Don’t Take It Personally, It’s Only A Joke!!!

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I am writing this today on the eve of my hosting the Monday night comedy at Beily’s.  The last couple weeks really got me thinking about this topic, from watching the headliner at the comedy club a couple weeks back, coupled with the fact I am hosting tomorrow night.  The topic can be framed many different ways depending on your point of view, but in the end, I guess the best way to describe it is a comic’s ability to “interact” with members of the audience.

Some look at it as teasing, some might take it as an insult too.  I watched one of the best comics to come through Saskatoon headline at the club a couple weeks back.  His name is Mike Dambra, from New York.  Very nice guy, personable and polite.  But once he’s on stage, he has the ability to “work the crowd” like nobody I have seen to date.

I think sometimes if you sit in the front row, or near the front and you have a tonne of piercings, or if you show up late and take a seat near the front, then give the comic attitude, come on now, that’s like strapping a target to your back, isn’t it?  Again,this blog posting is only based on my opinions from what I have witnessed so far.  If you have a contrary opinion, that’s great, that’s how we learn is through the exchanging of ideas.  There will be a link just under the title of this blog for you to post a comment.  Remember, you can always sign up to follow the blog through e-mail notifications too.  I know I’m supposed to put that shit at the end, but I put it in the middle just to keep you from falling asleep  HA HA HA

I am sure there are some people in a comedy audience who think that a comic is just being an asshole or trying to purposely embarrass an audience member when they interact with them.  That isn’t the case, from what I have witnessed so far.  First of all, if you’re acting like a tough guy with an ego, if a comic so much as mentions something about your shirt, you’ll get pissed off and want to kick his ass.  Most though, should understand that life is too short to walk around like your shit don’t stink.  The majority of people don’t take themselves that seriously to get offended, and besides at the end of the night after Mike was done his set, he was the first one at the exit to thank people for coming out as they were leaving, and the people he “interacted” with took it in stride, which was pretty good of them.

Monday night I will have to partake in some crowd work, although it’s something I am not ready for yet.  That’s probably a few months away for me, so Monday night I think I’m going to have to be somebody I’m not, at least from an onstage presence.

I think the reason that a comic will “interact” (notice I don’t use the words picking on) with audience members near the front row is because they are the ones they can see the easiest, since the stage is some distance from the first few rows, they are the easiest people to first spot.  That, and sometimes with the way the lighting is situated it’s easier to see the people in the front because the stage lights will help you see the first couple rows better.

Without getting into the brunt of his act, Mike went back and forth to about 4 or 5 different people during his almost one hour of performing time.  He was careful to mix in his own material with crowd interaction, which is a good way of doing it, keeps people on their toes not knowing what will happen next.  Dez is one of the better guys I’ve seen that can work a crowd.  Then again,there aren’t many comics in Saskatchewan who have been at it for as long as he has either so I don’t have a lot of reference points to compare him to right now.  The one thing both Mike and Dez possess, obviously, is experience.  Both have been at the comedy game for over 20 years now, and they both do something that experienced comics do, that I’m amazed by, yet I know I can do with a bit of practice.

Sometimes a person can find humour in the little things in life.  Just by saying hi to an audience member and asking what they do for a living, or why they’re at a comedy club to begin with, can set the table for a good set, because the comic can focus on that table of people.  This isn’t to say that a comic does it because they are insecure about their material being funny or not, but it almost seems as if the audience interaction always gets a better crowd reaction than the material does.  I’m not sure why that is…. maybe it’s because it seems more like a normal conversation that you would have with a friend.  I can’t explain how a comics mind works, hell, I can’t explain how I have some of the thoughts that I do sometimes, but when I become a “comic” and shed the label of an aspiring amateur (who knows if that will ever leave me though), then I can let you know how the comedic mind works

I think crowd interaction is easier in a way for a comic, providing they know what they’re doing, because when you do your material, there are many things you need to think about.  People have asked me a lot if I ever get nervous going up to perform.  The answer is no, for a couple of reasons.  First, I’ve been speaking in front of crowds, singing karaoke or chairing meetings for many years, so getting up in front of people doesn’t bother me.  When a comic is onstage they need to concentrate on their timing (pause breaks in the joke), how to set it up, delivering the punchline, and trying to have their material flow.  But when interacting with the audience, it’s like you are just having a conversation with that person one on one, with the only difference being that everyone else can hear it too.  Being spontaneous in a conversation with the audience, at least for me, is easier than trying to be spontaneous and change up how you present your material or a particular joke.  (the only way I’ve found that I have altered my material on the fly is when I deliver a line and don’t get a response, which then gets a laugh…I’d give you an example of what I mean but that would mean letting you in on my material, which then would give you another reason to stay home and not come to watch me live  LOL)

For the most part a comic interacting with the audience isn’t mean or malicious.  If you go to a comedy club and and are surprised and/or offended to be singled out by the comic, then you shouldn’t have walked into the club in the first place.  It’s kind of like a vegetarian going to Taco Time and being shocked that they actually serve meat in their tacos.  Caveat emptor people!

I mean, it’s easy for me to have a conversation with a stranger and make a funny comment about either their name, where they work or about who they are.  Take that same conversation, put it on stage with everyone else listening to it, and it makes it a bit more difficult to have that same flow of the conversation.  Maybe it’s because your brain thinks more when everyone is listening.  If it’s just a one on one, and you say something the person didn’t like, so they tell you off and walk away, no big deal, right?  But if you get that same reaction from a person when everyone else in the room is focused in on what you are saying, expecting you (the comic) to come up with something humorous, that can be tough.  Hell, last Tuesday night I managed to include one of the people Dez had fun with into a joke of mine, and right before I mentioned it I felt bad for saying it, like I didn’t have a right to do so.  See, now you understand how I say that I am a few months away from working the crowd like that.  I am confident I can get to that point and be fine in doing so, but right now I don’t know how to do it so it doesn’t come across as being confident….yet.

Having said that, I hope my friends will come out Monday night.  I’ve written some of my opening material that includes them, but not in a bad way.  The host needs to set the tone for the evening, be somewhat topical and to keep the audience engaged.  I just hope it all works Monday night, because it could be the catalyst to drive my progress further ahead, or set me back a tiny bit.

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