How To Be A Good Comedy Show Host

I love hosting comedy shows. I love being able to set the tone of the show and get people excited for the great night their going to have. I’ve probably hosted over 75 shows so far of all sorts (comedy, music, fundraisers, etc…), and I’ve learned a lot, messed up a lot, and have had some great success. Here’s a collection of tips might help you learn some things, too.

A good comedy show host doesn’t just read off the names and keep the show moving along, you’re the Master of Ceremonies (that’s where the MC comes from). You’re managing the flow of the show. You’re the conductor that is listening to the flow of the audience and the comics and tweaking things where you can to make it a great night for everyone. You’re the face of the show. You’re the one the audience will keep seeing over and over again. A host can make it really easy, or really difficult for all of this to work. Hopefully these tips will help you make some good decisions.

BEFORE THE SHOW

Plan on arriving 30-60 minutes early. Most clubs will probably want you there a half hour early, but I prefer 60 just to have more time to relax and get in the zone.

Take some time to make sure the stage and microphone are ready to go. I’ve discovered issues with equipment that may not have been found out until show time. It takes a few minutes. While you’re at it, put the mic stand, and stool exactly where you want it. No sense in wasting time when you take the stage at show time with that.

You also might want to try taking the mic out of the stand and putting it back in. Sometimes the top grip works differently and there’s little tricks you need to discover. You don’t want to waste time figuring that out during the show.

Bring an extra microphone. It’s not your job to supply the equipment for the venue, but if a mic goes bad in the middle of a performance, you’ll be the most seamless person to replace it (by either handing it to the comic, or swapping it between sets). $30 will buy you a pretty good one, and you can use it for podcasting.

Figure out how the lighting will work. Ask the comics when they’d like to be lit. Some headliners may want 10 or 5 minutes notice so they know it’s time to close with a specifically timed bit. 1 minute doesn’t work for everyone.

Free drinks and food are great if you get them, but make sure you still tip generously, perhaps even more than you would if you paid for it. Also, don’t abuse the privilege by ordering the most expensive stuff you can. The club will remember that, and it’s just tacky.

INTRODUCTIONS

Do some homework to find out the credits of the performer in advance, in case they show up late and you don’t have time to talk to them before or during the show. But when possible take the time to ask them what you’d like them to say. Be wary of taking a laundry list of 3 or more credits as the longer the list the more likely you’ll draw a blank or screw something up. Keep it powerful and simple.

Don’t be afraid to ask how to pronounce a performer’s name. If they have an unusual name, chances are a TON of hosts have screwed it up. They’ll appreciate that you took the time to get it right.

You are building up hype and maximum excitement for the performers. The finale of your introduction should be their name. The comic is waiting for their name as the cue to take the stage, and you not only weaken your introduction by saying the name first, but you make it hard for the comic to know when their moment is.

For example:

INSTEAD OF:

“Our next comic is Steve Martin. You’ve seen him on David Letterman and films like The Jerk. Let’s give him a big round of applause…”

FLIP IT AROUND:

“You’ve seen this next comic on David Letterman and films like The Jerk. Let’s give a big round of applause to STEVE MARTIN!”

Be aware of the politics of plugging shows at competing venues. “You can see him all next week at the competitor’s place” won’t go over very well with the management.

After you do your hosting set, don’t introduce the next comics as “the first comic”. You are the first comics.

Time your introductions so that the performer can soak up applause as they run to the stage and grab the mic. Sometimes it’s hard to control, but don’t end so quickly that they have to finish walking to the stage with silence. That’s the worst.

Often the comic will end their set and get applause, then you’ll take the stage and it’s gone. This is a good time to ask for one more round of applause for the last comic to keep the energy high.

DURING THE SHOW

Pay attention to the “time left” for each performer and let the on deck comic know how much time is left. This is particularly important between the feature and headliner comic, as the headliner may be just waiting in the green room. They’d much rather know they have 5 minutes left than 1, especially if they’re going to put on a jacket, or time 1 last piss break.

Make sure the mic is in the stand when the comic takes the stage. DO NOT hand them the microphone under any circumstance. Put the mic stand front and center, and let the performer move it where they are comfortable when they’re up there. Shake their hand, but if they have a drink and a phone, don’t make it awkward.

