Comedy is one of the simplest types of entertainment… if it’s done right. All you need is a mic, a stage, lighting and a focused audience. But have one of these things out of kilter, and you get a vastly different experience.
When I started out entertaining at a tough bar gigs, my aim was to get so powerful that I would never again have to perform comedy in a room in which you can listen to the blender! Bartenders seem to have great timing: they always crank it up right as you’re hitting a punchline. No one hears it and you look foolish. Little did I know that there are room setups which make the blender gigs seem easy.
I once got to perform comedy at a company party on a turntable or Lazy Susan for those of you over 50. The room was stationary but the portion of the floor which I performed on spun around, making a 360-degree lap every 10 minutes. In a 60 minute show, everyone got to see my face six times. There was a wall behind me, so individuals on every side of the room couldn’t find each other, which made it much more interesting because I’d spin slowly into a single part of the space, annoy the people who had forgotten there was comedy, and then I’d spin out. Sixty minutes of this. The customer was drunk when I got there, so she didn’t see the issue. She was drunk when she booked a turning stage and a comic, but I can’t say for sure. Obviously my comedy-on-a-turntable did not resonate well with the group.
I got another chance to do a little bit of comedy spins at an event a couple of years later, but instead of the floor turning, it was just me! The company that hired me since there are more than 1,000 people in attendance, they wanted to make sure everyone could see the comic. They put me on a pedestal in the middle of the room, with people sitting all around me, and asked me to spin while I told jokes. I’ve always wanted to be put on a pedestal- figuratively, not literally. I didn’t understand about the spinning until I arrived at the event, and the client kept asking me before the show,”So do you think this is okay?” I refused to say yes because I did not want to take the blame for it, so I just responded,”I will try it.” I did end up having a lot of fun with it, and even though the comedy show went very well, I wouldn’t recommend spinning comedy. That is when I decided that being a famous comic would come in really, really convenient because I could put my foot down and demand that I never spin. But I needed the money and I am not famous, so spin I did!
Of course there are stationary room setups which are not conducive to comedy either. Consider telling jokes in the basement ballroom of a fancy resort with posts placed across the room. I started off trying to dodge in between them and around them and beside them, until I finally blurted out,”I went to college so I didn’t have to have a job dancing around a pole!” It got a huge laugh and I got to admit the situation I was in. At least everybody in the room was experiencing my”pole dance,” therefore it was funny and the comedy show still rocked!
And sometimes, the point is a little more makeshift than I would like. I did a comedy show at a school, during lunchtime, where I had to stand on a long, narrow lunch table. These college gigs are known as”nooners” because they occur at noon in the cafeteria. Weird. I don’t know how many decibels the noise level got to this day, but I am pretty sure nobody heard my jokes; the students were more interested in their hamburgers and fries compared to my humor. But no one questioned why an almost 40-something girl was standing in their cafeteria on a desk. I did my act into the clock. When it struck 45 minutes, I jumped down and left. I do a lot of keynotes at health care events, and they have a term called a”never-event” for a mistake that should have never happened, like operating on the wrong body part or injecting the wrong medication. I believe that term, never-event, sums up these nooners.
In addition to these places, just a few other off-the-wall comedy settings I have told jokes are:
In a bakery on a gigantic bowling alley with individuals inside colossal clear bowling balls rolling in a winery outside in a field next to a canal with enormous barges going by on a floating dock on a lake with the crowd on the grass embankment on coast at a restaurant while people were eating in a restaurant filled with countless statues in a multimillion dollar gymnasium with a $20 sound system on an aircraft carrier with the wall open behind me so that you could see the ocean in a museum, on the steps leading to an exhibition
WISDOM: Do not overthink things. Some of these situations came about because the customer was overthinking the crowd, such as”Comedy will make the students eat lunch.” No, hunger will make the students eat lunch, but the customer was trying to fix something that didn’t need fixing. Thinking about things from too many angles can make your head spin, even when you’re not telling jokes on a Lazy Susan!