I was originally going to title this ‘How to Compliment an Entertainer After a Live Show’, then I thought I really shouldn’t speak for musicians because I’m not one. So I figured ‘How to Compliment a Comic After a Live Show’, would work, but I disagree with other comics on so many things it is wrong for me to assume they would agree with me on all of this. So, here it is, ‘How to Compliment Tommy Drake After One of His Shows’.
I’m so glad you came to my show and I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it. I wanted you to have fun and you wanted to like me and that worked out. This is great. Now, you have a moment where you are going to say a few words to me on your way out, less than a minute of our time together, please don’t ruin it.
Here are some great things you can say:
'I (we) really enjoyed your show.'
‘Nice job tonight.’
‘Very funny stuff.’
‘That was fun, I hope to see you again sometime. I’ll look for your name.’
Now, keep walking. Move along. This is perfect. Don’t say anything else. Wait, you are better than the average audience person and you want me to know it through your compliment? Everybody else is saying ‘good job’ and you are more creative than that? Go ahead and be specific, then:
‘We can really relate to your marriage material.’
‘I liked the ‘gun control’ bit.’
‘You are a clever writer.’
‘Your timing and delivery were spot on.’
We are still good, you haven’t ruined the evening yet, walk away. Oh, but you are an entertainer too and you wanted me to know that you are an entertainer so that your compliment will carry more weight with me? Try these:
‘That was a tight set.’
‘You tore this gig up.’
‘You’re a real pro.’
Are you seeing a pattern here? Have some economy, say something nice, and move on. If you keep talking you are going to say something that offends me or takes the credibility away from your compliment. These are some of my pet peeves when people are trying to tell me they enjoyed the show:
‘That was great, I’m a huge comedy fan and you are one of my favorites.’
This seems okay at first, but unless you are prepared to answer a simple follow up question about comedy, don’t say you are a ‘huge comedy fan.’ I just might say ‘Which club do you go to regularly?’ or ‘Who else have you seen live recently?’ and if you mention a club that closed twelve years ago or a comic who I don’t like or someone who isn’t a stand-up or someone who you have only ever seen on television all of the sudden I realize I’m your ‘favorite’ because I’m the only comic you have seen live in the last twenty years.
‘You are the best comic I’ve ever seen, last month we watched (insert the name of a good friend of mine who I really respect as a comic) and he was horrible.’
Stand-up comedy is a very small world, if you are going to insult somebody by name to me you should find out whether or not they are a personal friend. This isn’t American Idol and you aren’t deciding who gets voted off so please don’t make your compliment to me a comparison to another comic. Along the same lines:
‘You are great, you remind me of Gallagher (or Pauley Shore, or George Carlin, or Richard Pryor, or Larry the Cable Guy, or Dan Cook, or Jim Gaffigan)’
If you are a comedy fan you will notice that that list of successful acts includes some folks that are generally respected in the comedy community and some that are generally not respected. It doesn’t matter who you compare me to, a big part of this business is originality, I don’t want to remind you of anybody, good or bad.
‘You are great. Why are you working here? Why aren’t you famous? Where do you want your career to take you? How come I haven’t seen you on television? You should do Last Comic Standing. You should do America’s Got Talent.’
I’ve been fortunate to have the career I’ve had so far. I’m working here because this is the gig I want to work right now. I make a nice living doing exactly what I want to do. When you say things like this what you are really doing is insulting yourself. You are saying ‘You are a lot better than I think I deserve for a show that I can afford to see in this not so glamorous venue.’ Stop selling yourself short, you do deserve to see me.
‘I loved the way you shut up that stupid drunk bitch in the crowd tonight. That was my favorite part of the show.’
First of all I hope you noticed I didn’t call her ‘stupid’ or ‘drunk’ or a ‘bitch.’ I don’t ever insult hecklers or make assumptions about them. Sometimes I quiet someone down by informing them that they are distracting to the people around them or too loud, but I don’t call them names and you shouldn’t, either. 99% of the time I don’t have to change my plan to talk to the crowd because someone is being a distraction and when I do I always try to handle the situation with class and get right back into my planned performance. What you are really saying to me here is ‘My favorite part of your show was your least favorite part.’
