I recently saw that the host of a show I’ve performed at before was punched because he took the mic from a comedian who was breaking the no dirty material rule that particular venue has. All I could think was: That’s nothing compared to a host’s usual emotional beating.
I’ve been fortunate enough to develop a talent and appreciation for hosting shows. The first show I ever hosted was my open-mic at Capital University. I was pretty awful at it for the first few months but got better by learning from my mistakes and taking feedback from other hosts and comics who would pass through.
Hosting at its best is probably one of the most fun things to do because unlike comedians who do only five minutes of stage time, the host gets to go back on stage to connect with the audience throughout the whole show. It may be brief but getting to make funny comments or tag lines for 15 seconds is a thrill. A hosting job is often a comedian’s first paid job, my hosting experience has earned me anywhere between free beer to $50 dollars.
I’d tell a comedian who’s never hosted before that he should try it with a one nighter because it’s less commitment than hosting an open-mic or a monthly showcase. Usually at open-mics the host is going to have an audience of people who have already gone to the show, therefore they have seen his material and are less likely to laugh unless the host does something new every week. Trust me, making a funny 5 minute funny podcast every week is way easier than trying to write a new funny 5 minute stand up set.
In my mind an ideal host is someone who has funny material but can be off the cuff as needed, can read a crowd and figure out the best way to warm them up, a host also needs to establish that he is funny and that’s why he’s the one facilitating these other funny acts, and yet makes sure he doesn’t outshine the main acts. The host needs to care, stay attentive, yet relaxed, and start the show on time!
The times where I get to rev up a big crowd before the show is beautiful, but even when I’m hosting in front of the worst crowd I try my best for the sake of the show. I believe a host should get on stage with the attitude of: ‘This is going to be fun.’ No matter how bad it looks, because I’ve seen it many times where if the host gives up so does everyone else. As difficult as it can be to run a show in front of a tough crowd that’s actually part of the job, it’s really other comedians who can make it a pain in the ass for the host. I’ve had some comics walk out before the show starts, get naked onstage, piss off the crowd, and almost punch an audience member.
This week I started back my open-mic for the semester and had a comedian on who asked me onstage why I keep the show running and what it would take for me to cancel it. As crazy and difficult hosting an open-mic every week gets it helps push me to develop new material and ultimately become a better comedian plus I do enjoy watching other comedians struggle or thrive with me. So if a comic is reading this know that your host, the unappreciated door mat of show business, is both miserable and excited to be bringing you up so be courteous and please don’t punch him. And if his show sucks don’t tell him, trust me, he knows that better than you.