Seriously, or rather, really (since it wasn’t serious at all).
Alongside my girlfriend and a couple of her friends tonight, we went out to support a young comic named Garrett Gamarra. The second (of I don’t know how many performers) was Sarah Silverman—backpack and papers in hand, ready to try out some “buds” (as she called them) of jokes she’s writing. She wasn’t on the initial bill, she literally came in right the show started and was brought on stage (to the confusion of the blind comic that was patiently waiting backstage). She’s actually much prettier in person than she appears in videos or television. Not that she’s unattractive, but her features are much softer up close. I say “close” because we actually moved to the front row at the host’s request before the start of the show.
If you’ve spent any time with Sarah (my girlfriend, not Silverman) and I, there’s a good chance you know that we both like to laugh—loudly. We put the “OL” in “LOL.” This actually became a “home base” for many of the comics to regroup with. My laughing drew the attention of several of the comics enough to be used as points of interest. The co-host actually asked me what I was doing every night for the rest of his career, so that I could always be in the audience. Another, when drawn to downstage right, decided to run with the fact that I am Asian (if you didn’t know…technically, I call myself American, my parents are Filipino, but that’s a totally different story).
Anyway, my previous apprehension to sit in the front row of a comedy club (yes, I did have that reluctance) has been faced point blank, and it wasn’t that bad. It actually led me to discover how different stand up comedy is among the live performing arts.
In the theatre, the audience’s reaction is often blamed and thanked by many actors. We hold for laughs (some people wait for them, but that’s something else…), but altogether, our performances are comparably rigid in regards to audience reaction.
In radio, there is even less, if any, audience interaction. Talking in the studio by myself, I often pause as if I’ll hear audience reactions (being used to the theatre), and I’ll usually call myself out in my unwarranted pockets of air. Having a co-host in the studio, it’s a little different, because we can talk to each other, but we still have an audience that we have to regard even though we are completely unable to witness their responses.
In stand-up comedy, I’ve seen some comics walk off the stage in anger because of heckling, others fade away in the silence of the deadened crowd, and some completely snub the audience responses to continue their momentum. This last tactic is interesting, and I had never seen it before in my few experiences with stand up. Obviously, the reaction of the audience carries the greatest magnitude on stand up comedy (at least, compared with theatre and radio), but if a rehearsed set means barreling through a series without allowing the audience to fully experience it is somewhat selfish and rude. Likewise, listening to the audience can completely re-route your set, but the comedian may choose to ignore this reaction (whether it be positive of negative) and continue on the path they are comfortable with.
A three-hour comedy show is grueling, especially if there are more awkward/uneasy performers. Regarding the audience is something that some directors/producers/hosts don’t care about (I’ll add this to my “blogs to be written” list). I’d be lying if I said the performers towards the end of the evening got the same responses the earlier ones did, but whatever the platform may be, whether it be with a seven minute set or a four minute karaoke song, it takes something to actually get up there and do it, and for that, I applaud you.
I’ll be here all week, ladies and gentlemen. Thanks for coming out. Good night.