Confronting a big crowd that's dead

Oof, rough crowd last night.

But in light of Louis CK's commentary on surviving failure, I feel like I learned a lot from it.

I knew it was trouble from the beginning. Another comic I know well opened the show. His jokes that normally get big laughs were met with next to nothing. It didn't get better after the next comic either.

There was a good sized crowd. They just weren't laughing. A big crowd that's still dead is a special kind of beast. It's different than a small crowd that's quiet, which may still be having a good time even if they're not laughing loudly.

This room had tension. It felt antagonistic. A girl in front took a call on her cellphone as I was being introduced. Not a good sign.

I went for some quick hitting jokes upfront but didn't get much of anything from the crowd. Felt like a showdown. Then I tried to break it down with some jokes that were more personal and less clever. Still not huge laughs but they started to warm up. Then I hit them with some dirty jokes and a big act out at the end:



Got nice reaction on that so at least the end was strong. But it was, as Sean Patton said later about his spot, one of those "power-through sets."

Lame but true: Afterwards I kinda hoped the other comics would do poorly too. That way at least I could blame the crowd instead of myself. But two comics later, Patton blew it open. So it could be done.

After thinking about my set (and watching what worked with other comics), here's my theory on what the crowd wanted — and maybe it's what every big crowd that's still dead wants: 1) Go dirty/dumb. Tell jokes about fucking or tv shows or something that's not too esoteric. 2) More act-outs. Get into a character and act it up.

It's a lot more like dealing with a club crowd than a typical downtown room. Ya can't be overly clever or subtle. If they're not getting it, they're not getting it. Shake 'em up.

I was feeling pretty negative about my set, but on the way out I overheard an audience member talking about the show. As I walked by, the dude said to his friend, "This guy did the hard work. He broke 'em down." And actually, that was an awesome thing to hear.

Some nights ya get to drive 120 MPH. Other nights you're just trying to get from 0 to 60. Or 30. Or just off of 0 at least.

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