Remove any set list or notes from you or the previous performer. Some jackass comics like to grab set lists and riff on them after the performer left. Don’t give them the opportunity.

Be prepared to take the stage at any time. Of course it’s unreasonable to assume you can’t take a bathroom break or step away, just remember that every time you do, it’s a gamble. Comics with 10 minute sets or less can often decide to end their set early, turning it into a 5 minute set. If they leave the stage for any reason, and you’re not there, it’s your fault there’s dead time. You can’t expect the management or another comic to hop up there in your absence. Time your breaks so that they’re at the very beginning of someone’s set to minimize the risk.

Don’t do material in between sets. Your chance to do material was at the beginning of the show. If you bomb at the beginning, the rest of the show isn’t your chance to win them back with more jokes. Do your time, then do your introductions and keep the show moving. If there’s 4 comics and you do 1 minute or two between each, that’s 6 minutes you’ve added to the show.

Keep the audience engaged and excited. They want to have a good time. Reward their behavior. Have them give themselves a round of applause periodically for being a good audience.

CLOSING THE SHOW

Thank all of the performers by name, plug any upcoming shows the venue would like you to. And always thank the audience last. Tell them your name again as well. You deserve it.

If you’re doing another show the next night, check with the management when they’d like you to be there. Also remember that some Sunday shows start earlier so make sure you’re aware.

OPEN MICS

If you’re hosting an open mic comedy show, it’s obviously an entirely different dynamic. If you know someone enough to drop a credit for them, go for it, but it’s your job to keep the show moving quickly, so a name and a request for applause will do. If you find out it’s someone’s first time doing comedy, it’s sometimes cool to mention that after their set. If it’s obvious that the comic brought a lot of people to see them perform, acknowledge them and get some extra applause out of them before you bring their friend to the stage. Be prepared for a comic to give up 2 minutes into a 5 minute set, as well.

Also, with open mics, you’ll be dealing with a lot of beginners who don’t know a damn thing about the rules. Explain how the light works and how long the sets will be. Tell them where to enter the stage and put up a list with the order so they can check it. It also doesn’t hurt to remind the next 2-3 comics in queue when you’re going up.

GOOD LUCK!

Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

How An Online Gambler Looks Compared To The High Rollers

How An Online Gambler Looks Compared To The High Rollers

High rollers opt for a more groomed formalwear look as they need to as some casinos have very strict entry requirements. Most casinos expect their customers to be dressed in smartly with appropriate matching smart shoes. Luckily when it comes to online casinos you can wear whatever you like. An online gambler has no restrictions but can still be dressed to the nines if they want too.

Casual Player

The great thing about gambling online is you can literally play whenever and wherever you like. For the casual gambler, slots may be the preferred game of choice as they are easy and very fun. When you want to pass time playing slots is a great form of entertainment. The online gambler who likes to indulge in slots can be found most likely in their pyjamas or chilling in loungewear curled up on the sofa, watching TV and playing a few games of slots. The casual online gambler only sees it as a bit of fun and doesn’t take anything too seriously.

Live Casino Game

Most online casino sites have a variety of live casino games, so it can feel like you are actually in a real casino. Gamblers who like to play live casino games usually dress up a bit more and make an effort. If you dress up it adds to the real-life gambling experience and you can feel like you are in a casino but in the comfort of your own home. Gamblers who prefer live casino games are most likely social butterflies who like going out and getting dressed up. In most online casinos you can chat to the dealer as well as other players so it is quite a social experience as well as great fun.

On-The-Go-Gamblers

There are some gamblers who choose online casinos over actual casinos due to their lack of free time. On-the-go gamblers are normally dressed similarly to high rollers just not as flashy and smarter. On-the-go gamblers dress smartly and play on the go as the only chance they get to gamble is on their commute to and from work. Most online casinos have apps or their sites can easily be accessed on smartphones so games like slots or even blackjack can be a great sense of fun to pass travel time. On-the-go gamblers will tend to play any chance they get, they are used to some big wins which helps out their smart working wardrobe.

