Chris Rock and the "Stress Factory"

3 powerful lessons from a comedy legend

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3 lessons from a comedy legend

Comedian Chris Rock goes to a place called the “Stress Factory.”

It’s a comedy club in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

For Rock, it’s a proving ground.

He’ll show up unannounced.

In the audience may be 50 people.

He’ll carry a yellow legal pad of notes and go on stage for 45 minutes.

And he’ll test new material.

Rock will do this for months as he prepares for a new show.

  • He’ll fumble through lines

  • He’ll stop in the middle of jokes

  • He’ll write notes while talking

Sometimes, he’ll forget what he’s saying and reference his legal pad.

If you didn’t know him, you’d think he’s an amateur.

This is how he remains one of the greatest comedians in the world.

There are three powerful lessons we can learn from Rock here.

Lesson 1: Nobody’s a finished product

Rock is one of the highest-paid comedians in the world.

He’s a legend in his industry.

He’s an otherworldly comedic talent.

You’d expect him to always be polished.

But that’s not the case.

Even legends stay on the hunt to improve.

There’s no such thing as a “finished product.”

Lesson 2: It takes humility to be great

Audiences at the Stress Factory get Rock in his rawest form.

  • They get new jokes he hasn’t tried yet

  • They get to see him honing his craft

  • They get to see him struggle

Rock doesn’t have to do this.

He could work out ideas in front of a few friends, then take more polished stuff to an audience.

But that wouldn’t make him as good.

If you want to be great, you need the humility to look bad in front of strangers.

Lesson 3: The process never ends

How many jokes has Rock delivered in his life?

100,000? More?

At 57 years old, he’s had a lifetime of reps.

And yet, here he is randomly showing up at small clubs.

Over and over and over and over again.

Rock is not alone. This is common practice for almost all great comedians.

It reminds me of a quote:

“Success is not a continuum.”

The past doesn’t guarantee the future.

We’re not entitled to future success.

It must be repeatedly earned.

Now, how do you put these lessons into practice?

They are only powerful if implemented.

One strategy is to build in checkpoints throughout the year.

A few examples:

There are many more similar examples.

The goal is the same: reconnect with your roots and refine the basics.

For Chris Rock, this “checkpoint” comes when he’s decided to do a new show or tour.

His process of preparation then begins.


To recap, the three lessons from Chris Rock:

  • Nobody’s a finished product

  • It takes humility to be great

  • The process never ends

The spirit of these lessons is to never stray from your roots.

To never ignore the basics that made you good.

And to never be too good to get better.

To implement these lessons, consider these questions:

  • What natural checkpoints exist in your year?

  • What activities should you do at these times?

  • How will you implement the lessons learned?

If you take action on these questions, let me know how it’s going. I’d love to hear.

Teddy’s Recommendations

A couple things I enjoyed this week:

This interview is a couple years old, but it’s loaded with gems.

Jackman talks about his routines, building discipline, trusting your intuition and a lot of other good stuff.

You can watch here - I’d highly recommend.

This is a great article from the Harvard Business Review on a huge problem in corporate America: busyness as a status symbol.

Instead of results, many people focus on appearing to work hard. It’s a cancer for any organization.

I’d encourage you to read this article and assess if your organization promotes a culture of busyness, intentionally or not. If so, work to shift the culture to focusing on outputs, not inputs.

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