I focus on performance. And being more dynamic as a performer. I used to do a thing, and I did it on my Lopez set, where when I was going onstage, I would give a friend of mine 200 bucks and for every time I smile onstage, you have to give me 20 bucks back. So I knew that if I wanted to get my money back, I would have to smile onstage.
It's like one of these things that's such a good practice. Because the first time I did it, I lost 120 bucks. But when I did it on Lopez, Lopez is easier, I did it and smiling helps. And I got my money back. So I do that, and I've been doing something recently where I watch the audience laughing, which I never did before. Laughing at my jokes, which makes you then laugh, and when you laugh you're more likable, and you're having more of a conversation with them. You're in the moment with them. Instead of just, "I am performing, we're having 2 totally different experiences now. You're having fun, but I'm working." No, it's like, "We're both having fun." So that's one thing.
And when I was in New York, I was working a lot with Aziz Ansari, and he has a really, really great work ethic when it comes to stand up. He listens to every single set he does. He'll write notes in his notebook about it, he'll change punch lines, he'll alter tags, and he's really really dogged, to the point of it being kind of weird to people. Because he'll be sitting at a table with a bunch of comedians, with his headphones on, just listening to his own stand up, but it really improves your (set). I remember when I was kid, I remember my brother Kevin and (Dave) Attell would tape their sets, and then when I was doing it I wasn't, and now I started, and I just know it makes you better. So I've been listening to all my sets. It's just also more positive reinforcement when you're listening to yourself get laughs right before you go on. So that's helpful also.
The other thing is you just need the flight hours. You just need the 10,000 hours, you need the reps. You have to do it, and do it, and do it, and do it. That's the thing with TV, you don't know how your body's going to react, you know. When I did Fallon, I wasn't as engaging as I was on Lopez because I didn't know what my body was going to do. My body tended to get a little small. Whereas on Lopez, I knew, "Hey, just so you know, Neal, you're body may get a little tight and small. So you have to counteract that." Which is why I did the smiling, 200 bucks thing.
Here's Brennan's Lopez set:
Interviewer Scott King also did a bunch of other good pieces with Attell, Burr, and Norton for their JFL Chicago shows.
Related: Malcolm Gladwell on what makes a great performer: 10,000 hours