There's always that person who doesn't know how to act in a public space, no matter what type of an event it is. That person probably isn't reading this article right now because she's busy filming herself in public, at the expense of another person's patience, so she can be the next big social media sensation. This is her world, and we're just living in it.
We've all been there - paid the price of admission and gotten the show we didn't actually bargain for. You know, the loudmouth who is sitting at the table next to you, facetiming her friend who didn't want to buy a ticket or pay for a babysitter. Or how about the handsy, greasy guy who has had too much to drink, talks way too loudly, and thinks he's funnier than the main act? Or better yet, a table full of chatterboxes celebrating their friend's recent divorce. No one is going to tell these powerhouses to keep their table-talk to a minimum.
And here you are, excited for your night out on the town, ready to have fun and enjoy the show. The show you came to see - the comic whose name is on the marquee or the band you've been anxious to check out. Not the shit show sitting next to you or the circus side show performance happening in the row in front of or behind you.
As a stand-up comic, I've raged at the heckler, even the unintentional heckler. Because nothing makes me angrier than someone in the audience thinking that this is THEIR show. Maybe it's because I'm the fat kid from middle school who survived, and I've been fighting to be joke teller, not the butt of the jokes, my whole life. Maybe it's because I grew up in a boisterous Italian family where I had to scream to be heard. Or perhaps it's because I'm the forgotten middle child. Who knows. My therapist and I will continue to hash that out.
Nonetheless, what it all boils down to is that no one in the audience paid for a ticket to see YOU, another audience member, "perform." And I'm certain that no one in the club handed you a microphone when you checked in tonight. So, grab your drink, find a seat, chat with your friends until the show begins, and then appropriately enjoy the show.
I get it - "appropriateness" can be subjective, left up to interpretation. I'm a comedian, for God's sake. I'm the queen of pushing the bounds of appropriateness, and I've made a lifestyle and a career out of it. I'm sure my parents have never been prouder. However, there are some common denominators we can agree upon when you're in the audience at a comedy show.
Unless you're laughing or quietly ordering a drink from the server, shut the fuck up. Even in a crowded club, I can hear you while I'm on stage, and your chit chat is distracting to me and to the people around you. Note: you're not funny, or you'd be doing a set and opening for me. Maybe you have a few jokes and you're funny at parties, but as a rule, this isn't your gig. Let the professionals handle it.
If the comic asks you a question, answer him/her. Otherwise, shut the fuck up. Are you sensing a theme here? It's kind of like when your parents used to say (mine were mean), "Speak when spoken to." The same is true when you're at a comedy show. Sometimes the comic wants some crowd interaction, and if you're comfortable answering his/her question, then speak up. At that moment. Only. But after that, hush yo' mouth. Unless you're chuckling or guffawing, and then in that case, be as boisterous as you want.
Unless there is an emergency that requires you, because you're that important and that in-charge, to dial the authorities on your cell phone, put your cell phone away and shut the fuck up. Guess what? From the stage, I can see the glow of your phone. I can see that you're texting, scrolling through social media, covertly filming me, taking a selfie, or facetiming and/or talking on the phone. If you want a photo of me because I'm obviously gorgeous and hilarious, please, by all means, make it quick. However, I'd rather you meet me in the lobby or at the bar after the show so we can chat, laugh, and snap a pic. I know that the phone is a necessity, especially when people are worried about their kids or their aging parents or their pageant-queen pets at home, but do your best to be discreet. (Note: The more drinks you have, the less discreet you become, despite how unobtrusive you think you are.)
Most people come to a comedy show just looking to laugh, have a fun night with friends, and desperately trying to blend into the crowd so the comic doesn't call them out. When I talk to show-attendees, they always tell me, "I don't want to sit in the front," or, "I'm afraid I'll have to get up and go to the bathroom." Listen, if you're in the room, and I can see you - you're fair game. But for the most part, the comic has a set, and we're not there to roast you… unless you deserve it. The "best" way to get noticed is to be an asshole. So, avoid that at all costs.
Unless you're staggering through the crowd with one boob hanging out, as you pull your pants down, and you're spilling people's over-priced alcoholic drinks, I'm probably not going to make fun of you on the way to the bathroom. You're probably with that gaggle of girls who are celebrating a bachelorette party or a divorce party, and you're all using penis straws and wearing dick-shaped sunglasses. I have to address it if you're making a spectacle out of yourself, and then we all just get it out of our system and move on, while you fall down and someone films your drunk ass hanging out, you become the next TikTok sensation and get more likes than me because of your party fowl. That's just the way the world works these days.
Just because you sit in the front row, doesn't mean I will make fun of you. If you're hot, I might stare at you, and if you're a sexy man, I will be distracted by thinking, "I wonder if he can hold my legs later." I will probably make a pass at you, but I'm certainly not making fun of you. However, if you're sitting in the front row and you haven't cracked a smile all night, and not one comic on the roster made you laugh, then I'm probably going to talk shit to you because I think you're a sociopath. Feel free to wait for me in the dark alley behind the club when I leave at midnight. I love a good challenge, and at this point in my life, I'll do whatever it takes to feel alive, even/especially in a dark alley.
As I trot through the crowd towards the stage and the sound guy is playing my theme song, I am ready to stand in that spotlight and rattle off my jokes into that microphone. I am honored to stand in front of a crowd, one filled with people who have worked all week, who have dealt with all the issues that life brings, and who are ready to just kick back and relax. I am there to laugh with you, and I know that just because the spotlight only shines on me, that this isn't just about me.
It's about each audience member individually. It's about helping that person to escape the hum drum of life, even if only for a few moments. It's about katharsis. A release of guffaws, of adrenaline, of the oh-shit-she-really-just-said-that gasps. And I want that magic to happen for each person in my audience. Everyone deserves that moment.
And if you're an asshole who can't behave yourself in public, then you're stealing everyone's moment. That sacred magic when the club lights dim, the stage lights go up, the music cranks, and the energy buzzes. And the rest of the world and its problems don't exist.
You can either be part of the magic, or you can be an asshole. There's no in-between. So, if you struggle to control yourself in public, do me (and everyone else) a favor and stay home. Or make it a habit to show up only at places where the ticket price says, "Free."