How comedian Kyle Cease learned to combine jokes with motivational speaking

"It's as if you went to a comedy club but grew a little (as a person) as a result," says Kyle Cease. Courtesy photo
“It’s as if you went to a comedy club but grew a little (as a person) as a result,” says Kyle Cease.
Courtesy photo

What would happen if Jim Carrey and Eckhart Tolle had a child?”

The answer, according to the man himself, is Kyle Cease, who brings an evening of comedy and motivational speaking to the Unity of Santa Barbara for two separate events this weekend. Tonight’s 90-minute event is the stand-up part; tomorrow is a mini-version of his “Evolving Out Loud” seminar from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

For the motivational side, however, he adds that unlike many other speakers, he is not convincing audiences to be like him. He has no get-rich-quick scheme to sell, though he will tell you how he turned his life around. The only person he can talk about is himself, but you just might learn something along the way.

“It’s as if you went to a comedy club but grew a little (as a person) as a result,” he says. “Instead of just laughing at our problems, let’s learn how to leave them behind.”

He does not affiliate with any religion, though a lot of what he says resembles the philosophical side of Buddhism, in the sense that we create traps and doomed narratives for ourselves.

In the early 2000s, Mr. Cease was a rising stand-up comedy star, playing bars and clubs, earning his stripes, on his way to a successful career. Yes, he was ruining his body with drive-thru food, and yes he wasn’t sleeping because of his travel schedule, and yes he landed in the hospital with pneumonia from the aformentioned bodily abuse, but he was making it. He could do his routine in his sleep. And that too was a problem.

“If you don’t keep creating, I believe, your mind will sabotage you,” Mr. Cease says. “Your mind will come up with really creative anxiety-based fears.” That’s when, in 2005, he started to convince himself that he would faint on stage and sabotage his career. It got to the point that after 15 years of performing he got such bad stage fright he couldn’t even walk.

But somewhere along the way – in fact, the way he tells it, somewhere between the first and second acts of his successful Comedy Central special – he had the breakthrough. His mind had created the whole bad situation . . . why couldn’t he create a great situation? “I pictured how I could have the number-one Comedy Central special.”

The power of positive thinking changed not only his comedy career, but Kyle Cease’s entire purpose, becoming an interesting hybrid: the stand-up comedian who also serves as a motivational speaker, and vice versa.

“What most don’t realize is that if you change your circumstances and you’re happy, you’re still the victim of your circumstances . . . Now I’m of the belief that instead of thinking that we’re here to make it happen, I believe we’re all like a helium balloon that’s always going up but we’re just tied to crap, like what the news, or what CNN said about us. But we’re the sky and those thoughts are just clouds.”

Once Mr. Cease figured out a way to make a successful living from comedy – by hitting the corporate and lecture circuit instead of the bar and club scene – he was able to then think about other things. He doesn’t have a secret to amassing riches, and if anything his philosophy comes down to figuring out your own skills and talents and harnessing experience. Even, he gives as an example, if your experience of dating is one of 30 years of failure, that’s experience nobody else has and that could be a book and from there who knows?

He doesn’t take himself seriously, and he doesn’t want people to look to him as having the answers. “If you sound really happy, some people assume you’re in a cult or a Scientologist. Cults form when you get addicted to the method. The second people feel a little free, people start to look at the method. Is it because we ate raw food? Is it because of this guy? That’s madness to me. My only belief is love liberates people and is not something that ties people up. I’m not here to liberate people. I’m here to liberate myself.”

Kyle Cease Evolving Out Loud
When: 7:30 p.m. tonight and 10 a.m. Saturday
Where: Unity of Santa Barbara, 227 E. Arrellaga St.
Cost: $25 (tonight); $47 (Saturday)
Information: www.kylecease.com

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