Listening to the Audience

I spend a good amount of time writing—or tryin’ to write anyways. It’s never enough for my own satisfaction, but I try to write every day.

It’s never all “good.” (except for two magic days in 20+ years during which nearly everything I wrote down turned into usable jokes—not great jokes, by usable jokes). I liken most usual days to a singer warming up. When it’s bad writing is like that singer clearing their throat. It ain’t pretty (well, ain’t funny) but you have got to get the pipes warmed up enough hit the right notes. When I have to, I get out the unfunny stuff, and one problem is, some of that writing I don’t know that it’s unfunny until audiences tell me so.

However, sometimes the idea’s still there, but not the right or funny idea, not the right or funny direction, or the right or funny presentation… (One of those!!) So I seek to find perspective, share with a few other comics I chat with, ask myself with “a day or three” rest of the thought in question in-between, and I have even had large success with a chat to the audience (during or after) who sometimes point out the thought I meant to have, or the righter-thought (i.e. funnier-thought) than the one that came out on stage.

In an elevator, or at dinner, mostly after a show, more often than a few times, in the conversation following the attempt at laughs, some folks have passed on a thought, and it happens even when they relay a joke idea back to me in the way they understood it, that it sometimes comes across clearer than the way I originally thought I was saying it. And when that happens I certainly try to then make it easier for the audience to get than the way I originally presented it.

My suggestion to anyone, in comedy or not, even if you’re in the “thinking up and then presenting thoughts” business… is if one isn’t sure if they’re getting their idea across…

• First, ask those that you trust who might know where you hope to be going with the thought.
• Second, ask yourself when you have taken a break and keep workin’ until the thought sounds more right, and
• Third, anyone’s perspective that might not be in the business is still valuable because if it doesn’t sound right, at least you can cross it off the “Well, that doesn’t sound right” list.

They say laughter is the best medicine, but sometimes you have to tool with the prescription to get the right dose. I suggest using the doctor analogy, to ask a second opinion, and above all listen to the reaction.

The best part is if it doesn’t work, you can always laugh at yourself. Good luck and keep laughing…