Following a recent stand up gig I thought I’d share an experience I had dealing with hecklers.

[Note: This was not in a theatre environment where the comedian is unseen until the show. It was in an informal environment at a football club where the acts mingle with the guests until their spot. My solution relates to this environment.]

 

I was closing a show, meaning that I was on last which gave me an opportunity to get a feel for the room and watch the other acts.

Right away there’s a quick tip to comedians:

Where possible, when headlining, try to get there early enough to watch the other earlier acts. You can learn so much about the room, the logistics (mic/lighting/stage) and of course the audience.

Arriving early helped me enormously. I watched as a heckler continually interjected mistaking the show for a 2 way conversation. Unfortunately, he was seated right next to the stage and worse, to the side where the performer least directed their attention. The stage was in an odd position meaning that 90% of the audience was to the left unlike the heckler tucked in to the right. The heckler’s location meant that much of what he called out could only be heard by the comedian and a few others. This is the most frustrating fact. It’s better if a heckler can be heard by everyone because then the whole audience is affected and supports your predicament. When you continually stop due to a disturbance only you can hear then you need to either ignore it and move on or spend time explaining what’s happening to the audience up the back.

Throughout the night, the heckler was dealt with by the earlier acts to varying degrees of success. At one point the heckler calmed down only to be replaced by another at the same table. I watched this knowing that I was still to perform in over 30 minutes time – plenty of time for the audience to smash down a few more beverages and completely lose the plot.

What was going to happen? This was a footy club gig and the audience were all friends. Would they all turn on me as one?

Through experience I knew I had something in my favour – a 20 minute break. After the 2nd bracket the audience were scheduled to have a dinner break. It was to be very informal though with people milling around the room chatting. This was my chance to quickly and easily negate the hecklers’ power.

I simply went up to the two hecklers at the bar and introduced myself as the final comedian of the night. I asked them their names and then I peppered them with the least alpha male questions possible: “Do you have children at the football club?” “How old are your kids?” “What are you raising funds for?” After a few minutes they dropped their macho crap and I was their best friend.

At this point I’ve also removed their anonymity. I now knew them and they knew me. I released a pressure valve allowing them to chat to me now rather than later.

A few minutes later I started my 30 minute set. I began with a quick reference to each of them by name. I didn’t look at them while doing this, I simply included them in my opening and moved on. Something like “I was chatting with Brian and Mick at the bar and they told me…” etc) Not only did this empower the hecklers in a positive way but it also showed the rest of the crowd that I was in control of the situation.

At this point it’s very difficult for the hecklers to play power games with me (i.e. heckle) when they both know me, like me and have no need to force their way into the show when I’ve already included them.

In the end the two hecklers sat back looking content and laughed their way through my set.

The lesson is: Don’t think that hecklers always have to be dealt with from the stage, if you get the opportunity, deal with them earlier off stage. It’s easier and more effective.

Good luck!
www.standupcomedyebook.com


On my recent maiden voyage on the enormous  Royal Caribbean ‘Voyager of the Seas’ I was reminded of the importance of versatility for the professional comedian.

I also paused to think about the difference between the comedian who spends years building their niche vs the comedian who works more commercially.

In a 2 week period I performed 4 Children’s Shows, a 5 minute Family Friendly Welcome Aboard Show and 6 Adults Only Comedy Shows in the Comedy Club on one ship and  then performed a 35 minute Family Friendly Welcome Aboard Show and a 45 minute Adults Only Show in the main theatre on another ship. This required lots of preparation to ensure the right material and appropriate style was delivered for each show.

 

I also needed to be ready for eventualities. As it turns out I was meant to perform a 15-20 minute Welcome Aboard set but due to other performers being unavailable I was asked to carry the whole show by myself and perform an extended 35 minute set. Preparation is everything and luckily I had the material at the ready.

 

 

One of my favourite theatres

One of my favourite theatres – La Scala on Voyager of the Seas


The 2 biggest impediments

Let’s get straight to the point. The 2 biggest impediments in corporate stand up comedy are poor logistics and inappropriate material.

