Reading Between The Lines

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If a comedian is smart and takes their comedy seriously, they should be able to tell you that every second they are on stage, the audience is constantly feeding them information. This information comes in a few different forms.

  • laughs at punchline and laugh points
  • not laughing at punchline
  • talking at their table
  • body language of the audience
  • hecklers

As I’ve done this over the years I have began to realize that the audience is always telling you something, every second you’re on stage. Once you become aware of this, it’s easier to switch gears at a moments notice if things aren’t going as planned.

Take last Thursday night, for example. It was the first time back with the local scene in about six months, although my second time back on stage.

I think it was one or two bits into my set (yes I call them bits. I’m trying to stay away from calling them jokes, because comedians tell stories, not jokes) and I went off script on a bit of an unplanned riff, otherwise known as crowd work.

In the past, crowd work for me has been about as successful as landing a date, and I haven’t had a date in about three years. Need I say more? Employers and decent women don’t want me.

If I don’t stick to the script I would be as good as screwed. But in the last 12 – 18 months I have become much more self-aware on stage. Getting a level of consistency on stage helps too. I can finally say that I almost never embarrass myself on stage like I used to in the past.

So, I started to riff a bit after one joke. I could tell that there were some really strong laughs coming from directly back of the room. With the spotlight glaring in my face, I can’t see anything in front of me. I couldn’t see the people at the back, but I could hear them.

I started to do a bit of a riff about the clothes I wore that night. Then I happened to add just two words that I thought of at that moment, to the end of my riff. Those two words got a pretty good response from the audience. Good enough that looking back, I should use the information the audience gave me and include that in my material.

Just two words that I didn’t think would get quite the reaction it did, yet it did. The reaction from those two words made me think about why ut happened. I came to the conclusion that their reaction came from connecting to the truth with the audience.

I said the following….. no, screw that. I can’t give away everything. I guess I can say that at the end I talked about my shoes that night, from Payless. From Payless were the two words that got a really good reaction.

Of course, a guy like me with my struggles, that never seems to get it right, of course a guy like that would shop at Payless Shoes. Now, I’m not knocking Payless Shoes at all. It’s a great place to go. But in that moment it just seemed to perfectly tie into my set, and I didn’t even know it.

So yeah, if you pay attention at all times to everything the audience is giving you, it can unlock the door to new ideas.

Did that make sense? I don’t think this post really did, and I don’t really care at the moment. I’m hungry and need to stop sleeping during the day.

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