Ten Steps to Become a Great Emcee (Host)

Fewer and fewer comedians want to emcee anymore but emceeing skills train you to become very funny on your feet, handle hecklers and sound more conversational. All skills you’ll need before you can headline. With that in mind, here’s some MCing tips based on my personal experience and numerous conversations with other professional comedians.

  1. Come in with super high energy. You want to get the audience’s energy as high as possible.
  2. Start by saying “Hi everyone, we have a great show for you tonight.” Make sure you’re smiling and that you sound genuine.
  3. Get the audience to clap again with something like “Clap it up for yourselves” or  “Who’s happy it’s a Friday night?”Unless you get an amazing response, say “You can do better, let’s try that again.” It (subconsciously) communicates to the audience that you’re in total control.
  4. Go into crowd work.Either ask the standard questions like “Where are you from?”, “What do you do for work”, etc or try to come up with more interesting questions (in advance). Try to make jokes about their answers, or joke about the fact that their answers are boring. Don’t panic if some of your improvised joke attempts miss.
  5. Don’t talk to more than 3 tables in a row, or people will get bored and/or hate you.
  6. Do a couple of your jokes.
  7. Repeat step 4 through 6 as needed, establish the pattern.Alternately, you can open with a quick joke or two (not longer than a minute) and then go into crowd work. This works better on shows where the audience is unsure it’ll be a good show. The best is if you have crowd work questions that will lead into your material. Example: “Anybody married in here? Oh yeah, how long? When’s the divorce? Just kidding. But I’ve actually been married for twenty years.”
  8. Get a final round of applause, then bring out the next comic.Example: “You guys are great. We have an awesome show. Are you ready for your next comedian?” Make sure the comedian’s name is the last part of their introduction. You want to say “This next comedian has been on Comedy Central please put your hands together for John Doe.” Do not say “Your next comedian is John Doe, he’s been on Comedy Central.” BONUS: This is a personal pet peeve of mine: Don’t ask “Who’s ready to get this show started?” or “Are you ready for your first comedian?” The show has already been in progress since you got up there.
  9. When you come on stage between each comic, make sure to maintain a super high level of energy to keep the audience in their seats and excited about the next comic.First say, “how about another round of applause for [comic’s name].” Then either go into a joke or two, or just introduce the next comedian. If there are more than 3 comedians on the show, I don’t recommend doing time between the first and second comedian, so that the audience doesn’t think you’ll be slowing down the show after each performer. BONUS: If you can come up with a quick one or two line joke based on the last act’s closing bit, that’s a great way to keep the show feeling connected and as one. Example: If the last comic said something like “Then I passed out in an alley, and woke up without a wallet,” you can come up there and say “So I was in an alley last night, going through Joe’s wallet…”
  10. Most important, the emcee has to be a person.You can’t talk at people, you have to talk to them. (This applies to regular stand up spots as well, but especially if you’re the host.) If you don’t get many laughs as a host, but your energy is positive and you’re smiling the whole time, the audience is relaxed and engaged and the first comedian does well, you did your job (even if you don’t feel great about it).

Have additional questions on this or other topics? Click here to learn about my mentoring services.

Would you rather have someone else to host for you? Hire me. I’ve hosted hundreds of show including at The Lincoln Center.

Other Comedy Tips:

  • 10 Steps to Become a Great MC
  • 3 Tips To Planning A Successful Comedy Show
  • Are Any Topics Off Limits?
  • Barking Tips
  • Clayton Fletcher: Auditioning Q&A
  • Clayton’s 7 Tips
  • Clayton: When To Become A Full Time Comedian
  • Comedy Economics
  • Dealing With Hecklers
  • Eleven Observations About The Comedy Business
  • Five Basic Improv Techniques
  • Five Tips For Your Comedy Event To Run Smoothly
  • Free Comedy Content Economics
  • Interview with John Vorhaus
  • Intro to Improv
  • My Comedy Mindset
  • My Writing Process
  • Not Connecting With The Audience?
  • Organizing Jokes
  • Overcoming Stage Fright
  • Producing a Show: Getting Audience
  • Producing a Show: Running The Show
  • Producing a Show: The Comics
  • Producing a Show: The Venue
  • Road Work Tips from Danny Browning
  • Stealing Jokes – Ben's Thoughts
  • Ten Tips To Succeed During a Check Spot
  • The 8 Different Types of Comedy Audiences
  • The Pecking Order
  • Treat It Like a Job
  • Types of Shows for Beginners
  • Types of Spots
  • What To Do When Nobody Laughs
  • Why I Won’t Be a Pro Snowboarder
  • Your First Stand Up Performance
  • 13 Responses to “Ten Steps to Become a Great Emcee (Host)”

    1. […] I did okay hosting but had a talk with the owner later about how to be a better host. You can find that post here. I plan on using these tips and being a better host next time I do […]

    2. […] questions that almost every host does with a bunch of tables up front at the start of the show. See here for more on how to be a good […]

    3. jimmy says:

      i am very in need on how to be a good emcee,because it is a line of my job of my work in a progressive store company here in the PHILIPPINES. then when we have a sale we will have a show making lots of surprises and giving more prizes to our shoppers and as of now i feel confident and in a good place for being an emcee because lots of ideas i apply from your advice….thank you very much

    4. Another great article. It amazes me how many people do a terrible job hosting. It can be the downfall of a show. A great host can also be the saving grace. It is a powerful position to be in and should be taken seriously. Keep that show rolling forward nicely. You don’t want to end up in a position where the comics are giving you the light (I’ve actually seen this happen).

    5. Peter fukkin Reed says:

      A good question to ask the crowd is if anyone is celebrating anything, birthdays, anniversaries etc. Its a good way to include the audience and provides for jokes that can comeback as the show moves along

    6. angel says:

      thanks so much for this simple list. gotta love the internet for how we can all help each other!

    7. catalina eusebio-de polonia says:

      thanks for the tips. . .i want to enhance my knowledge on this job all the more. . .more power!

    8. LALIT MONTEIRO says:

      what are the words or the sentence you use when you handle the show, wedding , birthday, communion, christening, corporate show, or any road show or stage show.

      if you could send the proper wording with the sentence, while beginning of the show, middle of the show, and proper ending by vote of thanks…..please let me know at the earliest…

    9. […] format of their show. If you decided to host your own open mic or comedy showcases, using the same rules as the pros will help your comedy show appear […]

    10. Alice says:

      Hi Ben – been a long time since we did open mic together back in NY. This is a good article and very on point for me.

      Thanks

    11. […] Of course, comedy clubs are just that: places you can go in order to have fun with your friends, but fun is funnier (if that makes sense) when you have people telling great jokes and making you laugh like crazy. When delving into one of these clubs, you don’t have to worry about being high energy or having that cheerleader type of personality. It could be that you are too deadpan and if that’s the deal, then I think it’s something the audience will need some time in order to get warmed up to. It doesn’t actually mean you have no place in comedy, but you’ll find it harder to score an MC gig. […]

    12. nicholas Lindsay. says:

      :)

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