What The Mirror Shows

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I have said before that an open mic at a regular pub or bar differs greatly from a show at an actual comedy club.  In the last few weeks I have taken part in the only live comedy show currently held in the city.  With no other live shows on the horizon for a while, comics are starting to support it on a more consistent basis, which is nice to see.

In comedy, because the club shows are few and far between, one tends to remember how good they had it.  In my case, the bookers I am currently associated with used to run the best room in the city for live comedy.  I had three spots in the city and a couple in Regina.  But by far, the room and the audience in Saskatoon is better.  Maybe it’s because it is an actual “room” (hotel ballroom divided in half for comedy purposes).  At a comedy club the audience wants to be taken on a journey, because they have paid money for tickets.  They want to be entertained.  Unlike a bar or pub, if the comic isn’t funny, there aren’t other options at the venue to distract you, like VLTs, a music or going out for a smoke, or chatting at your table.  People in Saskatoon are pretty respectful of the comics when money is paid to watch.  They are there to listen and be entertained, and they expect the people around them to do the same, which is to sit down, shut up and listen.

Some comics make comedy look easy, but it’s hard work.  It takes a lot of trial and error to see what works, if you haven’t got a clue how to put jokes together then it becomes a longer process.

Going up on stage at a club with nothing else going on but the comic on stage is intimidating.  A paid audience is always intimidating whether they are comprised of a few dozen people, a hundred or so, or a lot more.  You don’t know who is in the audience and what they will find funny, so you as the comedian need to find out quickly how they see you.

That means you have to play to how the audience views you and go from there.  In my case, I am not telling you how the audience views me on stage.  You will need to get off your lazy ass and come see for yourself if you really want to know.

Comedy is a journey; it’s about stumbling along as the comic tries to find their way.  But along the way the comedian needs to make their story relatable.  It can start off (the joke) by using incongruity, which means taking two dissimilar objects/things/patterns of thought, and bring them together.  The audience then says to themselves hey, wait a second.  These things don’t normally go together.  Now you have the audience in a heightened state of awareness because they want to see how it plays out.  You can start with items of an incongruous nature, but you’ll need the punchline to make it relatable, thereby getting the laughs.  The audience wants you to succeed.  That’s why they applaud when you are first introduced.  They want to be on your side, to see you succeed in your stories, even when you make yourself out to be the fall guy.

You don’t laugh at a comic you don’t like, right?

Then you look at a bar crowd.  I did Carnac a week ago and it did not go as planned.  It was the first time it hasn’t killed since I took up the character a few years ago.  The audience for whatever reason, couldn’t follow along with the material.

The last few weeks before that I tried doing material that came from observations on the job working retail.  While it’s funny and relatable, it isn’t working as well as I would have hoped.  At a bar lately they seem to follow along better to the self deprecating material, where I am on a journey and can’t seem to get it right.  Sometimes you need to get vulgar or crude to hammer home your point to get the laughs, which is something I try to avoid at all costs.

In these uncertain times with people so paranoid and scared, people come out to the bar to hear a show because they want to be entertained.  The best way to entertain them is to give them what they want.  Right now, it isn’t about clever observations from my retail working environment they want to hear.  They want to hear about a journey full of stumbles, trying to get it right when it’s clear that I don’t have the tools or ability to make that happen.  In these times today people want to be entertained, which means feeling better about themselves than they did before.  The best way to feel better about yourself at a comedy show is to laugh at somebody on stage that makes it difficult for themselves to succeed.

With me, those stumbles come daily.  That is what I have to remember for the next little while, and adjust my material accordingly.

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