Saturday, August 20, 2011

Jenn's Thoughts: The Audience

Tonight I came from watching a great show at Yuk Yuk's Ottawa.  I ran home because I had to write this blog about one of the forgotten parts of comedy:  the audience members.  

Who watches comedy?

Overall live stand up comedy is not as popular as it once was.  This can be attributed to globalization, Youtube, shorter attention spans, and economic recessions.  If one is to pay their $10-$20 tickets, the expectations are quite high.  Tonight at the lovely Prescott location I did something I have never done:  I ignored the comics.  The comics were on stage performing their bits, making with the funny, and all eyes were on them...except mine; mine are firmly planted on the audience.

Tonight is a full house, and the audience is:

  • varying ages, mostly 30's and up;
  • couples or women, no "male friend dates";
  • all white.  ALL white.
  • having the time of their lives!
The audience members attention is fully on the comic, not on their blackberry's or other devices.  During the headliner act, Ian Sirota, they are all laughing very loudly.  Not just laughing mildly but full body, shaking all over, guffawing while stating "it's so true".  The audience is enamored to say the least.  Each person has a smile on their face.  Let me say that again:  EACH PERSON HAS A SMILE ON THEIR FACE.  Think about that, think about where else you could see everyone smiling.  Here is my list:

  1. Family Pictures:  Um, sure they are all smiling for the camera, but no family is so great that  the smiles never leave, unless they are all taking effexor mixed with seroquil with Abilify for dessert.  Point is:  there is always someone grumpy off camera!
  2. Something to do with children:  those who have children can attest that the smile children can make you smile with their innocence and charm; however, four minutes later they have you muttering "eff my life" under your breath.
  3. Sex:  No one is smiling at the same time; one is working while the other one is smiling, then vice versa.  Simultaneous orgasms are a myth people.  (this comes from years of experience and observations)
So it is up to the comedians to bring their game each and every time they are on stage.  Each and every time.  If their is an audience of 2000, or an audience of 20, they should bring everything they have and always give a great performance, or at least try to.

I have seen venues, usually fringe or alternative, where the audience is sparse.  Comedians usually blame the promoter, and this is where you can tell the difference between someone who is there for themselves and those there to perform.  If the comics complain and really just fool around on stage, it is more for them, but if they still perform their jokes and work to get laughter out of the smaller group of people, then they are becoming performers.

I recently produced a show with Heidi Foss, Jen Grant, and Judy Croon. Due to miscommunications with the conference we were working with, 28 out of the  300 people showed up.  What a change in expectations of the comedians, not to mention myself!  All three women demonstrated exceptional professionalism and put on an amazing show.  All 28 women there had the time of their lives.  This audience was what mattered to the comedians, the 28 people in front of them, not the 272 who didn't show up! 

So if you are a comedian, acknowledge to yourself that without the audience, you are just a guy or gal saying some words on stage.  Treat them with respect:  they paid to come and watch YOU.  You are the person who is going to light up their face all night, and you are the one who has the ability to make a difference in their lives.  

If you are an audience member, thank you for coming.  Also, demonstrate the same respect:  put your cell phones away and don't talk while the comedians are on stage.  But thank you again for coming, thank you for supporting an art form that some say is dying.  It's not, by the way, not even close.  As long as women like Foss and Grant exist, and genius' like Mark Forward perform it never will be.

The audience, the forgotten heroes of comedy.   We appreciate you, your money, your smile and your support.  Thank you.

J Hayward

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