Friends with Your Audience
Posted on 18 February 2014
Anecdotally I’ve heard Maria Bamford once said, “You know that hole you feel in your life? It’s not a comedy shaped hole.”
I’ve seen far too many people chasing after arts roles hoping that with an adoring audience, they will finally feel validated as a human being. How many people have convinced hundreds of people to “like” them on Facebook, and still it’s not enough? It will never be enough.
We all need a certain amount of external validation to feel secure, but at some point you have to feel secure within yourself. If you don’t, it will impact on your relationship with your audience.
If you look out at your audience and see nothing but minions to your personal empire, of course you will be angry when they don’t laugh at all your jokes. Minions are supposed to laugh on cue. I have seen comedians on off nights go from bad to worse, because they start insulting the punters for not being good enough.
Similarly, some comedians not only want an audience to build them up, they are terrified of an audience tearing them down. As such the relationship can become adversarial. The comedian is unlikely to look into people’s eyes, will mumble, and stand in a self-protective slump. In essence they will become your teen son or daughter.
If you do not trust your audience, they will not trust you. An unsteady truce for the purpose of telling a few jokes will not cut it. Ultimately, it will be an act of self sabotage where comedians prove to themselves that they are right for having a low sense of self-esteem.
As a comedian you need to be the life of the party. You want to be vibrant, confident, and charismatic. When you hit the stage you want a presence that is magnetic. And you want to retain your audience’s focus by making them feel good. To do this you will need several personal attitudes.
“I belong on this stage.”
When you get onto the stage, own it. It’s all yours for the entirety of your set. Be the master of all you tread.
“I’m not perfect and that’s okay.”
Comedy comes from your humanity, not invulnerable perfection. When you let your humanity show, people connect with you better, and you are freer to be funny.
“I expect to have a good time.”
If you aren’t enjoying it, why are you in comedy? You could be doing something easier and more lucrative any place else. Any validation you get from an audience will be completely invalidated by the unpleasantness of staying on stage when it is tearing you up inside. Expect to have a good time, then go out there and have your own personal party in the spotlight. Woohoo!
“I am dedicated to having a good time together with my audience.”
Why do you tell outrageous stories to your mates? So you can all have a good time. Why do you pull a prank on Uncle Davo? So the whole family can laugh. Why do you chase your kids around pretending to be a dinosaur? Because you all love the squeals of excitement when you bond in this way. What you are giving an audience should be no different.
You have no business being on stage if you don’t like and respect your audience. The first step to respecting your audience is learning to like and respect yourself. You are human, embrace that with humility and a sense of grand gloriousness!
Peace and kindness,