Secret To Improvisational Comedy and Handling Hecklers
I like to do a lot of improvisation with the audience when I perform stand-up comedy. Sometimes, I’ll throw something out there and it will flop. Sometimes I’m being a little too serious and my ranting just doesn’t result in anything funny. That doesn’t bother as much as when I say something that I THINK should get a laugh, but doesn’t. A pattern I notice when I’m improvising with my audiences, any time I GO for the joke, it usually doesn’t work.
I record almost all of my shows on video or at least audio on my phone. When I go back to review the recording for notes, I notice all the fuck ups in my set. I notice all the lines that fall flat. And almost every time, without exception, it happens because I GO for the joke. I push too hard trying for a laugh.
The best way to be improvisatinally funny is not go for the joke. Just be open and honest and share your real thoughts from the heart, have a sense of humor, keep it light, keep it fun, and the comedy will happen naturally. That’s generally what gets the best results for me- I just flap my trap enough and then eventually something funny will come out.
Then that stuff I can write into the act and use later on for material.
The idea is to keep going. Speak openly and honestly from the heart. Comedy comes from the heart.
I forget that sometimes when I’m in the heat of the battle and everyone’s laughing and I’m on a roll, and then I have to push it one step too far by throwing in some zinger that just fucking falls flat. It sucks the energy out of the room. And I’m grateful now that I’ve been at this long enough I can save just about any bit that goes south on me.
I just have the desire to share. I don’t really give a fuck. When I don’t go for the joke, and just flap my trap, something funny comes out eventually. People appreciate that compared to going for the joke that tanks.
I’m not even sure that a quick-wit is always necessary, just speak openly and honestly from the heart, with a strong sense of humor, and a desire to share. Then it’s easy to create material and improvise with the audience. Especially if you have a passion about what you’re talking about and have a good time talking about it.
Be open and honest and real in the moment, and you’ll probably be a pretty good improviser. Most people improvise their entire day. But if you put a spotlight in front of them, a mic in their hand, and an audience, they’ll freeze up.
For comedians that ask me how to do crowd work, the easy answer is to say you have to be quick-witted. But I’m not that really that quick-witted. Whenever I sit down to try to WRITE jokes, they usually don’t work. What I’ve noticed gets people laughing the most is just being myself to the hilt, speaking from the heart and having fun in the moment, being goofy and letting myself go.
Good improvisation is not about talent as much as it is about being able to be open with a desire to share and have fun in the moment. You don’t necessarily even have to abide by the quick, rapid-fire set-up/punchline format. When the audience KNOWS you’re improvising, they give you more leeway, attention, and actually HELP generate material. You have to keep it interesting. You have to keep it fun. You have to be engaging and funny. The people are there for a comedy show. But don’t WORRY about being funny. Don’t go for the joke. And the funny stuff will happen naturally.
Even hecklers don’t get me down all that much, because it’s a chance to improvise in the moment, and demonstrate that skill to the rest of the audience. Sometimes I’ll lose my cool with a heckler, but it’s usually a calculated move. I have to get them to shut the fuck up, not because it bothers me, but because I can tell it bothers EVERYONE ELSE. They don’t like the disruptions. SO in that situation, I’ll lose my cool as calculated move in order emphasize the point that their behavior isn’t cool.
I’ve heard all my JOKES before. I don’t really give a shit. I’d rather do improvisational banter with a heckler than have to stick to the script. But that’s just me. That’s just how I like to do it.
I’m not for everyone. Everyone’s not for me. Be yourself to the hilt. Polarize the room if you have to, but just have fun. Sometimes you have to shut down a heckler, but you should still have fun doing that.
I post a lot of my heckler “battles” on my YouTube channel
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