From Stutter to International Speaker: Grabbing Fear by the Balls With Joze Piranian

Joze HeadshotJoze Piranian is a lifelong stutterer on the quest to confront his fears one stage at a time. After spending most of his life avoiding speaking out of the fear of being judged for being “different”, he is now a TEDx speaker, the winner of the Grand Slam competition at inspirational speaking competition Speaker Slam, and a stand-up comedian who’s performed at the Laugh Factory in Chicago, the Broadway Comedy Club in NY, Comedy Nest in Montreal and Absolute Comedy in Toronto. Joze’s mission is to share his tale of overcoming adversity in order to to motivate people to face their deepest fears, overcome their obstacles (their “inner stutter”) and fulfill their potential. Remember, the only way out is through.

Of all of the interview I’ve done in my life, this was the most actionable. As a lifelong stutterer my guest wastes no time with fluff or filler, he dives directly into the heart of comedy 101, overcoming your greatest fears, and what we need to do daily in order to live our potential.

(If you prefer these tips in video, click here)

You Can Be Funny Too

What I appreciated most about Joze’s approach at comedy is it’s simplicity. I didn’t feel overwhelmed or hopeless like I typically do. In fact, I felt encouraged. As if, “hell I can be funny too!”

He shared that his stand up journey began at a intro to stand up class at Second City Toronto. It was there that he learnt that when comedy it’s stripped down to it’s core, it’s all about misdirection. Joze said, “it’s the element of surprise between expectation and reality that creates humour.”

He continued, “humour is a corrective mechanism that detects the discrepancy between the expected and the actual. Laughter is our natural physiological response.”

Although I don’t personally like science, I was excited to learn that Joze believes comedy is nothing more than a scientific model we can follow. Here are his top 3 tips to help get you started immediately:

  1. Make sure what you’re saying is funny in of itself. Joze see’s this first mistake all too often at amateur comedy nights. A first timer will bring there friends to the bar but they are the only people laughing at their jokes! Why is that you ask? Because the audience knows nothing about you. If what you’re saying isn’t funny unless the audience had context into your life and personality, don’t say it. Therefore it’s best to take the position that no one knows anything about who you are and to focus on ensuring what you’re saying is inherently funny.
  2. Think of jokes as a science. When you think of jokes as a set up and a punchline, things get a lot more palatable. Using Joze’s tips from above, it’s important that after we deliver our set up, we don’t just say what’s on everyones mind. Instead, the punchline needs to be a misdirection, or different from what people expected. The secret sauce is in the misdirection.
  3. Address the elephant in the room. Joze encourages us to address what’s on everyones mind immediately. For example, if you’re extremely tall or short, fat or you know your voice sounds different (perhaps you have a stutter), address it and make a few jokes about yourself. Like most of the pleasures of life, comedy is the constant evolution of building and releasing tension. If we give a performance without releasing the tension of the clear elephant in the room, we’ll be leaving our audience behind and the laughter with it.

A Practical Philosophy for Overcoming Obstacles

I asked Joze point blank, “how the hell were you able to overcome what is a seemingly insurmountable challenge and to then rise up and become a TEDx speaker, Grand Slam Champion and International Stand Up Comedian,” to that he answered one single word, “exposure.”

“We as humans,” he said, “we’re notorious for wanting to avoid pain and discomfort.”

He related to a time in University when he asked his professors to exempt him from presentations and group work. Further, another time when he was in his youth where he even avoided his family functions by pretending to be sick.

“But that doesn’t help us move forward,” Joze shared.

To this day, after all of his accomplishments he still needs to force himself weekly to talk to 50 to 100 strangers and ask directions. The second he’s not exposing himself to the things that he fears the most, he feels a shell start to envelop him and everything he’s worked so hard towards. Instead, when we face our fears we literally change the way we frame what used to scare us.

Joze wants to encourage all of us to grab fear by the balls. His stutter is just a metaphor for any fears that’s holding us back. So what’s your stutter? Are you not wearing a bikini to the beach because you think you’re overweight? Are you not asking that cute girl on a date because you think you’ll be rejected? Are you holding onto the job or relationship you hate because you’re selling your value short?

Whatever it is, let Joze’s practical philosophy of overcoming obstacles guide you down this path of growth. As he’s world renown for saying,

“The only way out is through.” – Joze Piranian

Exposure will be your greatest asset if you let it. Sure, short term it may suck. When you’re in the mud the only thing you can do is focus on how dirty you are, how heavy it makes you feel and how much you wish you could go back to the way things were. But long term, everything you’ve ever wanted, success in your relationships, better health, and success in your business and wealth, all will come as a result of consistently stepping into and through the mud. Because the only way out my friends, is through.

Joze’s Do This Directives

  1. Get your butt to second city. If you’re serious about comedy, Joze highly recommends taking the time to invest in learning the fundamentals. Not only is it a great learning experience, but you’ll meet new friends and have a blast in the process.
  2. Join a local toastmasters club. Beyond the 50-100 weekly strangers that Joze asks for directions, he credits a lot of his public speaking success to the hours he’s spent at Toastmasters clubs in Montreal, Lebanon, Mexico City and Toronto (meet us both here!). Repetition is the mother of learning and the more consistently you can get stage time, wether it’s for standup or public speaking, the faster your trajectory to success.
  3. Grab fear by the balls. If you’re reading this blog, you’re indescribably lucky. I mean it. Not to sound cliche on you, but we have it so good. So many advantages, luxuries, and gifts have been handed to us and the least we can do is live a fraction of our potential. I only take the time and energy to write these posts because I want you and I to succeed. And we can, I believe it. But in order to do that and to take advantage of the blessing we have to take even a single breath, to type even a single word or to see and feel light every day we need to overcome fear. Together, let’s lean in, find something that grips us and remember what Joze says, “the only way out is through.”

Audio Time Stamps

  • 00:00 who is Joze Piranian
  • 2:00 Joze telling jokes!
  • 8:00 when did Joze start stand up
  • 15:00 tips to get started in comedy
  • 20:10 Joze’s philosophy for overcoming obstacles
  • 26:40 Joze’s sharing vulnerability
  • 31:21 mentors that have made an impact on his life
  • 37:30 Joze dropping wisdom BOMBS\

Till next time stay on the offensive. Aggressively pursue a better version of yourself. And remember what Jim Rohn said, “you cannot change the destination of your life overnight but you can change your direction.”

Jonathan Andrews