What if the heckler gets the crowd to laugh?

I’ve only written one or two entries on here about hecklers, but Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage gives plenty of tips. This week I had something rare happen though.  A heckler actually got a laugh from the crowd.  Uh oh!  Here’s what happened..

I was doing my sales pitch about my book and saying that I would sign them and the headliner would be signing autographs. I then mentioned that the previous night we had signed a girl’s boob.  An older man, stage right, who had been piping up here and there yelled out, “What was his name?”  The crowd laughed.  In retrospect I could’ve responded with something cheap and easy like, “I don’t know, what do you call your boy?” but didn’t have anything at the time.  It’s better to just let him get his laugh than to try and respond and fail miserably.  What if I stumbled or the comeback didn’t make sense?  This can happen, so like I said, I let his joke breathe.  After that died down I went into my own premeditated heckler material that I’ve used before.  It didn’t relate to his comment, but it got a lot of laughs and I had the audience back on my side.  Most importantly he shut up.

So what happens if you can’t think of anything to say? I’ve heard a few comics say, “It was your joke, but I still get credit for all laughs while I’m on stage,” or “Keep doing my job, but I’m the one who gets paid.”  Sure these don’t have the mean comeback pop you want to destroy a heckler with, but they will get laughs from the audience.  If the heckler continues you can cut him off with, “OK, shut it down… etc.”

By then hopefully a doorman or someone at the club has become aware of the situation. If it’s a one-nighter bar, you’ll have to defend yourself, but then again your limitations on what you can say are removed too.

For more tips on odd little situations like these as well as everything else you could possibly ask about comedy, order Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.

5 Things to bring to a one-nighter…

The best kind of one-nighter gigs are the ones you can drive home from after the show (anything within four hours is my rule).  The problem is that you don’t have to “pack” for this type of gig, so you may be likely to forget to bring something.

Here is a quick list of things you might forget to take to a one-nighter…

1.  An extra shirt that won’t wrinkle:  Eating in the car?  You’re going to spill on yourself.  Grab a shirt that will still match but won’t wrinkle.

2.  “Square Reader” and cash:  If you sell merch you should be using the Square App for those customers who don’t have cash.  Leaving this behind could cost you gas money for the whole trip.  Also, be sure to have small bills (fives) for change if you sell something for $15.  A few ones to tip should help too.

3.  Contact’s phone number:  In case you’re late or lost, you should always let them know.  This way you can avoid calling your booker and ruining your reputation.  Just call the bar and let them know so they don’t get nervous.

4.  Charger:  Sometimes in the middle of nowhere your phone dies much sooner than it normally would (you already knew that), so be sure you can keep it charged because you don’t want to lose merch sales because you can’t access your Square App.  I also use my phone as a timer in my pocket for while I’m on stage.

5.  Mic Stand:  This one is optional, but if you’re a guitar act or need both hands free for some reason, it would be a wise investment to keep one of these in your trunk.  Some bars just don’t have mic stands which makes for an awkward mic exchange with the emcee.  If you absolutely need one, buy and bring your own.

These are just a few of the many things you should remember.  Find the rest of them by reading Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.

What are the best day and night jobs you can have when you’re trying to make it in comedy?

It always cracks me up when people come to open mic and say they’re going to “try comedy out” since they hate their job or have been laid off.  From your first open mic to the time you can make enough money to survive will most likely be at least five years.  That’s minimum.  That’s assuming you’re really good, have some luck, and can survive on a poverty-type lifestyle.  Perhaps you’re still living at home or having your parents support you (but who would admit to that?).  Rent is usually the largest expense.

You’ll need very flexible jobs while you’re building your act and gaining stage experience.  The best job to have as a beginning comic is to work at the comedy club.  That’s where I got my start (I had no intention of ever taking the stage).  Seeing hundreds of shows teaches you so much.  When I started MCing I had all of the announcements memorized.  I saw the things that worked, the things that didn’t work, and the things that infuriated other comics and the staff.  It also led to a lot of gigs because I knew who was coming up on the schedule and could get my requests in early.

***However***  There is a point where you need to stop working at your home club.  That’s discussed in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.  Feel free to order a copy (paperback or ebook).

The second job I recommend is for the stage of your career when you’re starting to work the road a little.  Maybe you’re getting MC weeks around the state and taking uneconomical one-nighters 300 miles away for $100 to build your experience and learn what the road is like.  I know quite a few comics who started, but never finished college.  Well you’re in luck.  For states like here in Missouri, you only need 60 hours of college credit to substitute teach.  Subbing is the PERFECT job for a part-time touring comic for the following reasons:

–It’s usually at least $90 a day.

–You have to adapt to every situation (2nd graders are a tough crowd) and learn to improv while you’re uncomfortable.

