Turning Around an Unresponsive Audience – How to Be a Comedian Series

Making an Audience Receptive – How to Be a Comedian Series

How do you take a cold, unresponsive audience and turn them around? Audience dynamics might not be going your way when you get on stage, but there are ways to revive a show and build momentum in your set. Learn how to be a comedian that can take cold, unresponsive audiences a turn them around. What do you do when the audience isn’t even paying attention to you long enough for you to drop a few of your best punch lines. If the audience has rejected the last several comedians before you hit the stage then you can’t dig yourself out by giving them more of the same. This is true even if you’re jokes are superior to the comedians’ jokes before you (and we all know they are). The question isn’t going to be “am I funny?” It’s going to be “will they even LISTEN?” Here are some practical steps on how to be a comedian that can take a cold audience and turn them around without shooting yourself in the foot.


Be significantly different from the comedians the audience has just seen. This doesn’t mean give them different jokes, of course you’re set won’t be exactly the same. Every comedian knows their material is different from everyone else’s. But you have to look at the audience’s perception of your material. To reverse the shows negative momentum you will need to be SIGNIFICANTLY different. You need to learn how to be a comedian that stands apart from the rest. You must be so different that even drunk audience members can figure it out. When nobody’s paying attention to the show it doesn’t matter how good your opening joke is… nobody’s listening. The very beginning of your show must be something that grabs the audience’s attention right away.

Breaking Through the 4th Wall

Break through the 4th wall immediately. For those uninitiated, the 4th wall refers to a comedian acting as if the audience doesn’t exist. 4th wall is a theater concept where thespians pretend there’s a wall between the audience and themselves. Live stand-up comedy is all about breaking down the 4th wall. This is especially true when you’re dealing with an unresponsive audience. How easy is it to ignore a tv in the background? It’s pretty easy. So don’t be a “talking head” in the background. Breaking through the 4th wall means you bring the show back into the present moment. This means that you’ll need to drop whatever plans you had before hitting the stage. It’s safe to say the situation has changed since you thought “I’m going to open with the dirty nun joke” earlier that day. Learn how to be a comedian that can drop their “prepared remarks” and connect with the audience on a very real level.

Play to the Weakest Link

If all else fails, play to the weakest link. Even in hell gigs there are usually one or two audience members that are paying attention. Use the show as an opportunity to practice audience banter. You have nothing to lose. The absolute worst choice would be to simply plow through the set you had planned and get off stage. You could have done that at home! Why not practice a skill that you will help you again and again in the future? The perk of this tactic is that, if you can get the few people that are actually paying attention to laugh, you have a good shot at pulling the rest of the audience around too. Learning how to be a comedian is all about acquiring new skills, whether you’re  a new comedian or a veteran.