Every once in awhile, I go through a huge Eddie Izzard kick. I was introduced to Izzard’s unique brand of stand-up comedy when I was in grad school. Someone loaned me a tape of Dress to Kill. It was funny (brilliantly funny in fact), but I knew I had found my comedic true love when Izzard did his bit about squirrels.
“And have you noticed, squirrels always eat nuts with two hands, and then sometimes they stop and look around as if they’re thinking, ‘Oh, did I leave the gas on? Wait, no, I’m a squirrel!’ And then they go right back to eating.”
I own two DVDs of Izzard’s work now. Definite Article was my first purchase, and Dress to Kill was my second. I watch these DVDs to enjoy myself, but also to study. Izzard is not your typical stand-up comedian, after all. There’s something rather engaging about his style and delivery. After studying these aspects of his work (woe is me, a blogger’s life), I drew up a few lessons that I think you could use to create more engaging blog posts.
1. Have one or two themes you keep coming back to: If you watch Izzard’s shows, you’ll notice that he tends to talk about a few themes in a fair amount of detail. One is his desire for the whole world to live in peace. Another is his love of language, and a third is his love of history (OK, that’s another reason I fell in love with him). Izzard delivers these themes in all sorts of different ways, but you know that he’s probably going to touch on at least one every single time. The excitement is seeing how he changes it up.
What are your core issues? What should people expect when they visit your blog? Would they predict that based upon your “about” page or based upon a first visit to your site?
2. Mix up the wisdom with the fun: Eddie Izzard, at any given moment, can explain the general history of the American Revolution, or he can go on completely nonsensical tangents about how a likely sermon in front of a Church of England congregation would be how this year’s trend of frosted pink lipstick “reminds me rather of our lord Jesus.” The wisdom that Izzard reveals adds a kind of weight and understanding to his absurd bits, and the super ridiculous segments let you know that he’s not a stuck-up, snobby bookworm.
Are you passing on wisdom to your readers while also giving them an enjoyable experience? Are you just explaining, or are you offering a bit of entertainment value?
3. Don’t try to be perfect: In Definite Article, there’s a moment where Izzard says, “Oh, I just forgot the rest of my act. Uhhh, ehmmm, emergency joke! Emergency joke!” Now, it’s hard to tell whether he *truly* forgot where he was or if this was in fact part of his act. Either way, you don’t too regularly see a stand-up comedian admit that it’s hard to remember every bit of the show. In the case of Izzard, this is especially understandable because he tends to distract himself with thoughts. His ability to be self-deprecating and seemingly spontaneous at the same time brings his audience in. They can relate to the imperfections and enjoy when Izzard gets back on track.
Do you ever let your readers know that you know that you are not perfect? This doesn’t mean that you have to engage in self-deprecating humor (although I think it would be awesome to see more of that in the blogosphere), but it can mean saying, “Oh, I was wrong about that.”
4. Be personal, but have a point to it: In both Definite Article and Dress to Kill, Izzard is dressed in women’s clothing and is very open and blunt about the fact that he is a transvestite. Rather than hide this fact, which can expose a person to raised eyebrows, Izzard shines the spotlight on this facet of his life in order to educate his audience. He references, in both shows, incidents where he suffered because of his penchant for make-up, and you find yourself simultaneously laughing, learning, and lamenting.
Are you sharing personal stories enough to let your readers know you? Are you doing so with an eye for making a point, or are you just hoping for a big splash?
5. Acknowledge that your audience exists: When the audience doesn’t laugh at Izzard’s jokes, he works that into his act. For example, the Dress to Kill show I have on DVD was done in San Francisco, so Izzard tried to draw a correlation between the trolley bell ringer and the bell ringer on the Stock Exchange. He got crickets as a result. So he responded, “Never tie those 2 things together ever again.” When Izzard goes to France, he does his entire act in French as a way to impress and wow his audience.
What are you doing to show your appreciation for your readers? Are you giving shout-outs or acknowledging problems they might have?
6. Make a point without pounding it into someone’s head: Izzard gives some credit to his audience. In Dress to Kill, he covers the problem of children grabbing weapons and shooting people. He handles it delicately yet poignantly by noting first, “Why does grandpa have an arsenal?” and second, while the NRA may say that guns don’t kill people, the guns certainly help. The Clinton sex scandal was going on while Dress to Kill was taped, so Izzard drolly notes that the US government lied to Native Americans for years and years yet everyone is surprised that the President lied about an affair. “A bit naive, I think!” Izzard doesn’t sit there preaching fire and brimstone, but he touches on these issues enough to make his viewpoint quite clear.
Are you letting your audience participate in your posts? Are you approaching issues in round-about ways to keep people interested?
7. Take risks: Izzard tends to weave in multiple languages into his act. Most often he speaks in French, but sometimes he talks in German and even Latin. This can be risky, especially in front of a mostly English-speaking audience, but Izzard does it anyway, and he keeps it entertaining. It also makes him stand out from most other comedians working today. There’s a lesson there.
Are you taking risks that also represent what makes you stand out from the crowd? Do you keep your audience engaged while doing so?
If you’re an Eddie Izzard fan, what other lessons can you learn from his crazy showmanship? If you like another comedian better, can you apply similar lessons to the blogging world? I’d love to hear about it!
This is post #41 in the Engagement Series. I hope you will let me know if there is a topic you’d like me to cover!
Squirrel mage by guillermo ossa. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/memoossa