Online gamblers have all different styles when it comes to their look and even their game play. High rollers tend to be dressed smartly as they are used to casino expectations and requirements. There are so many different online casino sites available to online gamblers now days no matter your style or game of choice there is something to suit all. The best thing about online casinos as well as the choice in sites and games is that you can play the games whenever, wherever and you can be dressed however you like.

Batman v Superman: Yawn of Justice

Batman V Superman Dawn of Justice is a big fucking mess of a movie. It’s OK to watch, but it watches like a movie that 5 different people made without any knowledge of what the others were doing. It’s not a complete waste of time, but it’s really only sort of good.

THE GOOD!

Ben Affleck is a great Bruce Wayne and a great Batman. Pretty much everything to do with Batman is outstanding in this movie, except stupid dream sequences that really add about 20 minutes of nonsense. There’s an amazing new Batmobile that’s in a pretty kickass chase, and a fight scene with about 20 dudes that’s about as gorgeous of a Batman fight scene as you could ever hope to see. The costume looks great. His motions are fluid, and he’s an ass-kicking fiend.

Wonder Woman is cool as Hell. She was far more exciting to watch than Superman. There’s a scene where she gets beat down hard, and looks up and smiles…happy to finally get a good fight. I can’t wait to see her solo movie.

THE REST?

Cavill is OK as Superman. Nothing new. I personally think he’s pretty one note and dull. Same shit you saw in the last movie.

Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is played with a giggly insanity that is basically just a smarter Joker. Not too happy with his performance.

If you were hoping for the rest of the JLA to make a splash. Keep hoping. Aquaman, Cyborg, and The Flash are little more than Video Files looked at on a computer screen.

Nothing at the end of the credits to stay around for.

Zack Snyder should stop making these movies.

President Obama Writes Forward for New Peanuts Book

obama

How cool is this that President Obama wrote a forward for Fantagraphics’ new volume of “The Complete Peanuts”?  These have been a superior series that have collected all of the daily newspaper strips since 1951. This latest edition brings up up to the 1999-2000 age. You can pre-order this, or get older volumes direct from Fantagraphics if you CLICK HERE.

The Top 30 Greatest Stand Up Comedians Of All Time

Here’s my choices for the Top 30 Greatest Stand Up Comedians Of All Time.  I really hate those “of all time” lists that only list people from the last 10 years. I consider talent, historical impact, success, influence, and with just a dash of who I really like a lot.

  1. Richard Pryor
  2. George Carlin
  3. Bill Cosby
  4. Steve Martin
  5. Redd Foxx
  6. Lenny Bruce
  7. Milton Berle
  8. Robin Williams
  9. Rodney Dangerfield
  10. David Chapelle
  11. Eddie Murphy
  12. Joan Rivers
  13. Chris Rock
  14. Phyllis Diller
  15. Bob Newhart
  16. George Burns
  17. Bill Hicks
  18. Louis CK
  19. Don Rickles
  20. Ellen DeGeneres
  21. Jonathan Winters
  22. Jack Benny
  23. Sam Kinison
  24. Stephen Wright
  25. Roseanne Barr
  26. Mitch Hedberg
  27. Andy Kaufman
  28. Johnny Carson
  29. Dennis Miller
  30. Some Heckler who really was on his game that one night

The Dodgeball Dilemma


photo (c) 2004, 20th Century Fox

NOTE: I wrote this article about 4 years ago, and thought in light of the great newDodgeball movie, it was worth digging out again.

You can’t grow up in America without basketball, football, or baseball playing a part of your life (or if you live in Australia, rugby, dingo tag and kangaroo wrestling).  In the earliest years of elementary school, you can learn to strike out, drop a ball, and do other humiliating things that define your athleticism for the rest of your life.  Clearly getting immature uncoordinated tots to play games of this nature was such a challenge, so different games were invented to give them an even break.

As I was panting and wheezing my way through a game of driveway basketball (I’m a great 3 point shooter, mainly cause I can’t dribble worth a shit), I began to fondly remember those games.  Dodge ball, kickball, Tag, 4-square, or tetherball . . . they were always some of my favorites.  But why did we stop playing them?

