The Stand-up Comedy Secret That No One Will Tell You (Part 3)

Audience Factors

It’s an unfortunate fact that most new comedians are under the impression that audiences are somehow vastly different from the people that they interact with everyday.

So how are audiences different from friends, family, and coworkers? Here’s how:

  • Audiences contain more people than the group of people assembled at a home, for a get together somewhere or coworkers gathered together talking on a break.
  • Unlike with most casual conversations, most audience members won’t know you like your friends, family and coworkers do.
  • Unlike most casual conversations, most audience members don’t know each other.
  • If an audience is laughing, the resulting laughter can be larger and last longer than when there are less people are involved (like in casual conversations)

The important thing to note here is this:

Audiences are simply groups of people, usually strangers to one another, who have assembled for a purpose.

Audiences have no special powers. Outside not being as well acquainted with you or the others they are assembled with, they are no different than the people you interact with everyday.

Most importantly, audiences collectively have no special empathy or understanding for a person who is sucking on stage while attempting to be a comedian.

If anything, they initially have less empathy because they do not know anything about the comedian until they start performing and displaying their comedic skill (or lack of it).

Interesting side note: While the environmental factors that I mentioned in the previous section certainly won’t make a comedian funnier, they do help focus attention on a performer — whether they are killing the audience or flopping like the vast majority of new comedians do.

It could be said that audiences are collectively smarter than any comedian standing on stage and largely more objective than the people that they know and interact with in everyday life.

Audiences are not “required” or compelled in any way to laugh just because a person who has been identified as a comedian takes the stage.

Audiences are not “tasked” or obligated in anyway to “get the humor” in what a comedian has to say. Their expectation is to be entertained by the skill of the comedian delivering their act.

Now it’s 100% true that some audiences can be more responsive with their laughter than others.

But it is very rare for a comedian to completely slay an audience for one performance and completely flop for an audience of a similar size and composition in a different performance.

So let’s go back to the original question that you need to be able to answer for yourself:

What are the primary differences between making people laugh in everyday conversations and making people laugh when a stand-up comedy routine is delivered to an audience?

Consider this:

A professional comedian can travel from city to city delivering their stand-up routine to all manner of audiences and generate similar high level laughter results no matter where they perform.

If they couldn’t do that, they wouldn’t be a professional comedian for every long.

So, here’s the important question for this section:

Does an audience make a comedian funny or is a comedian funny for the audiences that they perform for?

The point that I want to make here is this:

Other than to verify with laughter that a comedian is funny, audiences have no bearing on whether or not a comedian is funny before they start delivering any part of their stand-up routine.

Let me put this another way…

People laugh at things that they perceive as funny, whether it be in conversations with friends or an audience of strangers.

In stand-up comedy, it is the comedian who is responsible for delivering the “funny” that causes the audience to laugh — audiences merely verify that stand-up material is funny by laughing.

Note: Not every audience member has to laugh in order for a comedian to be “killing” because there is usually always someone who won’t care for a comedian or what they have to say.

However, a comedian is “killing” an audience when the majority of audience members are laughing at a stand-up comedy routine.

Because of the contagiousness of laughter, even those who don’t actually like a comedian will laugh because of the laughter from the other audience members.

Audiences also verify that stand-up comedy material is not funny by not laughing or heckling if a comedian is offensive or not funny for an extended period of time.

So let’s recap the differences that have been covered so far and their impact on how funny a comedian is:

  • Using a microphone doesn’t make a comedian funny.
  • A stage doesn’t make a comedian funny.
  • Stage lighting doesn’t make a comedian funny.
  • An audience is comprised of a larger number of people that do not make a comedian or their material funny before they deliver any part of their material, but do verify that their stand-up material is funny by responding with laughter.

So stated in the simplest terms possible…

Laughter occurs in both casual conversations and when delivering a stand-up routine when something that is said and expressed is perceived to be funny and responded to as such with audible laughter,

It seems to me that if there are any differences to be found between causing laughter to happen in a casual conversation and a stand-up comedy routine, we need to look a bit closer at process that actually causes the laughter to happen.

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