In my previous blog, How to Be a Comedian – Tip 28: No Questions as Segues – Part 1, I discussed the overuse of asking the audience a question to bring up a new subject. In this blog, How to Be a Comedian – Tip 29: No Questions as Segues – Part 2, I’ll point out more amateurish mistakes which make comics look foolish.
How to Be a Comedian – Tip 29: No Questions as Segues – Part 2
Another unwanted by product of using questions as a way of bring up a Topic is when the comic doesn’t get the response he wants. Then, even worse, ignoring the answer or lack of answer to his question and continuing to do the routine he memorized.
When I was doing an open mic in a biker bar in Southern California, a preppie comic asked this audience:
“By a show of hand, how many people here went to college?”
In the bar there were about fifteen greasy-haired, bandanna wearing, tattooed, leather-laden, smoking, drinking, chain-from-the-pants-to-the-wallet bikers who peered at each other as if to say, “College? I hardly got through grade school.” Consequently, no one raised their hand. Nevertheless, the comic went on with his pre-programmed set:
“Great. Then I guess you can all relate to going to USC.”
The bikers totally cracked up. Not because the comic was funny, but because even these counter-culture misfits recognized that he was oblivious to the non-answer he hadn’t received. Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand why this is one of my pet peeves.
Now, for the solution: Instead of asking a question, state your Premise, which is your negative opinion about your subject.
For instance, our female comic, from my blog How to Be a Comedian – Tip 28: No Questions as Segues – Part 1, could have said:
“I have this fear of heights.”
This would get her into her routine quickly without her having to parry unwanted responses.
Or our college graduate could have said something like:
“My college years were pure torture for me.”
The bikers could have related to that because they may have also hated going to school. Again, he could get right into the bit without any illogical behaviors.
I’ve seen comics do a ten minute set and ask the audience a question as a segue seven times. Look at it from the audience’s perspective when they have to sit though a show that forces them to respond to:
“How you all doin’ tonight?”
“By a show of hands, how any people here are having a good time?”
“How many people here are married?”
“How many people here smoke weed?”
“How many people here take the bus?”
“How many people here eat at McDonalds?”
“How many people here want me to stop asking these dumb-ass questions?”
My advice is to at least try for some originality. Asking questions as a segue is one of the mindless affectations which brands comics as hacks.
In my workshops, I teach that Riffing with the audience is one of the only appropriate reasons for asking the audience questions because you really want to develop a dialogue. Avoid this comic’s cliche like unsafe sex. Learn to begin each bit by stating your negative opinion about your subject which will save time and segue you smoothly into your next bit.
In my next blog, How to Be a Comedian – Tip 30: Avoid the Motor Mouth Syndrome, I’ll show several of the reason comics talk through their laughs.
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Greg Dean’s Stand-Up Comedy Workshop
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