“Ah, I remember my first beer.” -Steve Martin’s brilliant response to a heckler
When it comes to seeing live stand-up comedy, it’s widely accepted that everybody is there for a good time, some great laughs, and making some memories. Many comedians thrive off of audience interaction, and this can make for an incredibly engaging evening when spirits are good and the jokes are flowing. But have you ever seen a great routine derailed by an unruly audience member? There is a certain etiquette that folks are expected to adhere to when it comes to live comedy, lest they should find themselves at the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from a professional comedian. Believe us, when that happens, there needs to be some sort of ointment involved for the burns that occur.
Of course, none of this applies to you. You’re a fantastic audience member! It’s the clown you came with that needs this list of dos and don’ts regarding comedy club decorum. In order to spare you — er, your friend — any embarrassment, here’s Gutty’s handy dandy list of things to remember before making your way out to the comedy club.
No Pre-Gaming Your Night Out
Since Gutty’s Comedy Club is a dry bar (meaning we only serve non-alcoholic drinks to keep things all-ages), this shouldn’t be a huge factor. However, we certainly can’t control what you’re imbibing before you show up at the door. Look, nobody’s saying you can’t enjoy a beer at dinner before coming to the comedy show, but don’t show up three sheets to the wind. A lot of comedy clubs that do serve alcohol have something like a two-drink minimum, but that shouldn’t be treated as a personal challenge to see how many drinks you can slam in one evening. Consider a nice herbal tea or a juice box. Sloshed audience members tend to lose their inhibitions about saying something foolish, and more often than not, end up being the butt of the joke they were trying to make.
Learn the Definition of “Rhetorical Question”
I know it’s easy to get caught up in a stand-up routine and possibly think “wow, she’s speaking directly to me!” While your rapt attention is appreciated, voicing your reply to a rhetorical question is typically not necessary. Usually, when a comedian is looking for a response from the audience, they’ll make it clear that they want a reaction. Otherwise, just assume that you’re all being addressed as a whole and don’t feel the need to personally respond to each question.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit
In the event that a comedian does solicit you for a response, keep it short and sweet. As much as I’m sure they’d love to have a heart-to-heart with you in the middle of a comedy routine, there is typically a direction the comedian is wanting to take your interaction, and instead of replying with an overly long mission statement about all of the things you love about comedy, keep your replies brief. Your interaction with them is typically being used as a springboard into another topic, especially if the comedian is riffing or improvising. Don’t worry, I’m sure you have a wonderful life story, it’s just not the reason that everyone came out to the comedy club.
Comedians Can See You On Your Phone
While you may be absentmindedly checking Facebook or Twitter during a stand-up routine, remember that those little screens can become beacons for comedians to hone in on if they don’t think you’re paying attention. And to be fair, if you’re scrolling social media during a performance, you’re not paying attention, and they may call you out on it. Particularly in dark rooms, a phone screen can light up your face like a Christmas tree and at that point, you’re just inviting a witty comedian to single you out. If you need to use your phone, take a call, or check an important text, just discreetly excuse yourself to the lobby. If you don’t… well, don’t say we didn’t warn you.
Don’t Command Attention With Your Attire or Accessories
At a clean comedy club, you typically don’t have to worry about comedians needlessly picking on people for no reason. However, if you’re wearing something ridiculous or that demands attention, drawing attention away from the performer, they’d be silly not to call you out. For example, during the recording of Michael Showalter’s comedy album “Sandwiches & Cats” an audience member brought a live cat in a cat-carrier to the show, and sat in the front row. This was not scripted, and yes, the meowing cat caught Mr. Showalter’s attention. It made for a great laugh in the end, and even contributed to the name of the comedy album, but it also resulted in the audience member being asked to leave the performance and receive an epic series of slams. You can watch the exchange at the link above, if you so wish (warning: brief strong language.) It is equal parts hilarious, awkward, and a good reason to re-think something like bringing cats to a comedy show.
If You Feel the Need to Contribute — Don’t
You might be a funny person. You might even be really good at performing stand-up yourself or also do it for a living, but this is someone else’s show. If you’re at a football game, you shouldn’t feel the need to run out onto the field and help out the quarterback. Your role is to sit back, enjoy the show, and leave the jokes to the comedian. Your intentions may be good, but you’re more likely to get trampled by a bunch of linebackers than score a touchdown.
Buy Tickets to the Show You Want to See
The world of comedy features a gloriously broad range of genres, and there’s valid humor to be found in pretty much all of them. That being said, don’t buy tickets to Jeff Foxworthy and expect Lewis Black, or vice versa. Gutty’s Comedy Club has the desire to bring as many people together of all ages to enjoy laughing together, which is why we’re a clean comedy club. If you want a comedian who is vicious or uber-political or crass, there are venues for that, and you’re welcome to explore them, but it’s not for everyone. Just set your expectations correctly, and you’re bound to have a great time no matter where you end up taking in a show.
Take Jabs in Stride
At any comedy show, there’s always a chance that you’re going to be involved in a punchline. For some people, this is all well and good until a comedian trains the spotlight on you. Don’t worry too much, though — at Gutty’s we’re all here to have a good, clean time, so any teasing that occurs will be lighthearted and have no ill-intent. But even then, don’t be offended if a comedian takes it upon themselves to tease you about your receding hairline or ugly sweater you decided to wear. It’s all part of the fun, and if you can laugh at someone else getting taken down a peg, don’t get overly offended when it’s your turn. It all tastes so much better when you’re laughing with everyone.
For Clean Comedy in Indiana Come to Gutty’s!
We hope this cheat sheet for comedy club etiquette has been helpful to you. 2020 was such a crazy year, and we can’t wait to be able to all come together again and enjoy comedy as one big, happy, goofy, weird family. Buy your tickets to one of our shows today, and don’t forget, we also stream comedy online every weekend!