When I performed at the dead stand up comedy open mic, it was interesting to see how different comedians handled the silence that emanated from in front of them. The guy who went next to last just did his set, which seems like it was the best thing to do; a couple of comics tried crowd work–one was told “that’s not sexy” when he asked one of the two female audience members what she did for work–and that didn’t go over well; and a few comics lashed out at the crowd.
Lashing out at the crowd is what the comic before me did. Now, I don’t want this to come across as me saying the dude was a bad comic, because he usually makes me laugh when I see him perform. I also don’t want you to think that I think he’s a terrible guy; he’s not. I just think he did the wrong thing in this instance.
His set started off good; he did some good things given the circumstances. He addressed the negativity of the room and addressed the fact that the audience seemed to be there with an intent other than laughing. We don’t perform in a very desirable location, and this comedian made fun of that fact by “bragging” that he was the king of a terrible location. The audience didn’t laugh, but some laughs did erupt from a few of the other comics here or there. So far he was getting by far the best response of the night.
But he couldn’t keep it up. He crossed the line from addressing the situation to being downright mean toward the crowd. One audience member was in a wheel chair, and when getting a personal attack thrown his way, he decided to leave. This audience member was in a wheelchair, and it didn’t look like wheeling that wheelchair was that easy for him. It took him thirty seconds to wheel himself ten feet to the door, and it took the host to open the door (and I assume apologize in the meantime) for this poor guy to leave.
By personal attack, I mean he looked right at the guy in the wheelchair and essential berated him for not laughing.
And the thing is, he continued this hostility for what seemed like a really long time (even though it was probably only two minutes). By the time he got off stage, the room had been dead silent except for the comic’s voice for the entire time of this hostility.
I had to go up after that.
What little energy the room had before the previous comic got up on stage was gone for the rest of the night. This is how I described the energy before and after this performance to a friend who is also a fellow comic: The room was essentially dying and almost dead when this guy got up, and he made sure it was dead before he got off.
Oh, and the energy wasn’t the only thing that was “gone” afterwards. This comic left right after his set. Thanks!
I think the lesson learned here is to be considerate of the other comics. This guy started off probably about as good as anyone could have done, but I think his mistake was not transitioning into some prepared material. I also don’t think, given the circumstances, anyone would have complained if he had decided to end his set early. But he did what he did, and the rest of the show did suffer for it. To be fair, the rest of the show may not have gone any better, but it definitely couldn’t have been any worse.