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.

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?

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.

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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.

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.

You want to be a fly on the wall so you could hear the information that was in the room. Well, I’ve done the research. Hmm, flies don’t have ears. Yeah, you would be just as ignorant as you currently are but you would be a fly. Nobody even listens to a fly. I mean, let’s say you’re a fly that could read lips.

What are you going to do with the information? And you’ve got two days to live. You’re making bad choices. Or people will say stuff to me like, “Michael Jr, where you from originally?” I’m like, “Originally? Huh Well, I was conceived in Michigan. Before that, I was in my dad. Yeah.  And then, there was a swim competition, right? And I won, which is crazy because currently, I don’t swim at all. I used to be pretty good though, apparently. I am not politically correct.

I’m just going to tell: I know I do comedy, but it’s just too much work. I’m just telling you. You have to watch the news and know the language. If you put the right stuff in your heart, the right stuff will come out. So I never tried, I never try to be politically correct.

Some people work hard. I’m at a coffee shop; a white guy in front of me orders a coffee. The lady in front of him is like, “How do you want it?” He looked back at me and was like, “Um, African-American please”. I was like, “Cool Let me get the Caucasian Mocha. Let me get that if I could just get the Caucasian Mocha, I guess I’m trying to learn, I’m trying to learn”.

Coaches would say some stuff too. Ever hear your coach say something like, “The stuff I’m teaching here, it’s not just about this game. You could apply it to life.” Here’s the thing, people: that’s not true. I thought it was true. Straight out of high school, one of my first jobs was I used to park cars. One of the cars was really nice, so I took it for a little spin. The company found out, and my boss lost the account. He was yelling at me and screaming. I didn’t know what to say or do.

I thought back to my high school football coach, I looked at my boss, and I was like, “You know what, man? You win some, you lose some, man. You can’t let this one loss get you down. The important thing is I went out there, and I had fun”. Then I got fired, man. I got fired right away.

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Actually, I do play some basketball, I didn’t want to perpetuate stereotypes, but it’s true. But in basketball, you’re supposed to run and jump. I don’t really feel like doing both all the time. So some friends recently took me ball hunting. Some people call it golf or whatever. I shot a 121. That’s what I shot, a 121; and then we had lunch.

And it was like, “Hey, we’re going to do the other nine holes now”. I said, “I’m not going back out there, I’m not going.” Because they lied to get me to go. They’re like, “The greens are awesome”. I was like, “Cool,” I showed up with some cornbread. I was like, “All right “. I don’t know how to say cornbread in German. I’m sorry I just did that just for Germany. I’ve never really been there before. I do think working out is important. I was at the gym the other month.

I was going to do some cardio, right? But they moved it upstairs. I ain’t going up there, man, please. And I get recognized at the gym, I got recognized. I’m working out, this lady was like: (Gasping)…I said, “How you doing?” She said, “You don’t understand Michael Jr! You’re my favorite comedian. Every time I see you, I laugh my butt off”. I was like, “Uh Keep laughing! Keep laughing”.

So there’s a club in Los Angeles. When I moved to Los Angeles, and I was brand new in comedy, there’s a club there that it’s like the best club in the country. It’s called the “Comedy and Magic Club”. It’s in Hermosa Beach. This club is extremely hard for a comedian to get into. The way I got into this club is a guy named George Wallace saw me when I lived in New York. He knew I was funny and clean, so when I moved to Los Angeles, he took me to the Comedy and Magic Club. Now he couldn’t get me on stage, it’s way too prestigious of a club.

They have to know who you are. So he got me into the green room. I’m in the green room and suddenly, brand new in town, and I find myself in a green room with some soldiers in comedy. There’s George Wallace, Garry Shandling, Jay Leno. I’m brand new in town.

And at the time, a football player got hit in the eye with a flag, and he lost his vision in one eye, and he was suing the league for 400 million dollars. Now, all of these guys are helping Leno on that joke subject for the monologue for “The Tonight Show” on NBC. I ain’t saying nothing, I’m just happy to be in the room sharing french fries with these dudes. But your gift will make room for you.

So then, they got quiet, and they all looked at me, and I’m thinking, “Oh, snap! This is an opportunity”. I said, “Let’s see if I got this right He got hit in the eye with a flag, he lost his vision in one eye, and he’s suing the league for 400 million dollars. He’s not going to see half of it”.  Like, for real.

So here’s the thing: how did I get that joke that fast under that much pressure? The truth is it wasn’t as much pressure as you might think because I’d been practicing since I was a child in the form of a kid who was having a hard time reading. I was practicing just like you’ve been practicing; you just didn’t know you were practicing. I’m here to let you know you’ve been practicing. And for a lot of you, guys, it’s game time. It’s game time.

