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“In this business, you are not doing anything alone.” – Amy Port

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On today’s episode of Steal The Show, we are joined by Amy Port for Part 2 of our conversation. Amy is the Co-Founder & President of Heroic Public Speaking, and today she unpacks the mechanics behind the keynote we delivered at the National Speakers Association Influence 2018 conference.

Tune in to hear the principles we apply to rehearsal, so you too can deliver the same caliber performance.

Last week’s episode, 115 Amy Port on Writing and Performing a Killer Keynote, can be found here.

“It’s not interesting watching people do easy things. It’s interesting watching people do challenging things.” – Michael Port

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Steal The Points

  • Meaning comes from fulfilling commitments beyond what we think is possible.
  • Find the line between self-expression and respect for the character.
  • Surround yourself with collaborators and helpers to empower you to do more.
  • What’s interesting is what’s important. Try to speak and write about that.
  • The level of success is directly proportional to how much responsibility the person is willing to endure.

Interview With Michael and Amy Port – Part Two

STS – #116 – Steal The Show with Michael Port

00:00 Michael Port: Even though you were resistant and had some anxiety about some aspects of it, you trusted the process, and you trusted that you knew how to work through the process and that you’d get where you needed to go, I think, ultimately, even though you were anxious about it.

Because I think if you really didn’t think you could get where you needed to go, you would have said, “Michael, we have to do it differently.”

00:19 Amy Port: The other piece of that, I agree with that, and there’s another component to it, which is commitment.

* * *

00:30 Michael Port: For me, personally, and I think probably the same for you, Amy – we haven’t discussed this at length – but I’m more nervous for Mike Ganino and Darcy Webb. Mike is our head performance coach and Darcy Webb is our voice coach. And for Neen James and for all of those different people who have hitched their horses to HPS, and have been the most extraordinary ambassadors and collaborators that you could possibly imagine.

01:04 Amy Port: And who we feel responsible for.

01:06 Michael Port: Exactly. And all of our staff here.

01:08 Amy Port: That’s right. And their families.

01:10 Michael Port: Exactly, so that’s where I put my focus when I think about it and that’s what makes me nervous. I really, frankly, I couldn’t care if you were, like, “Michael’s the best in the world!” or, “I hate Michael!” I don’t care, you know? It really doesn’t matter to me, but I really care about people that I have made…

01:28 Amy Port: It’s true! It’s true! I mean, I just want to step on that for a moment, because that’s one of those statements that it’s easy to say, like, “Oh, yeah, really? Of course you care!” But there’s a piece, for you, Michael, that has had a profound effect on me, which is, that you really are focused on what the results are, whether they are internal results or external results, rather than approval.

And that’s easier said than done, but it’s something that I’ve seen you live and teach by example so many times. And it’s influential in our community here.

02:04 Michael Port: It’s something that I’ve had to work on, over the years. It is not a natural disposition for me. One of my best friends, growing up, is a fellow named Ben Turk, and, of course, you know Ben. And Ben really, since day one, since we were little kids, we’ve known each other forever, he really doesn’t care what anybody thinks. Honestly.

He will say anything, he’ll do anything, he doesn’t care. If you say, “Look, you’re a jerk!” he’ll say, “Okay.” He couldn’t care less. Not everybody is like that. He became a venture capitalist and now runs a hedge fund. So, you see, there’s a synergy there, there’s alignment there.

But for me, it wasn’t like that naturally. I mean, most people don’t become actors because they don’t want approval. I wanted a lot of approval when I was younger, and I’m not saying I don’t want it now, too, because sometimes I feel myself gravitating towards that desire. But, really, it’s just not satisfying in any way shape or form.

02:57 Amy Port: Interestingly enough, this question about results versus approval, I think, has had a pretty strong effect on my trajectory, because it wasn’t, for me, that I loved acting that’s not what drove me into it. It was, interestingly enough, that people repeatedly said to me, “Wow! You’re really good at this.”

03:16 Michael Port: Yeah, you are.

