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Sales & Stage Presence in Stand-Up Part 2

September 14, 2010

Let’s continue on from yesterday with some comparisons between sales techniques and stand-up comedy.

3) Up-selling

This technique is for when you’ve already made the sale and you want to milk a little more out of the prospective buyer. You’ve probably had this technique used on you at a fast food restaurant or movie theatre when they ask if you want to “upsize” your order.

To me this sounds an awful lot like what comics try to accomplish by adding tags (a secondary or tertiary joke that happens after the main punchline) to their bits. Every joke must have a premise, and to the comic this is precious time that the audience is not laughing. Once the sale, i.e. the punchline is dropped, it’s natural to try and get a bit more mileage out of the premise, hence adding tags. Some of the more impressive stand-up comedians I’ve seen can even transition a tag into the launch of a new premise so that they’re not starting cold again with the next bit.

4) Low Balling

The low-ball is a persuasion and selling technique where an item or service is offered at a lower price than is actually intended to be charged, after which the price is raised.

This happens a lot at car dealerships – a car is listed for a certain price, but then out come the extras. You gotta have an under-coating, that’s extra. You’ll regret it if you don’t invest in power windows, etc. Next thing you know, you’re spending way more than intended.

To me this technique is similar to the habit of stand up comics of putting more raunchy or blue bits in the middle or end of their set. It is foolish to come out guns blazing with your filthiest material. Anyone who is offended is likely to get off the train and decide then and there that they don’t like YOU, much less your act. By starting off with more PG material, the comic effectively low-balls, establishing themselves as “respectable” before dropping bombs. Someone who five minutes earlier would have walked out in a rage about an AIDS joke surprises themselves by laughing along because they’ve already committed to liking the comic.

As a side note, a Canadian comic who is amazing at charming audiences into coming along with raunchy bits is Jason Rouse.

5) Bait and switch

Wikipedia had a good definition of this technique:

“In retail sales, a bait and switch is a form of fraud in which the party lures in customers by advertising a product or service at a low price or with many features, then reveals to potential customers that the advertised good is not available at the original price or list of assumed features, but something different is.”

Sounds very familiar to me. Bait and switch is the mechanism at the heart of every joke ever told. The premise sends you down a path, and the punch creates a surprise, abruptly altering your perception of the premise. Of course, this is followed by that wonderful series of muscle spasms we call laughter.

Can you think of any other sales techniques that might apply to stand-up comedy? I would love to hear about them in the comments section.

All this talk about selling, let’s end things off with a salesman who applies excellent salesmanship to something admittedly ridiculous (his card doesn’t BELONG in a rolodex):

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank permalink
    January 3, 2011 1:36 pm

    What’s the equivalent of the salesman throwing the keys to your current car up onto the roof of the dealership while you test drive a new car?


  1. Sales & Stage Presence in Stand-Up Part 1 « Premise PUNCH Tag – Joel Buxton's Stand-Up Comedy Blog
  2. Stand-Up Comedy Glossary « Premise PUNCH Tag – Joel Buxton's Stand-Up Comedy Blog

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