There aren’t many
hard and fast rules in comedy, but one comedy rule you can’t get around is that comedy is subjective. . . everyone has a different idea of what’s funny and what’s not. For example, a friend of mine just had a liver transplant. He’s okay, but the told me that (this is true!) he just went to his “liver transplant support group picnic”. . . you know, the picnic where you bring somebody else’s side dish! Okay, bad joke, but I think it’s funny. . .and it’s a good example of how some people laugh and some people don’t.
But this is important to
keep in mind because the person who doesn’t think your joke is funny always seems to be the person sitting in the front row when you tell it. Us comedians have figured out that we have to look away from that person, otherwise we spend the entire time trying to get that one person to laugh while ignoring the rest of the crowd.. . .who is laughing.
You never know what kinda
day that guy or gal had . . . maybe they don’t feel well or they had a fight with their spouse or their cat just coughed up a hairball on their new carpet. Whatever reason, you need to forget about them. But then again, use your judgment too! Because, sometimes you NEED to pay attention to that person who isn’t laughing.
About 7 years ago I did a show
for a company that makes adhesives. . .not just any adhesives, but one of their big money makers was the adhesives that go on the back of Maxi-pads. The committee had a GREAT sense of humor and they told me all sorts of things that I could have fun with. UNFORTUNATELY their CEO was Italian. . .and since he was Italian, he didn’t “get it” when I started joking around about the company. I was rocking the room. .. and he was GLARING at me from the front row. At first I stood so that the tall flower centerpiece was in my eyeline so that I couldn’t see him. . ..but after about 90 seconds, I quit with the jokes on them and went into my act. I quit with the jokes because, you guessed it, he was the CEO and he was FURIOUS. Later the committee called me to say how much everyone enjoyed it and they apologized for this guy. . .hey, they have to work with him, I don’t. But I was bummed that I couldn’t tell some of the killer lines I’d written (not all had to do with Maxi-pads – in fact I only had a couple of those. . there was a lot to have fun with when a company makes glue.)
So yes, in a sense,
pay attention to the signals and use your judgment when jokes aren’t going over. But in this case, my jokes were good, it was this CEO’s background that was the problem.
So what’s the
hard and fast rule again. . . pay attention! In this case, I knew the guy who was angry was the CEO, and that meant I needed to stop. Plus the way he was staring and his overall energy told me to back off, so I did. And if anyone wants to buy some killer jokes about maxi-pad adhesive glue. . .I’ve got a deal for you!
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