03:17 Amy Port: And that’s what had me doing it in high school and undergrad, and then, when I got into Yale, and I literally remember saying to my parents, “Well, I auditioned to the drama grad schools because they say it takes years to get in,” and I thought, “Well, maybe in three or five years I’ll want to do this. I may as well audition now and get the experience.”

And then, when I got in, went “Well, now what do I do? Because I don’t know that I want this career. I don’t know that I love acting, and yet, when you get those opportunities, you take them. You get opportunities that good.

03:49 Michael Port: You know, you never told me that, actually, in such specific terms, how you were kind of like, “Well, I’ll audition and see, and maybe I’ll go in six years.” That’s interesting. And, of course, you got into all the places you auditioned.

04:02 Amy Port: Yeah, I got into the top two, and I got way listed at the third, which was not as…

04:07 Michael Port: The lower one.

04:08 Amy Port: Yeah, but they were also, that was the order than I did the auditioning in. So I had more of those auditions under my belt, and I had really good guidance in that audition process, from a man named Paul Moser, who was a graduate of Yale Drama, and was my main professor at Oberlin, where I did undergrad.

He had me doing fake auditions in rooms all over campus, before my grad school auditions, with lots of strangers I had never met.

04:32 Michael Port: That’s great! Maybe that’s why I only got into NYU grad and not Yale.

04:37 Amy Port: I think that must be it.

04:38 Michael Port: Clearly must have been it.

04:39 Amy Port: But, I bring it up, just because that certainly has had an effect on the trajectory of my life. I wouldn’t have been surprised that, had there not been such guidance in the form of, “Hey! You’re good at this! Hey! You’re good at this!” If I might have still been in the theatre, but might have gone into directing rather than acting.

And now, how interesting that I find that work so much more fulfilling. The teaching, the directing, the coaching, than I ever did the actual being on stage myself.

05:13 Michael Port: Interesting, interesting. Was there anything else you wanted to say about the results and approval piece, about how you think about the work you do on it now, with respect to results, rather than doing it for approval?

Well, let’s talk about the process, because there were some bumps in the process. There were a couple of points of resistance from you, in the process. So I want to talk about that. I don’t want people to assume that everything we do is easy.

05:40 Amy Port: This was not easy.

05:42 Michael Port: No, it was not easy at all. In fact, most of the things we do are not easy. If they were really easy, you wouldn’t be listening to us, because it’s not interesting watching people do easy things, it’s interesting watching people do more challenging things. So, first of all, did you resist this? I guess we should start with. And why?

06:00 Amy Port: I did. I think there’s no question that I did. So, in my recollection, and we know that different people’s recollection is different, but I, the whole idea of movie scenes, I’m not sure that I actually knew about until we had that first draft going and you’d been working on that for what, a month or something?

06:15 Michael Port: That’s correct.

06:16 Amy Port: A month or six weeks. You’d put substantial effort, substantial creative energy and writing time into the script before I saw it. Now, again, we’re collaborators. That’s something he does really well. Not something I do really well. We’re in the right roles.

But when I first saw that script, I did have, without a doubt, an, “Oh, shoot!” moment. Especially given that I see that I’m playing Tom Cruise twice, that it is comedically based, which I don’t think of as being my skill set. The kinds of things I was cast in as a performer were Shakespeare and Chekhov and really powerful dramas, and not the big comedic roles.

So, I had a couple of moments where I went, “Oh, I going to fail. Oh, gosh! What do I do with this?” I’m playing a male character. If it is a spoof, am I trying to impersonate him? Is that a skill set I can tap into? I was very challenged to find how to step into the roles I was being asked to play, when they did not come naturally to me.

07:32 Michael Port: And, this is one of the reasons that I didn’t show her the first draft in those first six weeks, because I was fully aware of this, and I knew what she was capable of. In fact, the biggest laugh of the whole show, was Amy’s line.

Now, I might have written it, but she has to deliver it, and delivering it is, I think, the harder part, and it was the best line of the whole thing, biggest laugh! And when you watch it, you’ll see, she’s hysterical!

