“Are you ready for the next comedian? Then make some noise!” Some things we do are automatic, we don’t think about why we do them, or whether they actually make sense, they’re just a thing we do. Like old family traditions, we keep doing it just because. Someone decided to do something a certain way and it stuck, and then other people followed suit without really questioning it until it became an ingrained part of the ritual, Why do we put candles on a cake? Why do we wear a tie to work? Why do emcees insist that an audience make noise to get the show started?
This is one of those mindless traditions that I think needs to be questioned, dissected, and discarded. In fact, I think it actually handicaps the comedians that some falsely believe that it helps. The comedy club emcee is usually the least experienced comedian on the bill, and as such, the least cognizant of what’s actually happening in the showroom. They’ve been doing standup comedy for maybe a year or two and are still fumbling their way through the business, looking to those that came before them as an example of what to do and how to do it. They see other hosts and emcees implore the audience to “make some noise” and “show some energy”, so they adopt this practice as well. Just like the pre-schooler who starts eating paste simply because he saw a kindergartner do it. They don’t think about it, they just do it.
Think about the logic of this proposed dynamic: “Make some noise! I want you to clap, cheer, and yell!… Now hush up and listen.” It doesn’t make sense, does it? The message is, “A comedian is about to talk for 30-45 minutes, so I want you to be loud and vocal, then not do that anymore”. It’s counterintuitive to insist an audience behave differently than we expect them to behave throughout the rest of the show.
The comedian isn’t going to shred a guitar, or bust out a frontside McTwist, he’s just going to stand here and talk. There’s no pyrotechnic show or lasers, just words and funny anecdotes. Even Dane Cook keeps his performances limited to pelvic thrusts and large body movements; there’s no motocross jumps with explosions. It’s public speaking that’s hopefully funny. Nothing about standup comedy necessitates whipping up the audience into a frenzy.
There’s only one time that they’re asked to be raucous; it’s at the end of the emcee’s set. I wonder if it’s more about the emcee’s insecurity about leaving a quiet stage than anything else. Sometimes I wonder if the emcee thinks that they’ve got to have some sort of crescendo to their 13 minutes of hosting, making sure they establish themselves as having “killed it”.
If we want people to behave and listen to our words like civilized adults, then we should set the tone for that. Setting the tone of a roller coaster at a metal-fest means that we’re going to have that type of audience. “Gee, I don’t know why they started heckling and being disruptive during the show!” Why are we surprised when a crowd doesn’t listen to our humorous insights on life, after we get them all spun up like Slayer was about to play Reigning Blood? As comedians we can’t ask them to “make some noise” and then get frustrated when they behave inappropriately for the next 45 minutes. We tell people how to treat us. In relationships, and in comedy. If we say, “Make a lot of noise!”, “Talk to the comedian on stage!”, or “Blurt things out, and they’ll be acknowledged!”… the crowd will do that throughout the whole show.
Some people don’t want to make a bunch of noise, they just want to listen to jokes and funny stories. They would’ve been civil polite audience members if you had just left them alone. But no… you had to insist they use their vocal cords. Stop doing it. Treat it like an artistic performance, and the audience just might treat it that way too. Set the tone. Teach them how they’re supposed to treat us. You’re not a cheerleader. You’re not a hype-man. You’re a comedian. You’re a person who talks, shares thoughts and observations, speaks publicly about your funny and odd view on life and the world we live in. Do that. Address the audience as if they’re supposed to listen, not shout and yell. Think about what you’re doing when you bring the next comedian on stage. Do you want the audience to be shouters or listeners? Stop asking them to make some noise