10 Up Front

10 Up Front


When the familiar intro music starts, I navigate through the tables towards my “office.” Standing next to the piano at the near end of the stage I clear my throat. I look over at the mic on its stand, and wonder about the words that will soon go through the microphone. Scanning the faces of the front row folks, I see some of them are checking me out, and wondering if I’m going to make them laugh.

“…and now please welcome your host for the evening!”

If the applause is tepid as I walk to the mic, I will let them know.

“Every hand should be banging up against one another so the brother will feel like doing this…”

If the opening applause is solid, I tell them I feel their love and I smell good.

I want the audience to understand how to get the best possible experience out of a comedy show. I explain to the crowd how applause makes everybody do a better job, and kid about the theory working for any type of job.

“What is your occupation front row sweater guy?”

“ I am an architect.”

“Not a great example but my point remains the same-the louder you clap the better it will be for everybody.”

There is a certain amount of anxiety for some folks when sitting in the front row. If you don’t want to call attention to yourself, never sit with your arms folded across your chest. Arms folded body language says to the comic, make me laugh. The position might very well be a defense for audience members who have heard people in the front row always get picked on. Regular comedy club patrons recognize a growing number of comedians don’t want to interact individually, and would rather audience members not speak at all.

In the opening 10 minutes, I also look for possible hecklers who might think interjecting a comment with the hope of improving a joke laying out there is a good idea. As Barney Fyfe used to say, “I need to nip this in the bud.” Offenders are usually in a large group and feeling safety in numbers. I let them know that the people at the next table didn’t pay the cover to hear him or her. Then, I invite hecklers to look around the room to see if they recognize anything from their living room.

“You don’t see anything from your house in here because you’re not at home, and should act accordingly.”

After squeezing in birthday acknowledgments, other celebrations, and welcoming the visitors from all over the world, it’s time for the first act. This party has started….right!

William Stephenson


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