She has great comedic timing, she is a great physical performer. So, not just a great physical comedian, but a great physical performer in general. You can see how in her body she is, and she makes incredibly interesting specific choices, as a performer.

08:24 Amy Port: So here’s one of the things that I think might be valuable to the listeners. There are choices that you make, as a performer, that are conscious choices, where you say, “I’m going to do this at this point,” or, “Here I see this pivot in the content, I’m going to play a different action.”

And there are other choices that happen, that are purely creative choices that come from allowing yourself to play in the process, and experience a degree of freedom. And that is why we say, “Let’s not discuss it every time we do it in rehearsal, let’s play and see what works. Try this choice, try that choice.”

It’s rare that we say, “Say the line like this…”

09:08 Michael Port: Correct.

09:10 Amy Port: Because we want to see what your creativity, what your self expression, brings out of you. That’s what makes things work. They’re not always, “Well, I’m going to consciously make this choice,” but rather, the act of choosing, itself, that delivers the choice. Does that make sense, Michael?

09:29 Michael Port: I think so. I mean, we could certainly break it down a little bit more, if you want, but it goes back to what we were talking about at the beginning: choices. You are the sum of your choices.

And one of the reasons that, often, people aren’t willing to do this rehearsal process is because during the rehearsal process, a lot of the choices you make don’t really work that well, so they don’t feel that good. And if rehearsal doesn’t feel good, you might think it’s not working.

09:54 Amy Port: We had a lot of rehearsals that didn’t feel good.

09:57 Michael Port: Yeah, but that’s why you have the rehearsals, so you can move through that part, so that when you actually deliver it to an audience, it doesn’t feel that way. And the thing that we have, that I hope you have, is that we trust the process.

And, even though you were resistant and had some anxiety about some aspects of it, you trusted the process, and you trusted that you knew how to work through the process and that you’d get where you needed to go, I think, ultimately, even though you were anxious about it.

Because I think if you really didn’t think you could get where you needed to go, you would have said, “Michael, we have to do it differently.”

10:34 Amy Port: The other piece of that, I agree with that, and there’s another component to it, which is commitment. Something that you and I say very clearly around here is that we believe strongly in making commitments, and fulfilling them. And I had a commitment, not just to you, not just to our students, our staff and the audience, I had a commitment, not just to doing it, but to making it work.

And so, there was a kind of resolve in me, even when I had moments where I quite honestly thought to myself, “I don’t want to do this. I don’t to do this.” I had those moments, but they always very quickly and intentionally came around to, “I’m committed and I’m going to make this work.”

And part of the beauty, for me, in the experience, then, is that when we got to show time, when we were in the wings, I was not nervous at all! In a way that actually felt kind of new to me. There was such a calmness and a security by having gone through the process, that I was as steady and grounded and calm before a performance and walking out on stage as I have ever remembered.

11:51 Michael Port: That’s fantastic! And that’s really meaningful, because experiences that are really easy don’t tend to produce  a lot of meaning. We don’t really remember them, because they’re not that significant.

But experiences that really challenge us, where we come out on the other side, and produce what we wanted to produce, that’s where the meaning is created. You’ll never forget that process, and any time, the next time you’re faced with the same kind of challenge, you’ll have that, “Last time I had the same feeling. I dug in, I ended up over here, I felt better than I ever have felt when I went to perform, because I went through that.”

And that just keeps raising your confidence and each time it gives us the ability to do bigger things and to try new things, and to take what seemed like big risks to other people.

12:41 Amy Port: Make bigger commitments.

12:42 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s right.

12:43 Amy Port: Make bigger commitments than we are sometimes comfortable making. And part of that for me, too, is to continue to surround myself [with] people that I am committed to.

12:57 Michael Port: That’s right, and, look, this is something that is a big part of our work, as the leaders, or the owners, of this company, and our work with all of our students. On the corporate side and on the consumer side.

What we are able to do when we meet somebody and put them on the stage in front of us is, we’re very quickly able to see what they’re capable of. And, often, what we see is much larger than what they see.