When I was a kid in Reston, VA about 25 children would play a game while they were waiting at the bus stop called “Crack the Whip”.  You’d simply all hold hands and run in a crazy snake circling patterns at a high speed and try to make the poor kids at the end fly through the air and go crashing into a tree.

Tag taught us a lot of basic survival skills, basically how to run away from someone trying to get you.  In this day and age of increased kidnappings, school shootings, and angry parents mad that you broke their favorite vase, learning to run away from someone is a must.  You had your classic tag where someone was “IT” and ran around trying to pass the “IT” virus to someone else.  Some variants of the game featured a safety base area equivalent of the immunity idol.  

My favorite version was Freeze Tag where being touched by the “IT” kid would make you stop in your tracks, and you couldn’t move again unless one of the unfrozen kids came to your rescue and tagged you.  It was always sad to see the less popular kids stranded in the field, frozen, waiting for someone to thaw them out to no avail.

Survival of the fittest was introduced at an early age to kids who played King of Mountain.  This was always the showcase for the big fat kid who otherwise got picked on a lot, to send kids tumbling down a hill to their doom. 

I remember playing this when I was only about 6 with some much bigger kids in a construction yard.  We saw this 25 year old woman walking towards us from far away.  One of the crafty kids told me, “Hey, when that lady walks by us, ask her if you can lick her vagina”.  I asked what a “vagina” was, and he replied, “Oh, it’s a piece of candy, like a lollipop.”  I  waited for her to get right by the hill, and eager to get a taste of her sweet candy (and unaware it was a different sort of sweet candy altogether), I screamed, “Hey…CAN I LICK YOUR VAGINA?”  She looked up, shook her head, and walked on.  The other guys were doubled over in laughter, when I told them, “I guess she didn’t have one.”

One of the more beautifully Darwinesque games ever designed however was dodgeball.  A few kids would stand around a huddled mass of scared kids in the middle, and throw a ball at them.  Each time someone is hit, they have to join the others on the perimeter, until there’s one left, jumping and ducking about like some biblical stoning victim.

Dodgeball was fun on the surface, but deep down it was a secret way to smack your fellow students really hard with no retribution.  Usually we’d use one of those red soft playground balls, but every now then we’d get to use a volleyball or something harder.  Though there were strict “no headhunting” rules, it was awful hard to get in trouble for having bad aim.  I mean, we were only 8 years old.

I remember one poor girl named Krista who got pegged in the crotch so hard, she curled up on the ground in a fetal position for a few minutes.  Instead of receiving sympathy, someone just shouted out, “POW!  Right in the catcher’s mitt!”  If you hit someone in the face, you’d get high fives from everyone around.  Matt told me a about a guy who hit a girl in the face so hard that it broke her glasses AND knocked her out cold.  Instead of being ostracized, he was “Hero of The School.”  (Of course, the girl likely came back and shot 15 kids the next day).

Perhaps the most brutal game we played was “Smear The Queer”.  With a name like that, it’s just a notch above “Kill The Fag”, but the homophobic undertones went unnoticed by us.  The rules were suicidal.  Someone would throw the ball in the air, and whoever caught it would have to run around until they were caught, gang-tackled, and usually punched a few times.  Why anyone chose to catch the ball is still a mystery to me, but it certainly whetted our appetite for masochism for years to come.  Understandably, this game, at least in name, has all but disappeared from most schoolyards. 

So why did we stop playing these things?  No teacher ever sat us down and said, “You’re growing up, let’s put a stop to this and focus on varsity sports.”  It’s as if there’s some mystical rule in high school that forbids you from even speaking of them again.  Sometimes I think a good game of tag or dodge ball would be incredibly fun.  Perhaps the ever strengthening bodies of teenagers growing up are too powerful to unleash with sports like that.

For the most part, these games taught kids how to play together.  There weren’t clearly defined jocks and geeks yet cause most anyone can run or evade a ball with equal proficiency.  But come time for high school, it’s off to the Chess Club for the kids that can’t cut it.  And if it gets too bad, you can start studying those Columbine kids more carefully.

