sometimes let them see you sweat
advice for a comedian who's really asking for it! and anyone else who wants to read it! from me and phyllis diller and more!
dear friends, family, fans, ‘fused foes, 1
thank you for being here and receiving.
as always, i am grateful for your presence, your time, your attention.
as you may know, these weekly free messages are usually short and full of jokes, but today i wanted to share a longer exchange i had with a comedian who has asked me for advice, because i enjoyed our exchange and think you might as well. read as much as you wish! (also there may be some jokes hidden in it!)
thanks again for being here.
THE YOUNGER COMEDIAN ASKING ME QUESTIONS:
If you are in a set and you feel like you’ve lost the crowd (I would never accuse anyone of doing this, let’s just say it happens to me, where my first joke goes well, second joke does not, and now for the third joke, I take a beat and go to something I know always works, and it also does not work. Then I feel like I want to stop, have a talk with the crowd, and re-start, but instead I plow through in mediocrity), what do you do to win them back?
Given that each show and, well, moment is unique, do you have any general approaches, moves, philosophies, or tactics you like to go to in these situations? Is it just having a 'feel' that you only get from experience?
I follow a general rule of: if the set is going well, speed up, if it is going poorly, slow down. I heard something like this from Phyllis Diller in an interview once, and it is great, but not a universal cure.
I just noticed that so far, my questions include my preconceived answers within the questions. Maybe it is a silly insecurity where I need you to know that I at least know something even if I am asking questions. But also, I do hope to give context as to where I am, and these questions are on my mind because I am at a point where these are the answers with which I am wrestling.
THE OLDER ME 2 ANSWERING THIS COMEDIAN’S QUESTIONS:
this is a good question! and some good answers in there already!
now, i just have to try and IMAGINE a situation in which i might ever "lose the crowd." 3
(also, fun side note before we begin to continue, or continue to begin: in order to "lose the crowd" one has to first "have the crowd." so if you've lost them, that means you had them. and that's something to be grateful for, perhaps.) 4
1) that speed/slow advice is fascinating. i'm going to think about it a lot, i think. slowly. or quickly. related-ish, i heard stories about steven wright that when he was starting out, sometimes he'd be performing in the middle of a loud dance club or something like that, a super loud bar perhaps, and instead of trying to yell over the noise to get people's attention, he would talk quietly, like he does, and that would optimally lead the people in the room who wanted to hear him to LISTEN, to quiet down, to let them come to him. perhaps slowing down can have the same impact. being deliberate. being yourself. being present.
2) is it just having a "feel" that you only get from experience? yes! question answered. the answer was inside you the whole time. you don't even NEED the experience to know that you’ll learn from experience. which will take (as you know) experience. you will absolutely 5 learn what works for you and what doesn't work for you, from doing (or it will be your undoing? [just a joke about doing and undoing... let me undo that, if i can do that]). 6
3) do i have any general approaches, moves, philosophies, or tactics i like to go to in these situations? it really depends on the situation. i heard a story about marc maron doing a roast, i think for comedy central, and his set started off (by his own admission) not going great. he has said that he's not a roast comedian, and that the set only really turned around when he acknowledged that it wasn't going well. the audience could relax and be like "oh thank goodness he knows what's going on," and that relaxation for all of them allowed him to have a good rest of the set, and the final result when edited for tv turned out just fine. and then ALSO, the old classic roast comedians who were there were like "never let them see you sweat! never let them know you're bombing." and maron was basically like... but, they knew! so some of the advice here is, "SOMETIMES let them see you sweat." if you're sweating and they can see it, let them. because it is what is. let reality be. acknowledge it (if you want to). talk about it. go into your amazing sweat material. don't have any? don't sweat it! sincerely, the answer is going to vary based on the comedian and the situation. for maron in that situation, it was about being present with what was really happening. for others, it could be about denying the reality of the situation so powerfully that it changes the reality of the situation. it's up to you. and them. or me. 7
4) my final piece of advice to you here is this, based on your own words: "I feel like I want to stop, have a talk with the crowd, and re-start, but instead I plow through in mediocrity." first, this is funny. second, it seems like you already know this, but have you considered trying doing the thing you feel like doing? stop. have a talk with the crowd. slow down, phyllis diller style. be honest, maron style. be/become/do/discover yourself, YOU style. follow your instincts. develop your instincts. follow your instincts to develop your instincts! truly, there may be times when plowing through is the (better) thing to do, and also there may very well be times that stopping, resetting, restarting, and talking to the crowd about it could be the thing that makes it so that you don't have to plow through.
thanks again for asking! it's fun answering.
AND NOW, THE ME OF NOW RETURNS TO CONCLUDE THIS MESSAGE:
thank YOU for reading.
do you have any questions that you’d like answers to?
feel free to respond with them in the comments or to this email!
speaking of answering questions, did you know that my dear friend liz glazer and i are doing a show on june 28 at caveat in NYC called “advisory board with liz and myq” where we offer advice to ourselves, each other, and anyone who likes? we are! come if you’re in NYC! stream if you’re elsewhere!
i’m doing shows in colorado this weekend, in the DC area next weekend, and more places in july and beyond. you can find out more about any/all of these shows by clicking the clickable portion here!
thank you again for being here, for reading (or skipping all the way) to the bottom, for doing what you’re doing and being who you’re being. much love to you and yours and all!
if you are my foe and you are here, i think you must be ‘fused (confused), and also perhaps our foe-rocity will be deemed faux, and then we will be kindred spirits, as one, fused.
“ME” is short for “coMEdian”
imagining complete! i have a VERY good imagination/memory.
also, you know that thing where they say “if you love something, set it free; if it returns it was meant to be”? maybe if we as comedians love our audiences enough, it makes sense to “lose” them, and maybe they’ll find their way back to us. also, maybe not. (that’s how “maybe” works.)
disclaimer: “absolutely” may not be absolute, some restrictions apply, side effects may include, are you still reading? you’re nice!
“undo or undo not, there is try.” — un-yoda, or noda? (no duh? which makes sense because “yoda” backwards IS “adoy.”)
or someone at least! or no one! or [insert your own fun]!