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.