As every comedian is well aware, it’s not likely that you’ll do a show that is going to pay thousands of dollars and be in a theatre packed with avid comedy fans. More often than not, you’re getting paid in leftover popcorn and watered-down beer to perform in the basementof a pizza place where comedy-haters who came for a quiet slice were herded downstairs by the show’s promoter. As you can imagine, this audience can be a hard nut to crack. If you see the audience isn’t reacting the way you would hope, there are a few key things that you can do that will keep you from falling into a pit to despair.
FOUR SIMPLE RULES
Firstly, try to read the audience and give them what they want. Every audience is different and will laugh at different things. Be aware that a group of middle-aged, wine-sipping tourists will react differently than a group of beer-bonging college kids, and be respectful of that. It’s your job to make people laugh and in order to do that you may have to alter your set and/or delivery.
Second, commit to your jokes. Even if the audience is sucking your will to live, stay confident. You know you are funny and unique, so stay true to yourself. If you normally deliver jokes as a cheerful optimist, fake that you are cheerfully optimistic and people may just believe you! The last thing an empty/quiet/laughless room needs is negative commentary on how the night seems to be going. The audience will remember the comic who went up there and just told their jokes in a way more positive light than the comedians who got up there and scoffed at the poor turnout and lack of laughter.
Third, keep it tight. This particular situation may not be the time to do your seventeen minutes of new rape jokes (but then again, it never is). Maybe you just do the tight five that you know rocks and throw in one or two new bits to test the waters. Just try your best to give the audience what they came/were forced down there for, and that’s all you can do.
Lastly, and most importantly, don’t you DARE beg for laughter. I can’t stand it when comedians stand up on stage and belittle an audience because they won’t laugh at their jokes. Sometimes people aren’t laughing because the comic is just NOT FUNNY! Pure and simple. A comedian’s job is to entertain an audience, not scold them. Shame on you for thinking that! Make light of the situation and it won’t end up being such a big deal anymore.
THE SUMMARY CHEAT-SHEET
– stay positive – lose confidence in yourself
– know your audience – try to force laughter
– appreciate the audience you have – berate the audience
– your best! – give up and admit defeat
– a tight set of good jokes – try 10 minutes of new material
Whatever obstacles you may run into performing, all you can do is your best and give the audience what they came for. As long as they leave having had a positive experience, who cares how much they laughed.