The Wrong Show is an independent and alternative comedy night in Leeds. This is our blog. Here you will find comedy reviews, features, and interviews. We were formally known as HOWL. Our home is The Fenton, Leeds.
By Thom Milson
I watched I am Comic last night, which was a pretty good comedy documentary: not the greatest, but pretty informative. Among the bits I really enjoyed was a section involving Todd Glass, and his views on a comedy club, and how they should go about laying out the room. I didn’t think this would be a problem across the board - I mean, yeah I’ve experienced it - and didn’t expect it to be something that illicit an almost rage like response from comics.
He starts by prefacing his argument with a statement that will also preface mine: I have seen this done. If I hadn’t then yeah, you could call me a moan, but I have. Some comedy clubs get it right*. Others don’t.
It’s pretty simple as well. What I’m going to do here is write a list of how a comedy night should be set-up. There are not “if you can” things, these are “you should be doing these” things. If you do them, your comedy night will be instantly a million time better. Okay, here we go:
1) Make the room dark.
Too many times, do comedy clubs light up their audience. This is really bad. Laughter happens more in the dark. Why? It’s called “madness” and is a cinema/theatre theory. Being in the dark minimises the distractions around you, allowing you to become more immersed into something. Look at cinemas for example: before the film starts the lights are turned down. This is the key to the cinema experience because it allows you to get into the film, and believe that the things that are happening on screen might be real, with real people. The cinema “experience” has nothing to do with the large screen like people believe (it does help, but it’s not that important) - it’s the darkness which is vital. Why do you think we turn the lights off and close the curtains when watching a film at home?
2) Don’t light the comedian that brightly
The comedian only needs to be seen, not illuminated. You need facial expressions and all that jazz, but you don’t need the comedian to look like they’re staring right into the sun. If you’re using spotlights on full light, it’s too bright. Comedy Clubs aren’t supposed to look like Live at the Apollo, they’re supposed to be much more intimate, so think romantic restaurant lighting: dim, but not dark, and candles. Candles are great for comedy nights because they make the audience feel comfortable.
3) Don’t operate anything that doesn’t need to be operated
I get it some bars want to have the bar open during a show, which you can’t help because they have to make money. If you can have the bar closed during performances then do. Also, try telling the bar that people will still buy the drinks they want, they’ll just have to wait until the act is finished.
The important thing is to keep doors that can be shut, shut, and anything like arcade games and all that stuff, off. If you think it might be a distraction, it is a distraction. Sort that stuff out.
And there you have it. That’s all it takes. So why can’t it be done properly?
*I’m paraphrasing here.