–It forces you to get up early instead of wasting your 20s away sleeping in.

–It is validating most days.  You can have fun no matter what the assignment is.

–It’s 100% flexible.  Almost every school has an online booking system (some even have an app!) for getting subbing gigs.  It’s very easy to fill one to five days a week.  Five days pays at least $450 which is about the average feature pay for a week.

Do your research and find a good district nearby.  Pick your battles in the classroom and take it seriously.  It’s a good chance to put on your professional skin.

I could go on and on, as I subbed for six or seven years and am now teaching full time.  Google subbing tips or find me for more questions about the job.

What’s up with comedy cliques?

A lot of the hostility about various clubs and various comics has to do with the cliques that are formed.  Comics learn to hate other comics, club managers, and even give up on a club itself because they believe they’re excluded from some sort of clique.  The word clique sounds like some gang…only involved in the arts (really intimidating, huh?).  But yes, there are people at the comedy club who are in a circle of friends.  This is true at every club in America I imagine.  It can benefit them professionally, but it doesn’t mean that if you’re not in the clique you have no chance of ever working that club or becoming friends with the people in it.  This entry will break down the hopeless feel of being outside a clique and let you know how you can still work at a room that you may have given up on.

The reason there is  a clique is because it’s a circle of friends who have endured a lot of comedy together.  That means they’ve shared some late nights, some fights, maybe road trips to bad gigs, and a few other deeper experiences.  They entertain each other with ball busting, interesting stories, and more ball busting.

So why don’t they want to include you in a conversation like you’re the new kid at the lunch table at the happiest middle school in America?  Maybe it’s not always them.

1.  Age difference.  A lot of times a newer, younger comic might only be in his early to mid twenties.  Perhaps the clique is mid-30s and 40s.  Do you normally connect with someone that much older or younger than you?

2.  Your stories suck.  Road comics have the best stories of anyone in the world.  The bar is set very high because not only have they done some interesting things, they’re usually great storytellers to begin with.  Your story is long and boring and everyone is going to make fun of it once you walk away…or to your face if you’re making any progress with said clique.  Stop talking, shut up and listen, and enjoy the free entertainment.  If you have something to weigh in on, it better be interesting and/or funny…but keep it brief.  There is nothing worse than a long and boring story.  These are basic social skills, and are newer comics known for being great at social skills?  No, of course not.  It doesn’t mean they’re bad people, they just shouldn’t bore everyone with stories.  And I’ll admit, I haven’t told an interesting story (maybe ever).  I can weigh in on sports and a few road experiences, but for the most part I should sit back and listen to others.

3.  You’re drinking too much.  #2 tends to become even worse when you’re drinking.  Drinkers become socially unaware of reading people.  Their stories go on and on and the conversation skills disappear completely.

4.  You tout…It’s pretty easy to build a reputation as someone who’s always saying how great they are.  Again, be self-aware of what you’re saying.  If you’re having a conversation and the other person is only speaking in 10% of it, you’re doing it wrong.

5.  They don’t respect your act.  Maybe it gets laughs, but a comic’s act says a lot about him or her.  It’s hard to like or respect someone who’s really hacky, etc.

So how can you break into this clique?  Or better yet, not sell your soul, but at least be accepted enough to know they don’t all hate you and make you feel like you’re blacklisted…

No one’s going to invite you into it.  Just sit there at the bar and listen.  Don’t say much at all.  Let people get to know you over time.  Yes, you’ll probably be a whipping boy at some point, but at least you’re being acknowledged.  Learn the inside jokes.  Learn what’s off limits.  Listen and learn what others are doing wrong.  Yes, cliques are going to badmouth other people behind their backs (that’s showbiz life, get over it).  It’s a comedy club not a church group.  Build some trust at least and don’t go blabbing your mouth.  If your club doesn’t have a bar then just hang out with “the group” after the show.  Have a drink and briefly ask the manager, “Can I hang out and finish this?”  If you have a clean record/reputation and haven’t already annoyed the hell out of everyone, they’ll allow it.  You don’t have to be a meek little child, just be polite.  Club managers want new blood.  A club manager is probably tired of everyone’s act in that whole clique.  New people are good on and off stage.  Think of yourself like that character who comes in season two of a good show.

It’s really not that hard to be a socially normal person.  You don’t have to be a card-carrying member of any clique to make it in comedy (I’ve never been in one and I do fine).  Look at some of the people who are in cliques.  They’re often terribly annoying and they’re still tolerated.  That just goes to show it’s not impossible.

I understand that there will be many readers who say, “F comedy club cliques!  I’m not playing that game!”  That’s fine.  Some people just don’t get along.  Just keep your thoughts to yourself if you want booked at that club.  If you can’t hide your feelings towards others it will limit a lot of your money-making opportunities…and according to the subtitle of this blog, making money is the main purpose you’re reading this.

