‘Keep it clean’ reminders seem to be everywhere; airplane toilets, the coffee area at work and my grandmother’s advice about underwear. Makes sense, I get it.
But when it comes to comedy, ‘keeping it clean’ is another matter.
I hear ‘keep it clean’ and all of a sudden, my hands get clammy, tongue turns to sandpaper and I feel faint. Part of me is grateful that I will pass out quietly in the green room instead of dying miserably on stage.
It doesn’t help that the other acts all nod in agreement and say,
One of them volunteers a joyful
‘What fun! I have 600 hours of clean material, all GOLD.’
True to his word, 600-hours-of-comedy-GOLD does 20 minutes of clean material to rapturous laughter and applause. The crowd love him, the promoter loves him, the whole world loves him. I want to kill him. Slowly.
No, I don’t have a ‘clean’ set. My material is not filthy but it’s not squeaky clean either. And gold? Well, let’s just say my GOLD has a lot of green copper showing through.
I’m on next.
600-hours-of-comedy-GOLD suggests I substitute all ‘risqué’ words with chess pieces.
‘Chess pieces?’ I respond in alarm.
‘Sure! The audience will know exactly what you’re talking about …’
Really? I step on stage full of comedy dread …
‘Get your ‘bishop’ off my ‘queen’ you ‘knight’! ‘Pawn’ - off!’
Needless to say, I exit the stage amidst icy stares of non-comprehension from everyone in the audience, with the exception of the promoter who looks at a fixed point in the ceiling and shakes his head. I don’t think he will be asking me back. Not in this lifetime.
Every other act does brilliantly and 600-hours-of-comedy-GOLD does an encore and gets a standing ovation.
It’s not fair! Clean Comedy? Who wants clean comedy anyway? One of the reasons I started on this journey was to be able to say swear words – in public!
To give it some context, I come from a very prudish Catholic family, where children were NEVER heard (unless you were praying), and anything said was a potential sin. Farts were referred to as ‘your little bum coughing’ and I was well into my teens when I found out there was a noun for ‘down there’.
So of course, I started comedy relishing the fact I could curse, swear and people would not judge me, but laugh with me. The problem was that at first no one laughed, except me (I giggle uncontrollably whenever I swear).
So it is with deep regret that I have re-writing my material to make it cleaner, funnier and have no chess pieces involved.
For all that I know about comedy (which is not much) this is what I do know:
Of course, I may be wrong. Since the ‘chess piece’ fiasco I have had the honour of watching 600-hours-of-comedy-GOLD bomb. Badly.
Happiest day of my life.
I’m fed up and not taking it anymore! Next time someone asks ‘Can I give you some feedback?’ I’ll respond ‘You could … but I’d rather eat nails.’
It will be less painful than listening to a smug-know-it-all tell me things I already know, without offering any solution.
‘Your ending is weak … maybe work on your ending?’
Oh! Really? I was working on my fourth Gin & Tonic.
‘Try changing your objectives to something more objective.’
Yes, I’m a self-confessed Feedback Phobic (FP for short), a terrible condition that can affect anyone trying to speak in public.
Symptoms include shortness of breath, racing heart, sense of terror or impending doom when in the presence of a ‘feedback provider’.
Like many FP sufferers, I kept my condition hidden, afraid of being ridiculed and labelled a ‘weaker speaker’. It was only when I joined Toastmasters that I realized it wasn’t my fault, but that outside our organization, most feedback providers don’t have a clue!
The word ‘feedback’ is defined as ‘information used as a basis for improvement’.
Improvement? If anyone really wants to help … find me paid work, otherwise please shut up, because the only feedback I need is my grandma’s who says I’m the best speaker EVER (and she doesn’t even speak English).
Of course, the zoom-room situation hasn’t helped, as it provides harsher feedback than the savagely scary Simon Cowell on Britain’s Got Talent.
I’ll start with ‘Audience Contribution’ feedback (AC), which comes in two basic forms: POSITIVE – audience on screen are inspired! Engaged! They love me!
NEGATIVE – people frown and look at me as if I’m explaining triple integrals. I’m not. Triple integrals are not inspirational. Except when you try to solve them and then I’m inspired to drink … but that’s another story.
Then there is ‘Drop-Call’ feedback (also known as DC), which is when everyone starts to ‘LEAVE MEETING’, claiming broadband issues.
NOTE: AC/DC follow each other in case of a negative AC.
