There are exactly two problems with comedy. One, comedians and second, the audience. I’m being a bit simplistic, but honestly, when a show is not fun, forget a bad mike, lighting, or acoustics, your issues come from one and two right there.
I host a monthly show and recently, I set up everything to start. I knew it would be a fun beginning because the entire front had three tables together and the back had the same type setup – this means groups are at the show for something else. The front table was absolutely littered with empty drinks, indicating they were about done. Although they didn’t pay attention, they were indeed about done celebrating a friend’s promotion and I was able to reclaim the tables one comic in and have about 12 people able to sit down instead of being at the bar.
The other table? Not so much. A mid-50’s group, mostly men, were having a reunion of sorts and not facing the show. The policy at my show is that it is free, so this happens – when people don’t pay, you get more people there, but they have no vested interest in paying attention. The ringleader was a silver haired man with a mustache who got louder and louder as the show progressed. He wasn’t heckling, but his volume was becoming problematic. Another comic actually popped over and asked that they keep it down (I couldn’t hear exactly what she said, but it seemed very respectful). The human speaker blurted out, “I haven’t seen this guy in 30 years!” He was pretty annoyed, a few more words, then right back to talking. Another patron approached me and asked that I turn up the volume.
The group finally left right before the headliner’s act and the one lady at their table approached me. “Do you run this show?” Well, I did announce myself as the host and also have been onstage four times, so yes. “This a nice idea, but I’m a paying customer and I don’t appreciate that BITCH (she really slowed down and emphasized the word BITCH as though I’ve never heard it before and boy it meant something!) telling us to be quiet.”
Couple things – I host the show, I don’t have any power to control private conversations between crowd members. Also, this is about the image you need for this lady.
Not quite as bikerish, but you get it. I said to her, “Well, it’s a free show. These people are enjoying it.” She had this incredulous look as though floored by the fact I didn’t drop to my knees and cry out in anguish over another patron telling her kindly to not scream laugh and yell talk over the show. “AHM A PAYING CUSTOMER!” I replied, “MAYBE JUST DON’T SCREAM, THAT’S ALL.” Bonus fact, I’ve literally never seen them at the bar where I’ve hosted a show for seven years, so there’s that also. I had to tell another group in the back to pipe down (they ignored me) and the show ended.
What did I learn from all this? Nothing, really. I went back onstage and explained to the crowd, “Well, if anyone tells another person to be quiet, apparently I’m supposed to beat them to death in front of the crowd. Rules are rules.” Then of course, a person who I didn’t see laugh one time came up to me and told me how to run the show and what promotion I needed and how much to charge and I think how to change my diet to get more zinc.
Long story short, here’s the fun with running a show. If you charge, people will literally bitch about $5 to get in, like everyone makes $1.75 per hour. This just happened on promo I posted on Facebook. If you don’t, it’s the wild west about 1 of 3 times, if you’re lucky. Comedy is fun, until people get involved. So, you just deal with it and try not murder strangers like paying customer lady – oh by the way, she also wrote a complaint on her credit card receipt, because that’s the official form to fill out. I hope she got the flu picking up the pen to write that note.
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