Don Moses Comedy & Magic Blog - A light hearted look at life, comedy and magic.

Sunday, July 6th, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Just say No

Recently, I saw that a theatre show, called “The show must go on” had been cancelled; now, that is irony.

It made me think about a story I had heard about Larry David.  Larry David is, of course, the co-writer of the hugely successful Seinfeld series and also a comedy actor in his own right (and in his own show “Curb Your Enthusiasm”).  Long before his successes he was like many other stand-up comedians, travelling the country playing to comedy club audiences, who were either drunk or very drunk. 

Apparently, one night he was booked to perform at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles.  The compere announced his name and Larry walked on stage, stood for a short time without saying anything and looked at the audience.  After this uncomfortable silence Larry simply said,“No, I don’t think so” and walked off the stage without delivering his set.

I don’t think I can admire that kind of behaviour, but, the thought of a comedian refusing to entertain an audience did make me laugh.  The only explanation could have been that he did not like the look of the audience, because, as a rule, all comedians want to do their set, if only to get paid.

I suppose, the best thing about the job of a comedian is travelling around making a room full of total strangers laugh.  Yet, if you told this fact to most people, they would say, that must be the worst thing about the job, surely?  But, audiences are not just strangers to the performer, they are also strangers to each other and very rarely do the “lunatics unite” to sabotage a gig.  Audiences contain mostly good people and a few bad, just like a cross section of life (unless you read the Daily Mail).

So, I worry less about audiences and more about the layout of the room.  Comedy club promoters, as a rule, have given a lot of thought to the conditions required; spotlights, good sight lines, excellent sound systems all enhance the gig greatly.   However, operatives at conferences in hotels are generally inexperienced at what works well for comedy.  Some rooms are so wrong you instinctively know you will have to be working like crazy to pull off the gig.

The other night the conditions were so bad, it was like a checklist of all the warning signals:-
-200 guests on a wooden floor with metal based chairs (think school class room with 200 children shuffling about).
-Massive table decorations causing bad sight lines, bad stage lighting.
-A microphone so bad that the audience just guessed when the comedian / compere was delivering his punch-lines (they gave him this respect because he had been on TV).

So, is it ever right to refuse a show because of the room?  The answer is obviously, no.  I am not travelling hundreds of miles not to get paid. 

They say that performing is like a drug, in that you have to keep going.  No wonder the “Just Say No” campaign didn’t work.

One Response to “Just say No”

  1. Kennedy Says:

    Here Here! I know we were on the same bill that night Don, with the wooden floor and awful PA and microphone set up. I know we both learned a lot that night.
    That said, your set still totally killed the audience and as usual they loved every moment you were on. The sign of a true pro!

    Keep up the great work and I can;t wait to work with you again!


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Don performs as a wedding magician, corporate entertainer, and after dinner speaker at events throughout the country. London Magician, Manchester Magician, Liverpool Magician, Birmingham Magician, Newcastle Upon Tyne Magician, Magician Surrey, Edinburgh Magician, Oxford Magician, Bristol Magician, Magician Milton Keynes, Leicester Magician, Leeds Magician, Magician Kent.