I've actually been hosting a bunch lately. In the past month, I've MC'd at RG Daniels and Erik Bergstrom's Sunday Night Standup at Three of Cups, Dan Mahoney and Gabe Pacheco's Haiku show at Jeollado, and Chesley Calloway and Sean Patton's CSL show at Kabin. (All really fun shows, a big thanks to those guys for having me.) And then there's We're All Friends Here of course.
I really dig hosting. With a normal NYC-length set (8-12 minutes), you're in and out. Just when you feel like you get to know the crowd, it's time to go. When hosting, you can take a little more time to feel out the room. You get to come back throughout the night and build up a vibe with the crowd. And it's fun to riff off whatever the last comic was talking about or do crowdwork with people that you've actually gotten to know a little bit.
And I amuse myself by playing a game where I search my brain for any older bit I have that relates to something the comic onstage is talking about. Then I try to segue into it in a non-bitty way. It's a good way to bring dormant jokes back to life. Sometimes you realize there's more bite there than you thought.
Last night I did Harrison Greenbaum and Sam Morril's Don't Touch the Foot show at Sage Theater. It's always hosted by Baratunde Thurston. I've seen Baratunde host a couple of times now and I think he's really great at it. He's a funny guy but what I think he really excels at is the not-funny part of hosting. He gets the crowd to feel like a unit instead of individuals. He's really conversational. He finds out who people are, where they're from, how they found the show, etc. but without doing it in an annoying way. He really builds up the energy before intro'ing each comic and gets the crowd to applaud and make noise without badgering them too much.
And he did a really key thing last night: He got a sparse, spread out room of people to all get up and move to the front couple of rows so it felt more like a cohesive crowd. A little thing like that can really make or break a show.
To be a great MC, you have to be a bit selfless. Instead of putting yourself first, you need to put the show first. Like I've said before, hosting a show is like hosting a party. When you host a party, you don't always have the most fun. You have to worry about the music, getting people drinks, intro'ing strangers, and making sure there's a good energy going on. But all that work is what enables everybody else to feel welcome and have a good time.
Related: Comedy Feng Shui: 10 things that ruin comedy shows
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 5/01/2009