I caught Don Rickles’ act in Las Vegas many years ago. It was a very unique experience.

While most people were dreading sitting in the front row so they wouldn’t get picked on, they needn’t have worried. He didn’t make fun of anyone in the audience. In fact, he didn’t tell one joke.

Instead, he told a long, rambling monologue about his relationship with his mother. I don’t recall any of the details, but it reminded me of what someone would say to a psychologist, not an audience that paid money to hear jokes.

It was very personal.

No one laughed. No one demanded he tell jokes. For all I know, no one asked for their money back.

I don’t know what was going on in his life, or why he felt the need to tell several thousand strangers his innermost secrets and darkest moments, but he did.

What can we learn from this?

When you appear vulnerable, people warm up to you. I’ve seen speakers use this to great effect. In some cases, an intimacy does develop. In other cases, you say, “If he can overcome this, so can I.” In other cases, it comes off as an act, phony and insincere.

Keynote speaker and humorist Tim Gard, CSP, puts it best when he says, “Don’t tell the story. Relive the story.”