So You’re Not Connecting With The Audience, Now What?

This happens to me more often than I’d like. There’s a few different techniques that I’ve tried, all with limited success:
1) If you bumble your setup, you can just say “oops I got my tongue twisted, we’re gonna rewind time” (make a tape rewind sound, then start your joke again)
2) If your first punch line doesn’t hit, change topics
3) Keep going with the joke, and if three punch lines in a row miss, just acknowledge it, “You’re right, I need to make that funnier” (just don’t get in the habit of always doing this, especially at open mics because it will almost always get a laugh but for the wrong reasons)
4) I have this issue too, but try to commit to the joke more. You might not be connecting because it’s not evident you fully believe what you’re saying. This is particularly true when you’re doing an act out. I have a funny video I need to upload of an open mic I did a couple weeks back where I decided to do the same joke 6 times in a row (it was a 10 minute open mic set) because I decided the joke wasn’t funny and I needed to really commit to it.
5) This is more for a real show than an open mic, but it can work if there’s audience members that aren’t comics: If you notice jokes aren’t working, stop doing jokes and have a conversation with the audience. This is annoying if you’re trying to work out a joke and have limited time, but it will save the set.

You’re in the middle of a joke, or even worse, a set, and you see that the audience isn’t connecting or following what you’re saying. This is bound to happen occasionally (hopefully not too often) and how you deal with it can make or break the set.

Here’s a few different techniques that I’ve tried, all with varying levels of success:

  1. If the problem was you stumbled over your setup, you can just say “oops I got my tongue twisted, we’re gonna rewind time” (make a tape rewind sound) and then start your joke again
  2. If your first punch line doesn’t hit, change topics
  3. If your first punch line doesn’t hit, keep going with the joke. If three punch lines in a row miss, just acknowledge it, “You’re right, I need to make that funnier” (just don’t get in the habit of always doing this, especially at open mics because saying this will almost always get a laugh but for the wrong reasons)
  4. Try to commit to the joke more. You might not be connecting because it’s not evident you fully believe what you’re saying. This is particularly true when you’re doing an act out. There’s an open mic I did a couple weeks back where I decided to do the same joke 6 times in a row (it was a 10 minute open mic set) because I decided the joke wasn’t funny and I needed to really commit to it (video of this is coming soon).
  5. If you notice jokes aren’t working, stop doing jokes and have a conversation with the audience. You don’t even need to try to be funny. Some audiences just want a talk show style therapy session. (I’ve found this tends to happen with smaller crowds of 8 to 15 moreso than with large crowds.) This is annoying if you’re trying to work out new material and have limited time, but it will save the set.

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2 Replies to “So You’re Not Connecting With The Audience, Now What?”

  1. Do you not approve of “savers” for jokes that..bomb, or…don’t get quite the reaction you had hoped for?

  2. Hey Dana,

    I’d say tip #3 is using a saver: “If three punch lines in a row miss, just acknowledge it.” I just didn’t add “in a funny way” afterwards.

    And looking back on this (old) article, I’d get rid of tip #2

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