A comedy show for the Savage Henry Comedy Festival at Blondies Food and Drink in Arcata, CA on Oct. 11. | Photo by Michael Weber

Stand-up Comedy Etiquette for Dummies

Keep your commentary to yourself and let me have a laugh, please
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Keep your commentary to yourself and let me have a laugh, please

Sitting in the audience of a comedy show, I expect laughter. After dealing with long shifts at work, assignment deadlines that are past due and staggering grades, that’s what I want.

After living in Humboldt County for a little over a year, I was ecstatic to hear about Savage Henry Comedy Club from my former classmate and local comedian Peter Nelson. Never would I have imagined such a beautiful place to exist and to remind me that it’s okay to laugh at anything.

It became my mission to attend more comedy shows and try out some material for more open mic nights at Savage Henry. In November I was blessed with attending my first late night comedy show featuring Kyle Kinane. The night started off perfect as the air filled with laughter. But the mood changed when some audience members felt the need to be included in the comedian’s routine.

It’s not a rare occurrence for audience members to disrupt a comedy show.

If I had a dime for every time a movie theater reminded me to silence my phone and exit the area with my non-existent crying child, I would have enough for another movie ticket.

Unfortunately, comedy shows have always faced problems with talking audience members. Common sense seems to vacate the premises when it comes to comedy. Who thinks that just because they paid money to see an act, they’re entitled to becoming the most hated person in that venue?

Thankfully, comedians are usually experienced with enduring this kind of behavior, with the exception of Seinfeld star Michael Richards.

However, for Kinane it was a cake walk dealing with a dreadlocked couple and their redundant responses during his routine. My mood the entire night was a mixture of laughter, anger and finally relief as the obnoxious couple got up and left (but not without loudly announcing that they had a baby at home).

Had I known this earlier, I would have called Child Protective Services to alleviate the audience of this comedy sabotage.

Kinane was a trooper and finished strong. He received an applause not just for his resilience, but also for putting on a late show since his Friday and Saturday night shows sold out.

It’s not a rare occurrence for audience members to disrupt a comedy show. I’ve been present when these atrocities are committed and I’m relieved when they’re dealt with. My favorite distractions are people texting during a comedy show and getting called out, especially since the responses are usually ridiculous.

When I saw Al Madrigal live a couple summers ago, I sat next to a woman who couldn’t seem to put her phone down. When she was finally called out by one of the opening acts, she tried justifying her actions.

“My friend is having a baby right now and she’s keeping me updated,” she said.

Instead of showing sympathy, the opening act trashed her for the remainder of his set.

If you can’t fathom the idea of someone else speaking, perhaps you need to reevaluate yourself and forego the comedy show.

I will never understand why people feel they have the right to interrupt a comedy show. Standup comedy is my way of taking a breath of fresh air from a rough week. For it to get obstructed by someone that doesn’t respect the art of making people laugh is just blasphemy.

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