Years ago when the Bengals were actually good, an improv group I was in was booked for a Monday night show at the Cincinatti Funnybone. Before the show they had the game being projected on a large screen at the back of the stage. It was getting interesting when…showtime! Game off! Here’s 6 white boys from Columbus! Obviously it took awhile before their minds were off of football.
As you travel the road in the fall you sometimes have that inevitable gig that happens during or right after the big game. In Topeka I once performed in front of a dozen people while the next room over, the sports bar, was jam packed for a Chiefs game. Of course the ultimate challenge is performing on Super Bowl Sunday…or is it? If everyone else is watching the game but you still have any kind of an audience, assume they really like comedy. I still consider that show in Topeka my best set with less than twenty in the crowd. Take the attitude that these people are really interested in your show.
So what can you do in other circumstances when you’re competing with football? If you arrive early enough to the gig, have them turn the television off or at least put the game on in the bar instead of the showroom. Let people decide where they want to be.
If it’s after a big game (a loss), it’s okay to mention it to the hometown crowd that yeah, the game sucked, but drink up and forget about it for a little while. Never taunt them about a loss! (This includes years later as I learned in Huntington, WV when bringing up the OSU vs. Marshall 57-yard FG game 4 years after it happened) If they won the game, mention it for an easy way to get them on your side.
Avoid wearing a shirt from your favorite team unless you’re in ground zero of their territory. Even if you don’t mention it, it could invite heckling, especially if it’s an NFL shirt.
For more tips involving sports and comedy (and wardrobe advice of course!), check out my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.