Because you needed another opinion on the whole Seinfeld thing, right? This is kinda about that, but at a different angle. Two weeks ago I performed at the Valley Park Funnybone. It’s summer and it’s not the busiest club, but we had around 35 for the second show Friday. It was by far the youngest crowd of the week. That club typically has a demographic of 30’s-50’s and it’s a good room for laughs–pretty typical. However, the show I mention on Friday was 80% under 30 and the “edgy” jokes in my set (my friends who know them roll their eyes) that got laughs all week, received a different response: “Oooohh’s” and such. So is this a sign that they’re too PC and a bad crowd? Here’s my take on it…
As comics, we like laughs. Laugh at us and then you can even applaud should everyone deem it appropriate. The younger generation just makes a different noise. Those “Ooohhh’s” that you hear aren’t as bad as you think. The studio audience for Tosh.0 does the same thing. Does that mean they don’t like the joke? Of course not, they’re his fans and they know exactly what they’re getting there.
I once read that laughter is a very strong and primitive form of communication with the other person. It tells them, “I connect with you.” What’s happened is that these young moaners and groaners are trying to tell us that same message, but with a different sound or expression. If a crowd really doesn’t like your joke, more likely than not they’ll let out a little gasp and quietly look to the faces of the people at their table. For proof of this, watch what happens at open mic when a rookie tries to pull off something edgy and it comes off completely racist. They don’t even give the performer the courtesy of the moan most times because that would subconsciously suggest that they’ve connected with them.
When you get groans (which are as contagious as laughter among audience members), you’re at least getting a response. It’s just throwing us comics off because we’re used to the traditional laugh. Groaning and “ooooohhhh’s” have climbed their way into our natural responses. People have this as a new way of responding that they’re shocked by something. It happens in other forms of entertainment as well. Watch old highlights of Dr. J dunking on people. Now watch modern clips of LeBron. The responses from the fans and players are completely different thirty-some years later. Today’s players have a completely body language which says, “I’m surprised and impressed by what just happened,” than those from Dr. J’s time.
I’m like you in that I’ll admit that I get frustrated when I don’t get the traditional laugh, but those same people who moaned and groaned at my jokes during that late show did nothing by compliment my set on their way out afterwards.
Oh, and as far as why college kids suck as audience members? It’s very simple. They can’t put their cellphones away.
For more advice on stand-up comedy please check out my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage on Amazon (paperback), Kindle, Nook, iTunes, etc.).