And so, we continue to coax and ask people to move into that space. But we would never ask somebody to do something that we didn’t think they were capable of. Now, we’re not the arbiters of who’s capable of what, but if I didn’t think that you could do that work, brilliantly, I would never have written it and I would never have asked you to do it.

But I knew, 100%, “She’s going to kill this!” For whatever reason at this time in your life, you felt, like, “Well, I’m not sure if I can do this, it’s not my thing, I haven’t done something like this before.” But I had no doubt.

And, in fact, my feeling was, you’ll do it better than me. You’ll be the one that will carry the show if I can’t pull it off.

14:18 Amy Port: That was not the case, though, clearly.

14:21 Michael Port: No, we both did our jobs, but, nonetheless, that was the way I saw it. And if you have partners, and you can see them like that, and they see you like that, well that’s a pretty good partnership, it’s a pretty good relationship.

And Amy and I would be a little bored, I think, if we weren’t challenging ourselves in some way. I mean, eventually we’ll retire and we’ll travel around the world on our boat, and we might not challenge ourselves on stage at that point, but we’ll challenge ourself to go a little bit farther and try a new destination that we’ve never experienced.

Amy’s getting choked up over there. I’ll just give her a minute.

Okay, so, a couple of more things, because there’s a lot to unpack here. There were some things that we questioned during the rehearsal process. One of them was the accent that I would use, when playing the character of Rod Tidwell, in Jerry MacGuire, played by Cuba Gooding Jr.

Now, because you’re doing a spoof, you’re playing a version of the actor, spoofing their performance, with respect, 100% respect, spoofing that performance, so you’re infusing some of their characteristics, mannerisms, gestures, expressions, actions, physical choices, et cetera, so that it resembles the character, or reminds you of the character, or reflects the character.

But, of course, I’m not an impersonator. Amy’s not an impersonator. So, of course, we wouldn’t impersonate those characters, we would play our versions of them, by trying to bring in a little bit of the actor who played the character.

Because, the difference between Jerry MacGuire and Hamlet, is that thousands of people have played Hamlet. Only one actor has played Rod Tidwell in Jerry MacGuire. So, any time you think of Jerry Macguire, it’s Cuba Gooding Jr’s character, and his character was so rich and full and complete.

16:43 Amy Port: And brilliantly played.

16:44 Michael Port: And brilliantly played, that you’ll remember it forever if you’ve seen the film. So, Cuba Gooding Jr is African-American, and his character is a football player, and the actor makes very specific language choices in it, that fit perfectly with that character, as written.

17:08 Amy Port: The character has a great deal of bravado.

17:10 Michael Port: A great deal of bravado. He is really, actually, a true performer as the personality of that character, and he’s all heart, so he’s big! And he makes big choices. And so, one of the things I was worried about, I was worried about trying to do his dialect and come off sounding like I was making fun of it in some way.

And I wasn’t and wouldn’t, ever! But, again, I’m not an impersonator, so I can’t do it exactly. So I had to try to find the line of, “How do I do it so it represents him?” Because at one point, as an exercise, we played it that I played it straight, the way that I would normally speak, to see how it would play and if it would work that way.

And because of the way the scenes were written, originally, by Cameron Crowe, who is the author of the film, and in my rewrites to fit our keynote, it sounded ridiculous.

18:09 Amy Port: It did.

18:10 Michael Port: Just playing it like me. And, you know what it sounded like? It sounded like if your dad was trying to be cool. That’s what it sounded like. It was like a bunch of dad jokes that way. It just didn’t work. So I said, “I’m willing to try it,” and, thank goodness! I feel like we did it. We made it work.

And the feedback from folks is 100% positive across the board, with respect to that particular piece, that, of course we received. I mean there could have been people who didn’t like it, or had an issue with it.

But, overall, we felt that we walked the line, or straddled the line and did it in a way that gave respect to the character and the way of being of that character, the style, et cetera.

19:00 Amy Port: Yeah, and interestingly enough, when we went back and watched Jerry MacGuire, I went, “Oh, this isn’t about the René Zellweger character. It’s not a love story between her and Tom Cruise, it’s a love story between Cuba Gooding Jr and Tom Cruise!”

