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If I Had a Million Dollars: The Perfect Stand-Up Comedy Venue Part 2

December 14, 2010

Welcome back to part two of this week’s article on the perfect stand-up venue (part 1 found here). Yesterday we talked about two important points to consider when designing a stand-up comedy room. Today we’ll look at another four.

Let’s jump right into it:

3) Tools of the Trade: A stool, adjustable microphone stand and sturdy microphone

A good microphone is critical to a stand-up venue.  I tossed around the idea of recommending a wireless microphone so comics can move around easier on-stage, but my experience with this technology has shown it to be pretty finicky.  In fact, just last week I was at a show where the wireless mike literally sabotaged every comic’s performance and became the entire focus of the show. 

Plus there’s something awesome about comics pacing the stage with the microphone cord playing out behind them.  So I won’t recommend a wireless mike, just that the microphone be sturdy, have a solid connection so there’s no crackling and be grounded.  I remember doing a show where every time the comics touched the mike it made this weird buzzing sound.  In an upcoming theory article I want to focus more on these kinds of tough situations and how comics can adapt.

The microphone stand is largely inconsequential, just so long as it is easy to adjust the height, and remove the microphone.

As for the stool, again, I thought about whether it is absolutely necessary.  I think in an ideal club, yes.  Some comics like to sit down. Some like to rest their beer or setlist on the stool. A stool is a very versatile thing to have on stage.  And if a comic doesn’t want to use it, it can be ignored very easily.  So yeah, stool is go.  Just make sure it’s sturdy so we don’t get one of these:

4) Low Stage with patrons sitting really close to it

Stand-up is like an intimate conversation with a bunch of people at once. Professional comics know this, and use eye contact

This is what I do when I’m bored on the subway.

 and moments of personal interaction to be present in the moment with the crowd. For this reason it’s a great idea to have patrons sitting as close to the stage as possible. Both Yuk Yuk’s Toronto and Absolute Comedy Toronto have got this figured out. I remember when I was developing this opening 

which required being very close to someone in the crowd, it just wouldn’t work with a higher stage where I had to climb up and down to reach the audience member.  It ruined the flow, and the difficulty in involving the audience made it seem much more scripted and fake.

5) Tables for various group sizes with light for wait staff

Self consciousness can kill a lot of humour, so you don’t want to be cramming a lot of strangers together.  Having tables optimized for groups of two, four and eight are a good idea.  Again, Absolute Comedy in Toronto I think nailed this.

6) Lighting not too bright

It sucks when you’re a stand-up comic and the stage has a spotlight that is too bright.  I find this happens a lot at theatrical venues, which are focussed on lighting the hell out of the stage.  This is probably a benefit for stage actors, who block out the audience and try to create their own reality on stage.  Not the best for stand-up.  We need to create a connection. 

I find that a bright light in my eyes really throws me off because it makes me feel isolated.  I can’t make eye contact with anyone, which is a barrier to connecting.  Likewise, in terms of dealing with hecklers, not being able to see them is a real weakness.

6.5) Bonus point: venue name

Try to pick a name that is not shitty, like “Laugh Emporium,” “Guffaw Lounge,” “Or Tickle Me Elmo’s” (Apologies if you have a club with one of these names, I hate to be the one to break it to you that you’re shitty).

Lastly: Consider the comics

While we’re at it, here are a couple of things that a perfect stand-up venue could do to look out for their bread and butter, the performers, though this stuff is less about the performance and more about creating a more comfortable environment to attract top level comics.

– Green room with some kind of audio or video feed of the performances
– Somewhere to set up a camera for recording sets that is centred and not too far away from the stage
– Somewhere to wait unobserved before being called to the stage
– Somewhere to get a beer/water without bugging the wait staff

So there you go.  This article is mostly academic because I don’t have any serious ambition to start a club (nor the work ethic, resources, or intelligence). But hey, if you do decide to open one up, keep these points in mind, willya? And book me, I’m great, and the deer love my act.

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