Comedian Chris Rock regularly fills stadiums with his stand-up comedy act. Amazingly, it’s nothing to do with being naturally funny.
Rock is known for his ruthless practice skills. He is a joke craftsman; leaving nothing to chance when he has to perform to 20,000 people own his own.
These are skills you can copy to become a classy cricketer and reach your equivalent of having Madison Square Garden rolling in the aisles.
He used an idea we have talked about many times here on PitchVision Academy: that of deliberate practice.
Rock designed his warm up gigs
Before a stadium gig, Rock plays many small gigs. But he doesn’t go through the motions. Each gig is designed to find out what material works best.
He continually pushes the barriers of what an audience will accept, stretching his ability as a comedian to make jokes and sets funnier than last time.
He isolates specific parts of a set and hones it until it is improved.
As a cricketer, this is the difference between practicing and deliberate practice: you are using drills that specifically challenge you to improve your weak areas, not just having a hit.
Rock repeated it over and over again
Once Rock had material he didn’t sit back and assume it would be alright. He continued his warm up gigs far beyond normal levels.
He kept striving for perfection in practice because that is what creates perfection in the main event.
Yet again we can learn that more deliberate practice means better performance. You need to become obsessed with practicing until people think you are slightly mad.
You can take it though, because every ball you hit or bowl is one tiny step closer to becoming a master of your skill.
Rock used instant feedback
Comedy is great for getting feedback because people either laugh or they don’t.
Rock can use this to create a feedback loop. There is no grey area to worry about. Jokes that don’t get the laugh are culled or moved around the set.
The set is made to work by getting shaped from the reaction of the audience.
This principle also applies to cricket practice. When you bowl a ball it either hits the target area or it does not. If it does, carry on practicing. If it doesn’t, make a change and try again.
Rock stayed focused
Warm up gigs are difficult because the set is not complete: It’s a challenge to get things right. You have to think about how the set is structured, you have to decide if a joke needs to be adjusted, moved or just plain dropped.
It’s a difficult mental process that drains even the best.
Yet Rock knows its part of the process of getting towards a brilliant set on the big stage.
He keeps challenging himself every night in warm ups. He works between gigs to think about why things worked and change them when he needs to change them.
Don’t practice mindlessly, come away feeling mentally exhausted and challenged. A good challenging hour is worth endless balls of turning your arm over.
Rock didn’t enjoy his jokes
Rocks audience at the big gigs enjoy the night, but the work the comedian had to put in made it not much fun for him.
Along the way he told jokes that didn’t work and nobody laughed; and he told the same good gags over and over again, teasing more and more laughs from them.
It takes mental strength to keep going through that.
And it takes mental strength to practice in a way that you don’t enjoy but you know is working.
It’s difficult and painful sometimes but if it was easy and fun then more people would do it and it would be impossible to distinguish the best from the rest.
It’s hard because if you want to be the best, like Rock, you have to suck it up and do it.