Thursday, October 13, 2011
When my friend, JJ, and I did the entertainment at a Young Life camp years ago, we were really funny. We were. We had been friends for a long time, we had written a lot of funny material, and we improvised the rest of it. Basically, it was just us having a lot of fun in front of people. The only problem was, we were having so much fun, and we kept thinking, “The next thing that we do, or say, is going to be the funniest thing yet,” that most things went too long. We got feedback to that effect, but we mostly ignored it because we were having so much fun.
There is an old adage in entertainment that says, “Always leave the audience wanting more.” There is this magical place when you have fully entertained and impressed the crowd where they feel like they don’t want it to ever end. There is another place right beyond that where you have gone on too long. It’s as if you have led the audience up a sloping mountain to the peak and you’ve enjoyed it there for awhile. Only, Mt. Enjoyment is not a normal mountain, you can’t lead them down the other side. This side of the mountain doesn’t slope, it is a cliff. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone on a little too long, or way too long, you’re going to fall to the bottom. Just don’t risk it. Just don’t venture on the other side of the peak. Get in the helicopter you placed at the peak earlier and bring everyone home.
During the middle of the stand up show I went to on Monday I thought to myself, “This is the best stand up show I’ve been to in Los Angeles.” By the time we left, before the show was done, it was only middle of the road for me. It’s not that the comics that went on later were significantly worse, it’s just that the show went on too long. In fact, most every show I’ve been to here has been too long. Even the poetry slam show I was at the other night went too long. My friend and I had to leave early, just like the stand up show the night before, the hosts just kept talking and talking.
I understand the temptation, either you are performing, which you don’t get to do very often, or you are organizing a show, and you want as many performers to perform because they may have paid for the opportunity.
It’s just like a resume, sure, you’ve done a lot more things in your past jobs that you would like to highlight, but you don’t because you don’t want your resume to be too long. I guess I’ve just been surprised so many times here that people who should know better aren’t acting like it. If you shorten a show, or a set, or any performance, you will leave with people saying, “Man, that was an awesome show,” rather than people saying, “Man, that was a long show.” Keeping it short will bring them back, going too long will stop them from coming back.
I don’t have any great insights here, but I think this rings true for most of my life experiences as well. Our enjoyment of things matters while we’re experiencing it, but it also matters what we think of it when it is done.
I’m tempted to try to be ironic and make this very post way too long to prove my point, but I won’t. Instead, I will end it the way I end my stand up set.
I’ve sure given you a lot to think about. If you take anything from my speech, remember these Top 5 Comedy Rules.
1. Always leave the audience wanting more.