Blog post ... hmmm. I suppose the idea of this thing is just to say what's on my mind. What if somebody takes something I say the wrong way? Does anybody care what I think anyway? Let's give it a go.
Last night I did a show at the Saint John Theatre Company's BMO Theatre in Saint John. It was sold out. The crowd was great and so were all the other comedians. I had a lovely time and I would love to come back.
After the show, one of the other comedians said "this is what all shows should be like" (paraphrasing). I don't know if I agree. Don't get me wrong, I love doing shows like this. It feels good when a crowd is really into it and I'm glad to be a part of showing all those people a good time. Part of me doesn't want to trust the laughs though.
Are they laughing because I was good or are they laughing because they are supposed to? When you are in a room full of people who are laughing, its kind of infectious. I'm doing my job as the comedian and they are doing their job as an audience ... just like we're supposed to. It's kind of like being in a church where everybody sits down, stands up, says "amen" when they are supposed to. At least some of them must be just going through the motions, right?
As an audience member, I'm kind of hard to please. It takes a lot to get more than a smile out of me. I feel kind of weird being the only one among a hundred people not LOLing. If I wasn't such a stubborn asshole, I'd probably join in just to go with the flow. Those laughs are certainly welcome during a Jon Forward set, but those aren't the laughs I'm chasing.
For example, before I got into the meat of my set, I winged it for a few minutes just to introduce myself and set the tone a bit before I got started. Also ... the joke I was doing was about 7 minutes long, so I have to pad it out a bit to fill my 10 minutes. A line like "Pretty impressive that we have a sold out crowd tonight when it says 'it might be shit' right on the poster. You're either really brave or really stupid". If I was in the crowd, I might have smiled slightly. Last night, I got a huge laugh from it. Again ... very much appreciated, but I don't feel like I earned it.
What if my whole set was "jokes" like that? What if I only did shows like this. I don't think I'd ever grow as a comedian. Audience feedback (positive and negative) is pretty important for developing material. If I only played for audiences that laughed at every word coming out of my mouth no matter what, I don't know if I'd ever get better.
My favorite place to perform is at the R Bar for my No Jokes Barred shows. Part of it is that this is the show I put together. I host it. I pick the comedians. And nobody is telling me what to do. It also gives me a chance to fail. Even though most of the crowd knows me and presumably likes me, sometimes jokes bomb. It doesn't feel great at the time, but it tells me that one needs to be reworked or just thrown out completely. If everybody laughed when they were supposed to, I'd keep those shitty jokes. I've seen polite audience laugh at my so-so jokes way more than I've seen rougher crowds not laugh at my great jokes. For the sake of this argument (and my sanity), I am blocking out all memories of my music open mic days. Fuck those "audiences". All they want are Pear Jam covers.
I don't want to begrudge any audience for laughing at material I'm not super proud of. Thank you. I am glad I brightened your day. However, I would never trade in the crickets and tumbleweeds I get at the R Bar when I suck. Thank you too.
Maybe I should be happy to give the crowds what they want even if it's not what I would want if I was watching myself. A laugh is a laugh. Maybe everything I say is just effortlessly hilarious and I should learn to accept it.
Either way, I still want to be able to test material in front of different kinds of crowds. I still desperately want to impress my biggest fan ... me. My R Bar audience is the closest I have to a room full of people with my sensibility.
Well ... that was long.