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In 2018, the real estate market was quickly shifting in New York City. As many of you can attest, it’s a constant struggle to find ways to improve our mental state and avoid the rabbit hole of negativity. I decided to do something for me. I signed up to take stand-up comedy classes.
Now, I was born comedically challenged. My parents are both accountants. I’m not one who always “has a funny story.” But when I spoke with Andy Engle, director of the Manhattan Comedy School, he told me that taking these classes would be good for business, so I signed up.
Before our first class, we were asked to attend a graduation, which was a live show at Gotham Comedy Club where all of the students did their routines. I knew I was in the right place when the host announced a special guest in the middle of the show: The one and only Jerry Seinfeld. One of the greats performed and tested his material right there in the middle of a New Talent Showcase.
That’s all it took to get me hooked. I attended class in a small studio room in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, surrounded by others who were auditioning for Broadway shows, singers, tap dancers, even children auditioning for commercials. In many ways, I had no right to be there. I don’t dress like a comedian, I had never seen Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and I didn’t walk in with loads of stories or jokes written on a napkin.
I should mention that I am a Realtor. At the time I signed up for the classes, I had been selling real estate in New York for 10 years. I have no desire to be a stand-up comedian, though I will gladly take the mic and attempt to make people laugh. It’s my dream to open up a real estate conference with comedy, and once, at a Sotheby’s International Realty conference, I got to warm up the crowd before the first speaker.
When I was offered the chance to write about how comedy relates to real estate, I immediately thought about sitting in that room when Seinfeld showed up. I have since performed with him multiple times (sometimes before and sometimes, I’ve had to follow him), in addition to sharing the stage with Jim Gaffigan and George Wallace, all of whom practice their sets there.
Here are five things I developed doing stand-up comedy that make me a better Realtor:
People skills and handling tough situations
Imagine being heckled on stage, or not getting a laugh after telling a well-crafted joke. Comedy, both stand-up and improv, has taught me to roll with the punches and manage my expectations of my clients. Realtors encounter difficult clients, negotiations and unforeseen obstacles. The ability to handle these situations with humor and composure has been a valuable asset.
Public speaking skills
I can’t walk on stage at the club with notes. Some comedians do, especially when they are testing their material, but I choose to memorize not just the script, but the delivery and timing for pauses and laughs (hopefully). I have been invited to present on many stages at real estate conferences, and skills gained in comedy school have helped immensely.
I’m sure we’ve all sat in an audience barely able to keep our eyes open because the speaker was monotonous and boring. Memorizing the script is just as important as delivery and timing for responses. Though you may not have the chance to be on a stage, the skill is relevant for team leaders, brokers, and on buyer consultations and listing presentations.
How often are we told to tell stories in our marketing materials, whether in print or via social media? A comedian’s job is to tell the story in a meaningful way that gets a response from the audience. We are so much more than the homes we sell and the quarterly and annual stats.
Each client is a person and carries a story, and each transaction is like a movie with the protagonist, the lead characters, the hero (ideally you) and the drama. Yet many of us just post photos of a house with the words “Just Sold.” As a stand-up comedian, it’s literally your job to craft a story, weaving in the drama and the elements of surprise, which should culminate in a punch line, and then be followed by a laugh.
Humor as a selling tool
When I meet a client and we’re getting to know each other, I casually mention comedy, and that immediately helps to break down the barriers. Obviously, selling a home or helping a buyer is not a funny occurrence, but parts of the process can be comedic, and sometimes a little bit of appropriate humor can ease the tension.
When I was in comedy school and subsequently in comedy writing classes, I learned that 80 percent of the jokes should be real, and 20 percent should be exaggerated. If you watch my shows, my jokes can be about 80 percent real to someone, and I take creative liberty in the remaining 20 percent. Imagine using slight exaggeration to help prove a point.
As I’m writing this my mind is going crazy with comedic relief about bathrooms in high-rises without window treatments and wall coverings from the 1960s. The joke will come soon.
Networking and promotion
Comedians consistently put themselves out there to attract followers and to get actual people in the seats at the comedy club. We like certain comedians because they tend to have a certain shtick: Their material is hyper-focused, whether they do impressions or they do self-deprecating humor about their own life that is consistent at every show.
As Realtors, we should be focused on building our brand. Who are we? What do we want people to remember about us? Who are we trying to attract? When you have a niche, it’s easier to put out content on social media that’s relatable to the audience you’re trying to attract. You can expand that reach at events via your business card, marketing materials and the actual kinds of events you attend.
Ultimately, the skills required for stand-up comedy are also essential as a Realtor. An immense amount of confidence comes from being vulnerable on a stage. This translates into every listing presentation, buyer consultation, team meeting and more.
People often ask me how I don’t pass out on stage from fear, and I tell them that I believe that there will at least be one person in the audience who finds me funny, and I will perform for them. And if I happen to have more people in the audience who are there specifically for me, well, I can rely on them for the pity laughs, leading to more pity laughs.
If you can laugh at yourself, then surely you can get through life caring a little bit less about what others think about you. You can see my shows on YouTube.
An accomplished real estate agent, Karen Stone is also a multifaceted personality who hosts American Dream TV’s “Selling Utah,” entertains as a DJ on KPCW, and dazzles audiences as a stand-up comedian in the Big Apple. Connect with her on Instagram and LinkedIn.