Poor Logistics

When I use the term ‘logistics’ I’m talking firstly about all the technical elements. When they’re substandard it may include poor sound quality, insufficient or inappropriate lighting, the lack of a stage or a stage that is too high, a tricky room layout featuring an L shape and perhaps a noisy kitchen alongside. I also include the schedule of activities or running sheet in the term logistics.  The flow of the night is very important to you as a comedian and factors like the timing and length of the food and beverage service, awards ceremony, charity auction, silent auction, fashion parade etc can have a very detrimental effect on your performance. You need to try to control the logistics by finding out as much as you can about the event at least a week or two before. Then you need to make your preferences clear, in writing if possible. Click here to see my 10 point wish list that I send to clients prior to a gig. You may fear that you’ll seem unprofessional by appearing needy. It’s actually quite the opposite. Your client has booked you, a professional, and you know what is required for a successful performance. Your wish list should fill them with the confidence that you have experience and, in the right environment, will do a great job.

Poor Material

Equally important in corporate stand up comedy is your choice of material. I address this particularly to comedians who are not household names. Chances are the audience haven’t come to see you. In fact, you could argue the opposite, you have come to see them. This is in fact the starting point that I use and I find that it works really well for me. I step into their world first then bring them into mine. Psychologically I’m talking in my opening about THEM, the topic all people are most interested in. I do this in the most crucial part of the routing, the first 5 minutes. Once they relax and laugh at themselves I move further away from their lives and into material about mine. Note: I firmly believe that there are NO rules in comedy. Each comedian can have success in any style if they’re funny. However, I do believe that every experienced comedian has endured the hit and miss nature of our work, particularly in corporate stand up comedy. They can’t all be gold! But I believe I have a few tips that can help corporate comics increase their success. I believe in the mantra ‘Connect, Connect, Connect’. My aim is always to engage and connect deeply with my audience. I believe that to do this I need to know exactly how they tick. I want to understand their industry and/or company, their successes, failures, their biggest competitors, their motivations, frustrations and their plans for the future.

crowd sitting at a recent corporate stand up comedy gig

My crowd on a recent corporate stand up gig.

Corporate stand up comedy is different

Notice a difference straight away between corporate comedy and club gigs? There is a lot more preparation prior to a corporate event to pull off a great gig, particularly without a public profile. Celebrities can simply discuss their celebrity and the audience is fascinated. Non celebrities take a greater risk if they only talk about themselves. I’ve seen excellent comics lose the audience despite having great jokes. In many cases the audience is tired after a full day of meetings. The trick is to talk about THEM. Writing custom material about a company or person has the same effect on the audience as being in a daze and suddenly hearing someone calling your name. “Blah, blah blah yadda yadda FRED…FRED…FRED!” You suddenly snap out of it and become engaged. Doing your homework on the audience prior to the gig will give you a better connection with your audience, more material and equip you with more flexibility to improvise.

Picture yourself as a guest at a conference gala night. Your company is part of a renewal energy association and you are surrounded by colleagues and competitors. Each year there is a different entertainer. Last year was a magician. This year is a comedian you’ve never heard of. Your mind wanders and you begin thinking It must be hard to make a whole room laugh. How do these comedians do it? What if they fail? I wonder who this guy is? He better be good! Then the comedian is introduced and your colleagues are still talking with their backs turned to the stage. You are distracted. In fact you realise you’re feeling a little sorry for the comedian. He began with jokes about Facebook then Star Wars then his wife and his cat. It seemed funny but why aren’t people watching him?

The answer is that without knowing the comedian, the audience may only give a percentage of their attention to them. They didn’t come to see the comedian but they did come to network and do business. As they are part of an association there’s no boss to impress so they can behave as they like. What follows is a section of the crowd at the front engaged while the section at the back are disengaged. This is very typical in corporate stand up comedy gigs. What’s the solution?

I believe the solution is in the material. If the comedian came out during the renewable energy gala and immediately started with a thought provoking opening line like “Solar panels are our future? Seriously? Didn’t work for me” then inserted a very funny joke about installing them indoors, I believe, the response would be totally different. The audience would be immediately engaged in the topic they know so much about. Even a line like “Realising you’re all about renewables I’m going to use the exact same jokes I used last year” and then continuing to talk about renewable energy would be a better start. I like referencing the person who booked me to come along “When Gary Anderson asked me to perform tonight I originally said… no way get lost”. Any time you mention characters in the audience up front in the set it looks like you know them and therefore you’re accepted by the them i.e. you’re part of the team. Psychologically it’s suddenly a lot harder for the audience to reject one of their own (i.e. you).

