A boozy audience is a laughing audience. Passing out small bottles of Winner's Cup vodka (the discount hard alcohol with the heart of a champion) is a cheaper investment than you might imagine, and worth every penny.
Making eye contact with the crowd is good. Making physical contact with the audience is not so good. Using contact paper to trace members of the crowd is just silly.
Sure, Gallagher has the monopoly of smashing fruit with a mallet. But what about emotionally abusing a watermelon? "What's the deal, with you? You're not water, and though loosely considered a melon, you're certainly not a member of genus Cucumis. And why are you such a racist symbol, man?"
It's not nearly as messy and just as devastating.
Saying the name of the town in which you are performing is a good way to get cheap applause. Even if you're from that town, and you never perform anywhere else, and you haven't even left the city limits in a month and a half, you should still tell the crowd how it's great to be "back" in San Francisco. They will clap. Other phrases that will get you some cheap applause:
"Call me crazy, but I believe that people who love each other should be allowed to get married."
"I don't care what anyone else says: San Francisco is the greatest city in the world!
"I just became the father of a beautiful new baby girl."
"Can I get a big round of applause for the wait staff/earlier comedians/yourselves?"
"That Dick Cheney sure is a butthead, huh?"
The regional device works even better if you can make disparaging comments about inferior cities in the same region, and their inferior audiences. Popular targets include Fresno, Bakersfield, or Redding. Since I only perform in San Francisco, and occasionally Berkeley, I can't really speak with authority about other locations, so I try to play neighborhoods against each other.
"Thank you," I'll say. "I tried that joke in the Richmond District, and it did not go over well. They were like, 'I don't understand that, maybe because I was on the bus for three hours today and then a Russian Mafioso wearing a track suit kicked me in the shins.' Thank God, you're not like that here in Western Addition."
Trying to banter with the audience is a risky proposition. When you're telling your jokes, you always know what you are going to say, at least. With the audience, there are no guarantees.
At a recent open mic, a first-time comic was telling jokes about growing up as the son of a priest. He wasn't doing too badly, but he was nervous. So, when he began to falter, he decided it was time to interact with the audience. "The worst thing about having a priest for a father," he began, then addressed me directly. "Wait, what do you think is the worst part of having your dad be a priest?"
I said the first thing that came to mind. "I don't know, the molestation?"
He froze, and his face reddened. "No," he stammered. "No!" he almost shouted, then closed his eyes and shook his head, like he was trying to shake my accusation out of his mind. It turns out that the worst thing about having a priest for a father is that you have to confess your sins to him, something he explained while shooting me disgusted, disappointed glances. Such is the dark side of banter.
If any East Bay readers have an interest, I will be performing at Laugh Your Axe Off on Wednesday evening (8 PM, 2060 Valley Life Sciences Building), part of UC Berkeley's run-up to Saturday's Big Game versus Stanford. Friday is of course my headlining debut at 50 Mason in SF (8 PM, $10), and the official promotional info is after the jump.
FRIDAY NIGHT COMEDY Hosted by Eric Peterson @ The SF Comedy Club
50 Mason Street, San Francisco - between Market and Eddy
Info/Reservations: 415-398-4129 or http://www.50masonlounge.com
"The home of underground comedy in San Francisco" - SF Chronicle
"Best Place to Enjoy Comics for the Cost of a Movie Ticket" - SF Guardian
The San Francisco Comedy Club at 50 Mason is a great place to meet up with a group of friends for laughs or for a date before heading out to a variety of great downtown bars. Each week, the Friday Comedy Showcase delivers some of the best, funniest and hottest standup comedians in the Bay Area.
Laugh off the steam from your week and get your weekend started...
Sean Keane (headliner)
hosted by Eric Peterson http://www.epeterson.com
Where: San Francisco Comedy Club, 50 Mason Street (between Market / Eddy)
When: Every Friday, 8 to 10 pm (Doors open at 7:30 p.m.)
Admission: $10 (No Drink Minimum)
For reservations, call 415-398-4129.
Transportation/Parking: One block from the Powell Street BART and Muni station. Parking garage conveniently located across the street from 50 Mason and a 'discount' parking lot next to Hotel Bijou.
SF COMEDY CLUB @ 50 MASON
50 Mason @ Eddy
San Francisco, CA 94102