Over my 18 months of comedy career I have performed at a few charity gigs (as well as organising one myself) Well last nights gig was an example of how not to set up a charity gig, which is unfortunate for the comedians involved. Here are three simple guidelines;
1) get the right room- last night had a huge (both high and deep) stage in a small room with too few tables and chairs and way too many sofas which left the majority of people standing at the back of the room at the bar. This ultimately means the performers talk over the majority of the audience. So what ended up happening was that everybody standing at the back chatted, whilst the front attempted to listen.
When on stage this is a strange experience as the room seems to be split, the laughs get lost, and you kind of feel a bit more alienated up there. You can see people smiling but not really hearing any laughter over the back of room chattering.
2) get the right comedians in the right order!
So last night was all local comedians, some which I have seen before and know are brilliant, some which I have seen before and know are not so good, and some I'd never seen! There was a headliner, an opener, four others, myself and a compere (I'll cover the compere in point 3). So when I got there I was told that the headliner now needed to leave early so will now be closing the first half, and that I was to headline. Now, I have no issue in headlining but for the headliner of a charity night to say half an hour before the gig that he has to leave early is wrong to me, he may as well not have turned up.
So (missing out the compere) the night ran like this: opener- very loud, got a few laughs and warmed up the audience but, from the back where I was sat he seemed to underwhelm, second, a small lady with tiny voice, who, even with a mic we couldn't hear her at the back, the people at the bar just ramped up their chat and drowned her out, third and finally for this section was the original headliner, who, performed like he was headlining, getting the big laughs, as well as a few things that didn't work, but nonetheless went down very well! He did over run though, doing a 30 minute set instead of 15, which caused the whole second half to be shortened, sped up and rushed.
Onto the second half opened by a young act on only his second gig, who quite frankly stormed it and you'd have never known he was so inexperienced, followed by two acts who I'm sure on a different night in a different venue would do really well, alas tonight was different and they both didn't seemed pleased with how their sets had gone. Then on to the headliner, oh wait he's gone home, it'll be my turn then! So up I stepped, got a response that I felt was par for the night and left, having not been able to expand as I wanted due to time restraints.
3) get a decent compere!
This will make or break your night. I have seen many comperes and the best ones can rescue a night, no matter how the room or the acts are.
Last night, this did not happen, the compere started on the wrong foot, by not getting anybody to laugh.
When introducing acts she was making fun of them and creating fictional stories about them, which I'm sure the audience new were false but people were giving weird looks in trying to work it all out.
She chose to speak to a lady in the audience (quite a common thing to do I hear you say) but this lady was sat right at the back, alienating the whole front of the audience, unsure whether to turn and look or just look at the stage. She had chose this lady for material use only, because she was pregnant, even though the material was poor and didn't go anywhere.
All night she had no jokes to warm anybody up and whenever she got on stage everybody went into their own conversations!
Now I don't claim to be an expert at performing or organising a comedy night, but Ive been to enough to know how not to run one. So to conclude, this is not how to run a charity comedy night, now I'm not saying they didn't raise any money, I don't know if they did or not. nevertheless after all this the audience seemed to enjoy it in the majority so I guess that's what it's all about?