Comedy Entertainment: Keeping It Funny

Yesterday, I attended a business luncheon where the featured entertainment was a stand-up comedian. Unfortunately, although he had his moments when the crowd was laughing and enjoying, the comedian pretty much bombed. The organization that put on this luncheon is very organized and they really know what they’re doing when it comes to their events. There’s no doubt in my mind that a highly capable committee was involved in choosing the entertainment. I’d be willing to bet that they all watched his videos, that he came highly recommended, and that someone from the committee saw a live performance before hiring him. I myself searched for him on YouTube and found some very funny clips. He’s a seasoned professional with credits most comedians can only dream of attaining. So why did he get such a poor response? There are plenty of reasons why an otherwise very funny comedy entertainer might not do well. Here are a few things to consider:

The performer may be great, but is the material right for this audience?

  • Are there people in your group who might be offended by jokes that other audiences would find hilarious?
  • Are there cultural factors that might cause the jokes to go completely over their heads?
  • Is the audience too serious for comedy at all? Is the event too serious for a comedic interlude to be properly appreciated?
  • Has the performer been asked to customize his act for your audience, and, more importantly, have you had a chance to preview the customized material?

Timing is everything:

This has nothing to do with the comedian’s own sense of timing. Of course this is important, but let’s assume the performer you’re hiring already has that area squared away.

The event planner needs to have a good sense of timing as well. When is the comedian taking the stage? Here are some times in a program when comedy performers should most definitely NOT be introduced:

  • When food is being served and waiters are milling about
  • When the audience has just had to sit through an interminable round of speeches
  • When the audience has just entered the room and they are still finding their seats
  • When the main course has just been served

The last “NOT” above, when the main course has just been served, may have been a huge contributing factor to the problems faced by the performer I saw yesterday.

What all of these NOTs have in common is that they hinder the audience’s ability to give feedback to the performer. Either they can’t pay attention because of one or more distractions, or they simply aren’t laughing because their mouths are full.

During the first few minutes of a comedy act, the audience decides whether they think the performer is entertaining or not, and they give immediate feedback, either in the form of laughter, applause, or–God forbid–dead silence. This feedback will affect the performer’s energy level, and consequently the overall quality (and “perceived funniness”) of his entire act.

Simply put: Laughter is contagious. The more audience members are laughing from the beginning, the better the overall show will be.

For this reason, it’s essential that a comedy performer take the stage at a time when the audience can give their complete and undivided attention, and when nothing can hold back their laughter (e.g. a mouthful of food).

The Dance Floor of Death:

This is a topic dealt with in an earlier tip, but it has a huge impact on comedy entertainment. Click here to read it.

One of the most difficult factors when it comes to comedy entertainment is that it can be completely unpredictable. Since chemistry between performer and audience is so essential, something that is a tiny bit “off” can cause a comedian to have a bad show for no apparent reason. But as long as you are prepared with a seasoned comic who is a proven success with audiences like yours, and you’ve taken all of the above factors into account, the most predictable outcome is gales of laughter and an all-around good time for everyone involved.

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