Like, it’s the story of this beautiful developing friendship and real love for each other. And so, we were looking to bring some of that in.

19:26 Michael Port: Because they battle each other throughout. They’re the antagonist and protagonist, and they battle against each other, to a certain extent.

19:34 Amy Port: Yeah. But part of doing a spoof, too, comes out of, I think, that love for the characters, not a mocking, not a making fun.

19:41 Michael Port: It’s very difficult to spoof something well, if you’re truly making fun of it. That’s something else.

19:48 Amy Port: So, it was interesting, because even with the Meg Ryan character, with When Harry Met Sally, I had to look for, “Okay, well, how is her physicality different from mine?” And there were just a couple of clear conscious choices I needed to make, for doing that.

And part of them was just this big rounding of my shoulders forward, that then affected my voice and affected my mannerisms, and everything else. But the trigger for that, for me, was just, rather than having this very tall spine that I’m used to having, was just this rounding of the shoulders forward.

And when you’re present in your body, one choice like that can affect everything else.

20:24 Michael Port: When you watch the video of it, take note of the physical choices that we made throughout, for each character, and for the scenes in between, when we were playing ourselves.

20:36 Amy Port: Contrast.

20:37 Michael Port: Because you’ll see, “Oh, wow! She did round her shoulders there, I see! That’s not her normal physicality. I didn’t think about it when I saw it, but now I’m looking for it, I actually see it. But before, I just felt it. There was something about the character.”

And then, if you look at what I do with the Jack Nicholson character, is the way that I sit, with my shoulders back and my chest out, my belly extended.

21:05 Amy Port: This crazy frown.

21:06 Michael Port: This frown of my face, and it’s really just from a physicality of leaning back and gripping one wrist with one hand, but opening up my shoulders and getting quite proud of myself.

21:20 Amy Port: He’s doing it right now!

21:22 Michael Port: I’m doing it myself. And then it changes everything. The way you talk, starts to change, and I start to inhabit that, and now I come back to myself and I’m much more normal, and you’ll see my speech is generally pretty quick and usually upbeat and lifted, whereas his was not. At all.

So, look for that physicality, and then we’ll start to wrap up, because it’s just about time and we’ve got other things to do. I think we have, probably.

21:50 Amy Port: I think we can do a part two of this.

21:52 Michael Port: I think we can definitely do a part two of this. You know, what’s going to happen is, we’re going to get hundreds of e-mails, “We want more Amy! We want more Amy!”

I’ve been trying to get her on the show more, but she says she’s busy. She’s like, “Ah, I don’t have time for that nonsense! You do it!” Like, “Okay.”

22:07 Amy Port: That’s exactly what I said.

22:08 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s exactly what she she said. But I’d love to get her on here a bit more.

22:13 Amy Port: There’s one more thing I just want to touch on about the accent. We did a run-through where I said, “Do it with a strong New York accent,” and that was when, when he did that, that was when we realised, that was actually very close to the character.

22:27 Michael Port: That’s right! Cuba Gooding Jr’s dialect, in there, has some very New York, or East Coast, inflections. And so, there were more similarities there than you might imagine. Also, dialects are influenced, usually, by different uses of the same sounds, so if a word ends in ‘ar’, in almost every dialect it’s going to sound different.

The British and the Bostonians, the New Englanders, don’t use the R, on certain words, and then, on other words they insert it, so my uncle, who is from Boston, says, ‘idear’. That’s not the word, it’s ‘idea’. But he puts an R at the end, which is something that a lot of New Englanders do.

But when he says ‘car’, he’ll say, ‘cah’. So he takes off the R, or ‘pahk’.

23:21 Amy Port: “Serial killah.”

23:22 Michael Port: “Serial killah”, ye right! So this little scene in the keynote, where Amy says I look like a…

23:30 Amy Port: A serial killah.

23:31 Michael Port: Yeah, and so she takes the R off that word, because she’s playing this hoity-toity character.

23:35 Amy Port: A’s and R’s. If you’re looking at dialects, A’s and R’s tell you a lot.

