At a recent show setup by a booker who prides his comics on being towards the clean side, I looked out and spotted two children in the crowd (five and seven years old I guessed). My act isn’t that dirty to begin with, but I do mention sexual topics several times. I only had to do thirty minutes, but on the fly I would have to alter my setlist. I was caught off guard, so instead of trying to hide it and probably appear awkward, why not make it funny?
I pointed out my surprise about the kids being there and mentioned something about them learning some new things tonight. I actually overplayed how big of a deal it was and the crowd enjoyed that. If I got to a point in my set that I needed to adjust, I paused and said, “Can’t use that one tonight…” These aren’t as big of laughs as the joke would’ve gotten, but it helped fill the void and it gave me time to substitute the setlist with other bits.
I then just decided to have fun by being coy about the topics. For example, instead of saying condoms, I worded out something else explaining that I was in charge of the birth control, etc. The crowd seemed to be in on the whole bit of editing for the children and my 5 minute warning timer (cellphone in pocket) vibrated way sooner than I thought it would. Overall it was really fun to see what they laughed at and what they didn’t get (the five-year-old fell asleep, who can blame her?).
Some people might ask, “Why do you have to be the one to change? It’s not your fault they brought their children to a comedy show.” True, and if you want to do your regular stuff, go ahead. But with this particular booker and venue I thought it best to go the route I did. I was in a reception hall at a campsite an hour south of St. Louis and the crowd (and owner) came off as rural and conservative to begin with so I thought it would be best. If the crowd is uncomfortable with children hearing about adult topics, they’re not going to laugh at my jokes. Their focus will be on the children instead. (Welcome to the Midwest!)
For tips on how to be prepared for other odd situations you’ll face on stage as well as help on many other topics in stand-up, order Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.