Stand up Comedy and Colonoscopies; The Peak-End Rule at work

You probably aren’t thinking about Jerry Seinfeld when a doctor shoves a stick up your rectum. However, these two subjects might not be as far removed as you think.

A Comedian delivering a 30 minute set and a Doctor performing a 30 minute Colonoscopy have the power to shape how their audience receives their work. Not physically. That stick, and that joke, is going one place and one place only. Mentally however, and emotionally, the doctor and comedian have the creative control to send you home thinking about the experience in a variety of ways.

Colonoscopy = Pain. That is the general association with the procedure. I don’t know this from first hand experience, but I’ll take millions of men at their word. However, studies have shown that how exactly the pain is distributed throughout the procedure affects how the patient remembers the painfulness of the operation.

Let’s run that back:
How exactly the pain is distributed throughout the procedure affects how the patient remembers the painfulness of the operation.

The studies measure the fluctuation in a patient’s pain levels throughout the colonoscopy procedure. If you are interested in reading the original article, check out

Here is a general summary:

The colonoscopies with pain levels starting off low and gradually ending on a very painful note were perceived after the fact as being a miserable experience. Extremely painful and unpleasant.

The colonoscopies that fluctuated in pain level throughout and maybe spiked toward the middle, but ended on a lower pain level, were thought of more positively. Not that bad—still painful, but had a much less negative review by patients after the fact.

Based on this study and others like it, the researchers concluded that people don’t have pure, perfect memory for their emotional experience of events. Our brains are frugal and look to cut corners wherever possible. We simply don’t have the capacity to remember every moment we experience, how we felt about it at the time, and then compute some sort of weighted average of these stored feelings when recalling the experience later.

Due to these limitations, people generally use a heuristic, or a rule of thumb, when thinking about a past experience and judging how they felt at the time. The heuristic people often use is now called the Peak-End Rule, in which we treat the two most vivid, easiest to remember parts of the experience—the peak or most intense part, and the end—as stand-ins for feelings about the whole experience. This heuristic often leads to more or less accurate judgments because the peak and the end usually correspond roughly to how we felt throughout an experience. But as this study showed, when the peak and/or end aren’t representative of the whole experience, people have the tendency to show systematic biases in their memory of the event.

How does this apply to stand up comedy?

On a random night of comedy where you see 5+ comedians perform, why are some comedians remembered more favorably than other comedians? Are there other forces at work besides the quality of jokes? Should comedians be more attentive to tapping into the mental heuristics their audience uses—or if they’re doing something like this already while unaware of the peak-end rule, are they doing it optimally?

In stand up comedy it is essential to have “a good closer.” Leave the audience on a high note. Whether it is the biggest joke or something that ties different pieces of the set together, the ending is crucial. If a comedian begins with their best material first, they are in danger of losing the audience if they underwhelm with their subsequent jokes. Unfortunately we can’t all be as brilliant as Dave Chappelle or Jerry Seinfeld who have an arsenal of top tier jokes. A successful comedian knows where his or her biggest laughs are–and how their placement affects how they’ll be remembered later–and plans accordingly.

There is no formula for success on the stage. Everyone has their own style and rythm, their own cadence and expressions. People have off nights and nights when they absolutely kill. What is the difference? Is the audience in a bad mood? Or is the comedian not maximizing their comedic output?

In summation, a comedian should be mindful of how his shtick is received by the audience–a gentle hand is best, with thoughtful placement of the most memorable parts for greatest lasting impact.

Other potential (and amusing) Peak-End applications:


If the interviewer’s memory of your interview is most important, will applying the Peak-End Rule maximize your chances of getting the job? Should you save some of your best speaking points for the end?

Work Presentations

Improve upon your presentation skills and stand out at work by putting yourself in the audience’s shoes. Applying the Peak-End Rule, think about what the audience will remember and how to maximize positive feedback.

Trip to the Dentist

People don’t often rave about their trips to the dentist. How can the dentist influence the patient’s memory of the experience so they won’t be unenthusiastic when thinking about making their next appointment?


Think about the best vacations you’ve ever taken. Why were they the best? Do you notice any subtle Peak-End reasons for the positive memory of these experiences?


Can you score yourself a second date by making a concerted effort to apply the Peak-End Rule? Is the end of a date more important than the beginning?


The 6 P’s to Success: Becoming a Better Golfer and a Better Learner

The 6 P’s to Success: Becoming a Better Golfer and a Better Learner

Twenty Years of competitive sports and competition and it still didn’t click. It took joining my College Golf Team to finally understand the famous quote by Vince Lombardi, “Practice doesn’t make perfect, Perfect Practice makes Perfect.”

Or as my college golf coach would write in his emails. Remember the 6 P’s.

Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.

As many times as people say this, one cannot fully understand what it means until you witness people who put this mentality to work.

Practice is defined on as follows:

“Repeated performance or systematic exercise for the purpose of acquiring skill or proficiency”

This gets to the crux of the “how” and the “why” people perform this sacred art form called practice.

How – Repeated and Systematic

Why – Acquiring skill or proficiency

If you want to improve your golf game and make the jump from shooting in the 90s to the 80s or the 80s to the 70s look no further than practice (regardless of what Allen Iverson said in his famous press conference).

Going to the driving range and smashing drivers off the back net 300 yards out like Happy Gilmore, while impressive to the average golfer, is not practice. That is an ego fueled rampage; a cry for attention and approval. I know this because that was me for the majority of my life. Dr. Gio Valiante calls this “Ego Golf” in his book Fearless Golf. The opposite of “Ego Golf” is “Mastery Golf.”

Practicing with collegiate golfers, two of whom are now professionals who have always had (at least since I’ve known them) this Mastery-Golf mindset, shed light on a whole new universe of deliberate practice and alternative approaches for a more complete golf game. Putting drills, chipping games, up and down contests, full swing video analysis and all kinds of drills with the use of towels and head covers. These are the types of tools you must use in pursuit of a better golf game.

Long bombs at the driving range brings a short term feeling of success. But when you step up the first hole at the local muni course and there are trees left, water right and a stream running across the fairway 280 yards out, what is the point of hitting all those drivers on the range?

Most people don’t have the luxury of playing with great golfers and learning by example. Thank God for the internet. And thank God for books.

The turning point in my golf journey was winning the club championship at my home course after my first year playing college golf. I had not even come close before. What changed? Practice. The time commitment didn’t increase. But how I as practicing, and why I was practicing made the biggest impact.

The shift I went through transitioning from a golf player to a golf student was a long journey. The most helpful advice was not technical advice, but mental advice, a lot of which came from three books as well as advice and conversations with teammates. I highly recommend these three books to anyone seriously interested in making this same quantum leap in their own journey as a student of the game.

In no particular order:

1.) Golf is Not a Game of Perfect by Bob Rotella
2.) Fearless Golf by Gio Valiante
3.) Unconscious Putting by Dave Stockton
Believe in the process. Trust the process. Enjoy the process.