In some troupes I’ve been in and others I’ve coached, I’ve noticed a tendency to argue with the audience after the show is over. We’ll call one of these troupe members Eeyore.
When someone from the audience approaches you after the show and says, “Good show, Eeyore!” say, “Thank you. I’m glad you came.” Then stop talking.
Always say thank you, even if you didn’t think you did a good job. This audience has not only paid to see you play but has also sought you out afterward to say hello. That makes it a Kind and Thoughtful audience.
If you say, “Really? You think so?” it seems like you are asking your audience for specific critique. That is your coach’s job, not your audience’s.
If you say, “Thank you, but I didn’t feel very good about it,” that makes it seem like you don’t think very highly of your audience.
When someone tells you you did a good job, believe that they mean what they say. If you disagree or question them, you are suggesting either that he is a liar, or else a Bear with a Pleasing Manner but a Positively Startling Lack of Brain.
They’ve got Brains, all of them, not only grey fluff that’s blown into their heads by mistake. They Think. And we already know that they are Kind and Thoughtful, so let us assume they are telling the truth. They really did enjoy your show.
A little Consideration, a little Thought for Others, makes all the difference. Just say thank you.
I’ve coached several troupes, most of them at the local college. A couple of years ago, after a rocky show, I heard a troupe member complaining, “Well, that just wasn’t a good audience.” We’ll call this troupe member Rabbit.
Do not complain about the audience.
The audience does not control your show.
An audience can’t make a show good, and an audience can’t ruin it.
At your small Christian college, the audience is especially gracious. That can be more harmful than helpful, because sometimes they laugh just to be polite, and it’s easy to become dazed by their laughter and lose focus.
The audience is full of your Friends-and-Relations, who are going to cheer for you no matter what because they know you, Rabbit. They’re on your side. They want to make you happy because you’re a nice guy, and they want you to keep inviting them over for honey and tea.
You don’t want the audience to laugh and cheer just because you’re Rabbit. You want them to laugh and cheer because something they saw and heard resonated with them.
If they don’t laugh, it’s not because there’s something wrong with the audience. They showed up, they paid a dollar, and that makes them an amazing audience, Rabbit.
A real bad audience would be one that didn’t plan on seeing an improv show. They were sitting in a bar or a coffee shop, trying to talk with their friends or do homework, and somehow an improv show interrupted them. That’s a bad audience, but it’s not their fault, because they didn’t buy into this whole improv thing in the first place. (Theater is a lot like church in that way, but we can talk about that another time.)
One day you may look out into the audience and see not a single Friend-or-Relation, and that’s ok. It might mean that you’ve gotten good enough that strangers want to watch.You may never have an audience as much on your side as your Friends-and-Relations are, so this is a time to play hard. You know they’ll love you even if you fail, so there’s no point holding back.
Big or small, loud or soft, familiar or strange, your audience is amazing. Make sure to say thank you.