How to Avoid Being Picked on By Comedians, According to Comedians
If you’re an introvert attending a comedy show, your biggest fear may very well be that you will be selected for a brief yet mortifying bit of involuntary crowd work. Fortunately for you, a handful of comedians have volunteered some advice for avoiding their ridicule: Step 1 — Don’t sit in the front row.
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The New Zealand International Comedy Festival starts today, and the national outlet Stuff has been kind enough to round up some Kiwi comics and ask for their best tips to evade unwanted audience participation when Middle Earth’s best and brightest bring their most biting roasts for anyone who dares to wear an unconventional outfit or have a silly sounding occupation. Amberleigh Jack approached the performers with the simple question of, “How can I make sure you come nowhere near me if I come to your show?” and the answers may save some poor audience member who came to the comedy convention to hear jokes, not take them.
Of course, none of the tips are completely foolproof, as the comedians admit that sometimes the best crowd work is when they find a target who wants nothing more than to remain a wallflower. The rule of thumb will always be to treat comedians like brown bears, not black bears — lie down and let them get bored of you, don’t fight back. You don’t want that smoke.
“There’s something a little bit funny for everyone else when you pick on someone that clearly doesn’t want to be talked to,” James Mustapic admitted. “You could just not say anything till I leave you alone”.
Rhys Mathewson had a bit more empathy than his colleague, saying that, when he tries to talk to audience members who are unwilling to participate, a simple head nod “no” is enough to get him to move on. When he gets that signal, Mathewson realizes, “You know what, that’s fair enough. It’s absolutely alright to refuse to be involved.”
Maria Williams agrees, adding, “You can shake your head or literally put up crosses with your hand (if you need to). No deal!”
The emergency option, says Mathewson, is to pretend to be so drunk that inviting you to participate becomes wholly unattractive (though, presumably, actually getting that drunk would work just as well.) “Have you ever tried to reason with a drunk person?” Mathewson asked, “Even worse is if they think they’re really funny. There are just waves of energy from the rest of the room going, ‘just stop talking.’”
Obviously, any comic’s target who is comfortable with some public ridicule is welcome to banter back, but they should always be mindful not to try to steal the set. “You’re technically adding to the show,” Mathewson says of some of the targets-turned-hecklers he’s had in his career, “But in the same way if I put my penis into a cake I’m adding to the cake.”