I‘m a stand-up comic by profession. A couple of years ago, I was working at a radio station WBLS-FM in New York, doing the weather and traffic as this character June East (Mae West’s long-lost sister). One day, Dinah Prince from the Daily News called and said she wanted to do an article on me. When she had finished interviewing me for the article, she asked, “What are you planning to do next?’
Next? Well at the time there was nothing I was planning on doing next, so I asked her what she meant, stalling for time. She said she really wanted to follow my career. Here was a woman from The Daily News telling me she was interested in me! So I thought I’d better tell her something. What came out was, “I’m thinking about breaking the Guinness Book of World Records for the Fastest Talking Female.” The newspaper article came out the next day, and she included my parting remarks about trying to break the world’s Fastest-Talking Female record. At about 5:00 P.M. that afternoon, I got a call from CNN asking me to go on the Larry King Live Show. They wanted me to try to break the record. They told me they would send a limo to pick me up at 8:00. That was only 3 hours. They insisted because they wanted me to do it that same night! Talk about pressure.
Now, I had never heard of Larry King Live, and when I heard the woman say she was from the Manhattan Channel, I thought, “Hmmm that’s a porn channel, right?” She patiently assured me that it was a respectable national television show and that this was a one-time offer and opportunity – it was either that night or not at all.
I stared at the phone. I had a gig that night in New Jersey, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out which of the two engagements I should do. I told her I had to find a replacement for my 7:00 show. I started calling every comic I knew. By the grace of God, I finally found one who would fill in for me. With five minutes before the deadline, I told the producer of the Larry King Live Show I could make it.
Then I sat down to figure out what on earth I was going to do on the show. I called Guinness to find out what the rules were to break a fast-talking record. They told me I would have to recite something from either Shakespeare or the Bible.
Suddenly I started saying the ninety-first Psalm, a prayer for protection that my mom had taught me. Shakespeare and I had never really gotten along, so I figured the Bible was my only hope. I began practicing and practicing, over and over again. Timing myself with a stop watch to see how fast I could do it. I was both nervous and excited at the same time.
At 8:00, the limousine picked me up. I practiced the whole way there, and by the time I reached the New York studio I felt as if my tongue was going to fall off. I asked the producer, “What if I don’t break the record?’ “Larry doesn’t care if you break it or not,” she said, “He just cares that you try it on his show first.” So I asked myself, “What’s the worst thing that can happen.? I’ll look like a fool on national television! A minor thing, I told myself, thinking I could live through that. Then I asked, “And what if I break the record?” Now that would be great.
So I decided just to give it my best shot, and I did. I broke the record, becoming the World’s Fastest Talking Female by speaking 585 words in one minute in front of a national television audience. (I broke it again two years later, with 603 words per minute.) My career took off.
People often ask me how I did that. Or how I’ve managed to do many of the things I’ve done, like lecturing for the first time, or going on stage or bungee jumping. I tell them I live my life by this simple philosophy: I always say yes first, then I ask, Now, what do I have to do to accomplish that?
Then I ask myself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I don’t succeed? The answer is simply, I don’t succeed! And what’s the best thing that can happen? I succeed.
What more can life ask of you? Be yourself, and have a good time!