So to summarise, I believe the most important factors at a corporate stand up gig are the logistics and your material. When either of these are substandard they become a huge impediment to a successful experience.

Take the time to request what you need in advance and do your homework on your client. It’ll pay off for you in a much higher percentage of successful gigs in the future.

Good Luck!

Col

Get more tips at www.colcameron.com


You never stop learning

I keep hearing over and over that corporate stand up comedy gigs can ‘destroy your soul’ as an artist. This is perfectly understandable given the difference between a club gig and a corporate gig. I find that I never stop learning ways to improve my corporate stand up odds for success. Let’s look at the differences between the two environments.

At a Comedy Club

At a club you are most likely working in a controlled environment that is designed for comedy. The logistics are well thought out, from the sound, lighting and stage height, size and position. The crowd has also come to see you in particular or comedy in general. The crowd is also more educated in comedy and many are regulars meaning they are more likely to understand your material and accept and appreciate your persona. The venue staff should also know how to operate in this environment priming the audience for a great night through good quality, efficient, and at times subtle, table service. All of these factors make for a great night.

At a Corporate Event

Contrast this to a corporate event where the environment may be out of your control. The logistics of the sound, lighting, stage, room layout and schedule may all run counter to a great night. There may also be political rivalries in the room where business colleagues or competitors may have created tensions with each other. Suddenly you enter the stage hoping for success in what may be a totally foreign environment for you. How do you raise the odds of success?

My tip is to try to resolve as many issues as possible by making as many demands as you can immediately after you have been booked for the gig. Chances are you will have an agent to negotiate for you. If so, give the agent your wish list. It’s a document that lists everything you would like in a perfect world. Acknowledge that it may not all be possible but if you have a few that are deal breakers, let your agent or the direct client know. The earlier you get your list in the more chance you have of getting what you need. Don’t expect to get the full list if you only ask on the night.

Here’s my 10 point stand up comedy checklist for corporate gigs:

• I would like a stage that is higher than the audience by at least 30cms.

• Please provide me with a hand held radio mic tuned so that I can walk into the audience without fear of feedback.

• I would like to have the room lights dimmed just before my introduction. This will help focus the crowd.

• Please provide a natural wash of light on the stage. If you only have a coloured wash, please include 1 or 2 white spotlight(s) as the dominant stage light. (Note, a projector is not acceptable)

• I would like a straight mic stand placed in the centre/front and a high stool (or a small card table) to the side.

• I perform with a glass/bottle of water on the stool/card table.

• Please have the host introduce me using the supplied introduction. Also please read the preamble, regarding turning off mobile phones and turning chairs to the front, prior to the main introduction.

• I recommend placing my performance after the main course and before desserts. Please ensure I perform before dancing begins. 

• If I am following a long segment, for example an awards ceremony, please consider giving the audience a short refreshment/restroom break prior to my performance. 

• Please ensure there is no table service during my performance.

 

Although the list may seem very long, if I was producing my own show, it would be even longer! By the way, be careful though not to scare the client, especially if they are new to running events. Make it clear that this list is designed to make your set, and therefore their night, more successful. You are trying to connect with your audience and this list will help enormously. Remember to be flexible though; if you don’t get some of your wishes, decide if they are deal breakers or not. If you can negotiate on some of the stand up comedy checklist then well done! If you are very unhappy, don’t do the gig.

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There are 2 main impediments to having a successful corporate stand up comedy gig.  In my next blog I’ll share these with you, give you the solutions and give you some great tips along the way.

Check out more at www.colcameron.com


Master of Ceremonies/Comedians Tips

 

A couple of gigs in the last few weeks have reminded me of how important it is to connect with your audience on a meaningful level… or die. I thought I’d address this post to those wishing to better understand public speaking, being a master of ceremonies or comedian.