23:39 Michael Port: That’s exactly right. And then, let’s just hit a day of, and rehearsal of the night before, and then we’ll wrap up.

You know, look, when you do a play, you have, usually an extended period of rehearsal, or at least an appropriate period of rehearsal. Generally actors always want more rehearsal, but after rehearsal you have tech, or dress and tech.

24:04 Amy Port: For days.

24:05 Michael Port: Well, then you have previews. Well, yes, you could have tech for many days, in a big show.

24:11 Amy Port: You do what they call a ten out of twelve, as the last one, where you have a twelve hour day. You are up on stage, working all the tech.

24:17 Michael Port: That’s right. And then you might get a month of previews, before it actually opens. So you have a lot of time before an audience comes in and you get to experience the world that you created, with an audience.

And that audience influences that world. And so, this script is what I would call an inside baseball script. If we did this same script for Coca-Cola’s annual conference, I think it would bomb. They would be very confused.

24:48 Amy Port: It wouldn’t be relevant. There would be a lot of lines that wouldn’t be relevant.

24:49 Michael Port: It wouldn’t be relevant. And a lot of lines wouldn’t make sense. So, there’s so much inside baseball, which is, of course, inside professional speaking, that we believed those lines would work really well, but we didn’t have the ability to work that in front of a large audience, given our schedule and when that was.

So we did the open rehearsal process, which is always part of the process, but the open rehearsal was about ten members of our staff, plus a few other folks, here. And it went very well, but some of the things that we would expect laughter at, they didn’t really laugh.

Now, they know the industry, because, obviously, they work here, but they’re not professional speakers. And so, our inside baseball jokes went over a lot of their heads.

5:38 Amy Port: And, a number of them are from a younger generation than we are, and they hadn’t all seen Jerry MacGuire, or When Harry Met Sally, or A Few Good Men. Now one of the things that we were told about the NSA audience is, a lot of them, most of them, were our generation or older. So that’s a piece of relevancy that really mattered for this to work.

2:59 Michael Port: Exactly. And there was, in fact, one of the Millennials said, “No, I never saw it in the movies, but I saw those scenes on YouTube.” Like, “Yes! Exactly!” So he said, “I know what they are!” And then others had kind of heard of them, and some had no idea, but the scene made sense, because of the way we rewrote it as it relates to the topic at hand. And it was fun and funny anyway.

But, what made it particularly funny, we had about four minutes of laughs in a 21… So, it’s a 30 minute slot that we had, and 30 minutes is perfect for this, because an hour of this would have been to much, I think. Thirty minutes is just right, so we write a 21 minute speech, or actually, a 20 minute speech is what it was when you just do a table read.

We knew one minute included the introduction and the setting the stage, because there were multiple set pieces and props, on those set pieces and throughout the space. And so, that took 60 seconds to set, so there’s 22.

And then we said, “Okay, we know we have 8 minutes to play,” and so, we had another four minutes of laughter that we had to hold for, in that, officially, 21 minute speech. So, with the intro and the laughter, 21, 22, plus four is 26.

The whole thing was 26 minutes, which still brings us in four minutes ahead of schedule, which was the goal.

27:18 Amy Port: And it put the event back on schedule, because it had been running late.

27:20 Michael Port: They were late, and it just so happened that we were the last one before break, before the breakouts, and we were able to put it back on schedule, pretty much, so that just was lucky that, well, it wasn’t lucky that we did it. I mean, we planned on doing it that way because, often, that happens, and we don’t want to run the risk of going over, because going over time on a keynote like that, is the first sign of an amateur.

27:45 Amy Port: But normally there is a substantial amount of tech rehearsal. Because, especially in a piece like this, but in any performance piece, the light cues matter, the sound cues matter, the timing of it matters. The stage manager has a copy of that script and they have filled out a whole book with all of the cues in it. This was a different scenario.

28:07 Michael Port: And you run those cues many, many times before you actually bring in an audience, and we were supposed to have two hours of rehearsal.