Outside of zoom-room-doom-gloom we face situations where so called ‘constructive feedback’ quickly turns in to ‘careless, confusing criticism’.
Take the ‘Sandwich’ technique, which wraps negative feedback in praise. This is usually provided by people who hold a management position and have taken a course on how best to give annual appraisals without getting a black eye.
‘Poo Sandwich’ is an offshoot of ‘Sandwich’ except there’s no cushion, just brutal excrement, as when the last event organizer said,
‘Your inspirational speech inspired people … to fall asleep.’
‘Why did you leave your day job?’
Not even a dozen Andrex toilet rolls complete with cute puppies can clean up that mess. And for the record, I didn’t leave my day job, my day job left me. It was a redundancy affair.
Then there’s ‘Pity’ feedback, which is self-explanatory and occurs when a sympathetic person catches me at the bar drowning my sorrows ‘Sniff, sniff, I’m a failure’.
‘Your voice projected well…’
Thanks. It's called a microphone.
‘It’s getting there …’
Universal speak for 'It's getting nowhere'
Finally, there is ‘Handheld’ feedback. This is when a more experienced speaker watches your performance and provides you with a dedicated ‘one to one’. I got very good advice, although I wasn’t too keen on holding hands while listening to all the information.
Don’t get me wrong I have gotten some great feedback. The problem is it seems you can’t get positive feedback without getting a barrage of negatives, with no suggestions as to how to improve!
Exception is the CRC method (Commend, Recommend, Commend), where feedback becomes a motivational tool to get even better.
Commend: 'You were brilliant! Wonderfully articulate and engaging and just the best thing ever!'
OK, a little OTT, but I love compliments!
Recommend: ‘Your ending is a tiny bit weak, but I have come up with 100 suggestions to make it stronger, have a look. '
That's more like it! If there's an issue, help me solve it.
Commend: 'You're more than a STAR! You're the MILKY WAY of stars!'
Well, if you're gonna praise, why hold back?
Sonia Aste is an, engineer, writer, comedian and the ultimate Portfolio Person. She can sometimes solves triple integrals.
Wondering what the future will look like, post Corona? After intensive idiotic investigations and ridicoulous rigourous research the following newscast provides the answer.
This is Portfolio People reporting LIVE! From the future!
Covid-19 is officially over. No need to worry about the virus killing off humanity, now it’s back to nuclear weapons, terrorist attacks and hate crimes.
No more Corona fever! Although there are still fevers out there, like hay fever, spring fever, Saturday Night Fever,
‘… night, fever night feveeer …’
That song alone is reported to produce a slow and painful death.
No more two-meter rule! Joyful time for pickpockets, back stabbers and bum grabbers!
Mediterranean countries are back to hugging with passion! So much passion that sometimes group hugs turn into orgies.
Meanwhile in the UK, Brits are delighted to be back to keeping 10 meters distance from each other. As one man from Leatherhead said, ‘The two-meter rule was too close and infringed in our personal space’.
Track & Trace apps no longer needed but still in use to avoid unpleasant encounters with boring relatives and annoying neighbors.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has just published his bestselling book, ‘The Life Changing Magic of Getting Away with Everything’. He freely admits discarding all the information that does not bring him joy. Marie Kondo to seek compensation for breach of copyright.
Dominic Cummings is now a tour guide at Barnard Castle and Keir Starmer works in a nudist camp, he’s finally showing some b… some courage.
In the US Donald Trump launches his presidential campaign, ‘Orange Lives Matter’, and promises to ‘Make America Fake Again’.
Social media replaces ‘thumbs up’ and ‘thumbs down’ with everyone’s favorite ‘the middle finger’.
Zoom’s latest upgrade shows the whole body, confirming everyone’s suspicion that most zoomers are half naked.
Ted Talks rebranded ‘Fed Up with these Self-Righteous Talks’.
UK is hit by a Cadbury Flake shortage, Brexiteers claim it’s #FlakeNews.
Things turn bitter Brexsweet as lorry driver shortage threatens Haribo sweets. It could be POLO-rizing.
BUSINESS Amazon’s Jeff Bezos buys the world. It’s back to live office meetings, which are no different from zoom meetings. Everyone is on mute and the manager talks non-stop for five hours.
Protests continue on climate change, human rights, statues’ rights, parents’ rights (not to home school), teachers rights (not to care), ban decaf forever rights, the right to be right and the right to protest.
