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Musings on the Amusing: Know Your Audience


A blogumn by Jessica Glassberg

When I walk out on stage, I usually have a sense of what kind of audience I’m performing for:

A Hillel-sponsored event:  bring out the Jewish mother jokes
My dad’s retirement party: a few inside jokes, but pretty G-rated.
On a college campus: get more risqué.

The same theory holds true for conversations in every day life and how people react when not in an audience where all eyes are on me for a set amount time whilst holding a microphone.

Sometimes, my normal sarcastic “charm” can be misconstrued as obnoxious… then if I defend myself with the always endearing, “I’m not obnoxious… I’m funny,” I don’t win any fans.  Or, when it is learned that I am a comedian, inevitably, someone will request, “say something funny.”  Know this… nothing is worse than demanding a comedian say something funny.  If you’re talking to a surgeon, do you expect a spontaneous appendectomy?  If you met an actor would you have him perform the “To be or not to be,” monologue from Hamlet on the spot?

I spent this past weekend with my boyfriend’s extended family in Detroit, Michigan.

Inevitably, a lovely eleven-year-old girl had just learned that her cousin’s girlfriend is a comedian and demanded, “ Tell me your best joke.”

My mind went blank… hmm, most of my jokes are stories, and not exactly appropriate for an eleven-year old mind.  Okay, I have a few shorter jokes, and I went through them all in my mind: too sexual, too religious, too mature…

I can’t tell someone else’s joke… Can’t let it get around the playground circuit that I’m a joke stealer…

I had nothing.

I was saved by my boyfriend’s quip of, “Two peanuts were in the city late at night… one was assaulted. “ And the eleven-year-old laughed… and laughed… and laughed.

Now, in her mind, he was hilarious.  All I had to do was tell the interrupting cow joke and I could have been the hero.

I did learn my lesson later when the young cousin and I were having a staring/make you laugh contest and I won.

Not by talking about how jury duty causes eating disorders, or telling bad dating stories, but, simply by making funny faces whilst nibbling on some crackers.

Wait… didn’t Jim Carrey make a career outta that?