We’re too afraid to just let our kids be savage beasts anymore.  No dangerous toys or games are allowed.  Some dumb kid chucks lawn darts into the air and impale their sister in the head, so they’re banned.  All the toy guns are bright orange so they don’t look too real (might get accidentally shot by those cops that are always sneaking into our backyard).   Even playing Cowboys and Indians is looked upon as politically incorrect.  

Without an adequate outlet to express the animal side, it gets bottled up and expressed in other ways.  Left untapped, often tragic consequences (and some suggest an increase in boy band CD sales) occur.

We do too much to prevent kids from playing dangerous games, while doing little or nothing to eliminate the real life dangers they emulate.  Toy guns are bad and real guns are good, in this twisted society we live in.  Violent videogames where you shoot up electronic zombies are bad, while nothing is done about the actual zombie problem in the world.

So go ahead and gather up your pals for a game of drunken dodge ball.  You’ll have the time of your life, and the world will be a better place for it.

-Robert

Aurora Monster Scenes Remembered


 
In 1971, a model company called Aurora was struggling. They had made a good name for themselves with awesome kits based on classic monsters, dinosaurs, and the like, but sales were waning, so they decided to up the ante with what was arguably the most offensive and shocking toy sets ever marketed to kids. The snap together kits featured Frankenstein, Dr. Deadly, and Vampirella, which wasn’t that outrageous, but they came with an array of torture devices and a figure cleverly marketed as “The Victim” that caused an uproar.

The comic book ad above launched the set to America. As they kidnap a woman to bring her into the torture dungeon, Vampirella assures her party that her screaming is just fine by saying, “Don’t worry, this is New York, no one will help her!” This was a grim and totally inappropriate reminder of the horrible case ofKitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death with as many as 12 witnesses in the apartment building next door did nothing.

Can you imagine any kid coming home with “The Victim”, or actually opening it up on Christmas day?  The artwork on the box is fantastic, and it’s actually one of the more valuable and collectible vintage toys of the time.

If you click the thumbnail above, you can see an alternate version of the ad (which may never have actually been published) where “The Victim” was going to be sold as “Dr. Deadly’s Daughter”. I suppose the angle of torturing his own family member was probably too much for even the most jaded monster fans.

Obviously it didn’t take long for numerous groups to protest the hell out of this toy. According to the AURORA MONSTER KITS website:

Massive protests against the kits came from religious publications and general newspapers, since they all thought that it promoted sex and sadism among children. All the negative publicity led to an immediate stop of production for these kits in May 1971, by the company which now had new owners: Nabisco Inc. The kits remaining on the toy store shelves led to new protests in November, this time outside Nabisco’s headquarters in New York. These protests held by groups as: Parents for Responsibility in the Toy Industry, and National Organization for Women, resulted in a recall of the Monster Scenes kits from store shelves in the U.S.


One of the few models where even experts have a tough time telling if it’s assembled or not

The National Organization of Women hasn’t called for the banning of a toy since the Mattel “Math is Hard Barbie” debacle in 1990, so you have to give credit to AURORA for their long standing record. How many toys get a rap for promoting “sex and sadism”? That’s quite an accomplishment by anyone’s standards.

As you would expect, these hard to find kits fetch a pretty price on the collector market, with Mint in Box specimens easily approaching the $300 range and even $30 for instructions.

Anyway, the next time you hear someone complaining about the violent toys kids love these days and the bad influence of wrestling, videogames, and toy guns, just show them this to shut them up.

-Robert Berry
rberry@retrocrush.com

NOTE: An earlier version of this article first appeared on retroCRUSH over 13 years ago, but I found a cool site The Haunted Closet which added some new items about reissues of the kits, and an article about the original protest that you canREAD HERE.

 

PIPE CLEANER PORN

PIPE CLEANER PORN!
A startling erotic discovery at my wife’s late aunt’s house

My wife’s aunt passed away recently, and last week we took some time with other family members to go through various things in her home.  I found some cool 60s “Adam” magazines (a bawdy gentleman’s pinup mag from the 60s, that I’ll feature here separately), and a few other curiosities, but nothing prepared me for this.

