As a professional comedian, you can imagine I do a LOT of shows in a LOT of different places. While we can all agree that the main ingredient needed for a great comedy show is lotsa laughs, there are other, more nuanced, differences that is required of the comedian depending on what venue they are performing at.
THE COUNTRY CLUB
When someone says ‘country club’, immediately we think of wealthy, golf playing, white anglo saxon protestants in an ‘old money’ club where they huddle themselves away from commoners like us. Except of the course for the commoners that park their cars, carry their clubs, make and serve their food and make them laugh.
And if that’s the first you think of when you think of a country club, you’d be right.
Don’t get upset, I’m joking. There are country clubs of all sizes and all shapes with the same said for their members. In fact, did you know that it can only be called a ‘country club‘ if the club has a golf course? If it doesn’t have a golf course, then it’s supposed to be called a ‘pool club’ (You gotta have at least a pool. If not, what kind of ‘club’ are you anyway?).
But like everything nowadays, people have what they want and call it what they want. And if they call is a country club then the comedian has to be prepared to perform their comedy with that in mind.
Well it’s a country club so guess what Sparky? You’re gonna have to dress up. In fact, be prepared to dress up from a little to a whole lot. Odds are you wanna have a jacket. Most real country clubs have an actual policy about all wearing a jacket. Jeans too. You have to own at least one pair of slacks. AND Shoes. Never ever ever think you’re going to perform at a country club in sneaker (or tennis shoes).
As usual, when you’re not sure, it’s good to ask. I do a lot of private events so I ask the client directly when I have questions. If you can’t get to the client ahead of time, ask the booker or the agent or whoever hired you.
You never know what audience you’re gonna walk into anytime but you can take some educated guesses. A country club will have people that most likely have never thought about going to, much less ever set a foot in, a comedy club. So to them, while your act may seem like a familiar template from years of casual tv watching, you will be as foreign to them as a computer to a dog. The key here (and a lot of gigs like these) is NOT to offend. I know that may sound counter productive to what the comedian actually does but we are talking about hire, for pay work and there is this idea of you having an obligation to please the client.
Over the years as a comedian (great thing about getting old) I have amassed a variety of material that ranges from clean, family friendly, say it a church gig with the pope present to sick, twisted, x rated material that would make Larry Flynt get up and run away.
I see my material the way a craftsman views his tool belt. The tools are all there, it’s just a matter of figuring out which tool this particular job requires.
So for a country club, I personally err on the side of caution. I did one recently where I was the only act, which starts you from a disadvantage as now you have to not only open cold, you have to simultaneously hold their attention, focus and warm them up all in about five minutes (or you’re doomed). I conferred with this client multiple times before hand. He gave me his idea of range for language but when I got up there, I sussed out the room and the audience: Friends and family from 20 something to 70 something with the majority between 30 – 50 (I’m doing this while I’m speaking and starting). Everyone’s dressed nice and ready to have a good time so they don’t want to hear gross stuff, they don’t want to hear harsh language. I mean they can hear some naughty things, some language but don’t forget that language is always heard in context. To refer to you own act as shit (“I hope you like this shit, there’s 20 more minutes”) appears to be acceptable whereas saying “After the show, I’m going to go take a big shit” will not go down well at all.
I did this at this show and the sparse use of the word shit, combined with the context it was said in, made that one word very effective when I did decide to employ it. But I did this a little ways into the show after I had gotten to ‘know’ them a little better and thought I had a grasp on figuring out their boundaries.
Never assume that the venue has a sound system. This is something you want to double and triple check with the client and/or the booker. I tell any comedian that listens, buy a PA system (Public Address). There’s not that expensive. You don’t need a big two speaker system. There are plenty of single speaker, self contained units that work really well. Of course now I’m referring to comedians that have the car to move their PA around. Most comedians that work on a regular basis own or have access to a car. Not all, but most.
What do I mean by blocking. I mean where you stand. Don’t always assume you will be placed in an ideal location. Be prepared in case circumstances give you a raw deal. Some venues will have you on a dance floor while the audience is ten to twenty feet away at their tables where the tables were designed to be. I’m a big fan of being CLOSE to the audience, so these situations can be very taxing. Sometimes this a moment where you want to see if you can bring in your own sound system and set it up to get you close to the audience.
HERE’S THE DEAL
I think that a comedian has to do everything he or she can to make sure that when they perform, everything is just how they want it.
I mean that’s what you’re hiring me for right? You want my best performance right? You don’t hire a therapist and make them listen to your problems standing for an hour. They wouldn’t be 100% effective at what you are spending money to have them come and do for your event or party or corporate function. And it doesn’t matter if you if New York City, Kalamazoo or Auburn, the principle is the same. Let your sub contractor do their job the way they’re supposed to.
For example, I tell ALL my clients: I cannot perform while people are eating. I must perform after they eat. I tell the client that when people eat and laugh, it gets messy.
I know another comedian who absolutely will no perform in front of small children and even has it in their contract.
We just wanna do the best job we can for your event and be the life of the party and we know you want us to be do.