Monday, November 19, 2012

Turning It Up A Notch

When you are a comedian every time you walk on stage you must bring your "A" game with you. It doesn't matter if you are at the worst one-nighter out there or the finest comedy club in the country. Your best is the only thing that is acceptable.

Sometimes your best is just not enough; but even in those times, you have the comfort of knowing you've done all you could do.

It's no secret amongst comedians, comedy clubs are a much easier venue to work than one-nighters. For you "civilians" a one-nighter is a comedy venue that is not solely a comedy club venue. It could be a bar, restaurant, coffee house or even a laundromat. If you think I'm kidding about the Laundromat, I'm not. There's actually one in the Los Angeles area that has a regular comedy show.

One-nighters present a unique challenge in that they were not designed to host a comedy show. In order for a comedy show to have the best chance at success you needs several elements.

A stage with lighting that allows the crowd to easily see the performers face
A sound system that is set up for the spoken word
Seating close together and facing the stage
Very few distractions in the room, ie. not a lot on the walls.
The ability to light the room for the audience properly

There are a few other small things like proper wait service to the audience and some sort of bouncer/doorman in the room (even some comedy clubs don't have these anymore) that will add to the success of show. The truth is most of these things are missing in the standard one-nighter. In fact, if you are lucy enough to get 2 of these items you're looking at a pretty good one-nighter.

That's why working at a comedy club is what most comedians strive for. Comedy clubs are built from the ground up to provide the best possible environment for a comedy show. The wait staff is trained to serve customers in a way as to not distract from the show on stage.

In reality, a comedy club should be your first choice to see comedy. If there is no comedy club in your area and you are a fan of comedy, then by all means go to a comedy night that's being held in your area. It's live standup and that's a GOOD thing! Just remember that you will be up against a few extra distractions, don't let those get in the way of you enjoying yourself. It may take you one or 2 shows in this room to figure out where the best place to sit is and when to get your drinks, etc. but in the end, with a little effort you can enjoy yourself at a one-nighter.

I do a pretty good mix of both and like most comedians, the one-nighters will be the first thing to go once I can get a full schedule of comedy clubs. Which at the time of this writing seems to never, as the comedy club market seems to be shrinking and the way comedy clubs book their acts combined with an ever growing number of comedians out looking for work makes it highly unlikely.

So I always look forward to weeks I have in comedy clubs, some with more enthusiasm than others. I'm not going to lie to you, I have mixed emotions about Catch A Rising Star.

Don't misunderstand me, I love the club. Everything about it is good; the staff is great, the room is well laid out and the accommodations are the best I ever get.

It's the crowds ...

These are easily the toughest comedy club crowds I'm ever in front of and it's not the clubs fault, unless you blame them for where they decided to locate their club.

You see the Catch A Rising Star is located in the Silver Legacy Casino which is in downtown Reno. It is a part of a 3 Casino/Hotel complex that takes up about 6 square blocks and is a destination vacation/gambling spot. Which means that the people that come to this complex come from all over the The Northwest, Northern California, Utah and Nevada. When I say Nevada I'm pretty much excluding the greater Reno metropolitan area. It's not that they don't like the club, it's that the majority of them don't seem to want to come to downtown Reno.

This makes the crowd you're going to be in front of especially tough. They're not bad people, just an odd mix of age, ethnicity and backgrounds because they come from so many different places. Add to that the inability to use local references (every good comics hold card) the comedian ends up with what I like to refer to as a fruit cake crowd. Not because they're nuts which is what people usually mean when they say "fruit cake". I call them fruit cake crowds because just like a fruit cake there's nothing wrong with the ingredients individually, it's when you put them together that you get something you're really not going to enjoy.

Just because they're a bad mix doesn't mean that they don't deserve your best effort. That's why if you have an "A+" game, you better pull it out for these crowds.

This past week was no exception. I had shows that went off without a hitch and I had shows that I pulled out every one of my tried and true comedy "game changers" in an effort to do a great show with these crowds. The smallest show I did last week had 14 people and the largest had 125. Ironically, these two shows were by far the best of the week.

The rest of of the shows ranged from average to pretty good with one exception on Thursday night. It was not a good show by my standards but in the end I actually learned something that I was able to apply to the small show of 14 that happened the next night.

Every time I come to Reno to perform at Catch A Rising Star I know I am going to have to work hard. Without exception every time I have left Reno I have left a better comedian because of it.

This week was no exception, I left Reno with a stronger act and a few new tricks to use when things start going bad on stage. For a comedian, you can't ask for any more than that.

Vilmos has been a standup comedian since 1992.
He created a web site with Podcasts by comedians.
He is the host of The Green Room which is the longest running Podcast on standup comedy.
He also hosts The Mentorist v2 and The Spew.
His web site is
Follow him on Facebook at or Twitter @vilmosthecomic.

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