28:17 Amy Port: Neen had really gone to bat for us, Tammy had really gone to bat for us, to get us that time.

28:22 Michael Port: Correct. So, it was 6 to 8 on Saturday night, and it was Sunday morning that we were giving the keynote, and so we had the set pieces shipped ahead, cost us about $1,500 to make the set pieces and then about $900 to ship it, and about the same to ship it back, because it had to be packed. Apparently the packing is very expensive for these things.

28:40 Amy Port: They were heavy.

28:42 Michael Port: And they were very, very heavy. So, A, we had to have those sets, so they had to be spiked on the stage, which means taped so they know where they go. The flow of stage hands how it’s brought on has to all be blocked out.

We had, again, music cues that I control in the deck, so they had to make sure that they understood the technology that we were using in our deck, and then we have lighting cues that I had written into the script, that were highlighted and bolded, so they knew when to go lights up full, and when lights down.

So, it was all written out for them, and so we figured, “Okay, two hours will be fine.” We got there, they said, “You don’t have two hours, you have 20 minutes.” And we kind of had this moment of, “Ah, Bu… Wha…”

29:25 Amy Port: And they didn’t know where our set pieces were.

29:28 Michael Port: They didn’t know where our set pieces were.

29:29 Amy Port: Lovely crew, lovely, lovely people.

29:30 Michael Port: Yeah, they were lovely, but here’s the thing, because this crew probably does events like this all the time, they’re probably not used to one speech being so intricate. And they may have some cues in other speeches or they go up with the  lights, and then down with the lights at the beginning or the end, you know?

Even though they’re professionals, when a professional has to do something they’ve never done before, it just creates, sometimes, it can be a little provoking, because it’s outside of the normal script.

30:01 Amy Port: Even though it was not, when we arrived, it was not what we expected, and it was clearly not what they expected, what happened from that point on, once everyone went, “Oh, this is different than we anticipated, was really phenomenal.

And the crew did a great job. They didn’t have enough people, enough stage hands to actually get the set pieces on in the seconds that we had to do that.

30:26 Michael Port: Even though it was a big crew. I mean, they maybe had, probably, a crew of fifteen or twenty total.

30:32 Amy Port: But Mike Ganino stepped up, Tammy Evans, Jake Thompson, who was one of our students, who was also there as a member of NSA, he came to help, and Ally Sobet who works for us.

30:44 Michael Port: She travels with us, yeah.

30:45 Amy Port: They became our crew who set the stage, who set the props, and it was a beautiful example of how, in this business, you are not doing anything alone. This was not just me and Michael. If you think about how he described the writing process, it was Christina, and feedback from Ron, and feedback from, you know, and then the actual production of it.

From the building of the set pieces, to getting the jacket where it needed to be, I mean, it took a lot of people. We can do more together than we can alone.

31:20 Michael Port: That’s exactly right, and in fact, when we discovered that something different was communicated to the crew, than what had been communicated to us, we had to figure out how to solve this problem, and really get everybody to see what needed to be done in order to make this thing work.

And, because Neen was with us, and Neen was on the Board of NSA, she went and got the CEO, and brought the CEO of the organisation in, which, of course, we hate to trouble her, but this was a high stakes situation for all of them, this was not important just to us, this was important to them. This was one of their keynote, morning speeches.

And she came in and said, “They can have whatever they want.” It was incredible. She was great, brilliant. And we only needed one hour, not even two. So we did the whole thing in one hour, and it worked great.

The crew, actually, was really psyched, because they were doing some fun stuff they hadn’t done before. They thought it was really cool.

32:17 Amy Port: They were laughing.

32:18 Michael Port: They were laughing, really hard, and so it ended up being a win for everybody, and that’s ultimately the goal. None of these theatrical experiences are… They can be driven by one person, but they are not the aggregate of one person. A one person show, Off-Broadway, or a comedy special with Chris Rock, is not just that person.

So, Chris Rock may write his material, but then he also might work with other writers, and he gives it to his friends for feedback, and then he works it out in clubs for a year or two, before the special, so he’s getting feedback from the audience on the material as he’s working it out and he has a director and a set designer and a lighting designer and a sound designer and a stage manager, and a make-up artist and a hair stylist, it’s just on and on.

