Senior Dave – While on stage, if everyone in the room is laughing but one or maybe two people, should I focus on them (in a positive way) in trying to break them? Or maintain everyone else and say the hell with them? Thanks – A.
Hey A – No lie. Or should I say senior, “No es mentira.” I was just talking with a comic about this. I’ll share our thoughts (which were pretty much the same), but also want to throw this out to everyone else…
As a comedian or humorous speaker – what do you suggest?
Should you focus on the people already with you – or throw your efforts towards the ones not laughing? Let me know and I’ll share your thoughts or experiences in an upcoming FAQ And Answer. And as always, please include your name and a website because after all – this is all about networking and I’ll recommend everyone check out your site.
The conversation I had earlier was about connecting with your fan base – both in performances and with marketing. Since you’re talking about being on stage, I’ll save the marketing advice for later.
Everyone in the performing biz understands you’re not gonna get 100% of an audience. Okay, maybe if you’re a cult leader or a maniacal dictator. But even then I can imagine there would be someone in the crowd thinking he’d better pass on drinking the Kool Aid and get his passport updated for a move.
Unless you have the perfect audience (as rare as the perfect storm?) there will be someone who won’t think you’re funny. It’s the nature of the business, which leads me to one of my stories…
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A few years ago I went to see Jerry Seinfeld perform stand-up in a theater. I was lucky to have seen him dozens of times before when I worked at the LA Improv. He’s one of the best – of all time.
During this particular show he was great. It was one of the funniest stand-up shows I’ve ever seen. BUT walking out of the theater, there was some guy behind me talking with his date. I overheard him say that Seinfeld wasn’t all that funny during this show and that she should’ve seen him last time.
Say what?? Did we see the same show?? I know we did, but as I’ve said – you’re not gonna get 100% of the audience.
So what do you do when you look out into the audience and see people laughing – and also see people not laughing? Who do you concentrate on?
The ones already laughing?
The ones not laughing – and hope you get them?
In my opinion as a talent booker and club manager, I want as many people as possible to have fun because they will (hopefully) become returning customers. So that means I wouldn’t want the comic to stop performing for the already-satisfied customer. He might risk losing them in an effort to get the not-laughing people.
There’s also a risk the comic will never get the not-laughing people no matter how hard he focuses on them. This could ruin the show for everyone.
Because it would turn the performer’s (and therefore, the audience’s) attention to the people not laughing – or having as much fun. A comic or speaker will know within five minutes of being on stage who’s with him and who’s not based on audience reaction. It could have to do with taste in humor, language, topics – or just the way the comic or speaker looks.
Audiences make first impressions just like individuals make first impressions. It’s the way it is – and we have to deal with it. So their first impression might be that they don’t like you. Other audience members are with you – and laughing – from the first words out of you mouth.
It’s like a roller coaster at an amusement park. Ask everyone to get on the ride. A few won’t want to. Are you gonna delay the ride and try to coax and convince them they’ll have a great time while everyone else is sitting there – possibly getting bored while waiting for you to show them a fun time on the ride?
Give’em the ride and leave the few non-laughing stiffs behind. Not everyone wants to ride the roller coaster, just like not everyone is going to think you’re the next Jerry Seinfeld. So don’t waste your time or efforts trying to force them. Have fun with the ones who want to go with you.
As Steven Stills once sang: “Love the one you’re with.”
If you have the majority already laughing and a few not really with you, my advice is not to waste your energy and entertainment value on what might be a no-win situation.
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To give this another perspective, I’ll go back to the conversation I referred to earlier. The one with my comedian friend concerning marketing. He told me there’s no reason to send his promotional material to someone who hates comedy. What’s he gonna do – change their opinion? Most likely he won’t. So he feels it’s best to go right for the people who already like you – and then continue to find more.
I agree all the way. Both in performing AND marketing.
Again, if you have any thoughts about this I’d like to hear from you. And believe me, I don’t expect 100% agreement. No es mentira.
Dave Schwensen is the author of Comedy Workshop: Creating & Writing Comedy Material for Comedians & Humorous Speakers, How To Be A Working Comic and Comedy FAQs And Answers. For information about these books, comedy workshops at The Cleveland Improv, or private coaching for comedians and speakers in person, by phone or via Skype visit www.TheComedyBook.com
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