Success and Happiness Part II (Video)

Laughter is success.

I’m just guessing, but even on a good day, the video below might indicate what our minds go through at any given time. 

No need to worry.  That’s just our attachments grasping at happiness.  My friend Rob calls it “head chatter.”

Let’s recap.  In Part I (there’s a link at the bottom of the post), the Venerable Geshe Phende explained that attachments consist of desiring pleasure outside of ourselves. In addition, we’re constantly living with our attachments and the expectations that grow from attaching.  When these expectations fail to materialize, that’s when the trouble starts.  We suffer to find happiness.

Phende says when we lower our expectations and reduce attachments, we’re on the path to true happiness, which means genuine success.

Reducing attachments requires some effort.  It involves thought, investigation, preparing for failure and accepting the world as it is.

That all sounds great.  But don’t Buddhists spend a lot of time meditating on that kind of stuff?  Isn’t there a quick way to get rid of attachments? 

How about a good joke?

Tyrone "Ty" DIxson

Tyrone “Ty” Dixson leisurely paces the stage at the Punchline comedy club in Sandy Springs, Ga.  

During his act, Dixson consistently engages the audience, straddling the line between laid back and over the top, punctuating jokes with exaggerated facial expressions.

The audience at a comedy club.

 Early in his set, Dixson pauses downstage, notices two bald men and quickly remarks, “I like the cuts.  Question.  Did you make the decision or did God make the decision for you?” 

The entire crowd laughs with the bald men laughing the loudest.

In the stand up comedy world, when a joke “kills”, it’s a rousing success.  On the other hand, when a joke “bombs”, it fails miserably.  Dixson’s bald joke killed on this night.

Dixson onstage and offstage personalities aren’t that different.  He engages with the same unhurried energy that draws in the audience.   He’s as enthusiastic about sunflower seeds as a joke that kills.

He grew up in Indianapolis, Indiana, an only child raised by his grandparents.  He credits his grandfather with giving him his sense of observation.  “My grandfather was always watching things.  He would just say little comments and it would be hilarious” 

Dixson’s experiences have shaped his path to success as a comedian.  He was a running back and defensive back on a high school football dynasty.  “Warren Central is the only team in Indiana history that won four high school championships in a row.  My class won the first one.”  He’s an ordained minister with the New Liberty Baptist Church in Indianapolis.  Both of these accomplishments have shaped his approach to comedy.

Preparation figures into much of Dixson’s comedic success.  When not performing, he takes after his grandfather, constantly examining.  “I’m observational.  That probably comes from me being raised as an only child.  I’m always watching, always engaging, always noticing stuff.  I’ll jot down that idea and figure out the punchline. Where’s the story? Where are the details?”   Dixson explained the premise behind the bald joke at the Punchline.  “A girl told me I would be cute with a bald head and I was like, I don’t want to tempt God.  It’s like, OH, there’s the punchline.”

Tyrone talking to the audience.

Recalling his football experiences, Dixson scouts the crowd to prepare. “I’m in the audience a lot before a show.  I want to be in the space while everything is going on.  I need to watch the people. I observe the crowd and then I think, let’s go execute a plan where I can entertain.”

Rather than a fixed set of jokes, Dixson scans a joke menu that he’s consistently updating. The menu contains a set of premises he can tailor to suit the audience and allow Dixson spontaneity. “Given the crowd, I can look at my menu and string together jokes to cater to the audience. At the Punchline, the bald joke, I’ve always thought about using it and the opportunity came up.  I’ve never done it out loud.  But I thought about it that night and thought, you know what?  I’ll use it.  If it flops, it flops, but I think it’ll work because it’s relatable.”

An overcast sky representing silence.

What if the joke had bombed?  What if the hecklers started heckling or worse, silence?

Successful comedians loathe bombing but don’t fear the bomb.  As a result, they prepare for the inevitable.

“Bombing bothers me like nobody’s business,”  Dixson says.  “This is probably the football player in me, but I hate bombing.  When I do bomb, I need to learn something from the experience and I’ll be a better comedian from that.” 

Dixson explains that a comedian needs to adjust, and adjust quickly, to avoid bombing.  “You only have so much time on stage to make it count.  When a bit isn’t working, I get to something quickly that I know will work.  Some of the funniest things are addressing the bomb.  ‘THAT wasn’t working.’ I’m conscious of it, the audience knows I’m conscious of it, I’m not in denial when a joke bombs.  Getting back to something that works is very important.” 

Dixson succeeds because he connects with the audience as opposed to merely telling jokes at the audience.  He uses his joke menu to gauge what material will work for any given performance.  “You can’t talk about Atlanta traffic in Nashville.  If I did a 60-year-old women’s birthday party, that would be different than doing a college crowd.  The bald joke I told at the Punchline won’t work at a women’s birthday party.”

Creativity makes a good joke, Dixson says,  but it’s the relatability that makes the joke succeed.  “It’s the ability to connect, there’s gotta be a connection. You have a horrible boss, so do I.  Your parents stress you out, mine do too. When you develop a connection, you have won.”

Point of view is critical for a comedian’s success.  In addition, Dixson expands his mindset to include the audience’s frame of reference.   “These people paid their money.  They paid five dollars, ten dollars.  They used their resources to come listen to me, a stranger.  The least I can do is entertain them.”

Dixson attributes his perspective to his days as a minister.  “Comedy is a different form of ministry to me.  As a comedian, I’m a servant and my job is to entertain these people.  There’s a humility to it, it creates a different mind space.”

Despite the ego trap that comes with performing, Dixson remains modest.  “It’s not about me.  It’s about the people in the seats.  I need to be humble enough to give them something to remember.  I’m selling hope through jokes. “

“Some people might have had a bad week. Can I say something to cheer somebody up and make them feel better about their lives?  When they leave,  I want them to have laughed and think, life ain’t that bad.”

Phende and Dixson have never met.  Their backgrounds couldn’t be more different.  Phende comes from exotic Nepal, Dixson from sensible Indianapolis.  While Dixson was starring on the football field, Phende was learning meditation fundamentals at a monastery.  

Yet, their similarities outweigh the differences.  Both know how to work a room.  They approach success with the same mindset:  Prepare, research, hope for success and acknowledge the reality of failure.  Phende and Dixson understand people’s fundamental desire for happiness in spite of culture or influence.  “Regardless of having no money or a million dollars,” Dixson says, “people want to laugh.”   When we’re laughing, we forget about the chatter in our heads.  That’s success.

Enjoy a good joke? Like and share this post and feel free to leave comment.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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