When you get a horrible introduction from the Emcee, what do you next could mean the difference between a great show and a nightmare gig.
In this article, I’ll give you a sure-fire technique to keep an Emcee’s horrible introduction from tanking your show.
Flaws of the Emcee
There are a ton of ways an emcee can ruin the introduction for a comedian. They can bomb a joke then immediately bring you up. They can create an incident with someone in the audience and bring you up on a sour note. They can screw up your name or screw up your intro.
They can do a backwards intro. A backwards intro is where they mention your name first and the audience doesn’t feel the impulse to applaud…
It could go like, “Jerry Corley is a comedian from California. He’s here to entertain us tonight and make us laugh and boy do we need a laugh after they just announced all those layoffs. Here he is…” and they just leave it like that and hand you the mic.
Now you walk on to jaded applause with an audience whose enthusiasm is worse than an inmate who’s just been denied parole, you know?
What to Do?
So what do you do when you get a horrible introduction from the emcee?
I’ve been doing stand-up for 27 years and I’ve played almost every situation imaginable. I’ve played crowds from 4 people to 40,000, (opening for a huge country band). I’ve had some great introductions and some horrible introductions and I’ve learned how important they can be (if they’re framed right) and how inconsequential they can be (if you play it right).
Horrible intros often occur when doing corporate events. The people introducing you are not professionals and situations can easily get awkward.
But I’ll take that any day, because you can make a lot of money doing corporate gigs. In fact, you can make more money at one corporate gig than spending three weeks in comedy clubs!
It’s your job to stay funny
First and foremost, you have to remember that you’re a comedian. It’s your job to stay funny in spite of the situation. They came to watch a comedian who can make fun of stuff, not some twat who gets offended because someone didn’t intro them professionally.
I usually deal with a horrible introduction by talking about it. The other night I did a private holiday event for a condo services organization. The event was in like the happy-hour/bar area of the Marriot Renaissance. You know the kind of place where they advertise to their guests that if you get there between 5-7pm you can get “$5 drinks and light snacks?”
It wasn’t best venue or setting for comedy. The ceilings were high, the crowd was spread out all over the place, there was no stage, the lighting was awful and because the ceilings were high, the sound bounced all over the place, filling the room with an echo, which made it difficult for people to hear anything I was saying–especially for the people in the back and to the sides of the room.
And if people have to really work to hear your words, they’ll stop trying and just start talking. Of course their voices will now fill the echo chamber and now you’re trying to talk over their talking.
The good news was that the show started at 5pm, so if the show didn’t go well I could still get the “$5 drinks and light snacks!”
The emcee greeted everyone. She was polite and professional, but just before she brought me on, she read a letter to the audience that a member of the board of directors wrote for this group… Now a letter is meant to be read, not spoken and the letter was 5 pages long!
Every time the emcee went to read the next page, she fumbled with the mic and the pages, creating this awkward gap of silence, that the audience seemed to use to reengage in their conversations.
When people are told that a part of their evening’s entertainment is going to be a comedian, they are not expecting someone reading a 5-page dissertation.
That’s like going to a strip club and before the stripper comes out, the DJ says something like, “Gentlemen, before Mercedes starts peeling off that sexy lingerie, she’s gonna read about 5 minutes of some Haiku she’s written! So get your dollars out and get ready to tip her on her immaculate 5-7-5 structure!”
She could read the most brilliant Haiku in history, but that’s just not what the audience showed up for.
So after she’s done reading this thing, she brings me up to an audience who is now about as excited as someone who just got their assignment for jury duty.
Turn the Dilemma into Comedy
So I decided that I’m just gonna have fun with this moment.
She gave me the mic and I said, “Thanks so much. How about a hand for Kimberly, ladies and gentlemen. Doesn’t she do an incredible job? Boy that’s gotta be tough, but you handled it with such grace, Kim.
First, the boss telling you he’s not gonna be here, then saying he wants YOU to get up in front of the audience and read his letter. The only thing that would’ve made that letter less appealing is if he ended it with “…and by the way, starting on the 1st of January, your homeowner’s association fees are going up a hundred bucks! Happy Holidays!”
Dealing with the audience on the spot with something that just happened, let’s them know that you are with them, in this moment, not just going up there to recite your act.
The audience laughed at that opening and, moving forward, every time they didn’t laugh, I looked at them and said, “Hey you know, I can always have Kim come back up here and read that letter again!” The audience enjoyed the fact that I handled the awkwardness of the moment with humor and that I maintained a playful approach.
I don’t always recommend that you deal with a situation like that the way I did. Audiences at a corporate type function like this one can be very tribal. They know the person you are making jokes about more than you do and they can get defensive and turn on you fast.
So I sometimes will just refer to another event I did where the intro was “REALLY AWKWARD.” Sort of comparing it the one they just experienced.
It might go something like this…
After she’s done reading the letter and then introducing me, I might say, “Thanks so much!” How about a hand for Kim, ladies and gentlemen. Doesn’t she do a great job. As a comedian I’ve got to say it’s tough to follow a 5-page letter, but it’s not the most awkward thing I’ve had to follow…
…I once did an event for the Montana State Assembly and just before they brought me up on stage the emcee said, “Can I have your attention please? We’ve come to the entertainment part of our evening, but before we do that, I would like us all to have a moment of silence. As you know, less than a month ago, Assemblyman Kyle Nance was killed in a fiery crash on I-90. He leaves behind a wife and 3 kids…”
Keep in mind, I’m standing right there, waiting to take the mic!
They all bowed their heads for what must’ve been the most awkward 60 seconds ever!
I actually heard sniffles in the audience!
… then I hear, “and now for your comedian…”
And she hands me the mic.”
The audience at the Marriot Renaissance, was able to laugh at that difficult situation I was faced with and by stating a situation that was much more drastic than the one they were just faced with, they felt like they were off the hook.
It enabled me to tap into the laughter triggers of recognition, embarrassment, superiority and release. Knowing this gave me tremendous confidence that the audience would laugh with me.
So next time you’re faced with a horrible introduction from the emcee, just remember: don’t blame them, and always stay funny!