The bottom line is this:  Be a respectful person and even if you feel left out of a group, you’ll still be liked enough to be booked.  As my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage mentions…You need to be respected by the crowds, other comics, and club managers to make it in this business.

What if my old classmates are going to be at my show?

Some of us are comedians partly because of our not-so-great high school experiences and the issues our classmates provided.  Most of us weren’t even close to being the class clown (Birbiglia covered that difference in his first album).  Eventually, word will get out that you’re “doin’ comedy” and they’ll show up.  Maybe you’ve even invited them.  Some people are fine with their classmates showing up because they were friends and they still keep in touch.  But in some situations it can be an extra dose of nerves.  Most of us have at least one type of audience member that would throw us off whether it be exes, parents, family, or the focus of this example, classmates.

First of all, realize they’re more afraid of you than you are of them.  They probably think you wrote your act about them and that they’re going to get made fun of.  Here’s what to do:  If possible, stay aloof before the show.  Keep them wondering.  If you haven’t seen them in awhile let your new first impression be from the stage.

If they’re like a few of my classmates, they’re probably hammered well before the show even starts.  No need to say your hellos that loudly in front of the rest of the crowd.  This is hard to do in a small venue, but find a reason to excuse yourself and get away from them because if they realize it’s okay to talk to you before the show, then they may think that rule applies during the show.

Establish that this is your job.  They’ll either respect it, or mock it out of jealousy because you’re doing something you enjoy.  Sure they can afford more beer than you because they’ve been working for their dad for over a decade, but in a lot of cases they would trade lives to experience the set you just had just once.  (Inspiring, huh)    If they hold the illusion that you’re successful and “living the dream” that’s even better.  See you at the reunion with namedropping stories.

There are all kinds of odd crowd situations you’ll face over the years.  I figured them out through experience and asking others, but if you’d like a better shot at doing it right the first time, they’re covered in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.  Click that link to find it on Amazon, ebook, or signed copy.

How to decide who goes in what order…

I have an upcoming one-nighter where I’m co-headlining with a comic I’ve never met or worked with.  We’re both doing the same amount of time and both making the same amount of money.  So who goes first?  She’s a female comic four years younger than me, but I’m going to offer to go first because I don’t have an ego.  What does it matter what the middle of Illinois thinks (no offense middle of Illinois) because they’ve never heard of either of us, and probably won’t hear of us again.  If the other comic tells me she would prefer me to go last, then that will work to.  Here’s what ultimately will decide it…Who works cleaner?

The cleaner comic should work earlier in the show because once you take an audience (down?) to a certain level, it’s really tough to bring them back up.  That’s how you should approach your set as well.  Save your dirtier stuff until the end.  If she works clean then I’ll have no problem with her going first, but if not, I’d prefer the opening spot. 

This can apply for other shows as well with more comics.  You should have a pretty good idea the amount of “blue” in each comic’s act and can loosely arrange your show from that.  Again, do this with your act as well. 

A few weeks ago a first-timer did a joke a piece about Jesus and (insert the worst thing you can do to Jesus) towards the end of his set.  It was epically awful, but then he followed it with a bit about “Why does cotton advertise?”  The funniest part was following the Jesus bit with a simple observation piece about cotton (If you’re that comic and reading this know that a few people pointed out that someone’s already done that cotton bit…also, drop the Jesus bit)

So again, ignore your ego and remember that it’s easier to follow clean than dirty.  On a Bob & Tom Tour a few years ago a lot of comics all decided to let April Macie close that show out.  Though they were bigger names and more successful, no one could follow how dirty she was.  Everyone was happier once they made this adjustment.

For more tips on comedy order a paperback or ebook of Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage on Amazon or by any of the other methods listed here.

Update on the schedule

So as anticipated we aren’t getting through all of Act I today, no worries.  We’ll finish it Monday and then have the quiz on Tuesday of next week.  Tomorrow you will still have the Shakespeare Quiz so be ready as mentioned. 

As we get through a few more scenes in Act I we learn that Juliet’s mother and the nurse think she should marry County Paris, but she’s too young.  The nurse makes a dirty joke about her falling.

The guys (Romeo and co.) are busy trying to sneak into the party.  Romeo is being all whiny because of his love for Rosaline (who isn’t interested because she’s joining the clergy).  Soon our two lovers will meet and Rosaline will be ancient history.

So again…Friday the 21st–Quiz on Shakespeare

Tuesday the 25th–Quiz on Act I. 

My hope is to be starting Act III by the end of next week.  We’re on a good pace and our readers are doing well.  Remember, I’ll be rotating parts after each Act so everyone gets a chance. 


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.