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    The Comedy News For 01/21/18

    Specific News Story

    Is This Microphone On: The Audience Perspective

    I ran into an article this morning on Chortle, a UK comedy website. The article is about comics who blame failed material on the audience, from an audience memberís perspective. From that perspective lines like:

    • What a dead audience
    • They werenít warmed up.
    • Are you there?
    • Do you speak English at all?

    Are put downs. The most keen observation of the article is that blaming the audience doesnít solve the problem. The audience is never wrong. If the joke isnít funny, they wonít laugh. This is true, but only to a point. I have twenty minutes of newer material that works half the time. I have twenty year old material that works 95 percent of the time. When the old material doesnít work, Iím willing to blame the audience.

    The biggest difference between myself and comics who use lines above, is that I have other tactics that I use to win the audience over again. The first tactic is that Iíll repeat the joke over and over again until the audience is laughing at my tenacity instead of my material. That works at least 75 percent of the time the material fails. The second tactic I use is that Iíll ask the audience to raise theyíre hands when they hear a punch line just to see if theyíre awake. Half the time they start to raise their hands during transitions or setups, and I can get a huge laugh by pointing it out.

    Neither of these tactics are pointing fingers at anyone. They involve being observant, persistent and self confident. All of these characteristics are also qualities shared by all great comedians.

    The article in Chortle goes on to say, ďThat is why taping a set is not that valuable.Ē I halfway agree. I video tape every set these days. But thatís to get a good video tape more than itís to remember what the audience laughed at. I think one-liner comics, like myself, have a photographic memory when it comes to where the laughs are. I do agree with the author that all comics need to take responsibility for their material. If you thought something would work, and it didnít, pretending you got a better response than you did will never fix the problem.

    The author also makes a very good point about how to listen to tapes. When something doesnít work, you need to ask yourself, ďWas it the timing or the material that caused the poor reaction?Ē If there is no pause between the setup and the punch line there wonít be a laugh. Thatís the mechanical part of comedy called timing. If there was no distance between the setup and the punch line, or no unexpected twist, the audience won't laugh either. Thatís the mechanics of writing good comedy. Also understand, when you play a bar, with three TVs set to four different channels, odds are even the best comics alive would eat it. Give it your best shot. Donít change the way you deliver the material for a good audience. Do be more selective about what you share. And donít beat yourself up when it goes bad. Doing comedy in a sports bar is somewhat like Air Supply opening for Anthrax. If you didnít foresee blood, you arenít really paying attention.

    The author, Lynn Ruth Miller, asserts the audience came to be amused. The truth is, for most comics, this only happens half of the time. Comedians play venues were comedy was expected and they play venues where comedy isnít. When comedy is expected, and youíre good, itís hard to have a bad set. Where it isnít expected, comedy is a distraction. You have to be more interesting than whatever the audience came to that bar, coffee house or restaurant to do. You have to be more engaging than the last drink, or the person theyíre downing it to forget. You have to be more engaging than the internet connection, or the comic theyíre watching on Youtube in your place. You have to become more interesting than the meal, theyíve been waiting an hour to eat.

    Even if you win that battle, the audence may still get annoyed that you were entertaining enough to disrupt their plans. Don't beat yourself up for that either. Then ask yourself, "How could I do this show over again and improve?"

    Posted August 27, 2010 by Shayne Michael under Performing / Accessed 1057 times.

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