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Public Speaking Tip: Get Angry

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
1 min read

I know many of you are aware of these videos, but I need to post them for my own archives. They are NSFW at all.

One of the most brilliant ways to win over a crowd, and your own fears of public speaking, is to get angry. Anger can often be a disguise for enthusiasm about something very positive.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive, these example videos illustrate that point, which I need to remember if I’m ever speaking to a hostile audience.

Example 1 comes from the early 90s, when Def Comedy Jam was the hottest show on HBO. Each comedian was given about 10 minutes to perform their best material for a hyper-critical crowd. The show was so big, the audience’s reaction could make or break a career in just a few minutes.

One night, the audience was in a particularly hostile mood, booing a comic off the stage. An up-and-coming comic from Chicago was waiting to go on next and he got angry. He had worked too hard for too long to get here, and he wasn’t about to let this audience dictate where his career was going. The comic was Bernie Mac, and he came out swinging in one of the most legendary performances in stand-up history.

Example 2 comes from the mid-2000s, at an outdoor area in Philadelphia. Hours into a comedy festival, featuring some of the biggest comedians at the time, the crowd had descended into alcohol-fueled chaos. Some comic were heckled off the stage. Tracy Morgan ended his set early and fled. Bill Burr was up next.

He was a few jokes into his set, when the first boos started. He stopped his rehearsed act, and launched into a tirade against the crowd and, in his words, “attacked everything they loved.”

He refused to leave the stage until his allotted time was up. By the end of that time, he had won over the crowd with the creativity of his ad-libbed insults. Audience recordings leaked to YouTube and solidified another comic legend.

I don’t know who else needed to see these video again, but I occasionally need to be reminded that enthusiasm (in all its forms) is an incredibly effective sales tool.