When I was emceeing early in my career at the Columbus Funnybone, we had a guy come through and do a guest set on a random night. I had heard that he had made writing contributions for Seinfeld’s show (which was true) from the headliner. So when I brought him on stage, I mentioned that in his introduction. This was the wrong thing to do. He was fairly new to stand-up, and fell way short of the expectations his introduction had set.
I’ve been on the other end of this as well. I once had an emcee introduce me while mentioning something about me wearing braces (I did at the time), looking like Jeff Goldblum, and being a substitute teacher (which I was at the time). He managed to step on three jokes at once.
This week’s lesson: Do not make up your own introductions for the comics you’re introducing. Along with stepping on material and giving the crowd false expectations, a number of other things can go wrong. Even if it’s just a guest set, find that person’s introduction and write it down. They’re doing a free show hoping to get work and you’re messing up their audition. If an introduction isn’t provided, use a generic, “He or she performs at clubs and colleges all over the country…” Introductions really can’t help a comic, they can only hurt. They need to be like a good umpire…there, but not remembered.
The largest chapter in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage, is focused on emceeing. It’s the first step to making money and getting to perform in front of real comedy crowds on a consistent basis instead of random bar shows. You’ll also get to make better connections and occasionally work with famous comics (which I also write about).
Next week I’ll be away, so forgive me if I’m not able to post anything. In the meantime, please share this with as many comics as you can to prevent emcees from accidentally stepping on your material too.