I read enough autobiographies by stand up comedians to know that to succeed you have to do the gig everyone dreads – the one with no atmosphere. Every successful comedian has done the gig with barely any laughs, a weird atmosphere or a drunken audience member. I had already done the drunken audience member gig in Newcastle as it was a show on Derby day and got THE worst suggestions that were borderline offensive. So it was only in due course that I would be part of a show where the audience didn’t respond.
Lets start with the location, we wanted to reach out and try new shows to see how new audiences will react to us. Now, usually when we do this we get a really great response but this show we signed up to do was in a more suburban. Now, this is not a bad thing, instead it was a good thing because we wanted to see how improv would go down. The pub itself was also interesting with some really unusual interior – however from reading into the venue it is actually built for bands and singers so that explains why it was the way it was designed and also why it was set out the way it was. It was also a really small room, which isn’t always a bad thing but we were expecting a small audience, which again is a good tester to see if our improv works in that environment.
We were the first on this was because it can take me a good 1.5 hours to get home and that could of been another factor as to why it was a bit quiet. I think if you include the actual performers I think there was no more then 15 in the audience. Again this isn’t a bad thing as it is something that you need to prepare for if you ever do something like the Ed Fringe or any other festival. I think though that this was one of the reasons why the atmosphere felt a bit random – because there wasn’t many people in the audience.
We were the first act on and even though it was a small audience we still wanted to give it our all because we are a high energy improv act that we thrive on stage and felt that was the only way to do it. We have done a couple of shows on Saturday nights at non improv venues and just like them the predictable happened and we got some dodgy suggestions of things like toilets etc and because there wasn’t any other suggestion we had to go with them. It felt weird at first doing a scene in a location that we wouldn’t normally but we went with it and it ended up ok.
The set didn’t get as much laughs as normal but I think it is because of the audience size because by the end of the set the laughs increased. It is always hard to do a show with little or no audience but I think I did ok.
Case Study – James Acaster
I think if you searched the name James Acaster on this site it will more then likely be statistically the name that has the most articles written about them. I can’t help it, I got into James Acaster’s stand up around the time I started writing this site and since then I have become a huge fan of his and find him pretty inspiring.
One thing I have heard time and time again in his radio chats with Josh Widdicombe’s or in his book, is that there will always be tough gigs and one stan up who has had a lot of them is James. It is interesting reading about them though because it is part of the job and whilst I do improv it is always really interesting to read other peoples experiences of these sort of gigs.
I suppose in some ways they become a bit like war stories i the world of comedy. I work with a Director who is a stand up and when he comes into edit with me we spend a good amount of time (more then likely 85%) talking about experience on stage. If anything else this gig this week taught me how to deal with dead silent audiences and that you have to be your best no matter what.