Last weekend, the Munster and I went to the Improv in downtown San Jose to see some com-e-dey. We have been before and had a blast. Especially when we saw the hysterical Bob Saget. With Crazy for You getting off the ground, I figured that I could use a little more comedy for these old bones.
The venue wasn’t especially busy so we sauntered right in. We got a pretty good table and waited for our waiter to order beverages. For the oustide of the building to look as meh as it does, I was surprised to find that rest of the place is actually well kept. The 4 lights that were out were way up out of the way, so they didn’t affect the room with random dark spots. We could watch the waiters and patrons as they came and went.
Eventually, the lights were dimmed and the host for the night stepped out of the wings. At first, I thought we were going to be stuck with an incredibly lousy show but after a few attempts at audience connection he found a chuckle here and there. He introduced the featured comic who was an energetic self depricating jokester. Her jokes were funny mostly, but there were a few that toed the pity/uncomfortable line. Even so, she plodded through her set-ups to get to the punchlines. I appreciated her energy and fight to keep the audience engaged.
The headliner it turns out was an insult comic. So for the most part he bashed on the crowd. The first thing he did was to tell the audience what to expect, and did tell people who are easily offended that they should probably leave. True to his word, he shocked the house into laughs by saying some truly cringe worthy remarks. The problem I had with the performance was during the last 20 minutes, he didn’t have any filler jokes between the times he was trying to think of something say about one of the spectators. This in turn led to a lot of people stirring their drinks on the silence. Hearing the ice cubes bouncing off the sides of glasses killed any momentum he was working toward and draining the smiles off of the crowd’s faces.
I don’t know how to do stand up, but I would imagine that it could only benefit a comic to have a few jokes in their bag of tricks for just these kinds of moments. You know, kind of like how an actor needs to have songs and monologues prepared just in case at auditions they ask for another song or speech. Or maybe you didn’t know that.
I do know about performance though. And nothing is worse than not being able to get to the payoff OR not being able to harness that energy built and drive it back into the crowd to keep them with you.
Next time you go to a comedy club, take a moment to watch the give and take between the audience and the performer. It is amazing when everything goes right, and still pretty fascinating when it doesn’t. At least for the audience anyway. For the performer, it pretty much sucks a turd. I would say to try it at a show, but those are stories of moments that all tie together so you have to pay attention.
Have you ever tried stand up? I’d love to hear your experience. Drop me a line and we’ll chat!