We came across this can of SKOAL.  We never knew her aunt to chew tobacco, so it was a weird item to find.  It sounded like something other than chew was inside, though, so I opened it up to see what it was.

Holy crap!  It’s a pipecleaner man, wacking his giant pipecleaner cock!  The poor guy has been jackin’ in that SKOAL can for years, with nothing more than the back of The Statue of Liberty’s embossed face to look at.  She was a pretty conservative lady, so I was surprised to find it, but I figured it was just some goofy thing she came across at a craft fair.  She maybe even just got it as a naughty gift, and just hid it away after she had a little giggle.  Or did she…

Not too far away, I came across 2 more that were in a sort of pre-production status.  Yep, she decided to make a couple of her own.  I’m not sure if she was trying to do a full fledged line of masturbating pipe cleaner men before she died, but its nice to see that her dreams were big.

-Robert Berry

trix

The Trix Conspiracy

trixWe ask our children everyday, not to hate. To treat their fellow man as an equal. Yet, the messages we send them only reinforce the opposite. Destroy those who are different, and don’t let them have what you have. Nowhere is this more glaring than the television commercials for Trix commercials.

Perhaps you’ve seen them. The formula for the stories are all the same. The Trix Rabbit, after countless failures, continually concocts wild schemes to disguise himself, maybe a magician or lion tamer, to amaze kids with wonderful tricks, and charm his way into their breakfast table. He doesn’t want the whole box, he just wants a bowl. Of course, every time the Rabbit gets too close to these luscious Trix, he’s overwhelmed by years of restraint and flips out, usually letting his big white ears pop out from his hat. The kids, realizing they’ve been duped, take the cereal back and physically push the Rabbit away. They then laugh, “Sorry Rabbit, TRIX are for KIDS!!!”, cackling away as the Rabbit once again walks away hungry.

It doesn’t stop there. Other breakfast cereals do the same!

“Sorry, Barney, these FRUITY PEBBLES are mine!”

“Hey! Pirates aren’t supposed to eat CAP’N CRUNCH!”

“Cookie Crook, your social class is too low for COOKIE CRISP!”

“Leggo My EGGO!”

“YOU CAN’T EAT HONEYCOMBS UNLESS YOU’RE A MEMBER OF THE HONEYCOMB HIDEOUT!” (I always thought that one was confusing, the slogan would go, “Come to the Honeycomb Hideout”, but they’d always turn folks away once they got there! Even Andre The Giant!)

“HEY YOU STUPID LEPRECHAUN, NO LUCKY CHARMS FOR THE IRISH!!!”

Time and time again these messages of hate are pounded through the soft spots of our children’s minds.

Once in 1980, finally succumbing to the public’s dissatisfaction with it all, General Mills decided to cash in on the election year, and featured commercials where the TRIX Rabbit might actually get a shot at his long desired bowl of goodness. On the back of every box was a ballot, encouraging the kids to vote:

YES! I WANT THE RABBIT TO GET HIS TRIX! or NO! I DON’T WANT THE RABBIT TO GET HIS TRIX!

It was a shining moment for our country because the kids overwhelmingly voted for the Rabbit. They even had a new commercial to commemorate the event. The Rabbit heard the results, and sat there teary-eyed, not knowing what he said. Why this was like Mandela getting freed from prison, The Berlin Wall coming down, the fall of The Soviet Union. He ate the bowl lovingly and quickly, overcome with joy. With a smile born of years of tolerance and servitude, he raised his spoon proudly, and asked for another bowl!

The kids looked at each other, allowing for an evil pause to creep along, then laughed…wickedly. “That’s the only bowl for you, RABBIT…HA! HA! HA! HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!”

It was such a cruel and inhuman joke. Just like we promised the Indians their own land. Just like we promised 40 Acres and a mule to the America’s blacks. Taken right back!

Why are we afraid to eat at the same table as The Rabbit?

If we can’t share our food with a cartoon, then what hope is there for our humanity?

bantha

Bantha Footprints In The Sand

Here’s footage of me performing my “Bantha Footprints In The Sand” bit from my May 2015 album taping at Sacramento Comedy Spot.