Playing To A Small House

by Dustin D'Addato on February 10, 2009

A lot of comics get a little freaked out when they look out into an audience and see a half full house (or worse).  Everyone comic knows it’s easier to make 300 people laugh than 1. (which is why comics don’t tell their jokes at parties.  It doesn’t work people).  But I have learned time and time again that a small audience can be the most fun audience of all.

The truth of the matter is that when it comes to a successful comedy show (or any show really) it’s all about the connection with the audience.   If there is a solid connection between the audience and the performers then both are pretty much guaranteed to have a party.

So how you make a small house happy?  First, admit to yourself it’s a small house.  You have to do the show differently.  The times that I have made a small house work was when I spoke to them.  Pulled back the curtain and admitted, hey we are all in this together so let’s just have fun.  No pressure.  A small audience needs to know that you are just as excited to see them as they are to see you, maybe more.  Remeber, they feel pressure too.  If there is an audience of 300 people and 4 people don’t laugh no one notices.  But if there are 10 people and 6 people don’t laugh then everyone feels very uncomfortable and the rooms gets eerily quiet and suddenly  you can hear every sound in the room.  (Here is a rule for comics:  If you can hear the air conditioning then something is going very wrong at your show).  Each audience member feels pressure to laugh and there is nothing like pressure to laugh to keep you from laughing.

In that situation you can’t just put your head down and do the show.  You have to get out there.  Talk to specfic people.  Joke around about them and about what ‘s going on in the room.  Use the space is surprising ways.  Make them feel part of it.  Then they will forget they are part of the audience and feel more like they are part of the show.

Any other tips on performing in front of a small audience?  Leave us some comments or email us at info(at)thecomedynerds(dot)com and share them with others.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Matt Ruby February 16, 2009 at 11:51 am

Good post. In situations like this, there’s nothing worse than a comic who sticks to a rigid script and ignores the reality of the room. Just makes you seem tone-deaf. View it as an opportunity to freestyle, riff, and just go with the flow.

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