Studying A Celebrity — Clint Holmes

This continues our series of learning from the pros.  When you see a top professional, in any field, perform…watch for what they do and say that makes them great.  Adapt the skills you observe into your own life as a speaker or performer.

Clint Holmes opened his show with two high-energy songs which found him in the audience shaking hands and kissing hands before he even spoke a word.  He connected both emotionally and physically with the audience right from the start.

The very first words out of his mouth, after the second song, were funny.  “That’s our show.  Thanks for coming.  Good night!”  The audience laughed.  He laughed.  Off to a great start.

He also use the technique of “book-ending” using one of his songs.  Book-ending is bringing something early into the act or speech and then coming back to it again near the end.  He did this with his hit song, Playground In My Mind (1973). 

Let’s look at the structure of the humor as I paraphrase some of what he said:

“I’d like to sing a medley of my Top-Ten hits.  (the setup)
“Well actually, that’s one song.  (self-deprecation and the unexpected)
“I’ve only had one song that was a Top-Ten hit.  (clarifying the punchline and setting up a topper)
“But then how many have you had? (topper/unexpected comparison made possible by poking fun at himself first)
“The therapy was worth it.” (topper/brief line that let’s the audience make the humorous connection)

Then later in the show he sang his hit song again.  “When you have only one hit song, you’ve got to sing it twice.”

Effective humor.  Great structure.  Connected relaxed delivery.  It wasn’t the only humor in the show, just a sample.  See the show…you’ll love it.

Here are other elements of the show that made it really rock the house:

The band is terrific.  This could be applied to any speech or act, perhaps opening with some royalty-free music to set the mood for your talk or program.

He has the looks and energy of someone 15 years younger than his actual age.  He loves what he’s doing and it shows.  The lesson for a presenter is to stay in shape and speak on a subject for which you have passion.

He is very much in the present moment.  He interacts and reacts with the audience freely during his program.  You don’t have a sense of him being tied to a rigid script. 

The power of the personal story.  He shares stories that touch the heart.  His recovery from colon cancer.  A wonderful story of how his parents met.  I totally loved it, one of my favorite parts of the show.  He incorporated the power of photos into his act.  If you’re giving a speech and you’re talking about someone who was important in your life…can you include a photo?  During the show we met one of his best long-time friends (musical director, Bill Fayne), his sister (who sings and dances in his show), his son (who was in the audience).  A very personal show.  When it was over you really felt like you knew Clint Holmes.  You’re likely to have a great speech too, if the audience really feels that they know the real you when it’s over.

Over the years I’ve heard nothing but great reviews about Clint Holmes show which has closed its run at Harrah’s.  He is leaving Harrah’s to work on opening a new show on Broadway.  Be sure to watch for his PBS special, An Evening With Clint Holmes, which may be coming to your local Public Television Station soon. 

Studying A Celebrity series:
Barry Manilow and Rita Rudner