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.