Drunk crowds aren’t hard to spot if you’re paying attention. They’re usually the second (or third) show on a Friday or Saturday. Friday is often worse because they’re tired from working but have been drinking since they left work for the late-afternoon happy hour. What makes them even more challenging is that the crowd is smaller and the laughs are tougher. With more silence between jokes they have a lot more time to yell something out. Here are a few tips I use in these situations.
1. Pick up the pace. Yes, we all want to give 100% to every performance, but I tend to “plow” through more material for that second show. Start your next joke before the laughter completely dies down. With drunks silence is bad.
2. Find your targets ahead of time. See which tables have a ringleader and give yourself five or ten minutes before the show to think of some insults you can fire back. They’ll seem spontaneous on stage and you’ll get more credit from the rest of the crowd (who you want to keep on your side).
3. Give the doormen a heads up. Communicate with them ahead of time how many drunken outbursts you want to tolerate. Make sure they’re alert. A lot of times during the late show a doorman will be out back smoking, doing dishes, or simply not around. It’s their job to control the room, but being a doorman back in the day, I can honestly say, sometimes we have other things to tend to.
I have a lot more advice on handling hecklers and other odd situations during comedy shows in my book Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage. Check out Amazon, iTunes, the Kindle Store, or many other ways to pick it up.
This week I wanted to address what I consider a somewhat negative (yet accurate) book review for Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.
“I enjoyed this book, think it’s honest and truthful, but also rather bleak and dark. It kind of gave me the impression that all the time and dues paid doing stand-up comedy really weren’t worth it. I think this book adequately addresses the mean-spirited, egotistical, narcissistic, sadistic side of comedy, mainly coming from warped and burnt out stand-ups, and greedy club owners and managers. It has a very submissive spirit to it and seems to have damaged the psyche of the author a bit. That’s my take on it friends.”
I’ve blogged about this before but it’s worth repeating. One of my goals for this book was to thin the herd on people who thought they’d make comedy their career. I get emails from readers and every so often one will thank me for talking them out of committing their life to comedy. So is my book dark? Yeah, probably. I did have a lot of discussions with Nick Griffin over the years. As comics we tend to bitch to each other about the career while putting on a facade to others that it’s wonderful (Look at all these Facebook pictures I took on a mountain at 1:30 in the afternoon while you were stuck in an office!).
Just like any other career no one is forcing you to do it. My warning is just be sure you have a backup plan because odds are you’re not a touring headliner making six figures who can pay for a medical emergency.
Back to the review…This guy started the review with two positive statements but since the message of the book wasn’t what he wanted to hear (even though I was “honest and truthful”) he gave the book 3 out of 5 stars or 60% (which is a D- in my classroom). The whole review is one big metaphor for stand-up I think. I tried to do him a huge favor by exposing the truths of the career but the truth made him uncomfortable. Well you go for it, dude, and get back to me in 13 years.
During a standard comedy club show the emcee will perform 10-15 minutes, the feature will perform 25-30 minutes, and the headliner usually goes from 45 to an hour. In between acts an emcee usually needs to do a few announcements for the club as well as other various promos. (I wrote an entire giant chapter on everything that goes into emceeing a show in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.)
The big decision an emcee needs to make is how quickly to bring the headliner up after the feature. Sometimes a lot of the announcements can all be done after the headliner, so there isn’t always a lot to say. However, there are times when there should be a bit of a buffer. If the feature bombs, it might help to do a minute or two of material to bring the crowd back into it; you could even check for birthdays, etc. If you’re out of material, you can even try a newer joke and if it flops, make a joke of that. You should have at least one trusty line saved up that you can get a laugh.
If the feature has a great set, you can even ask the headliner (if he or she is nearby) whether they want you to bring them right up, or let the crowd settle back down. I always prefer to keep riding the momentum of the comic before me in whatever format of show I’m in. Some headliners have a more subtle beginning and may want the crowd to calm down so that it doesn’t feel like they’ve been buried.
Another thing to watch for is when half the crowd gets up to smoke or use the restroom. That’s when you should definitely stretch the show a little bit (provided it’s running on time and there’s not a second or third show scheduled that night) and take your time on the announcements. No headliner likes to take the stage to a half-empty room. The opening joke is so important so if a lot of people miss it, it can be detrimental to the set.
And a final message to headliners: Please be somewhere in the vicinity of the emcee so they can ask you what to do. No one likes taking the stage not knowing where in the hell the headliner is because he/she feels too cool to stand near you for two minutes.
I was going to write a response to the question, “Can you go to too many open mics?” but the answer was obviously “no” followed by some other obvious tips like, “Don’t be that comic who gets drunk, annoying, and wastes precious stage time of yourself or others.” Chad Wallace summed it up in the St. Louis comics thread by saying, “Bring your A game.”
So just a quick tip. Since Facebook is pretty much the main way most new comics try to promote themselves by getting their name and face out there…keep your profile picture as yourself. It doesn’t need to be a headshot, but if you’re connected to hundreds of comics on Facebook, they’d like to be able to recognize you when you talk to them after a show. Perhaps you MC for them once. They’ll remember your face if they see it every so often on Facebook. If they don’t see your face, you’re more than likely to be forgotten. It doesn’t even have to be just you in the picture. The mistake comics make is trying to post something funny as a picture. That’s kind of like trying to do jokes during the show’s announcements. It doesn’t need to be funny, nor does it work very often.
I’m not saying I’m one of those comics who is important to know, but there have been numerous times where I pretended to know who you were and then had to ask someone after you walked away or just didn’t care. Turns out we’re pretty much all bad with names. Facebook has been a lifesaver many times. However, if I’ve never seen your actual face on it, it will take me a lot longer to know who you are. (The same with important people.)