Sunday, March 05, 2006

Last night's show

Wow.

Now I know what it's like to work a tough room. And now I have a few survival skills.

I won last night's Latino Laughter slot; a Saturday slot. Since it's not a 'bringer' show (meaning I was not responsible for a portion of the audience) I decided it was time to face a crowd with no friends in it.

At NY Comedy Club, there are two rooms; a big room and a small room. We were in the small room. Right before the show, the crowd was lined down the street. It was huge. But there was a mix-up and nearly all of it was directed into the big room. Most of our audience filed into the wrong room and we were left with about ten people.

The other room sounded amazing since there was not a seat left in the house. Our room was a different story. Tino, who runs the show, is a sensational comic. He kills almost every night. And he worked overtime keeping the small crowd focused.

Last night I learned when you have a small audience, each member has infinitely more power. And leading this crowd were two drunken Marines from Texas. They were a nice crowd but by the time I got up, they were hammered. The Marines couldn't even hold their drinks.

I opened with the crassest humor I had. It worked beautifully but the crowd was so drunk instead of just agreeing with me, every joke sparked a conversation. Years of hanging out in dive bars taught me to agree with drunks and let them wear themselves out.

Then I switched to more original material. This is the material that has killed every night. It died. Nothing. No reaction at all. I'd always tried to ignore the audience's reaction. If they didn't laugh, I'd always say, just keep going. But this silence was painful.

I switched tactics quickly. I jumped into my Johnny Cash bit and the two drunken marines jumped right on it. The crowd swung in right behind them. I had gone from life to death to life again. Tino gave me a big hug as I left the stage.

I've seen comics abandon their set when confronted by a silent crowd. I've seen comics attack the audience. A dead crowd is the most frightening thing a comic has to face. I faced it last night, and survived.

3 comments:

Dave said...

Hey, Congrats on making it through a tough crowd. Whats the Johnny Cash bit all about?

Cromely said...

Latino Laughter Slot?

Monica said...

wow! first of all, ditto what bill said!

second, glad you have those dealing with drunks skills!