More Than Funny by Michael Jr. at TEDxUniversityofNevada (Transcript)

Michael Jr.

Michael Jr. – TRANSCRIPT

Thanks, man. I’m excited about being here.

We’re going to have some fun. My name is Michael Jr. I’m going to do some jokes. Yet, at the same time, I’d like to explain to you how life well, how comedy works. So let’s stop right here.

I actually like the city of Reno a lot. I was here once. I was here once; I was keynote speaking for a corporation and something really kind of strange happened when I was here.

Normally, I’m the type of person I like to be on a stage alone. I don’t need any help or anybody. So this CEO of this large company introduces me, and he has the microphone, and normally, we have two different mics, and he leaves, and then, I’m there.

That’s the plan. Dude stays there. I’m standing right next to him with no mic. And then he looks at the audience, and I’m standing there, and he says First, let me explain this. I’m the type of comedian, like, I’m observational; I pay attention to things like college students. Take someone who goes to a nice school like the University of Southern California.

Ask them what school they go to, you get a nice quick answer, “What school you go to?” — “USC” New York University – you get a nice quick answer, – “What school you go to?” – “NYU”. Ask somebody who goes to community college. You get a much longer response, don’t you? “What school you go to?” “Well, see, right now, what I’m doing, I’m going to get a couple credits, right? Then my financial aid is supposed to come through. Then I’m going to transfer, man. They say school kills creativity anyway. Man, I feel vulnerable. Is Brené Brown around? Man, I feel very vulnerable right now.”

Let me tell you a little more about me. I love being a dad. And I have five kids, yeah. And I travel a lot, so I can see them all. Ha, ha! I’m just playing; I don’t see them, I don’t see them. No, I do.

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I have five kids. They’re all with me. I live in Dallas now. My kids are awesome. The thing about having a big family is you always have to figure out ways to save money. We wanted to get our family pictures taken, and that stuff was expensive. So what we did to save money was we all got in the front seat of the car, looked both ways, and ran a red light. That’s what we did. That’s what we did.

Two weeks later, the picture came in the mail. But my son blinked so we had to do it again, we had to do it again. This stuff is crazy. I was doing that joke in prison recently. I wasn’t in prison, like, “Hey, I’m funny. Get off me!” It wasn’t like that.

Whenever we’re doing a big live event – like we’re doing one tonight in Reno – whenever we do a large ticketed event, a concert, in a city, we always look for a homeless shelter, a prison, an abused children’s facility to go to during the day to do comedy. So I’m so I’m doing a prison this time. It’s a TEDx talk, I don’t got that much time.

You don’t got to clap, it’s OK. So we’re doing this prison, and I do the joke about the red light, and 75% of the prisoners laughed; the rest of them nothing. Then I realized what was going on. Some of them had been locked up so long, the dude next to them had to explain the joke. He was like, “See, nowadays, when you run a red light, they send a picture with the ticket in the mail”. Then he looked at the dude next to him, “A red light is what they use for traffic when you go down the road”. And then he said, “A road is what they use”. Wow! Where am I at right now, man?

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So I’d like to explain to you how comedy works. This is how comedy works; really all comedy. Any time you laugh, this formula is taking place in one way or another, but specifically, with regards to stand-up, this is how it works as well.

First, there’s a setup, and then, there’s a punchline. Let me explain. The setup is when a comedian will use his talents and resources to seize any opportunity to ensure that you, the audience, are moving in the same direction. The punchline occurs when he changes that direction in a way you’re not expecting. When you catch on to this change, you’ve received the punchline.

The results are revelation, fulfillment, and joy expressed through laughter. Let me give you an example. A few summers ago, I took my family on vacation to Mexico. The first two days were rough because the people there kept calling me a “Negro”. The third day, I realized they were saying “amigo,” and it was all cool; that was cool, so.

Did you see what just happened right there? So when I was a child, I used to struggle with my reading. I used to really have a hard time reading I don’t know, I just struggled with it. I read now just fine; like the signs over the door that say ‘exite, ‘ I can read that stuff.

But when I was a kid, I used to struggle with my reading. I couldn’t sound a word out phonetically, it just didn’t work. So now, looking back at it, I realize I developed seven different ways to look at a word to determine what the word was. And I just started noticing this really in junior high.

So I would look at the font size, the color, the positioning, what’s in front of it, what’s behind it, how people responded to it. I got really good at looking at words differently to the point in high school, people didn’t know I wasn’t really reading, I was just working it out really, really fast.

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Now as an adult, I read just fine, but I still have this ability to look at words, and people, and situations seven different ways almost immediately. In fact, it’s the primary place where I pull my comedy from. So that very thing from my past that looked like it was a setback, looked like it was some sort of handicap, turns out I’m actually able to use it for what I’m called to do now.

So just like you, you’ve probably had some sort of setbacks, but if you, in a way, would embrace it, you’ll probably find there’s more opportunities out there. Now I find comedy all over the place. At the airport today: little white kid walked up to me, asked for an autograph I was like, “Hey buddy, what’s your name?” He said, “I’m Tanner”. I looked at him, I said, “No, you’re not”. His mom was cracking up. He was like, “I am Tanner!” “No Trust me. You’re not”. Or I’ll notice stuff; I saw this dude with a muscle shirt on.

You ever see a dude with a muscle shirt, like a white tank, but he ain’t got no muscles? What is that? A wife threatener? Depending on where you’re from in the country, you’ll understand that joke better. And his friend had on a shirt that said, “If you don’t speak English, leave the country.” Hmm but it was written in English. So I walked up to him, and I said, “You’re dumb!” But I said it in Spanish though so he wouldn’t know.

So I’m able to find comedy in a bunch of different places as a result of embracing what seemed like it was a handicap from my past. I notice even what people say sometimes. Have you ever heard the phrase, “Boy, I wish I could’ve been a fly on the wall”? Every time I hear that, I walk up to the person, and I say, “And then what?” No, no, no, no.

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