People wonder how I have the guts be on live television every night. I tell them at least I’m not a stand-up comic. Compared to those guys, I think I’ve got it pretty easy. Recently I had a chance to talk to Colin Ryan, who knows all about being in front of large crowds. Not only is he a talented stand-up comic by night, but he spends his days visiting schools talking to groups of students about money management. Please check out Colin’s excellent site, A Stand Up Life to see all the great things he is doing. The more we talked, the more I realized how much our careers had in common, and I ended up learning quite a bit on how to be a better broadcaster.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Comics have to get used to failing. It’s not that they want to, but in the pursuit of making people laugh, not every joke is a gut-buster. Most comics are constantly coming up with new material and there are so many variables in making someone laugh. Some jokes just won’t stick, but that’s okay. Comics are used to it. As broadcast meteorologists, the daily weather forecast provides the majority of the content, but it’s up to us to make it interesting and meaningful. We need to be aware of who is watching, and how we are delivering all this information. We should always be working on something new, and not be afraid to change things up once in a while to become better at what we do.
The more you do something, the better you’ll get at it. I think every stand up comic has a horror story about a bad show early in their careers. There are days when nothing is funny, and the performance was doomed from the start. But most of them will also tell you that it gets better. Every show is a learning experience, and comics are excellent at picking out what worked and what didn’t. Each show is an opportunity to improve, and after enough time the rookies become seasoned professionals. It is the same way in broadcast meteorology. The more shows you are able to pick up in college, the more you’ll be ready for your first job in local news. You’ll continue to improve as the years go on, and just like a comic, pick out ways to make the next show better.
Play to your strengths. Colin taught me about performers versus writers in stand-up comedy. Some comics write great material, but might not be the best at delivery on stage. Others are performers, who are naturals at being in front of people, but perhaps struggle with creating the content to go with it. It’s rare to be great a both, so it’s important to know who you are and make the best of what you have. Broadcast meteorologists also come in different flavors. Some are great with graphics, some excel at forecasting, and others have infectious personalities that viewers rally behind. You don’t have to have it all to be successful, but if you can do something really well and build yourself behind it, you’ll likely go farther.
Authenticity goes a long way. Stand-up comedy is a very intimate experience. Your audience is right there in front of you, and you get instant feedback after almost every sentence. You are building a relationship from the moment you step on stage, and people generally want to like you. It is here where the nice guys finish first. If you can get the audience behind, they’ll forgive some mistakes. They’ll get behind you on bad days. Open yourself up to your audience and allow them to see the real you. The best broadcast meteorologist you can be is the one that is most like who you are really are. You are better off being yourself, rather that the image of what you think a broadcast meteorologist should be.
Thanks Colin for taking the time to show me the ropes of stand-up comedy. It’s probably not something I’d ever have the guts to do, and I have a lot of respect for those who put themselves out there every night. Who knows, maybe I’ll try it someday. Like in many careers, we both put ourselves out there and hope for the best. I think that if you believe in yourself and build your skills everyday, most of us end up being able to find a spot we can be happy with. Good luck.