One of the huge lesson I learned last month on the school assembly tour that I was on was how to get more our of the people who helped me onstage. Basically I just asked a lot of questions. The questions aren’t random, and I have preplanned joke responses for some answers, but I’m looking for thing that I can use to create a real live moment.
The other thing I learned is not to jump in too quickly with my response, especially if I already have a joke answer to what the kid says. You need to let the kid’s answer land with the audience, then hit your response. If you reply too quickly, the audience doesn’t have time to process, but I think it also feels less real and in the moment.
Today is the final day of the school assembly tour, and after 5 weeks I’ve learned a lot!
The big change was the last time I did this tour, I disliked when the kids sat on the bleacher and I was in the basketball court. I was used to having my back against a wall and the kids sitting on the floor, which is how most school assemblies in the Northwest seat the kids. The advantage of having the kids in the bleachers is that they can see more. The disadvantage is that I don’t have a backdrop, so smaller props can be harder to see. Luckily this year’s show doesn’t really use any small props that the audience needs to see.
I’m much more comfortable with using a handheld mic, and use it most of the time during the show, except a few spots where I need both hands. Using a handheld mic I think is visually superior to a headset as you can use the mic as a prop. I use it to accentuate a spot where I laugh, or cue the audience to a spot where they are supposed to respond.
Using a handheld mic also helps create a certain image, it makes me look more like a stand up comic than “magician”. My warm up is doing “crowd work” where I talk to people and try to find jokes with what they say. It’s a lot of fun, but not easy, especially for kids. How I frame is while we’re waiting for the last class that’s 5 mins late to arrive, I tell them we won’t have time for questions, so they can ask them now while we’re waiting to start. Really the show has started, and I do the questions started at the show’s scheduled start time. Usually one of the early questions I’ll get asked is if I’m a comedian. That means the image I’m trying to portray is working. When I get asked that, part my response is that doing stand up come for kids isn’t a thing. What cracks me up is I then do 5-8 minutes of stand up for the kids!
I’ll probably have more reflections on things that I’ve learned on the 20+ hour drive home over the next couple of days…