Getting Angry At The Audience – Why Does It Happen?

by Dustin D'Addato on February 24, 2009

Sometimes shows go bad.  Really bad.  Bad where the comedian questions why they ever got into comedy in the first place. When that happens it’s not uncommon to see a comedian turn on the audience.  Blame them for not laughing.  Question why they aren’t laughing.  That’s when the uncomfortable sets it.  The comic feels hated.  The audience feels insulted and angry at the comedian for blaming them because he sucks.

We also know it’s a bad idea for the comedian to turn on the audience, so why does it happen?  Why do comedians do it when it has never worked out well.  Here are the two main reasons:

1. They Need To Believe It’s Not Them – Comedians are alone on the stage and when something goes wrong they can only blame the audience or themselves.  They might have egos, but they are only there to hide the insecurity that made them a comedian in the first place.  If no one is laughing then that just confirms that insecurity that they are trying so desperately to hide.  So better to blame a room full of strangers in the dark.  They will go away after the show.  But a comic has to live with themselves (and usually 3 or 4 roommates in a crappy sublet from craig’s list).

2. They Need To Believe The Bit Is Strong – When a comedian has a bit that night after night kills, it’s awesome.  The comedian comes to love that bit.   It’s warm and cozy and it makes them feel safe.  That bit feels like home.  So when that bit doesn’t work, you have taken the comedian’s home away and thrown them out on the street.  They start to lose faith in the bit.  The bit that gave them strength in the first place.  And they start to think if that bit sucks, then what about all the bits that don’t always kill, but just do well.  Those bits must suck too.  No comedian wants to deal with that.  So rather than lose faith in that bit, they assume it must be that this random collection of people must, for some reason, just not get it.  And frankly the bit is so strong they must actively be working to not get it.  Those bastards!

Again, it’s never a good idea and when done frequently can be the sign of a poor comedian who needs to get better or give up the dream.  But sometimes it’s just a coping mechanism to help you get through a bad show.  Of course the comedian should look at what went wrong, how to avoid it in the future and learn from the bad show.  But my point is, sometimes when you get up there and expose yourself night after night you have to do some things to protect yourself.  A comedian needs to believe 100% that they and their material are funny.  Again, it’s not right.  I’m just explaining why I think it happens.

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