Crowd Work In Stand-up Comedy
Every stand-up comedian’s repertoire includes walking out on a stage with a script at the tip of their tongue, calculated pauses, and orchestrated delivery. But what absolutely elevates a comedic performance is some crowd work – when a comedian addresses their audience and interacts with them, eliciting some laughs by improvising jokes along the way.
Why do it?
Every member of the audience is expecting you to crack some prepared jokes. What will completely throw them off is if you start communicating with them. And being a comedian, you are probably aware of how the element of surprise works its magic when you are trying to make people laugh.
The audience also finds a comedian who indulges in crowd work to be more charming, confident, and funny. They instantly like you more if you can whip up some jokes on the spot. They feel that the act is more personal and customized for them. The crowd will feel more connected to you and relate more to the act if you employ crowd work.
Crowd work does not let your set feel like a monologue and gives it a more conversational vibe, which can work wonders for anecdotal comedians.
One way to get out of your monotonous memorized routine would be to strike a conversation with a random member in the audience and sprinkling it with some jokes here and there.
Another perk of crowd work is that it is a great way to find some new material that can later be incorporated into your sets.
How to do it?
As attractive as it sounds, crowd work is a skill that comedians struggle with the most. It is not easy to cook up hilarious jokes when the spotlight is on you. Comedians often try and fail at it leaving their audience annoyed and rolling their eyes. This can lead to a disastrous show that neither party would be satisfied with.
If you are going to be engaging in crowd work, you ought to get your A-game on the table. For this, it is advisable that you establish room control and study the crowd keenly. This will allow you to gauge your audience and set an atmosphere that is bound to be effective for a good show.
Many comedians take the route of emceeing to strengthen their crowd work. They learn comedy in this candid setup before incorporating it into their shows. This is a good way to test the waters before diving deep later during your shows.
While delivering a set, address the audience casually and reel them into a conversation as you go. Take it slow and test the dynamics of your audience before you dive headfirst into crowd work. If they are not responding well to the communication, you can cut it short and bring out your script.
Another tip that you must not forget is always to repeat the answers from the crowd. Because chances are that the audience’s side of the conversation is not audible to everyone as they do not have a mic. And apart from that one person you are interacting with, everyone will lose you. Your jokes are not likely to land if the audience missed out on the setup. So, bear this in mind while engaging in crowd work.
Remember this formula for excellent crowd work: Ask, repeat, state opinion about what was said, then connect it. And do not offend anyone while you are at it.
The key to good crowd work is confidence. The audience members are simply mirroring you. So if you have confidence in your act, they will too and your show will be a bigger hit than if you’d just delivered your pre-set script.
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