Protesting is now a paid profession. If you don’t agree, you can protest.
A new illness is sweeping through the nation, it’s called CORONA NOSTALGIA.
Rupa Datta is elected world-wide-master-of-the-universe president of all galaxies. She brings order, fun and a ‘Don’t Mess with Me’ attitude to this male dominated environment.
She has banned all meetings of more than one.
This has been POST CORONA NEWS, brought to you by Sonia Aste.
Sonia Aste is an engineer, writer, salesperson, comedian and the ultimate Portfolio Person. More of her stuff on soniaaste.com @soniaaste FB SoniaAste InstagramSoniaAste
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Alas! The client-sales relationship. It used to be so simple! When I started it was, ‘I’m the Almighty Client and you’re just a low life salesperson, about as trustworthy as a profile photo in a dating App’.
I loved it! There was comfort knowing Almighty Client knew it all and didn’t want to waste time with my input (not that I had any).
All his requirements were mapped out on a RFP (request for proposal) that made War and Peace look like a tweet, plus a ‘120-slide-this-should-not-take-long-power-point-presentation’ containing enough data to rival the human genome.
Was I intimidated? Of course not. I had my ‘techie expert’ translating it into a workable solution. Me? I’d just sit back and do the numbers, my commission numbers that is.
Once the deal closed, I was home free. Things go wrong? Blame ‘techie expert ‘, blame the users, the client, global warming, the peace process, blame our DNA. Just don’t blame me, I’m just the salesperson. It was bliss!
Well, those days are OVER. And I’m not liking it one bit. Who wants to hear Almighty Client doubtfully say ‘With the market changing so fast, we’re not sure about our future requirements? Could you help?’
Are you out of your mind? Don’t you remember I’m a low life salesperson as reliable as the UK’s weather forecast?
I don’t want to be ‘part of the process’ or worse still, ‘share responsibility’. That sounds like consulting. I don’t want to be a consultant. All the consultants I know are out of work.
I should be happy. After years of trying to improve our reputation employing techniques such as TRUST SELLING, RELATIONSHIP SELLING, STRATEGIC SELLING (which all boil down to don’t be a financially driven piece of manure SELLING) clients now trust us.
And it’s not only sales people that have changed, so has technology. New products crop up so fast that yesterday’s best buy could be tomorrow’s Amazon Ring (remember? In 2020 those models were catching fire leading to a product recall). Trust me your client doesn’t want to be caught holding that firecracker.
So here are three key areas where we sales people should be ready to kick a$$, or as a polite person would say, ‘bring our expertise and excel’:
Gone are the days when we knew little to nothing about our products and services and relied on ‘techie expert’. All we have left is that old joke: What do you call a ‘techie’ when he turns 30? Your boss.
Today salespeople know products inside out, left to right, up and down and when required, we can even get into ‘techie-talk’ (yawn zzzzzz). This know-how assures the client a successful project. Let’s face it – nobody does it better than sales. (OK, maybe modesty is not one of my strong suits).
Remember that saying: keep your friends close, your competition closer. Not only because it’s key to selling, but I’ve always thought that if things get pear shaped the competition is the first point of call. I’m not proud. I’m in sales.
In summary, the Client-Sales relationship has changed for the better. Sales are not only key in helping the client find a solution but we stick around and make sure it works.
That’s enough sales talk. I’m off to get some coffee, because things might have changed, but as Alex Baldwin says in the ultimate sales play/film Glengarry Glen Ross ‘Coffee's for closers only’.
You’ve heard the phrase: there’s no such thing as a stupid question. In sales there is. The questions you don’t ask because you’re chicken.
We've spent a year in lockdown. It looks like we're coming out of it...or are we?
The other day I met a colleague for lunch whom I've only ever spoken to on zoom or slack. It was an absolute win for me when she said:
'You look exactly how you look online.' This may have actually been a bigger win than her thinking I was 7 years younger than I actually am.
Conversely, I've also met a few people now in the flesh having only met them at virtual networking events. I've certainly had to do a double take and/or squint in some instances to ensure a person is who I deemed them to be online.
Now, you may be thinking this is an age old point. Well it is, however in the last week, I've seen a number of posts from people about refreshing their websites or that they are out and about getting some fresh head shots. This is great, if you feel comfortable having some done! If not, I'd invite you to reflect on how old some of the shots you have of yourself are.
