The thing about comedy which i find a complete mystery is reflected in how different audiences and critics perceive my act.
and how diverse those perceptions are.
In recent years i have been described by one tweeter as a comedian “who reminds me of a 70s comedian”.
I have been complained about because of ‘racist’ gags.
A comedian who does ‘spaz’ jokes.
Then also i get told my stuff goes over people’s heads, on a regular basis.
At the same time i am a ‘lovely comic’, silly, Tommy Cooperesque.
Some just think i’m funny. They laugh when i do my act for them. Simple.
One lady once refused to book me after seeing a satirical song of mine on Youtube and concluded from it that I’m anti welsh language! Me???
But here’s the strangest thing i have come to realise – though i don’t know how i’ll ever prove this –
The strangest, weirdest phenomenon regarding stand up comedy is: if you put the same comedian in front of the same audience, but alter the physical aspects of the room, like maybe locate the audience in a different room or venue, and/or with different lighting and sound, get the talkers at the bar to shut up, close teh bar as oppsoed to have it open during the comedy, etc etc -…then the comedian will go down differently…maybe better, maybe worse.
I mean, i’ve become convinced of this after years of playing all sorts of different rooms, convinced that i can be ‘seen’ as an unfunny crap comedian by one group, say, in a badly set up rugby club in the midlands,
when you put the same crowd in, say, a nicely lit small theatre in Boston, Lincolnshire,’ll they watch my act, same act, and respond positively, thinking i’m fun, or even a comic genius.
(THE TWO GIGS COULD BE SPREAD OUT OVER A COUPLE OF YEARS so the audience in second gig wouldn’t remember the material)
I have actually experienced this…or close enough.
And i guess the mindset of the audience is a factor.
So the depressed, drunk group, the unruly crowd who have not paid to come in,
They probably won’t go for me as enthusiastically as a group who have paid to watch the comedy.
Most comedians would tell you that a wedding gig e.g is more difficult than a comedy club. and that is a simple example of what i’m saying. They have not paid to watch comedy, they are probably not the kind of people who would even attend a live comedy event – except for a TV comic’s show perhaps; they are drinking and eating, and there are kids present. Oh and there is no mic stand
But i have noticed that these differences in perception are on a spectrum that go along with subtle differences to lighting, sound, ambience of room, seating arrangement, etc
It brings to mind that idea from quantum mechanics, that you change something just by looking at it, partly because you need the energy of light to look at it.
In the same way an audience brings its own energy to a comedy gig….it could be good, bad, or anywhere in between.
yes live comedy is a 2 way thing.
In fact i think it is debatable whether a comedian should always blame him/herself if he goes down badly. That is, to say you blame the audience feels like a bad workman blaming the tools, and therefore you ‘mustn’t’ do that. And yes there have been plenty of occasions after gigs where i have shouldered the blame for not going down well, and felt terrible about it.
But i also know that i have done gigs where i was blameless, where i was shoved in a corner of a pub, with kids running around, a terrible sound system, no lighting, people talking, no mic stand (yes it is common to attend gigs where the comedian is expected to hold the microphone in their hand, though a musican would always be given one);…and at the end of doing my time i am blamed by the organisers for being crap….but i KNOW it’s not my bad. A comedian is often expected to crowd manage, to placate loud drunks, be nice to riotous small kids, to quieten a torrent of noise, to compete with TV screens and fruit machines. Miracle work in other words. Who do they think i am, Jesus?.
So in a way it all comes down to audience attention and attitude – and how that can be nurtured, via theatrical conditions, into one cohesive whole.
So, the best wedding gig i ever did was in a hotel near Taunton. where the organisers had singled out a separate function room where they set up lights, a proper sound system, and arranged the seats into intimate rows – so really it was like a comedy club.
With cruise ship audience – i really did try hard to please them. But the first night, they wander in from the rest of the ship, – so it’s kind of effectively free entry – it’s formal wear, so they’re in dinner suits and ball gowns – not conducive to my chaotic loose type of comedy (though i hasten to add i was wearing a suit too), and i think a lot of them there have a definite expectation of what a good comedian is, and are inflexible in that view.
But hey maybe you are right when you say that i might be too ‘clever’ for the ‘mainstream’…That word mainstream is interesting. because the mainstream is constantly changing.
maybe i am not a good enough comedian – or maybe i’m rambling.