‘I have an idea for you, you should talk about blah blah blah. And when you say this you should also say blah blah blah.’
What you are trying to say here is ‘I noticed when I fell into your rhythm I could see some of your punch lines coming and I also noticed that I laughed at some of your bits that other people weren’t laughing at and your act made me feel like I was smarter and funnier than everybody else in the crowd so now I think I can do what you do so let me give you some notes and you can use them and I can tell my friends and family that I write for a professional comic.’
When done well stand-up looks very fun and very easy and some audience members respond very well to certain styles of comedy. Watching a great comic gets your mind moving in a comedy direction and inspires your own creative, funny thoughts. That is wonderful, but don’t give them to me. Write your own blog or go up at an amateur night and present this stuff yourself. This is very similar to:
‘I’ve got one for ya….’ or
‘Stop me if you’ve heard this…..’
If you say ‘stop me if you’ve heard this’ and I stop you, don’t look offended. I listened to you and I did what you told me to do. I stopped you. Oh, by the way, I can’t ‘use this one.’ Here is why: You tell me your favorite joke because you just sat amongst hundreds of people that were laughing and enjoying me and you couldn’t handle not getting attention yourself, you are funny too and you want me to know it. So you tell me a good one, one that you’ve gotten mileage off of for years. The joke was told to you years ago by a guy you worked with who read it in a magazine or heard it on a comedy album. Guess what? That joke was written by a comic; that is why it is so funny. I can’t make a living doing other comic’s material. I do my own, original material. What you are really saying here is ‘I enjoyed your show so much it made me want to be part of it or to be a comic myself.’
‘You must have the greatest job in the world’
I’m lucky because I get to do what I want to do for a living. If you think this is the greatest job in the world then you are imagining something way more glamorous than what I actually do. Start doing laundry at midnight sometime and when you fold the clothes put them directly into your suitcase then take a forty-five minute nap and drive to the airport at 3:00 a.m. When you get to your gate, get online and send me an email telling me again how I have the ‘greatest job in the world’ and you might just edit that down to ‘your job looks like fun’ or ‘must be nice to get paid to do something creative.’
‘I think you have the hardest job on the planet.’
I don’t, not even close. It is much harder than it looks or sounds, that is for sure, but it is also very fun and very gratifying and even when I work very hard at it I’m enjoying myself which makes the hard work easy. If you just saw me do a show and you think my job is hard what you are really telling me is that you think the crowd was tough or the situation was difficult and I overcame it. Or you may be saying that what I do scares you to death. It doesn’t scare me. Spiders scare me.
‘Normally I hate comedians, but you were really good. I thought you would be horrible but I was pleasantly surprised.’
Stop going to shows with low expectations. Just stop. Every time you see a live performance I want you to expect it to be brilliant from now on. If you don’t expect brilliance, don’t go. I’d rather have an empty chair in my crowd than one filled with someone who needs me to change their already set opinion of an art form.
Now, before you all comment, let me say this:
I understand that every single person who has ever said any of these things to me was just trying to give me a compliment and I appreciate that. I put a lot of energy into my performances and right after a show I’m still hypersensitive to words and mentally at my sharpest so I’m going to notice all the little details of everything you say to me. If you really have something important or detailed to tell me after a show, write it down, find me online and email it to me a few days later. This way you can make sure you say it exactly the way you want to and you know I’ll read it and think about my reply.
The best compliment I ever got after a show was on a cruise ship from a nine year old boy in a tie and a vest after a censored all-ages show. He didn’t break stride, he just kept walking, pointed at me and said ‘I like your stuff.’
I like to think he kept walking, hopped up on a stool in the casino bar next to a grown woman, threw a twenty down and said ‘Gimme a double milk, neat, and another for the lady.’