Whether it be for that next date, or for a role or a job, ensuring that impression is as authentic as possible is key. How do we determine that:
As important as having an up-to-date CV and constant improvement and review of anything that leaves an impression of you, I can't stress enough the importance of investing (time or money) in that something that tells a thousand words of your story right now.
Photo Credit: Warren Sheng
Rupa Datta is Founder of Portfolio People - she learned about headshot investment about 5 years ago and understand why you may need a different one depending on what is going on in your portfolio. She's off updating hers everywhere right now!
The Chronicles of Sonia (Life in Lockdown Lifting)
As pubs and shops re-open, I can’t help but remember the day lockdown started; March 23 rd , 2020. I had so many hopes and dreams! Now I just have Netflix.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen after watching Netflix in its totality I feel like my remote control; old, broken and the START button is stuck.
I used to be a lean, mean comedy machine! Now I’m just a lump in front of a screen. What happened?
‘THE ACHIEVERS’ is what happened! You might know some of them. Determined individuals who used lockdown to better themselves, turning the crisis into an 'opportunity'. Unlike some of us who turned the crisis into an excuse to drink.
'THE ACHIEVERS' learnt to speak eight languages, did MBA’s, PHD’s and memorized the human genome. Me? I learnt to drink straight from a Tequila bottle. (Squeeze ¼ lime in and dab rim with salt).
If that wasn’t enough, I get a letter telling me I’m old. Hey I already know that! Does the NHS have to rub it in?
‘We have sent you this letter as people in your age group are now able to get the coronavirus vaccine.’
‘We have sent you this letter because you’re old and probably don’t even know what an email is. Book your jab THIS INSTANT, so you don’t forget.’
Despite my developing decrepitude, I manage to book the appointment and a couple of weeks later find myself in the vaccine center. The place is amazing! Full of courageous people exposing their upper arms freely, no need for nurses to hold them down forcefully.
Like they did with me. Yes, I was a cry-baby … so what? I didn’t even get a biscuit or a sweetie! What kind of a vaccine roll out I this? It takes the biscuit!
I wasn’t the only one disappointed. Conspiracy theorists getting the jab left with a chip on their shoulder, I mean a chip on their upper arm.
Back home I found out about the vaccine war. Not the one between countries, but the war on ‘Who got it worst’. Plastered all over social media, it was like a moaner’s convention:
‘I got headaches, heavy flu symptoms and a sore arm. It lasted for days!’
‘Oh yeah? Well, I got all that plus shivers, bad stomach and my arm got infected! Not wanting to be left out of the pity party I posted, ‘My arm fell off!’
The truth is I was sooooo ill with side effects! I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy! Actually, I would wish it on my worst enemy: ex-husband, the tax man, HR ladies who fired me … it's a long list.
Nasty nostalgia aside, now that I've had my jab, I can't wait to get back to the office! Don’t get me wrong, I have a lovely office in what used to be a tiny walk-in wardrobe. The state agent described it as ‘cosy and intimate, ideal to get away from it all’. Yes, including my sanity.
Remember TGIF - Thank God it’s Friday? Now it’s more like, ‘Is it Friday? Or Sunday … what’s my name?’.
The office had so many perks! A desk, free pencils … even toilets! We didn’t even have to clean them! We had an office microwave, never mind everything came out smelling of a curry someone heated in 1985.
I miss the office martyr (every office has one), she’s usually called Lizzie. Lizzie has a cold, the flue, pneumonia … she still shows up for work! Lizzie gives birth and 20 minutes later she’s at her desk with the baby, placenta flying.
I even miss the Human Resource ladies. They always made me feel so …terrified. With their PIPS (Performance Improvement Plan), which were there to help you out. Yes, help you out of the door.
Exhilarating times! Like when the HR lady said, ‘Sonia I’m afraid you’re on the redundancy list’. Two days later she came back ‘We made a mistake you’re not on the list! It was a glitch!’
A month later I was still fired. It was ‘The Dress Rehearsal Redundancy! HR had invented a new way of making me feel worthless.
So much for office life … now I'm back in my wardrobe, thinking that virus or no virus, I better move on with my life! Maybe get a new remote control to start with.
As for those HR ladies? When they get their jab? They’re on MY list.
And that ain’t no glitch.
Sonia Aste is an engineer / writer / comedian working on getting her START button unstuck.