By: Justin Tuttle | Twitter: @tuttlecomedy | Posted: April 7th, 2014
We here at C-U Comedy are getting ready to hit our 4 year anniversary of running shows in the Champaign-Urbana area!! (Feel free to send us congratulation cards with different cash denominations inside.)
Since the beginning, our audiences have been giving us feedback. Most of it encouraging, constructional, and helpful. But occasionally we'll hear people saying things that are... how do I put this nicely? Um. Uneducated? (I wanted to say mind-numbingly annoying, but since I'm being nice, we'll go with uneducated.)
So I thought I would give a little feedback to some of these overheard comments. Hopefully it will give you a little insight on why if you say one of the following at a comedy show, the performers may look at you like you sneezed in your hand and wiped it on their jacket.
1. "That last person sucked. The crowd didn't laugh at all. They're the worst one here!"
Getting on a stage is hard. Getting strangers to laugh at you is harder. Getting on stage to make strangers laugh while working out new material is the Level-40-Donkey-Kong hardest.
If you see someone bombing, sure, there is a chance they are simply not funny. I mean, come on. You've heard your dad and his buddies make better jokes when they were day drunk during the work week.
But maybe the performer who received the so-so reaction was the best comic there. Maybe they just weren't the best on that night according to the audience. Maybe they didn't vibe with the crowd. Maybe they got off on the wrong foot and then ran out of time before they could recover. Maybe they are working on material that the crowd simply did not want to hear.
The goal in comedy isn't to always get the best audience reaction of the show. It's to improve your act, your onstage persona, and your material. Sometimes for that to happen, you have to die a silent death in front of judgmental eyes. It's the only way you can truly grow as a performer.
Now, if you see the same person bomb EVERY TIME over the course of a few years, then yes, your alcoholic father might be funnier.
2. "The crowd LOVED that last person. They're obviously the best one here!"
We want people to get big laughs. That's the purpose of the shows. But getting the most laughs on any one particular show doesn't make you "the best."
The person who usually gets the biggest reaction at a local comedy show is the person who brought the most people. Notoriety is a huge influence on who and what you find entertaining. Knowing someone personally can make them funny, even when what they are saying isn't all that funny.
I've seen established performers go on stage and deliver tested material to an indifference reaction. Then someone who brought 80% of the crowd goes up for their first time and ends to a standing ovation. Does that make them the funniest? Maybe. But probably not.
I don't want to undersell these performers though, because they are an important part of the show. They had the guts to get up there, which takes a lot. They also brought a crowd of people who might not have otherwise heard about the show. It's win-win for everyone. All I'm saying is someone may need more than a handful of times on stage to be considered "the best."
***NOTE: If you go up in a room filled with mostly your friends, you should get one of the better reactions of the night. If you don't, you probably owe them money, and their silence is a passive-aggressive way to get some form of payback. Cough up the dough or get new friends.***
3. "Why don't you put more girls on the shows!?"
Some of our shows may look like a boys club from the outside looking in, and that can be intimidating. But we don't have a tree house mentality. There aren't signs posted that say: "No Girls Allowed!" Quite frankly, we wish there were more women on the shows to break up the occasional sausage fest.
The problem is this: Not a lot of females are signing up. Understand that we don't "book" open mics. People get a hold of us in advance, we find them a spot on the schedule, and then they go on stage. The ones who get consistent reactions from the crowd and/or show they really care about comedy move up to the showcase shows. But if women aren't signing up, there is no way for us to put them on shows.
"My friend is really funny! She did stand up once a few years ago. Put her on your showcase show!" That's not how this works. We are big believers in equality, but not special treatment. We can't put a female on a showcase show simply because "we need a girl on the show." That's not fair to anyone, including the girl we would be putting up.
Allow me to make a humble suggestion. If you are a woman who would like to see more women performers on the stand up stage: sign up for an open mic! We would love to have you.
4. "I don't think so-and-so should get to go on stage. They are offensive!"
And we are offended that you actually said that, so maybe you owe us an apology. Everything is offensive to someone. And while you have the right to be offended, what you don't have the right to NOT be offended.
Our shows are strictly for adults and advertised as such. As a big people person, you should know how to deal with hearing things you don't agree with without acting like a baboon and throwing your verbal feces around.
We want the audience to have fun and enjoy themselves. And in support of that, we ask all performers to steer clear of shock humor for the sake of shock humor. But if we start banning subjects that someone finds offensive, we will only be able to talk about puppies and burnt toast. And you know some asshole will complain about dogs and bread being against his religion, and then we are down to nothing. If they can make it funny, no topic is off limits.
"Well, it wasn't funny!!" Yes, to YOU it wasn't funny. And we respect that. But it all comes down to intent. We've been running shows long enough to know when a performer is joking, and when they are saying something into a microphone just to be hateful. If they do the latter enough times, they will they won't be allowed on the shows anymore. (Yes, unfortunately, it has happened.)
5. First timer going on stage: "5 minutes? That's all I get? I have 15 minutes ready to go!"
No, you don't. You really don't.
I'm not calling you a liar. I'm sure you wrote out a couple stories, timed it loosely in the mirror, and it came out to 15 minutes. So, technically, you DO have 15 minutes of words that you can say in consecutive order. And I'm sure some of it is funny. But you still don't have 15 minutes.
We don't want to discourage you. You are excited and want to be on stage. That is the attitude you should have when you first start. (It will get smoothed down to a dull bitterness as the years go by, but the first couple months? Bam! Boom! Exciting!) And, contrary to belief, most people generally do well their first time because of that excitement. With that being said, you still don't have 15 minutes.
If you want to impress the people running a show your first time up, stick to 5 minutes without going over. I guarantee that will get you more stage time than trying to crank out a 15 minute set while not knowing what to do with the mic stand when you're not using it.