Not Following the Script

St. Louis in 2010. Not all comedy club bartender's look like this.

One thing that really irritates the shit out of me is watching a comedian use a reference that the audience doesn’t relate to. For example: A comedian doing a joke about White Castle hamburgers when they aren’t even in that area. Most of my references work everywhere, but sometimes when you perform in a smaller city/town, you have to make sure it’s going to play.

One of my opening jokes is about Target. I’ve been doing the joke for a long time and recently I’ve added some new stuff to the bit to make it even stronger and smarter. The biggest reason I haven’t gotten rid of it, though, is because it connects so strongly with women that I get them on my side early. I will discuss the subject in more detail on another day here, but let me just offer up that it’s vital to get women on your side when doing comedy. Occasionally, I come to a place that is so isolated that they don’t have a Target. I was in Marietta, OH last night, right on the Ohio River and asked the young woman working the door if there was a Target close. She said there was one in Parkerburg, which was about 20 miles away.  Cool. I can do the bit.

So I’m on-stage and I mention that during my free-time today, I put on a red-polo shirt and a pair of Khaki pants and then went into the Parkersburg Target to mess with people.  The audience did not respond with laughter, but with “hey, there is no Target in Parkersburg.” Oops. I’m on the stage for 2 minutes and I had already lost the trust of the audience. I figured to just fess up. I said I had asked if there was a Target in the area and (pointing to the door girl) “this slut told me yes because she must love to make comedians look like an idiot.”

Sure, that might have been a little harsh, but considering I was going to be up in front of these people for another hour, I figured a little public shot was fair for not giving the proper info. Most of the audience laughed and I continued to bring up the Parkersburg Target throughout the show. If you fuck-up, I think the best method to diffuse it is to just acknowledge it. A lot of comics can’t admit there mistakes. While being self-deprecating generally is a mistake on-stage since you need to appear like you are super-competent at your job, if you screw-up, embrace it and show how you can use it for your advantage.  COMEDY LESSON 27 is now over. Class is out of session.

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Wanted to mention that the show last night in Marietta was sold-out. Over 130 people at the show. I can’t tell you how many major cities I’ve done shows that didn’t have half that many people on a Saturday night. It was a good show, though they had a problem with the lighting. I had mentioned in a recent column about how important it is to have good lighting, as facial expression is vital. The show went well, but I feel like the audience would have exploded if they could have seen my face better.  Hopefully, next week the room will take my advice and add this important facet to the show.

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