One night, at a comedy show in the East Village, a bearded, post-hipster man-boy approached me with, "Hi. You were really funny." After more conversation, he then decided he felt comfortable telling me what he really thought of my wares of word. "Your tertiary comedy is really good but your set ups are too long." Oh, why thank you, perfect stranger, for gutting me where the wound must have already been visibly gaping, even in the lighting of this seedy bar. I felt embarrassed and defensive, partly because I completely agreed with the second part. And partly because his statement forced me to have to Google "tertiary comedy," you know, that term he had just made up? But I allowed him buy all my drinks for the rest of the night while I silently wept inside, because "tertiary" comics drink for free. Everybody knows that. Just Google it.
That story isn't an uncommon experience. In every service industry, there is always a customer who, despite having never done the job on which they feel the need to offer critique, gives instructive thoughts on how exactly they think it could be better done. Stand-up comics are no exception to hearing from these "helpful observers" and their sage words on improvement. The following quotes are real, unsolicited advice given to comics by audience members after seeing their shows. At least all these comedians can rest easy being very very good at stand-up, despite the occasional ignorant wisdom that would momentarily suggest otherwise.
Note: Every single one of the female comics mentioned in this post have had more than one audience member approach them and say, usually verbatim:
"You know, I don't really think female comedians are funny but you were really funny."
In response to which, Jackie Kashian has this to say: "If you're female and you're a comic and someone hasn't said that to you, then you're probably not funny."
"You should talk more about diarrhea, you know, like stuff people can relate to. Not that stuff you just did."
"You should stick with it. You'll get the hang of it eventually!"
"You should do more stuff about looking like Bill Gates or shitting in your pants."
"I like your jokes a lot but how about a little more energy? All you do is stand there."
"I love the bits on your retarded kid."
"Make sure you're not like other female comics and only talk about dating and sex. I hate that. Male comics have a much wider repertoire of material."
Audience Member: I love that story you did at the end. Is it real? Jay: Yeah, 100 percent true. Audience Member: Yeah, I thought so because it kind of falls flat at the end. Have you ever thought of making up a new ending? Me: No.
Audience Member: "Never say on stage that you have a boyfriend because the second you do, every guy in the room stops listening."
So, for the last four years, Nikki has made certain to just not have a boyfriend at all, so she doesn't have to worrying about not talking about him.
"You'll never make it big with all that vulgar material in your songs."
Audience Member: "You were my favorite comedian on the show." Mike: "Thanks! That's really nice of you." Audience Member: "To be honest, I just don't like black comedians."
Mike was the only white guy on the show and therefore won "Best Set" by racist default.
"That's funny that you're a Jew because we call our friend here (pointing) a jew all the time!"
"Hey, have you ever seen that one comic do that joke about needing to lose weight?
The audience member then told Bryan the joke and that he should just start telling the other guy's joke because it was so good.
Also, Bryan does not need to lose any weight, which makes the suggestion even more amusing.
Audience Member: "Is your email address on your website?" Jackie: "Yes." Audience Member: "Great. I have some notes I want to send you."
Jackie sits with bated breath still waiting for these notes which she presumes includes, "Wear more lipstick," something that has been said to her more than once after shows.
"Big Irish" Jay Hollingsworth:
Audience Member: You said the FUCK word 25 times in 5 minutes. Your subject matter could be quite funny but you need to drop using the "F" word. You need to think about your crowd. Comedy isn't about cussing." Jay: Thanks for telling me what I "need to do." Next time, tell it to someone that gives a fuck.
After doing jokes about gay marriage: "This is just supposed to be fun comedy. You're not supposed to tell me what you think."
David's account: A woman who came up to me, said, "Hey. That was good." Then she awkwardly hugged me, gave me a concerned look and walked away. It was like she was channeling every phone conversation I've had with my mom since I started doing standup.
Dan St. Germain:
After bombing at a Mumford & Sons after-party (he followed an hour and half performance by a Reggae band), the banjo player came up to him and started apologizing, which was even worse than the bombing itself. Because, when British people apologize, they take a half an hour to do it. "Daniel St. Germain, I am dreadfully sorry for the events that have transpired this evening. What happened on that stage was nothing short of an abomination." He was so serious about it that I felt that at any moment he was about to say. "Ladies and Gentlemen, Princess Diana has died."
"You know that angry black man thing, you should do more of that."
To which Solomon said nothing but now wishes he had robbed her and thrown up a gang sign.
Aparna does a very popular puppet closing bit that she has been doing for years:
Audience member: (touches her shoulders, leans in confidentially, and gently shakes her) "Everything worked, but that puppet thing you did at the end. Why did you do that? Never do that again."
"What happened, buddy? Man, you really lost 'em at the end there, buddy!"
He kept calling Al "buddy," seemingly unaware he was standing 10 inches from a black man who was now plotting his death.
"Your breasts were distracting during your set."
A woman yelled out "K-Mart!" during Bill's show, then afterward, she spoke with him about it:
Bil: Why did you yell that? Audience Member: "You're autistic, like Rain Man. And he loved K-Mart. You're a little autistic, I can tell."
This was a woman who could barely stand because she was so drunk however, she could tell that Bill was a "little autistic."
"Good job, but you should have mentioned semen."
- Audience member's opinion after a show where he did crowd work with another audience member who turned out to be a forensic psychologist
"Hey, man! That was great! But, you know what you should do? You should get one of those Cat-in-the-Hat hats. 'Cause you look like him, kind of."
"You know what you need to do? Dress more like you are on a date. Like it's Saturday night and you want to look really good. Dress it up."
"When I first started in Texas, I used to have a part where I would yodel while climbing a stripper pole during my opening bit. Someone came up and told me that I was good at yodeling, and I should do it throughout my act. It could be my "Git 'er Done" catchphrase. I still worry to this day that they might have been right."
Standing with group of male comics and an audience member says, "Do you do comedy too? I thought you maybe you were just like someone's girlfriend."
Audience Member: "Hey, I wanted to let you know something because I know you guys are always looking for feedback." Josh: "Nope. No, we aren't."
Then, he went on to tell Josh that his act was racist and that he knew that because every time Josh mentioned anything race-related, the audience member would turn and stare at the black man sitting near him and the black man seemed really uncomfortable every time. But it couldn't have been the staring. No chance.
"I don't know what their problem was, but I thought you were hilarious." (Emphasis on "I")
Audience Member: "Hey, man. You ever thought of doing more face comedy after your punchlines, like crossing your eyes?" Barry: "What?" Audience Member: "Yeah, like crossing your eyes to get more of a laugh"
Rojo is Puerto Rican, FYI:
"Boy, you were pretty funny. But you should really ham up that 'Rican stuff. We don't get a lot of your kind down here. Now, don't go raping my wife now. Ha! I'm kidding. I like you." - Guy in North Carolina
"You should shave your mustache into a Hitler one. It'd be really good for your act."
Ian mentions in his act that he is a Jew.
"Have you ever thought about going back into teaching?"
Online comment about Jono: "I've seen this guy perform and he's way less funny than his OkCupid profile. That profile is absolutely hilarious. But he's only just a little funny when he does stand up. Oh, well."
And finally, how Moshe Kasher handles complaints and suggestions:
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