One thing about performing outdoors is that the weather can make pulling a crowd very difficult. Last week at a fair, on Sunday it rained hard all day and attendance was really low during the day. I had the last show of the night and my show started an hour before the fair closed, so there was literally no one on the fairgrounds!
The picture above was taken from the stage about 5 minutes before my show’s start time. The challenge is what do you do? I probably could have called off the show and the fair would have been OK with that. Personally I will stand on stage and talk for however long my show is supposed to last. I can usually make something happen, but I wasn’t optimistic about a show happening.
Right after show start time I was on the mic working on jokes, and two people walked by and I started talking to them and got them to sit down and did some informal magic for them from the stage.
At this point with less than an hour left in the fair and a break in the rain, some other people started to venture out of the buildings, and about 15 mins into my show I actually had a crowd!
It wasn’t the biggest crowd I’ve ever had, but I did end up getting about 90% of people who walked by my show to join the crowd, so that’s HUGE!
The moral of this story is always work hard on stage and don’t “phone it in”.
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.
Recently I did a holiday party for a company that was in a situation that I normally would have declined the show as the conditions weren’t right for a successful show. Sometimes what I talk about with the client and the reality of what the show is when I get there are completely different. I’m not saying that the client was trying to deceive me, but sometimes we speak different technical languages, or they assume things like a table is movable when it isn’t.
Here’s the view from the back of the audience looking towards the performing area.
There are big tables with people only on one side. This puts huge gaps between the groups of people, which makes having them come together as an audience much harder. The other challenge was that most of the guests showed up late, and they were still eating when it was my showtime. We pushed it back 15 mins, but that’s all I could do. If I didn’t have another show after this one, I would have pushed the show back 30 mins or more.
Some performers really lose their crap about corporate holiday shows starting late. The reality of these shows is that 95% of them start late. If you have another engagement, be clear with the client the situation. Personally if I had a choice of starting the show late, or performing while people are eating, I’d pick starting the show late every time. Obviously there are things reasons to not start the show late, like having another engagement, personal plans with your family, or it’s going to start hours late!
Sometimes you just need to make the best of situations. The audience was great, and had a good time!