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    The Comedy News For 01/21/18

    Specific News Story

    Good Comedy Timing In Bad Situations

    You can learn a little about stand-up comedy from taking an acting class. Iím talking about projecting. Iím talking about what actors are told when they use a monologue to audition. I was always told I needed to pretend I was talking to someone else. That means, even if it says itís a monologue, youíre really performing a it like dialogue with an imaginary friend. Comedy is the same animal. However, in comedy that imaginary friend is the audience. And usually the way they react is by laughing. Now, occasionally they might groan or sigh. Good stand-up comics employ all sorts of different emotions to give their set more impact. They may make the audience groan with a pun, then prove they can win them back with a line that makes the audience forget how bad the last joke was. No matter what the comic does, the audience affects the rhythm and timing of their act.

    Some nights the audience feels imaginary. They either arenít listening or they wonít acknowledge anything with a laugh. The absence of laughter throws the comic's rhythm and timing off. And that dialogue with the audience becomes a monologue, where the comic is simply talking to himself.

    Most comics respond to an absence of laughter by going faster and pausing less. This usually makes the problem worse. Now, not only is the audience disengaged, because the comic isnít communicating with them. One of the reasons I still play dive bars to practice dealing with these situations without rushing through my set. Sometimes, all youíre going to get is a smile. If thereís only four people in the audience, all of whom are introverts, that might be the best you can hope for. Rather than rushing through the act, make eye contact. Make a mental note of who is smiling or on the verge of laughter. In some cases, that creates the pause that will create the missing laughs. It also creates a bond with that audience member. Then you can actually start playing to the people who are the most engaged and slowly bring them out of their shell.

    Last night there were two comics last night at Michaelís Pub that illustrated this. One thought yelling into the microphone made his act easier to digest. There was no dialogue with the audience. He never adjusted his tone once. He wasnít using vocal intonation or body language to make his material understandable. He was just screaming setup and punch line into the mic as if to say, ďI know you werenít going to listen to me anyway.Ē A second comic, who also yelled too much, never paused once. He never made eye contact with anyone either. He assumed because the audience wasn't laughing, he didnít have to. He was almost as hard to understand as an auctioneer. And he also complained that nobody laughed. When he complained I instantly thought, "Why are you complaining?" You havenít stopped long enough for anyone to laugh if they wanted to. He could have had material as brilliant as George Carlin. Nobody would have known because all his material was delivered at warp speed. Neither comic was talking to the audience, they were talking at us.

    When I took the stage, I didnít expect anything monumentous. All I wanted to do is make eye contact with the people who were listening and gauge the reactions from their facial expressions. Thatís exactly what I did. When the laughter isnít coming, you sometimes need to just make eye contact and adjust your expectations down. On those nights, acknowledging the few smiles and the occasional giggle might be the only connection to the audience you make. That gives you a baseline to build on. That may create the pauses, that given enough time and faith in your set, will turn into big laughs from there.

    Posted August 25, 2010 by Shayne Michael under Performing / Accessed 1049 times.

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