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Comedians Whitney Cummings And Bobby Lee Use Beta-Blockers To Stay Calm In Auditions

Sep 1

Source: Good For You podcast

Turns out success isn’t a cure for stage fright, at least according to Whitney Cummings. 

Despite landing regular TV appearances, running her own podcast, and headlining roasts on Comedy Central, the comedian admits confidence still doesn’t always come naturally to her. 

It’s been particularly true for her in auditions. 

During an episode of her Good For You podcast, she told guest and fellow comedian Bobby Lee: 

“I don’t think people really talk about this enough. Auditioning is its own skill. Auditioning and acting are two separate things. And when someone goes in and books a job, I think hats off because it’s not a skill that I have.” 

So what does she do to overcome performance anxiety when it strikes? She turns to beta-blockers to help with fear of public speaking.

“I take beta-blockers now, which help hugely. I didn’t find out about them until about three years ago. I know if I have a big meeting, or a big audition, or a big performance, or anything where I know I’m going to be nervous, I just take one preemptively, so that I’m not blasting my brain with adrenaline,” said Whitney during an interview with Everyday Health. 

Bobby talked about his similar past experiences with audition anxiety as well: 

“I was in my head. I was having all of these panic attacks all of the time. My adrenaline would flow. I would sweat and, in my mind, I would go Oh my god, they can see me sweating. I would shake. I would spiral”.

Bobby’s success is also worth noting. He landed an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, became a regular on MADtv, and even scored parts in blockbusters like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Pineapple Express

Despite these wins, his performance anxiety followed him. 

After keeping his intense fear to himself for years, Bobby finally reached out to Whitney for advice. That’s when he discovered Propranolol for himself: 

“Years ago, I used to go into an audition and I would freeze because I would have a panic attack. And I came up to you one day, I was embarrassed - you were actually the only person I brought this up to. And you’re the one who introduced me to beta-blockers.”

Propranolol, a beta-blocker, blocks adrenaline from spreading in the body. It can help stop blushing, sweating, and shaking when you’re nervous. 

Or as Whitney put it in the episode:  

“Beta-blockers essentially just stop adrenaline without making you tired so it’s not like a Xanax or an Ativan or something. It just stops adrenaline.”

While Propranolol is a prescription medication, it’s different from most of the other medications most of us would associate with an anxiety drug. 

Unlike Xanax, the most common anxiety medication, beta-blockers aren’t a scheduled drug and aren’t known for dependence.