_________

The role of master of ceremonies or comedian is so fraught at times because we are thrust in an environment of someone else’s making. Sound, lighting, staging, furniture are all decided long before we pic up the mic. (Click here to see my 10 point checklist covering the logistics of a corporate stand up gig.) Sometimes these elements feel to me like the hurdles in a 400m hurdles race. The difference is the hurdles are all different sizes and the terrain is unfamiliar. Regardless, we are expected to succeed every time. As I become more and more experienced I am aware of just how much I adapt to each situation with which I am faced as I pursue success through a deep connection with my audience. It’s not easy. It also begs the question, should we adapt? After all, isn’t our trusty set strong enough for every audience? Doesn’t there come a point when we will no longer ‘die’ on stage?

Col as master of ceremonies in Okinawa, Japan 2014

‘Connecting’ with my audience as master of ceremonies – starting with the jacket!

Adapt

To succeed you need to adapt to the environment. The only exception might be if you have a huge public profile. If so, do your set, the audience already know and trust you. They’ll go with you. If you are relatively unknown, adapt – adapt – adapt!

The latter is the thrust of my thoughts today as most of us are not well known celebrities.

 

Different audiences

In the last 3 weeks I have worked to an audience of international finance representatives from 14 different Asian countries, a staff of 400 from a cutting edge energy company, a private birthday party of 100 and tomorrow, I fly to New Zealand to entertain professional conference organisers. Each audience was different and the same attitude and style would not have worked across the different audiences. The common goal as a master of ceremonies or comedian however is to connect at all costs. So how can you connect? What does it mean to connect with your audience?

Connecting with an audience is the process of generating 100% concentration on you and creating an escapism for the audience. Have you ever watched a live performance and been lost in the moment? Yes? Well then you ‘connected’ with that performance. There may be distractions everywhere, the atmosphere may be  uncomfortable but in that moment you need to quickly answer these 6 important questions.

1. What do these people care about?

To connect you need to discover the common goal in the room. If it’s an awards night and the winners aren’t known then acknowledge the excitement and tension in the room. Each person may be focussed on winning an award. Use that to your advantage. The event may be a birthday party. While the focus may be on the birthday girl, these days guests care as much about how they look, who they are forced to sit next to and how close they are to the guest of honour as anything else. Play on that idea to connect with them individually.

2. What are they thinking?

What are they thinking when you enter the stage? Were you a surprise? Is there relief that you are there to lighten the mood? Is your presence a complete surprise organised by a third party? Are you wearing clothing designed to generate surprise? Know what the audience is thinking and use this knowledge to your advantage.

3.What do I have in common (or not have in common) with these people?

If it’s obvious you don’t ‘belong’ acknowledge that fact. You may be the only man in a room of women. You may start with a geographical reference. ‘This is my first time on King Island… I’m pleasantly surprised… I was told there was just a married couple and 2 cousins… and they were the same couple…”

4. What’s the aim of the event? What are they trying to achieve?

Make sure you know the full picture. The aim of the night may be to celebrate 2 years of a successful business project. However, imagine if you didn’t realise that the project was to continue but that half the jobs would be slashed.

5. Who am I?

At some stage you need to reveal something of yourself. Remember women connect more emotionally than men so revealing personal challenges and solutions in an emotional way will help you connect.

6. What can I teach them? (What can they take away from here?)

Audiences love a ‘take away’. They love something to think about on the way home. You may have a thought, a comment or a joke that could stay with them for the next week. Maybe say to them ‘Here’s something you can try at home this week’. You’d be surprised how audiences concentrate after that line!

 

Remember, connecting is the key to success as a performer. Just like the role of comedian, even a straight ahead master of ceremonies role has opportunities to connect. You just need to know how to find them. Also remember that it’s a long process. Relax and success will come. Good luck –

Col

PS: Keep checking back for more tips on being a Master of Ceremonies or Comedian at www.colcameron.com.


Today I’ll be performing for the youngest audience ever in my career at the Melbourne Comedy Festival 2014. I’m even bringing my own kids. I’ve decided to roll out an excerpt from my cruise ship family show. With 10mins required I’ll perform ‘Rindercella’. It’s an old Ronnie Barker routine that comics everywhere have adapted with their own jokes. Full of spoonerisms, the dirty jokes are hidden from the kids who aren’t old enough to reverse the spoonerism. It’s like a secret code! I make out that it’s a story for the kids but the adults soon work out what’s going on. Occasionally there’ll be a fart smella… I mean a smart fella amongst the kids who’ll laugh along. We’ll see!