33:07 Amy Port: And a person who watches your kids when you need to be at work. Everybody! There are so many people that go into this, and being the person who is out there, who is brave enough to take the stage, or is brave enough to drive the project, that is tremendous, too.

And we work with so many people who are in that role, or want to step into, or more fully live into that role, and we applaud that.

33:38 Michael Port: Indeed. And I would say, in closing, I would say this: If you’re going to be the person to drive a project like this, it helps to be somebody who is willing to take on the responsibility of being the driver, the figurehead, the leader of this kind of initiative.

And what I’ve found over the years is, when I have failed at something, when I have self-sabotaged something, or when I have said no to something that I probably should have said yes to, it was in large part, or has been, in large part, due to the fact that I might not have felt that I could handle it.

That I didn’t have enough responsibility to be able to handle another thing, or a bigger thing, or a more high stakes thing. And so, I realise that, “Oh, I see! The level of success that I’m having with my endeavours is directly proportionate to the amount of responsibility that I think I can handle.”

And so I thought, “Well, what if I start focusing on being able to handle more responsibility? What if I look at it like that? That I just have a responsibility to play this role in this situation? And that’s my responsibility, and I’m going to keep leaning into that responsibility.”

And as a result, I feel like we keep growing, and I keep growing as a person. And when I look back at the things that I could handle five years ago, or ten years ago, they seem quite small, compared to what I feel like I can handle now.

And what I’ll be able to handle in five years from now should be larger than what I can handle now. And look, you know, we don’t have to do big things just to do big things, like you’re a special person because you do them. I’m not. I’m not a special person because I try to do things that are different, or have some scale to them, it’s just what I’m interested in.

Whatever we are interested in, is what’s important. I think that’s, if you’re interested in, I don’t know, going to every wine bar in the world, that’s really cool! Go for it! You know? I don’t know…

35:40 Amy Port: You’re giving me ideas now.

35:42 Michael Port: Yeah, exactly! Well, of course, Amy likes a glass of wine more than I do, so maybe that’s why I thought about that. I don’t have a great example for them right now, but I think you understand my point. It’s that we should all decide what it means to do big things. We are not asking anyone to do what we do, we’re not saying, “Oh, everyone should do performances like this, or you should use movie scenes, or this.”

No! You do it your way, based on the way you want to express yourself for the people that you’re meant to serve, but if you believe that there’s an opportunity to try something new or different, or that scares you, then please do that.

Take on the responsibility of being able to try the ideas that you have. Because if you have the idea, it’s likely you’re capable of initiating that idea, and producing that idea.

36:36 Amy Port: I like that!

36:38 Michael Port: I like you.

36:40 Amy Port: He does! I like him, too!

36:43 Michael Port: Amy Port, thank you for being on Steal the Show with Michael Port! This is actually not really my show, it’s our show, I just have to do it. But I’m going to try to get her to come on more, and maybe get her to do some without me, would be fantastic!

36:57 Amy Port: Fantastic!

36:58 Michael Port: Fantastic!

36:59 Amy Port: He’s pushing me outside my comfort zone.

37:00 Michael Port: Alrighty! So, in closing, instead of my usual close, I’ll just say this: That’s it. That was just a dramatic pause…

37:08 Amy Port: It was a beat!

37:09 Michael Port: It was a beat! No, listen, thank you so much for being here, we never take it for granted. The show is produced by Laura Bernstein, who is our director of communications. It’s edited by Kast Media. The music is by Shammy Dee.

And we do this because it’s a way to connect with you and serve you without you having to make any trips or spend any money. We just want to connect with you and help you do big things in the world as a person and as a performer.

So, keep thinking big about who you are, and what you offer the world. We love you very much…

37:50 Michael and Amy Port: And not in a weird way…

37:52 Michael Port: But we love you for being the big thinker that you are and for standing in the service of others, as you stand in the service of your destiny. Bye for now.

38:00 Amy Port: Bye.