So now, I’m in the club; and I’m performing there. This is probably like seven, eight years ago. I’m headlining at the club, and right before I got on stage, I had a change in mindset about comedy. Most of the time when a comedian gets onstage, he wants to get laughs from people. And I felt a shift take place: Instead of going up there to get laughs from people, I felt like I was supposed to give them an opportunity to laugh.

I did a little prayer, and I clearly felt like I was supposed to give an opportunity to laugh. This changed everything. Because now I’m not looking to take; I’m simply looking for an opportunity to give. This is why we go to homeless shelters and these places. In fact, that very night when I leave the stage, I’m outside, people want autographs, we’re hanging out taking pictures, and I look across the street, and I saw a homeless guy.

I had never seen a homeless guy outside this club before ever. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t there before. That just means before, my mindset was to get laughs from people, so why would I even notice him? But now I changed my mindset, and I see this homeless guy, and I have the thought, “What about him? How could I give him an opportunity to laugh?” And that’s when we started doing homeless shelters and prisons and making laughter commonplace in non-common places. So now, as a result of doing that, we went to this one place, we went to Montrose, Colorado. It’s an abuse facility for children who were being abused by their parents.

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And I’m hearing all these stories, and this grandmother told us about her grandson who was so afraid of his mom who’s on drugs and been abusing him. One of the things she’s been doing is she was pulling out his toenails. So I hear this story, and they bring all these kids inside. And Spiderman is sitting right up. This little boy is so afraid of his mom, everywhere he goes, he wears a Spiderman costume.

He’s sitting right up front at the show. If my mindset was still to get laughs from people, there’s no way I would’ve been able to do the show. But my mindset changed; so now, I have to do the show. So I get up on stage, and people start laughing slowly but surely. Twenty minutes in it, I hear a voice come from right here, and the voice says, “My name is Ronan”. And this little boy pulls off his mask, introduces himself to me. And I can’t even tell you what it meant to me. He started talking to me for like nine minutes, like I wasn’t doing a comedy show at the time. But it was all because I made this shift, I made this change, and I say it simply.

Instead of trying to get, I’m going to see if there’s an opportunity to give. If you can make this adjustment, it will change your life for the good. If you’re a mechanic, you may think you get paid to fix vehicles. But if you can make this shift, you will recognize you help people reach their desired destination. That will put your alarm clock out of business.

My senses are there’s a lot of people out there still hitting the snooze button. Before I bounce – bounce means to vacate the premises – I’d like to explain to you how life works, at least from a comedian’s perspective. First, there’s a setup, and then there’s a punchline. Your setup is your talents, your resources, and your opportunities. And most of the time, we use our setup to ensure that the people around us are moving in a direction that serves us. Which means the punchline occurs when you change that direction in a way they’re not expecting.

You actually use your setup for other people. The results are the same, yet multiply: revelation, fulfillment, and joy. But it’s not just for the one receiving your punch line; it is absolutely for you as you deliver the punch line. In fact, if I ask the question to everyone here, everyone watching, if I ask you this question, “How many people here know what your setup is?” Every one of you would be able to tell me.

Because your setup is the fact that you have a house, a car, you’ve been married, you went to school. Your setup is about what you’ve received. But what if I asked the question, “What is your punchline?” Because your punchline is about what you’re called to deliver. And if you only know your setup and not your punchline, you’ll make the mistake of trying to add more setup. “If I could just get another degree,” “if I could just get married,” “if I could just lose weight,” but what you really need is to know your punchline.

Because to know your setup and not your punchline is an uncomfortable place to live. Let me give you an example. How many people are still thinking about the story of me and the CEO on stage? The reason all you guys are still thinking about that story is because all you have is the setup; you don’t have the punchline. Yet, we’ve moved on and allowed ourselves to be entertained like there wasn’t something missing. So we’ll go to a comedy show, or a football game, or a concert even though there’s something missing.

And that’s just the story I told you ten minutes ago. What about your story? You’ve been living it your entire life, and if all you know is the setup, and not the punchline, you’re living in an uncomfortable place. And please be clear. Just like when I had a hard time reading as a child, your setbacks are part of your setup, so you can deliver the punchline you’re called to deliver. Much like a slingshot, the further you’ve been set back, the further you’re going to reach.

But what are you going to aim for? Everyone has a setup, and everyone has a punchline. You need to find your punchline and deliver it. I’m Michael Jr. I love you. Thank you guys.

Aw, you guys are awesome. Standing ovation! Thank you so much. Thank you, thank you! Get up, dude! You too! I’m just playing. Thank you.

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