Edinburgh Fringe, 2018... the compere has been out and introduces the third comedienne of the night
She comes out to a round of applause, the audience having been prepared with high expectations.
She stumbles. Not literally mind, but even in the first sentence her voice gives her away – she appears with a mixture of nerves and fear. For a comedy show, it’s not a good start.
First of all I thought she was going to pick it back up.
“Come on – you can do this!”
I was mentally cheering her on in the sense of camaraderie. I wanted her to do well. I wanted to be entertained. The whole room was prepped wishing her to do well. Oh, I really did feel for her at first, because she simply wasn’t funny to this crowd. In fact, she was mildly inappropriate and slightly offensive, the way that passive aggressive behaviour can be when you start to articulate you point of view as a joke, but it comes out as a veiled insult.
She tanked. Badly. The room ground to a halt with silence.
The thing is, at first – we really wanted her to do well. Most audiences will do – they are sat in front of you, primed for entertainment. They sat in that seat because they want to hear what you’ve got to say. Unless you’re sat in front of Simon Cowell, the audience is on side.
Dig your self out, or stay buried
At first I felt for her – let’s face it when you’re on stage failing like that is everyone’s worth nightmare. However, what you do next is the real test of endurance.
In this case she… gave up. Her energy to deliver her jokes started to fade, she started to become aggressive with the audience. She was embarrassed, fed up – and it showed. At any point she could have picked it back up. Instead she became aggressive, telling us it was our fault when the finale of the set was met with an audible gasp in horror.
Now, you might think I’m being a tad harsh, but the ‘joke’ was a real life story about how she watch a dog get run over. After asking the room what their favourite animals where (answer, dogs.).
Sound awful? It was.
Even more awful? It was a family show. Chimes of children sniffing to their parents asking “Mummy, did the dog really die?”.
Knowing she was failing, she didn’t bother to pick the session back up. She ended the set with a “well I have a few minutes left, do you want a one liner or another story then?”.
Clearly, you need to thoroughly research your audience. What to they want? Why are they there? In this instance, either she was under prepared and didn’t know her audience, or she was overwhelmed. Either way, it was unforgivable to get angry at your audience. That will forever stick with me now.
The best thing is to have extra content in your back pocket. Loosing the room? Do not be afraid to change tack. Recently I delivered a talk, there the audience was getting hot, tired and sleeping – the dreaded after lunch slot. I felt the energy waning, and asked the room to stand up! I quickly taught a simple exercise to improve your stance, and everyone got the blood moving round again, they loved getting to do something practical and the room was energised once more.
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.
The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.ThoMAS Edison
The phrase “still not as funny as a dead dog story” was the theme of the day. The silly thing is it was needless. We are all terrified of failing on stage, but with preparation, understanding and extra content in your back pocket if you’re losing the room, you’ll sail through.