marc maron's secret to captivating the audience

I originally posted this as a video on YouTube, but some people don’t or can’t watch a video under their given circumstances, so I’m going to be putting all my videos into blog posts so subscribers have a choice to read the content or view the content on YouTube.

The Golden Rule

One of my students who follow me on Twitter asked a good question. He said, “When I got my first club booking, the booker told me not to sit on the stool while doing material, she said it makes me relaxed on stage, which makes the audience relaxed.

What she probably meant was that they would be too relaxed to laugh. 

“Marc Maron makes it work on the stool. When should a comic take to the stool? Are certain types of comics better than others getting laughs sitting down? How does the audience react when a comic to a comic that sits? “

Well, okay, that’s not one question… that’s like five! But hey, let’s get to it. Right? Because if you have this question, I’m sure a lot of other people have this question. 

First of all, let’s talk about the booker. The booker is in charge, right? The booker makes the call. 

It’s the golden rule, man. He who has the gold makes the rule. 

In this case, it appears that she who has the gold makes the rule. And if she wants you to stand and you’re capable of standing, well then stand! 

Like, if you’re in a wheelchair, and the booker wants you to stand? Well, that’s a question for the Americans for Disabilities Act. And I think it’s a labor law violation. 🙂

But in this case, if the Booker asks you to stand, then stand. 

The Audience is in Whatever State the Performer is In

There is something to be said for the idea of when you’re sitting down, the audience then kind of has relaxed energy, they’re not as jazzed up because you’re not moving around creating energy. 

But that’s a perception thing. 

And maybe the Booker made this rule due to experience on her part. So maybe she’s decided Hey, I want my comedians to stand. 

There’s the old saying: “The audience is in whatever state the performer is in.” 

And so, if there’s a part of you sitting down that feels like you’re losing energy, then the audience is going to respond in kind. 

But you can still have energy while you’re sitting on the stool, it all depends on what’s coming from the inside, right. 

So first of all, I think, to be able to really work the stool, you’ve got to have some experience, you have to be confident, you have to know that your jokes work, you have to know that you’re connecting with the audience. 

The question is, is the material compelling? Are you able to still keep that audience interested in what you’re saying? If you can do that while sitting on the stool, that’s great! 

Let’s take a look at a quick clip of Marc Marin, because you mentioned in your tweet that Marc Marin Marin makes it work on the stool. Yes, he does. He’s like the master of the stool. This guy can sit on the stool, and he still can be compelling and interesting. And just keep that audience right there in the palm of his hands the entire time. It’s almost like he sits on that stool and goes, “Okay, bring it in!” And now he’s gonna give us the big pep talk that’s going to inspire us to win the game. 

So let’s take a quick look at Marc Maron owning the stool…

Do you notice how Marc Maron is just interesting and compelling? And his stories are still just keeping the audience’s attention? Because he’s right there, absolutely in the moment with the audience. 

His vocal inflections are changing with every minute inspiration he gets, right? 

He’s not reciting material. 

He’s talking to the audience. He just has that compelling banter, right? 

I’m going to say something and I want you to write this down: 

Stand-up comedy is a conversation. 

I’ve said this countless times. And you have to have that conversation with the audience and be absolutely present with that audience, not in your head reciting material. 

A conversation is talking AND listening to your audience. And that is where timing comes from.

That’s why he’s able to captivate that audience the entire time he’s talking. The audience pays attention all the way through. They’re hanging on every single word as he delivers the material. 

Because when we talk, there’s the rise and fall, we have tension, and we have release points, and he hits all of them. 

He also uses structure in that three-way build-up that he did to get that laugh. 

So Marc Maron is not only a master conversationalist, he’s also a comedian who knows how to write a joke. And because he knows how to write a joke, his stories automatically take on the structure that gets the laugh. 

Marc Maron has been doing it for 40 years. So he gets on stage with absolute confidence. Marc Maron knows every step of the way, what’s getting the laugh. 

So when those laughs occur, they occur because Maron is using a structure to land that joke. 

Like when he hits us with the irony in the line, “… and fascism we’re finding,” his vocal inflections are what communicate that irony to the audience.

It doesn’t just happen. He KNOWS it’s going to happen.  

When to Take to the Stool

When should a comic take to the stool? Well, number one, when you have that, that ultra confidence that Marc Maron has because you know how to deliver a joke, you know, that these jokes with high odds are going to get a laugh. 

George Carlin said when he knew with 98% accuracy, that a joke was going to get a laugh before he took the stage. That’s high confidence. So Carlin could take the stage and own a stool if he chose to sit, he was always so super present with that audience. He was ever in his head. 

The moment you get into your head, you detach from that audience. 

Remember, human beings connect through emotion. 

So you can still be on a stage and still be as compelling as you are when you’re standing up.

In essence, whether or not you can pull off a good show has nothing to do with the stool, it has to do with whether or not you have the ability to keep the audience captivated throughout your performance.

Jerry Corley
Jerry Corley

Jerry Corley is a professional comedian of nearly 30 years, working nearly every venue imaginable.