Show: ‘HUGGERS’ – Exford Hotel, corner Russell & Little Bourke Sts CBD, Melbourne 12pm.

Huggers @ Comedy Festival 2014

Huggers Show – What a cute logo!

Then later today at 6pm I’ll jump back up in the Comedy Festival with the ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ show at The Joint at 6pm. Last night was loads of fin working with Terry North and JJ McLean. It’s straight Stand Up Comedy telling stories about being a dad. A topic I know pretty well by now! Dropping in for a 15min spot makes a nice change of gear from having worked so regularly as a corporate Master of Ceremonies over the last month.

Show: ‘Who’s Your Daddy’ – The Joint, corner Flinders Lane & Elizabeth St CBD, Melbourne 6pm.


Having just returned from working in Japan, I have missed much of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. I am however about to perform in a great show called “Who’s Your Daddy?” over the next 3 nights. Can’t wait. Someone must have found out I’m a dad to 3 kids under 5!

http://www.comedyfestival.com.au/2014/season/shows/who-s-your-daddy-the-funny-side-of-parenting-terry-north-peter-melrose


I’m just back from working as Master of Ceremonies at a huge 4 day conference in tropical Okinawa, Japan. Wow what a place! The conference was held at the Manza Intercontinental Resort which is a sight to behold. The resort had its own enormous beach, perfect for the beach team building games for the 220 guests. My role was to keep the event running smoothly working with the expert team from Spinergy Singapore.

 

photo 1

The view from my hotel room.

 

I hosted the welcome event, gala dinner and closing night dance spectacular as well as running group briefings and creating energisers along the way. The Gala Dinner Awards, particularly, is always a pleasure and a challenge, especially when it comes to pronouncing 220 Asian names from 14 different countries! I take the task very seriously and spend at least a week getting it right including recording and learning each name over and over. I believe it makes a huge difference to understand the difference between the Korean pronunciation of for example: ‘Lee’ and the Mandarin version. The moment when a 1st time winner enters the stage as the best employee out of 5000 candidates is very special. Hearing their name spoken perfectly by a foreign MC adds to the moment.

 

photo 2

Not entirely sure who that is next to me…

 

 

 


04Feb

New Baby!

My wife Sharni and I are proud to announce a new addition to our family – Tarquin Marlo Cameron born 18th Jan 2014. He’s a very healthy little boy weighing in at 4.72 kg (10.4lb)! So it’s fair to say that life has changed quickly around here already. Felix and Sadie are very excited to have a little baby brother and are constantly fascinated by everything from the bathing ritual to the vibrating baby bouncer. The bad news is that after a break of 1 year we’re back in to nappies again and all parents with multiple children know how much that hurts!!

With more mouths to feed I need to bring on the gigs! Luckily there’s lots going on. I’ll be back on the Carnival Spirit cruise ship at the end of February and also at the end of March. I should have many more stories for the crowd by then.

As far as Corporate MCing goes, I’m off to Okinawa, Japan in April followed by Prague, Czech Republic in May. Both are conferences for Citibank South East Asia. The Melbourne International Comedy Festival hits somewhere in the middle and while not performing a show I will be jumping up on stage in a few select rooms.

I also have my new comedy keynote presentation called ‘Brainstuff’ which I’m looking forward to performing around the country this year.

Phew… bring on Feb!


03May

Istanbul!

Wow, what a city! My MC duties are now over and I can relax. No more corporate speak.

This place is truly amazing. Why doesn’t it get mentioned in the same breath with ‘New York City’ or ‘Paris’?

Laneways everywhere oozing with style. Poverty brings desperation but it also brings clever street salesmen, stunning cheap crafts and crazy traffic where pedestrians jostle with taxis trucks and the ‘recycling guy’ dragging his vastly over-stacked trolley.

Extraordinary mosques on every hill, The Bospherous a magnificent waterway filled with everything from small tourist boats, regular commuter ferries, large car ferries through to huge tankers crossing the 3 seas to the Black Sea.

Being a drummer I was pretty distracted by the famous Turkish cymbal manufacturers. The cymbals looked and sounded amazing. I couldn’t believe how many music shops there were in the same street. I counted at least 10!

cymbals turkey