Recently I did a couple of stand-up comedy courses to help me write a five-minute “bit”. I really enjoyed writing it, but I’ve never had to learn a whole five-minute non-stop chunk of text before. Bearing in mind I’ve written a whole page of advice about learning lines, I went through my own tips.

I found I could learn individual paragraphs (far less terrifying than having to remember the whole piece), but my main problem was stringing them together in the correct order and making sure I didn’t miss anything out. The Memory Palace approach seemed perfect for this. You might remember it from Sherlock Holmes (video clip).

I assigned each bite-sized chunk to different pieces of furniture or parts of a room in my house. Each one had a startling image associated with it. With Memory Palace, the more colourful, shocking or rude the image the better! So for example, the bit about meeting my dentist was linked to a mirror in the hallway. For this, I imagined my dentist with his pointy scraper and white coat staring out at me when I looked in the mirror. Unforgettable.

So then all I had to do was walk around my house (in my imagination) and as I saw each piece of furniture in my mind, I remembered the image, which reminded me of that particular chunk. For most people using the Memory Palace technique, that would be enough. But I wanted belt and braces.

So this is where I embellished the technique. I wrote each paragraph on an index card, which I put on the relative piece of furniture or stuck onto it (like the mirror). Now, I physically walked around the house and visited each item of furniture and read the index card out loud. This physically cemented it into my mind!

When I got up on stage each paragraph came immediately to mind. At one point I accidentally mixed up the order, but all I had to do was visualise the appropriate piece of furniture and its image and I was back on track.

It’s a long-winded technique, but it meant that when I got up on stage I wasn’t sweating over remembering the whole five minutes. All I had to do was instantly remember the furniture in my house, which of course I know like the back of my hand. I’m planning to do more performances of my stand-up piece and really looking forward to it!

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