Ok, here are my final tips.
- Stage manager. Have someone in charge of the space who will take care of last-minute details like pulling out the extra chairs when more people come in. It feels awesome when too many people have arrived, and you have to pull out more chairs! It feels crappy when it’s the opposite. Did I tell you about the time at the Hollywood Fringe Festival when I was performing The Oy of Sex and they delayed my start time? Why? It was sold out. What did they do about it? I peeked into the theater. They were lining the stage itself with chairs facing me. That’s how packed it was. It was awkward, but I was delighted. The energy was so high that night, a producer approached me and produced my show Off-Broadway. Don’t let the hosts decide how it all goes down. Don’t let them pressure you. Run the show on-time, but if your stage manager needs to delay the start of the show to take away or add chairs, make sure ahead of time they have the power to do that.
- Lights. You’re at someone’s home. You might only do this once. Don’t buy lights. If you plan on doing a whole house concert tour like Adam and Raina and I did in 2017, you buy a set of LED lights that run by battery, and you bring them with. Prepare for them to be bright. Get diffuser booties to put around them so it’s not so harsh to look out at the audience. The better the audience can see you and hear you, the better your show. When the audience is dark and you are lit (mostly), it feels more like a show. They can lose themselves more. I like to have them just lit enough to see their laughing faces and look into their eyes. If you’re planning to make do with the lights in the home, search out the “torches” – those lamps that stand tall and light upward. Put them up at the front of the room near you. Search their garage for those funnel-looking clip lights. Plug them in and point them at the stage. Get creative. Turn out the lights in the rest of the room if you can. It helps to make it feel like a theater.
- Stage. Of course, energy flows from higher up to lower down. A stage in a flat room is best if it’s raised, so you can be seen no matter what level you’re at. Usually, homes to do not have raised stages. If you do have a raised stage, but it’s only 4’x4′, you’ll confine your movements to that tiny space so as not to fall off, and that will be restrictive and ridiculous. Make sure the “stage” area is big enough for you to move, roll around, dance, or whatever you do, and not step on people’s feet, etc. Block it off with tape, so people know not to encroach, and make sure your person managing the house knows to tell people to keep that area clear.
- Pre-show music. Set it up and have it playing before guests arrive. Make it loud enough to be heard and get the excitement going, but not so loud people are disturbed or have to say “WHAT?” a lot. Choose your pre-show set list very intentionally to put people in the mood for the show and signal to them what the show will be about. Is it a show about love? Put on love songs. Is it a show about empowerment? Play empowerment songs. Everything should set the tone.
- MC. Choose someone to introduce the opener. That may be the homeowner. The more people who introduce, the more you signal that the headliner is important. You show how it’s all leading up to the Big Thing. Have the introducer pump up the audience, applaud, and then announce the opener with their name as the last thing they say. Fade out the pre-show music just as the MC gets on stage.
- Introductions. Once, I did a house concert at a friend’s house who was a huge fan of mine. They began to introduce me (no opener), and then they just didn’t stop. They went on and on about how inspiring I am, how funny I am, how powerful my show is… and it was about two minutes of compliments. This is the worst thing you can do for a performer. Especially a comedian. Building up expectations. Dave Chapelle, Amy Schumer, Eddie Murphy… none of these superstars could have lived up to these expectations and made the audience happy after an introduction like this. You can advertise the show with all your awards and how funny you are, but once you’re in the room, make sure you set the bar as low as possible. Sometimes I don’t even have people say I’m a comedian. I have them say I’m going to talk a little. That’s how low I want expectations to be. That way, once I start making people laugh, they’re stunned. Although once I was doing a set for some people at a party, just sort of casually, while they were sitting on a couch, and some of them literally didn’t know I was doing comedy and began to feel very bad for me and very confused. So they need to know you’re doing something presentational.
- Opener. If they’re not as good as you, they’ll make you look better. But if they are as good as you, they’ll also make you look better. Be very clear with your opener how much time you expect them to do. If you think they may run long, give them a little less time. (Give them 10 minutes if you think they might take liberties and go to 15. Better than giving them 15 and having them go to 20.) In comedy clubs, you won’t work again if you go long as an opener. In other settings, openers don’t know how pivotal their timing is. If your opener goes too long, and your show is long, the audience can get tired. If your opener has a great 10 minutes, but not a great 20 minutes, make sure they don’t do 20. It should be just long enough to warm up the crowd, give them another flavor, and give the opener a sense of fulfillment. But ultimately it’s your show.
- Make sure your opener knows how to introduce you. Get them to hype the room and then say your name as the last thing so people clap and you trot on stage.
- Take command. Do your thing.
- Rinse. Repeat.
Need help with any of this? (Believe me. this is the easy part. The part you really need help with is the show itself. That’s my specialty. Book a consult with me to see if it’s a fit for us to work together to create your solo show, one person show, one woman show, one man show, or anything in between.