Hosting a Comedy Show
Ah, the host of a comedy show. The unsung hero of the show, or the reason the show wasn't so great.
Hosting a show well can be a fine balance between being peppy enough to energize the crowd yet not being too noticeable.
Everyone other than the host is the star of a comedy show and it's the host's job to make them look good.
I've seen a good bit of stand up and improv comedy shows. I've seen the hosts do some things that worked and some things that did not. Allow me to share some of these things that I picked up and fill free to add some points of your own!
Stand Up Show Host
DO Make eye contact with the audience (or at least pretend to)
Many people don't like to look at people in the face, but it's a great tool to getting the audience to connect with you. It's actually taught in speech and debate classes. If that's still too scary for you then fake it! Yep, looking right in between two people will make them feel like you're connecting, but it won't be as significant as the real thing.
DO Be specific with your words
Don't use 5 sentences when you can say the same in 2. Brevity always helps make points stick. Comedy is all about communication so clarity is important. Cutting the fat when you're hosting can also keep the show moving and that sweet live energy up!
DO Be positive
Positivity is infectious. It keeps your time up there light. I'm not saying you can't do your Steven Wright-like character when you host. I just mean don't be a drag. The hosts who spend time making self-deprecating jokes every time they get on stage to bring up the next comic are making the show about them. Again, the show is not about you.
Improv Show Host
DO Everything mentioned above.
DO Stand Up
Stand up helps you get used to speaking directly to an audience. Usually in improv you're not up there alone, but in the case of hosting you are briefly. Don't freak out. Just get used to that feeling. Stand up really helps with this.
DO Know where to stand (and stay there)
I've seen hosts run around the stage, hop off the stage into the dark, stand in the dark corners of the room while addressing the audience. This helps no one. We can't see you, it's a distraction, and you're creating a frenetic vibe to the show which may not be the best tone to set if the duo about to come up does really grounded scene work. Take it easy. Know where to stand, stay there.
Hosting For Both
DO Pay attention to the show
Whether it's improv or stand up you'll do yourself a favor by paying attention to the show. In stand up, referencing the elephant in the room is crucial. A buddy who gave me my start, Atlanta's Nick Shaheen, was the best host I've seen do this. He always had hysterical, fully-formed thoughts when he'd riff while hosting. It also was nice to know he was paying attention. When hosting improv, you're likely the person who will be calling scenes. Being attentive helps the show flow well, but it also can save some players when they are out of ideas.
DO Your best
Again, the show is not about you. The show is bigger than you. Make the audience have a good time whether the show was free or the crowd is small. Respect the time you get to spend on that stage by trying hard and always improving.
All in all, I think we're lucky whenever we get some stage time. We got into comedy because it was something we cared about and were inspired by. We can't expect pursuing comedy to go better for us if we get lazier or fall into easy habits. Our passions deserve more than that. We have to improve to honor it.
What the stage deserves is that everyone who steps on it cares that they get to.
We get out of it only what we put into it. You get to do comedy, and the best thing you could do is get the most out of it.