Source: The Fundamentals of Stand-Up Comedy by Jim Richardson, ORGANIZED COMEDY Press, copyright 1990-2014, pages 442-446.
This material may not be reprinted without written permission and must include author credit.
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When I auditioned an M.C., this is what I required:
Back in the day,
I auditioned comics all the time.
As you can see, local standards for hiring beginning emcees were and are actually surprisingly low. For the clubs I booked,
I was hard pressed to find performers who meet even my minimum standards.
I ended up hiring M.C.'s with an average of 1.3 solid Laughs Per Minute (LPM), and I was lucky to get them.
Standards are even lower today, both at local clubs and on national TV.
The math doesn't lie: if a new comic with a great LPM debuted on TV today, for TV producers it would be like finding water in the desert.
So much for progress!
And this low LPM
at local comedy clubs is without the censorship of network TV!
In other words, even with dirty jokes -- which, told well, should be easy big-laugh getters -- most wannabe comics auditioning for M.C. work can't meet even this low standard.
I ended up having
1) Do they have enough experience so they will not panic at the inevitable silence or audience chatter in reaction to their weak sets, and run off stage before their 15-20 minutes are up?
2) Have they been performing at other clubs long enough so they have a reputation for actually showing up at the gig after I hire them?
3) Do they have enough visual or audible energy so the audience will focus on the stage while they are up there?
An unfunny comic who is a passable singer, guitar act, juggler, ventriloquist, magician, etc., will get the gig way before a partially funny comic who only does a monologue.
Reason: the simplest sound and spectacle (noise and movement) gimmicks tell even the most drunken patron where he/she is supposed to look: at the stage!
a) I like to see comics who always open with a sound or spectacle bit because it brings the audience together.
1. Just telling jokes will not do the trick.
2. If you don't do any variety artist techniques, just examine your act and pick the bit which has the most sound and spectacle to it. Maybe one of your characters shouts or has a funny walk. If a child would understand it, so will a drunk and disorderly individual. Ever seen a baby hypnotized by a watch swung on a chain before their eyes? You get the idea.
b) Always close with a sound or spectacle bit.
1. You want to bring the audience together at the end of your act so as many of them will be applauding as possible. You want to use techniques that get the audience's lungs breathing in unison and their hearts pounding together. Songs, audience participation bits, etc., are great for this because they get the audience going together in a rhythm.
2. This rhythm will increase your exit applause which will go a long way towards moving you up the next step on the comedy ladder.
4) Can they deal with hecklers?
Beginning comics often get mad instead of getting the outspoken person to quiet down.
Remember the baby and the watch. Who could get mad at that baby?
Treat hecklers and/or drunks like babies, not as equals.
5) Can they be heard?
6) Does the act sound natural vs. sounding memorized?
As you can see, whether or not they are funny is one of the last things I consider.
So, be encouraged.
If you are reasonably intelligent and disciplined, there are jobs in local comedy ready and waiting.
Always have been, always will be!
I mean, right now!!!
have been banging the pot loud enough for the club to risk hiring you as
•The next step is for you to actually become the Master of Ceremonies.
•You represent the club, so act like it.
•Endorse everything about the room and the other acts.
Find out how the comics want to be introduced:
But don't be tied to credits if they are lame. The audience assumes everyone is on the bill because they are a "professional." Avoid saying this defensive sounding line: "He is a professional comic who . . .."
Never give any comic more than three credits--more will tax the audience's patience.
1) What other comedy clubs these comics have played at is irrelevant to the audience. They assume you have played other clubs.
2) Who the comic has opened for is a lousy credit. You're telling the audience you weren't good enough to be the Headliner. Only exception: if you have opened for someone who's name is a household word.
1) contests in which the comic has either won or placed runner-up. "Finalist" or "competed in" are too lame to mention. The contest doesn't have to be famous. It just has to sound important. Deliver it with much enthusiasm, deserved or not!
2) radio, TV and film appearances
3) newspaper quotes
4) things famous people have said about the comic
5) If the comic has none of the above, invite him to make up some phrase that describes his main character. One local Headliner did such a good job of this that he actually out drew all the other provincial Headliners, all of whom had much better credits than he had.
of the above are publicity tips for you when you get your own promotion
Do your publicity homework long before you get your first job as M.C.
If the first comedy producer or club booker to hire you asks for your photos,
•you can earn easy points with him/her if you include with your photos a completed promo packet.
You've already spend hundreds of dollars in gasoline getting to open mics.
•Now, for much less money, you can present yourself as a professional!
As master of ceremonies, you will be asked to tell the audience various bits of information that are not necessarily jokes. These advertisements will come to you from the club owner (known as "the house"), the other comics and even the audience. These ads are called "plugs."
Where do you give your plugs in the more common three-comic format?
You don't have time for this at the beginning of your set. Nobody would hear you anyway since they will still be talking until you make them laugh.
It would be awkward to do it between your act and the Middle Act. You will barely have time to give the audience a three sentence list of the Middle's credits, and bring him on. Anything more, and you will lose momentum.
That leaves just after the Middle Act and before you give the Headliner's credits. You have 30 minutes while the Middle Act is on stage to get all the plugs straight. When you re-enter after the Middle is done, the audience will expect you to justify coming back on stage. They will be "all ears." Whether there is an intermission coming up after your plugs or not, you do not have to do any comedy at this point in the show. Just keep your mind on the plugs.
Plus, this is a good time to give the plugs because there is still time to act on many of the things you will bring up for the audience to consider. They can order special drinks, etc., during the Headliner's set. If there is an intermission, they can get up and do whatever you have suggested to them: they need to know where the bathrooms are, etc.
For the house:
Plug all upcoming events other than next week's comedy bill. You plug next
week's show only at the end of this week's show. While this week's show is
on, that is the only show you want the audience to be thinking about.
2) Encourage patrons to tip waitresses. Comedy audiences are notoriously bad tippers. They need reminding or the waitress will get skunked. Then, she will take it out on the comics!
3) Push specials on bar drinks, appetizers and dinners, etc.
For the audience:
1) Plug birthday announcements, company parties, etc.
2) missing persons
3) cars with lights left on or cars about to be towed
After the Headliner's
1) repeat his name just as the headliner's applause starts to die out. If you time this wrong, you will accidentally cut off some of his exit applause. If you time it correctly, the Headliner will actually get an additional 5 seconds of applause.
• If the Headliner likes your work, he may well recommend you to be hired at other clubs. A point to remember, yes?
2) Then, ask for a round of applause for each of the comics on the bill tonight, beginning with
a) Middle Act's name,
b) then Headliner's, and finally
c) your name.
Sell your name best
of all. But not in a way that makes you look like you think you are better
than your seniors in the comedy business. Perhaps you could do it with exaggerated
humility, verbally or non-verbally. But make sure they remember
3) Plug the bill of comics coming next week:
a) first, just the upcoming M.C.'s name,
b) then, just the Middle Act's name,
c) then, three of the Headliner's major credits,
d) and finally, the Headliner's name.
This way, you build to the reason they are to come next week, and sell it. Even if you think the M.C. and Middle Act are great comics, or if they happen to be friends of yours, or have great sounding names/credits, only sell the Headliner by giving just his three (3) credits. He is the star, the guarantee that the show will be worth watching.
The audience hears items in groups of two's and three's.
Saturate them with too much information, and they will hear nothing.
Try to sell everyone on the upcoming bill, and you will end up selling no one on the bill.
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