Rules for Being in the Audience at a Comedy Show: Don’t be an Assh*le

Upon being asked to write about comedy for the prestigious local publication “Nippertown,”  I went back and forth on what my first contribution should be and I figured I should just squander this opportunity right out of the gate by alienating anyone who ever considered coming to a comedy show.

I’m kidding of course, that’s what I do. But several topics were discussed and when the following idea was brought up I squealed like a fangirl and so it was the likely front-runner. No other topics elicited such a reaction.

“How about if you write about how people should behave at comedy shows?”

Picture me rolling up my sleeves.

I’m sure I’ll waste this opportunity since it might take a little while to gain some followers and my first contribution might only be read by my closest friends and family. But in the small chance that my reach exceeds those who already know “the rules,” then my words shall not be spoken in vain.

It’s quite simple really: Don’t be an asshole. Unfortunately, if you’re already an asshole you’ll probably require a bit of an explanation which I am more than happy to offer. The following is a guide and is listed in no particular order. Each rule is as important as the next.

  • The comedian is funnier than you. Even if you make your friends laugh all the time and they say “you should be a comedian” I can promise you that person on stage is funnier than you. That audience is there to see them; not you. If you want to tell jokes, put together your own show and do it there. Don’t be a distraction.
    • But what if the comedian asked me a question? Go ahead and answer it. Then shut the hell up.
    • Isn’t heckling part of the show? No. NOPE. Across the board no.
    • Can’t you handle it? You’re supposed to be a pro! We ARE pros! Sure we can handle it! But we shouldn’t have to. We’ve planned something great for you and you’re determined to derail that? Nah. You’re not funnier and it’s not your turn.
  • Don’t talk to your friends at the table. It’s incredibly rude. I know sometimes you go out to watch music and you can sit and have a conversation with your friends while the music is happening. (TRUST ME I KNOW YOU DO THIS.) It’s different at a comedy show. We need your full attention. You’ll either distract us or the other audience members. There’s a flow that goes with the set. Don’t interrupt it. I mean it’s not really ok at music shows but I have accepted it. I still hate you but I accept it.
  • Don’t take a phone call. (Erin did you really have to mention this?) Why yes. Yes, I did. Because I have been on stage when someone has taken a call. I stopped telling the joke long enough to hear “No! I’m at a comedy show!!!!” And they’re yelling so the person on the other end of the line can hear them over that annoying loud comedian on stage. Ahhh now THAT’S funny!
  • Don’t heckle. Wasn’t this already mentioned? Yes, it was. It’s that important. I have people who come to a show for the first time and ask me beforehand “what if I heckle you?” I’ll usually say something like “if you’re ok crying in front of your friends then by all means!” They typically don’t follow through. But there are people out there who believe they are contributing to the show with this behavior. They are wrong.
  • Just laugh and enjoy yourself. Here’s a little something about comedians that people don’t know. There’s a strong correlation between very funny people with very tragic pasts. Comedy comes from pain. Laughter is healing. All those trite catchphrases are true. One of the most vulnerable things to do is stand up in front of a room full of strangers and tell jokes. It’s hands down the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done and I’ve been through detox, zip-lining through a jungle in the Yucatan and dating a republican. We’re just looking for the acceptance not given to us by at least one of our parents. And with all that fear and vulnerability and tragedy we actually LOVE doing it. Don’t take that away from us. Sometimes when I see a really terrible comedian I think to myself,  “Wow. They must have had a great childhood.”

Stay tuned for next week when I tell you how to act around a comedian when they’re NOT on stage. A lot of you are gonna feel so seen.

It’s good to be back, keep an eye out for my articles. I plan to review some shows, interview some comics, and plug my own shit. The one thing I won’t be doing is reading comments, Sarge taught me that years ago.

  1. Neil Segal says

    Great piece Erin! I’ll be a follower.

  2. Tim says

    This is right on the money! Even trying to listen to a band always some clowns being loud.

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