I’ve been doing a series of Q&A posts over in the Connected Comedians Facebook group recently where I offer advice to anybody that’s got questions about the marketing or business side of comedy. There’s lots of great stuff in those conversations, but I wanted to share one in particular that I think many of you will find relevant.
Atlanta comedian Jamie Ward asked an interesting question about how to figure out what type of audience had the most potential for him to connect with as a relatively unknown comic.
Here was his specific question followed by my thoughts:
“I’m going to break comedy audiences down in to 3 primary groups:
Comedy nerds: Who know current comedians follow favorites and such.
General comedy audiences: Who somewhat regularly attend clubs but really only remember big names or those from TV or movies.
Casual entertainment audience: Who might attend a club once because there is a deal or they one tickets, they’re open to have a good time, but didn’t necessarily seek out comedy.
So given these three (and if there are things I haven’t thought of I’d be interested) which type of audience is the most potential for an unknown club comic to connect with? I’m not famous, not particularly unique but I do well.
And is there any advice how best to go about maximizing my connection with audiences based on their level of interest in comedy?”
It’s a good question, but I’d probably look at differently.
An audience member’s interest/connection to comedy isn’t as important as their interest/connection to the ideas/topics you discuss in your act. For example, a huge comedy fan who doesn’t have kids is less likely to connect with a comedian whose act revolves around parenting than a casual comedy fan who does have kids.
A person’s connection to comedy is a broad concept, whereas the real opportunities lie in the niches and more narrow topics. You want to figure out ways to identify who in the crowd relates to to subject matter of your comedy and/or find ways to get yourself in front of crowds that have a lot of those people in them.
Another thing I’d say is that if you approach it as how do you get people to be interested in YOU as opposed to just interested in your comedy, that can also help you build a stronger connection to people.
It’s one thing to be funny, it’s another to be interesting.
Funny is the minimum, but the way to really connect with people on a more long-term level is for them to become interested in you. There’s no one way to do that, but if you think about it, most comedians that build large, passionate, fanbases have done so with more than just their ability to make people laugh.
There was a lot of interesting stuff about George Carlin beyond just his jokes – people wanted to hear his take and opinion on things. He made them curious to what he had to say – even if it wasn’t always funny.
Chris Rock is like that as well. He’s funny, and he has a great act, but if he’s being interviewed somewhere, people probably are interested to hear what he has to say because they’re interested in him and his view of the world, not just his comedy.
I’ve said this before, but I think it always helps to think about things from the flipside of your perspective as a comedy creator – take a moment to think about what you respond to as a consumer of comedy.
You see a ton of comedians perform I’m sure – what is it about the ones that resonate with you, the ones that make you want to have a connection with them beyond the first time you see them perform? What is it about the ones that make you want to tell other people about them? What do they do that makes them stand out?
I’m sure you see tons of funny comics that you don’t really feel a need to follow or engage with beyond the moment you see them. But the ones that intrigue you – think about what they have that the others don’t and think about how you can incorporate your version of that into what you do.
One more note about your comment “I’m not particularly unique.” I barely know you and I completely disagree.
First of all, everybody is unique – it’s just that most people don’t understand what’s unique about them or they’re afraid to show it. Most people are wired to try to fit in, which is essentially another way of saying that human nature is designed to hide what’s unique about you.
The trick for a comedian is to do the opposite and share/focus on what’s different about you, not what makes you fit in. I guarantee that every show you do, there’s nobody else on that stage that has similar life experiences to you. You’re completely unique, but if you don’t perceive yourself in that way, how can you expect an audience to?
It’s got to start with you…
READ THIS NEXT: 4 Ways To Get Comedy Club Audiences To Remember Your Name
3 thoughts on “The Best Audience For An Unknown Comedian To Connect With”
At some point on his podcast, The Champs, which is amazing, Neal Brennan worded this perfectly: “You just have to have jokes that people want to talk about.” He meant that if you have jokes so interesting and clever that a booker will tell other bookers about, you’ll get more work, but it also applies to audience members. I’ll post the link to the episode next time I’m on my laptop.
I break down audiences into generations but nothing is laid in cement. I’ve been surprised by intelligent, mature college audiences and disappointed by my regular working class audience that usually relate to my material. Standing ovations are always a wonderful surprise but not everyone is going to love you, obviously! The best thing, just do your show and when you come around again the people that really liked you will return and hopefully tell their friends. Eventually you’ll build a following. After twenty years on the road I’ve had them everywhere and so have many comics.
I like this article. One can also risk going too far the other way–being an extremely interesting person, but at the expense of laughs. I place Joe Rogan in this category; I always find his subject matter and ideas very interesting, but rarely actually laugh at anything he says. I feel I could have an interesting conversation with Joe, but I don’t think he ever says anything laugh-out-loud funny.