How to Handle a Tough Crowd: The Art of Getting An Audience Invested

I should mention that the entire idea of getting an audience invested came from a close comedian friend of mine, who himself received this advice from other comedians that came before him. We all stand on someone else’s shoulders.

Another Bomb in a Tough Room

How to handle a tough crowd

Bruuuuuuutal‘ I thought to myself as I walked back to my seat after bombing last night. What did I do wrong? The last time I was here, that material KILLED. To top that off, I thought my improv was on point.

Tonight, I got schooled.


How The Professionals Handled The Tough Crowd

how to handle a tough crowd

Dylan Mandlsohn started his set by pointing out the elephant in the room. He said (I’m paraphrasing badly) that it seemed like everyone decided that instead of laughter, they were just going to sit still and not move a muscle, using his acting skills to clown the crowd. That got laughs.

Gilson addressed the deadpanned by lamenting, ‘Man, what a bloodbath tonight…’ That got laughs, too.

Both of those quick phrases helped pave the way for their material, which also got laughs.

And I was jealous. How the France did they do it!?


Getting an Audience Invested

It’s called, ‘Getting the Audience Invested‘ my friend said. You have to answer the question, ‘Why the hell should I pay attention to you?’

Louis CK addressed this challenge in his stand-up special, ‘Hilarious.’ He said, ‘I never know how to start these kind of shows.’

Did they pay attention? They sure did. Why? One reason is because they probably invested $30-100 per seat.

But your situation on stage is different. Your audience didn’t pay anything. You have to give them a reason to pay attention.


Audience Investment Applied

how to handle a tough crowd
The next time I’m in a bloodbath, I might try engaging the audience with this little ditty:

Wowzers, tough room tonight man. What makes us do this? What makes us want to stand on stage while the audience stares back at us, deadpan? Oh yeah, I know why: it’s because we’re not fit to do anything else. Ain’t nobody hiring us…I couldn’t even be a greeter at Wal-mart. Stand for 4-hours straight? Not a chance…

Or something like that. You know what I mean…


Addendum: A Remedy for the Bombing Blues

Depressed after last night’s performance, I thought I’d drown my sorrows in a plate of chicken wings. Then, I thought up this chicken wing joke and my worries faded away:

Anyone else like chicken wings here? They’re very therapeutic. I have chicken wings when a set doesn’t go well, or when I have a rough day. The problem is, I’ve gotten fat because I eat them when I’m happy, too. And…when it’s sunny outside, rainy out…pretty much all the time, I’m eating chicken wings. That would make a great show for Intervention…’Mike, your chicken wing habit is ruining our marriage…you come home at all hours of the night, licking your fingers and wiping them on the bedsheets, breath smelling of hot sauce…you used to be, so, THIN…’

When you’re upset, it’s easy to rationalize why you shouldn’t be upset anymore. The difficult part is getting over the trauma emotionally.

More and more, I’m starting to believe that comedy is my calling because no matter how down I feel, when I come up with a joke that makes me laugh, I feel all better.

New jokes, and, well…chicken wings:

Michael Jagdeo


About Michael Jagdeo

My name's Michael Jagdeo, and I refuse to write about myself in the third person. I'm a Comedian from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. In addition to honing my stand-up comedy act, I maintain this blog and write the weekly comedy article for
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One Response to How to Handle a Tough Crowd: The Art of Getting An Audience Invested

  1. Pingback: Applying Lessons Learned from Zen and the Art of Stand-up Comedy | Diary of a Toronto Stand-Up Comedian

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