A few years ago, I attended an event featuring comedy legend Tom Dreesen. He returned home to Chicago to share a few words with a small group of fans at WLS-AM 890 during an event hosted by Chicago radio personalities, Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano.
Before Dreesen came out to address the crowd, Sirott and Murciano explained this was their first time doing a post-show chat and Q&A with a guest. They said Dreesen was the natural first choice for this inaugural event, as listeners were intrigued by the wise words he’d spoken on their radio show during the years.
Dreesen is known for his comedy — he opened for Frank Sinatra for 13 years and was part of the first Black and white comedy duo with Tim Reid.
These days, Dreesen continues his comedy work and also works in the motivational-speech circuit.
Dreesen came on stage and told his story and, in turn, inspired the audience to look at their lives a little bit differently. He acknowledged he often is asked about how he’s gotten to where he is, and he attributes his success to four things: perception, visualization, self-talk and a sense of humor.
In regard to perception, Dreesen tells a tale of a young boy going into his backyard with a baseball and a bat. The boy says, “I’m the greatest hitter in the world.” He throws the ball, he swings and misses. He does this two more times and misses both times. Finally, he says, “I’m the greatest pitcher in the world.”
The boy changed his perception on what his role is based on what he was noticing was happening.
Rather than getting upset he wasn’t succeeding at hitting, he decided to find a silver lining. This was a good reminder to focus on the things you are good at, rather than dwell on the things that aren’t your definition of perfect.
With visualization, Dreesen reflected on when he was living out of a car in California, waiting to get his big break. While walking up and down Sunset Boulevard, offering to do stand-up sets for free, Dreesen would visualize himself being interviewed by Johnny Carson with Carson telling him what a funny guy he is.
He persevered with building up his resume and working the comedy circuit and appeared on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” 61 times.
Dreesen said this would have been impossible without visualization. The concept was he had a goal in mind to work toward.
He went on to talk about the significance of self-talk. His point was to say we are in control of our thoughts, and if we constantly are bogging our minds down with negative thoughts, that will be how we view the world.
He used a visual example for this by holding up a glass of water. “If someone told you to drink this, you probably would,” he said. He then poured a handful of dirt into the glass and said no one would drink this now. “If you wouldn’t drink dirt, why would you think dirt?” he asked the audience.
His final step for success is encouraging others to develop a sense of humor. He asserted being able to laugh at yourself makes it a lot easier to deal with whatever life might throw at you.
Dreesen’s advice? Laugh out loud at least 10 times per day, and laugh at yourself at least twice per day. “You don’t stop laughing because you get old,” he said. “You get old because you stop laughing.”