, thanks to his acute examinations on life through his comedic lens, and even though he may not be a philosopher per say he’s still a performer who can impart some interesting observations for actors that can help with their careers.
So, Let’s get started with…
If you want to be a comedian listen up…
Speaking truth to power, puncturing hubris and bringing balance is what comics have always done.
They don’t just hear the news passively, they’re listening to the news actively. Listening out for anything that doesn’t make sense, the nonsense, anything that makes them think because where there’s a gap there’s also potential for humour.
Comedians can help us shake off the feeling of life being unfair. There is no justice. Because the flip side to the unfair, unjust world is that it’s exciting, it’s surprising. It’s strange, it’s funny and we’re lucky to be alive and living it.
Comedians take tough times and turn them into anecdotes. They open up and share their stories. They’re no longer moaning at something awful, they’re joking about it.
They are very good at acknowledging their flaws and are the first to mention them and turn them into a joke. Comics are honest about and embrace their imperfections. Hollywood is all about perfect. It’s about beauty, well lit people succeeding, whereas comedy is a little rough around the edges.
Comedians embrace their failures –
Every comic fails, therefore every comic writes more jokes that don’t work than jokes that do. The good thing with being a comedian compared to a musician or an artist is there’s shorter feedback loop, meaning they get less attached to the results so they get less stressed by failure.
And failure is just feedback. We look at something and think, okay that doesn’t work, Iet’s change it. We change our behaviour, we recalibrate and make it better.
We don’t just fail the same way a dozen times; we fail differently each time until we run out of ways to fail. And at that point, it’s called success.
If we can adopt that mindset then our life changes for the better.
On Crisis & Change –
it’s either a wonderful adventure or it’s a super boring trudge. Jimmy says he loves a good crisis. Even though it suggest something terrible it has an image problem.
As a society we crave stability but really a crisis is just a point at which we change and move on.
Change is always right around the corner. It’s probably best to start thinking of it as a good thing because however comfortable and content we are right now, this too shall pass.
Here’s the truth of it: no one wants us to follow our dreams. Best case scenario, they’ll want us to follow their dreams for us. And most of the time nobody cares about our dreams, they’re busy getting on with their own crap.
All progress is about trying new things. It’s human and that’s exactly how humans did it. Trial and error built civilisations, modern medicine and bloody AI. If there are things we’ve been told about ourselves that are not real, we just have to question it a little.
Rebellion starts with an internal revolution: the start of a revolution for one is a simple thought – ‘this has got to change.’ When Jimmy started out in stand-up he didn’t wear a leather jacket, he started with a suit which was a bit counter to the culture.
The realisation that it doesn’t have to be this way is powerful. Most rules are self imposed; it’s us holding onto an old idea. The preconceptions about how things should be are what stoping us from becoming a different person. We can change anything – our career, our circumstance, our partner- ourselves – we just have to give ourselves permission.
Taking the blame –
Even if it isn’t, it’s better to see it that way. It’s interesting because ‘it’s our fault’ is an incredibly negative way of saying ‘we’re in control’.
Take all the blame, but also, take the win. If we do anything, it is all us. Teachers won’t make us smart, doctors can’t make us healthy. Mentors won’t make us rich. Trainers won’t make us fit. Ultimately, it all boils down to us. Take the blame for our life, it’s more empowering than any quote.
About Fear –
if we put off doing anything risky for long enough, fear will attach itself. Then what happens is that fear will attract even more fear until the fear becomes so big it starts to obscure the thing we mean to do. Jimmy says feel the fear and F it anyway.
Stage Fright –
the thought of embarrassment or humiliation causes the body to secrete the hormone ACTH and this hormone causes adrenaline to be released. This is us at our most alert, this is us in a heightened state, in peak condition. This is our body putting on armour, getting ready for the fight. Embrace it. Fear is a performance enhancing drug.
If we have a normal emotional response, it is confined to specific areas of our brain. But laughter is different; laughter produces a circuit that runs through a whole bunch of regions.
Fight or flight are our basic survival responses. Laughter suppresses cortisol and epinephrine, our fight or flight hormones, so we can actually deal with stuff.
Laughter is intimate, it’s physical. We vibrate, it involves the whole of us. We cannot laugh without moving our body.
By laughing we activate our vagus nerve which tells our nervous system it can relax which in turn will tell our gut to go ahead and digest our food and later to sleep better.
When we laugh our brains release dopamine which makes us happy and lets us bond, along with oxytocin which makes us more trusting.
If we want a nice clean high, laughter is it and it is a ridiculously wholesome way to get lit.
A sense of humour is just common sense, dancing.
Your Edge –
There’s a book called how to be like everyone else and it’s written by committee. We all start out trying to fit in because we’re social animals.
But sooner or later we’re going to want to find our edge because if we can find our edge then life is so much easier.
To know what natural aptitude’s we have, let’s ask these three questions:
- What do people say is hard for them but we find easy?
- What is something other people value that we can do?
- What would we do anyway, even if no one paid us?
If there’s anything about us that other people get jealous about, pay attention to it: that’s our edge. Lean into it. Use the edge in life. Give them what they didn’t know they wanted.
What smart are we?
Work out what kind of smart we are and use that.
If we keep working on our weaknesses we just might become average. But if we find our strengths and work on those instead, we will become the best. That can be the best version of ourselves.
Work on our strengths and delegate our weaknesses. Pick what we find easy and focus on that – get great at that. That’s what edge is. What the world doesn’t need is more all-rounders.
Look at society and ask ourselves ‘what am I bringing to the party?’
About getting it wrong –
if you’re worried about being right, getting it right, acting it right, being perfect, that’s all ego. That’s all fear, that’s all anxiety, it’s everything but actually doing the bloody thing.
Be bad, be gloriously and ridiculously bad. Stink up the place if you have to. Have the courage and conviction of your sulkiness. Failure is incredibly freeing. Being wrong means that nobody is wholly right.
Getting stuff wrong and acknowledging that, frees you from being defensive. And being defensive is the quickest way to shut down your creativity.
Yes, being wrong is hard but it’s also pretty easy to get stuff half right. And when you have something half right, then you have a monologue, a dialogue, a sketch, a show, a script.
You’ve got something to work on. Getting it wrong is how you’ll defeat procrastination.
On Talent –
people talk about talent like it’s a superpower. Talent is just our edge plus the hard work we put into it.
Raw talent means nothing. Without the application or hard work, raw talent is a guy in a bar telling you he ‘could’ve been a contender.’ Raw talent is just edge without smart, applied work over time.
In movies when we hit the bit where the hero or heroine does all the work, we normally break for a montage. There are a lot of quick cuts, an inspirational song, and the sense that something is being achieved, because no one really wants to see the slog.
Thankfully, perseverance is a great substitute for talent.
People see an actor perform either on stage or screen and not the thousands of hours it took to get there.
People see one step when it takes a million. We see the sports stars winning, not the blood, sweat and doping that got them there. Actually exchange doping to tears.
For us acting is the job. Acting is the gym and performing to an audience is the cookie jar.
Performing is the reward.
If we can be hard on yourself now, we can be fit and rich and happy and all that good stuff in the future. But we have to start now.
And finally –
Here’s the secret to happiness: expectations exceeded. That’s happiness. Do more; expect less.