Alright, one of the things I wish I understood and I wish I could take back is all the time I spent complaining about bad audiences. I would just say, ah that audience was horrible. And there are a lot of reasons why that's a dumb idea, but let me tell you this story.
I was hired once with a bunch of local magicians here in Denver to work at the John Elway Foundation. So, the John Elway Foundation was having a big charity fundraising dinner and they had all these people paying a gazillion dollars, and they hired a headline comedy magician named Mike Caveney to be on stage after dinner, but they hired me and a bunch of my friends to do smaller close up tricks during cocktail hour. And we loved it because we were working with our friends, but also we loved it because, oh sweet we get to check out Mike Caveney.
Well, Mike Caveney was directed to start at a certain time and unfortunately for everybody they were still eating when he started. So, it was a brutal audience. And that he was up there telling jokes and he's trying to get people involved and the audience was silent. They were not responding to any of what he was doing and his laughs and his jokes were going completely silent. There was not a single laugh and it hurt me to watch this hero of mine suffer up on stage.
And afterwards we said, “Wow, tough audience. They came around, but tough audience.” And he kind of took us to task and he said, “No it wasn't a tough audience. They were great audience. They were eating. Come on, you've got to understand, they were hungry. They paid a lot of money for this dinner. They got dressed up, some of them came from work, they were starving, and so imagine while you're eating and talking to your wife and your friend, some magician gets up there and demands your attention and the lights go dark you can't see your food that well.”
And he taught me that instead of blaming the audience, what he did is he thought about the audience, and he understood the audience, and he kinda loved on them a little bit, and he said to us come on they were fine. They started laughing once they were done with their food. And it's not that they came around. They were there all along. They just needed to finish their food. And what that did is start a long bit of self reflection. Realizing I've wasted too much time with blaming the audience.
So, two things happen when you are blaming the audience. One, often we're wrong. Just like Mike Caveney told us we were wrong. That audience wasn't a bad audience, they were eating, their mouth was full, the reason they weren't laughing had nothing to do with them being a bad audience that had something to do with the fact that they had pot roast in their mouth. But the second problem with complaining about the audience is that sometimes we use that as a dismissal, as a get out of jail card.
So, it happened a lot in comedy clubs. You know somebody, the middle act, would come off and the middle would say tough crowd, tough crowd, tough crowd. No, they weren't a tough crowd. They were fine. They might have been a little bit less exuberant or a little bit quieter from a different audience, but they weren't tough. They were fine.
It's our job to go to the audience and find where they are and bring them carefully to us. So, quit whining about the audience. I can't tell you how many times I dismissed a pretty mediocre performance by saying it was about audience, when what I should have did. Okay, let's try that again. What I should have done. I just learned how to talk. What I should have done is just be honest with myself and say Brad that was not up to snuff. You need to work on your own material. Work on being better to make sure that the audience responds better. Quit blaming the audience and start looking at yourself.
Got it? So, blaming the audience. Probably it's not the audience. Probably they're fine. Probably they're perfect. They're just tired, or they're sleepy, or whatever. And then second, take responsibility for yourself. Maybe you're blaming the audience when you should be thinking about how to get better. I wish I could have told myself that 20 years ago.