Why Are You Afraid of the Front?

Okay, I have officially had it up to here (if you can’t see me, I’m holding my hand up over my head. Well, actually I’m not. I was for a second, but then I had to type. So the order of events is, I wrote “I have officially had it up to here” then I held by hand up over my head then I proceeded to write about what I was doing. I just wanted you to be kept up to date accurately).

Anyway, I’ve had enough.

There is something happening all too much at live comedy shows, and it needs to stop.

Right now.

I am sick and tired of audience members having this insane fear that “Oh if I sit in the front row, I’ll get picked on!”

Stop it.

Here’s a little secret I’m going to let you in on;

YOU BOUGHT TICKETS.

YOU CAME OUT TO THE SHOW.

YOU GOT OFF YOUR COUCH AND CAME TO SEE LIVE ENTERTAINMENT.

WE LIKE YOU.

We like you, and you’re not going to get picked on, you stupid fuck. (Is it ironic that I picked on you just now?) The likelihood of you “getting picked on” is staggeringly small. Most comedians just want to do their time, get some laughs, get some applause, and go home after a job well done. They’re not there to attack you personally. Honestly. You’re not that interesting or important.

Where does this fear even come from? Where? I’m seriously asking. I have no clue where you people got it into your thick heads that all comedians are just gagging to abuse the front row. Like they’re just waiting backstage in the green room, going “Lemme at ’em! Lemme at ’em! There’s a lady in a blue shirt that I just have to destroy.”

It’s not happening.

I have been a comedian for roughly seven(ish) years now – and have been regularly going to watch shows for over a decade – and in that time, I have only ever seen a comedian “pick on” someone in the front row a handful of times. Or less than a handful. Maybe only once or twice (excluding, of course, the times said audience member instigated a conflict).

Comics just aren’t picking on people anywhere near as much as you think they are.

So why do you think you’ll get picked on if you sit in the front row? It just doesn’t make sense, damn it!

DAMN IT.

You might be thinking right now “Okay, fine. You make a good point, Brad. But why are you so upset about this?”

I’m upset because I have see too many shows ruined – RUINED – by the giant chasm of awkwardness between the performer and the crowd, because the front row (or in some cases the front few rows) have been avoided like the plague.

Live stand-up comedy is a beautiful art form. And, like many other art forms, it requires a level of connection between the artist and the audience. It requires a bond. It requires trust.

The best comedy is an intimate shared experience. Not some empty, heartless thing that’s exactly the same whether viewed from up close or from a distance.

The audience makes the comedian’s job so much more difficult when they leave that gaping hole in the room. It screams a lack of trust. It’s an enormous visual hint that something is wrong, and nobody benefits from it.

Nobody.

The comedian instantly feels disconnected from you, the audience. And you, the audience, instantly feels disconnected from the comedian.

I’ve seen local unknown comedians try to overcome the chasm, and I’ve seen famous comedians try to overcome the chasm. Few have succeeded, because it’s just that destructive.

You might feel like you’re protecting yourself from any potential “attacks” or “bullying” with this buffer, but really all that buffer is doing is protecting you from an intimate experience.

And just like that, the whole show is off to a bad start. A bad vibe. Why start the show like that? A comedy show (a good one, at least) is essentially a brief relationship between you and the performer(s). Why on Earth would you want to start that relationship in negatives and have to work hard just to bring it up to zero?

Seriously.

Stop it.

It’s fucking annoying.

Anyway, whatever.

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5 thoughts on “Why Are You Afraid of the Front?

Add yours

  1. In Asia it actually got to the point of me setting up speakers further from the stage, to avoid feedback, or just abandoning the mic for a moment and walking into the crowd to do my set there. “hey you! Can you smell me now?!” gasps for air ” yeah, you’re very attractive and that shirt matches your eyes sir.!” looks around for next target “thanks for coming to the show! I’d wear you like a jacket if I could!”

    Maybe crowd work should only be done from the stage…

  2. Maybe it’s a chasm between two definitions of “getting picked on”.

    From the stage, you see it as making fun of/mocking/insulting someone, which you’d never do. But for someone in the audience, “getting picked on” might mean being called upon to say something coherent and normal in front of a room full of people. Public speaking is a challenge for many people even with advance preparation, but getting put on the spot in an environment explicitly designated as funny – no wonder it feels like getting picked on.

    1. But a barren front row is such a common phenomenon in comedy; are you suggesting that that many people are that terrified at the very prospect of basic human interaction with a crowd present?

      I call bullshit.

      It comes down to ignorance and misinformation. Yes, the environment is “explicitly designated as funny” but any audience member who thinks their job at a show is to be funny and any onus is on them is being ignorant of the artform. And sitting as far from the stage as possible, for the sole purpose of trying to circumvent the need to be spontaneously hilarious is taking that ignorance to extreme.

      Well, actually, taking it to extreme would be to not even go to the show because of that fear.

      If you’re terrified by the idea of being asked questions like “What’s your name?” and “What do you do?” then I suppose you should be applauded for even leaving the house.

  3. Hahaha “If you’re terrified by the idea of being asked questions like “What’s your name?” and “What do you do?” then I suppose you should be applauded for even leaving the house.” is too true. This may apply to a friend of mine who refused to sit at the front unless the comics knew not to talk to him.

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