How Audience Dynamics Directly Impact Comedy Performance Levels
There are certain performance variables outside the quality of stand-up comedy material delivered that will always have a direct impact on a comedian’s laughter generation ability.
These variables are known as audience dynamics.
Keep this in mind as you review the information provided in this article:
Laughter is a shared response in all communication situations, letting the communicator know that the funny (and usually unexpected) context, perspective or “joke” was understood, acknowledged and appreciated.
The magnitude of this shared response (laughter) is directly influenced by audience dynamics.
Understanding Audience Dynamics
Here are the basics every comedian should know about audience dynamics and how they can influence a comedian’s performance on stage, keeping in mind that…
The performance results an individual obtains using Comedy Evaluator Pro also directly reflect the positive or negative impact of the audience dynamics present during any particular performance.
1. Audience size. Bigger audiences will react with longer and louder laughter than smaller audiences.
Smaller audiences will usually (but not always) react with shorter and less intense laughter than larger audiences.
As a general rule and contrary to popular belief, audience size is the LEAST important variable for generating headliner level laughter PROVIDED the other audience variables described below are positive in favor of the comedian — audience members (20+) closely seated together, attentive to the show and warmed up.
2. Audience seating. Audiences seated more closely together will always react with longer and louder laughter than those who are seated farther apart — regardless of audience size.
3. Audience attentiveness. If the audience is not focused on the show provided by a comedian or the comedian must compete with distractions in the room where the performances are taking place…
It can be difficult for a comedian to generate laughs from a distracted audience, no matter how funny, proficient and prepared a comedian may be to deliver high impact stand-up comedy material.
4. A “cold” audience versus a “warmed up” audience. This aspect of a stand-up comedy performance usually only affects the very first comedian or opening act in a stand-up comedy show.
A comedian performing directly before another in a line-up of stand-up comedians bombs or offends an audience with their stand-up comedy material can turn a “warmed up” audience into a “cold” audience.
It tends to take a bit longer to develop momentum and generate bigger laughs with an audience until they are “warmed up”, which means that the ice has been broken and the audience trusts the comedian and the show.
5. Audience demographics. Audience demographics can also greatly affect a comedians ability to generate laughter.
One example is an all male audience, which can be very difficult to generate significant laughter levels as compared to a gender mixed audience.
Understanding how these audience variables can impact laughter levels is important because:
Unless your stand-up comedy material works well 100% of the time with every possible audience dynamic…
You can only make the most intelligent comparisons on the true power and consistency of your stand-up comedy material on a performance-by-performance basis with shows that have similar audience dynamics — whether you use CEP to evaluate your performances or not.
Otherwise you can end up wasting your time making unnecessary changes to your stand-up comedy material or even worse…
Throwing out or revising solid comedy material you have developed because you didn’t understand audience dynamics and the variations in response you can get — from the exact same comedy material which are directly influenced by audience dynamics.
Examples of Misaligned Performance Level Comparisons
One of the things that comedians do is compare performance levels for a wide variety of audiences in order to determine the overall impact and consistency of their comedy material.
However, smart comedians also know not to compare apples with oranges so to speak (misaligned performance level comparisons) when it comes to the wide spectrum of possible audience dynamics — which can be slightly different to vastly different from performance to performance.
Here are some examples misaligned performance level comparisons:
– Comparing a performance for an audience as the first comedian in a line-up of comedians to a performance after the audience has been warmed up.
– Comparing a performance for an audience that is attentive and closely seated with a different audience or similar size that was closely seated, but there were TV’s on in the room and people playing darts next to the stage.
– Comparing a performance for an audience of 100 people closely seated in a small room to an audience of 100 people spread out in a 500 seat venue.
– Comparing a performance with a warmed up audience with a performance after a comedian has offended the audience.
– Comparing a performance for a group of engineering or other highly analytical types of individuals to a general, mixed gender audience performance.
– Comparing a performance for young college students to a performance for senior citizens.
These are just a few examples of misaligned performance comparisons a comedian can make if they don’t understand audience dynamics.
The Bottom Line
While there are a number of variables that can come into play when it comes to audience dynamics…
Comedy Evaluator Pro will provide true performance data on an overall basis and a minute-by-minute basis to help a comedian intelligently determine just how strong or weak their stand-up comedy material is relative to the audience dynamics present for any particular performance.
And make no mistake:
Headliner level stand-up comedy material will still produce significant laughter levels even when less than optimal audience dynamics are present.
No matter what the audience dynamics are for any particular performance, your goal should always be to generate headliner laughter which is a minimum average of 18 seconds of laughter per performing minute (PAR Score 30).
And unless your stand-up comedy material is simply not funny, you should be able to reach near or beyond that performance level most of the time — barring performances with the absolute worst possible audience dynamics present.