As artists evolve, sometimes they need something more in order to enjoy performing certain tasks. Hosting a comedy show is no exception.
There’s a hierarchy to Canadian comedy. The times vary depending on the club, bu you’ll get the idea. Besides the initial grind, you’re first weekend spot will be just that. A short, six to eight minute spot. If that goes well, you might split-middle, or middle and do anywhere from 10-12 minutes. You climb that success ladder up to a FULL middle! Then you’re doing 20 minutes of your best dick jokes. After that you’re promoted to MC, or host. This is incredibly important and a lot of people forget that.
When you host a show, you’re basically the head coach. You’re the Phil Jackson to the Michael Jordan (headliner.) You’re in charge of the show, you dictate how it runs, what should be done, and you make sure the stage is set properly for the headliner. It’s kind of a selfless job, but that’s what I like about it.
About five years ago, I became very bored of hosting. The usual, “Is anybody celebrating anything” was becoming boring. That all changed at a gig in a town nobody has heard of, populated only by those over 90. Not exactly my key demo. I frantically was looking over my notes, my jokes, my thoughts on anything that would appeal to the audience I was faced with. Then it just “clicked.”
Nothing. I went up with nothing. I put my book away and stopped thinking about it entirely. Sure, there’s a bit of a formula to being a good host, (i.e. Introducing the show and the headliner right off the top, get the crowd clapping, do a quick joke, go into crowd work, etc.) but that doesn’t mean you need to plan every single thing you’re going to say. I went up with nothing. I just talked with them. I was honest, and had fun. And in turn, they had fun. Jokes were coming off naturally, and without me forcing jokes about drinking in a nightclub on them.
Now, hosting a show has become fun again. I will usually have an idea of what I’m going to say to start a show, but that’s it. Tonight at Absolute Comedy in Toronto, I did just that, and it was a lot of fun. I got to watch some great comics. Some new, some have been around a while, even a pro, plus the headliner. And if you’re in the moment, paying attention to the acts, the audience will recognize that. I just played. I would throw a one liner, or a thought or idea that came to me from what another comic had said previous, and the spontaneity makes it more enjoyable for not only the audience, but also myself.
There are a TON of fantastic hosts in Canadian comedy; too many to list. I suggest you look them up. And usually the best headliners also make great hosts. This isn’t to toot my own horn. Hell, I’m a decade into stand up comedy and that’s still considered new! I’m just saying, sometimes you need to find a way to enjoy your work, even if you’re hating it. Find the aspect you DO like, and focus your energy on that. Great things happen!