Timing Your Comedy Crowd Work: Tips for Getting It Right

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If you go to any of the English comedy clubs in Montreal, you’ll probably see some comedians talking to the crowd and spinning some of the conversations into a funny quip or maybe even roasting some of the audience members. It’s mostly all in good fun but have you ever wondered why some comedians do this? No? Well, that’s what this entire blog post is about so time to learn! So When to do comedy crowd work?

Crowd work was invented when the performers in ancient Greece forgot their lines during the performance of a play and decided to have a short conversation with a member in the front row instead of waiting in silence. Interesting? Yes. Accurate? No. Crowd work is just conversation so whenever the hell bipedal apes started grunting at each other is when crowd work was invented. Duh.

Reasons For Doing Crowd Work

There are a couple of reasons why comedians do crowd work. One, it’s an easy replacement for when a stand-up set isn’t going super great or if they want to get some stage time without a fully fleshed-out stand-up set. It can also keep them on their toes and help them develop quick reflexes when an audience member becomes unruly.

Good comedians command the attention of the room and when an audience member tries to turn the attention to them, a comedian’s job is to put that audience member in their place via verbal lashes. Second, people like hearing other people get roasted. Much of our lives are filled with polite small talk and professional exchanges at work that can be boring and draining. So, when a comedian at a comedy club in Montreal tells the audience member that they look like a person that complains about the temperature of their poutine, the audience eats it up.

A Way Out

To a comedian, crowd work can be a reliable backup plan in the event that their planned set of jokes isn’t working with the audience. Sometimes jokes that worked in the past just don’t work on a particular audience. It can be because of the vibe in the room, the previous comedian that went up, or just the comedy gods humbling you. If all else fails, crowd work can help save the day. You can find something funny with a couple of questions. Sometimes, the comedian doesn’t even need to think of a quick punchline. Funny can happen organically if the comedian chooses the right questions to ask. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch…even if you’re the audience member being asked.

The Final Word

Back to the original question…when to do comedy crowd work? If you see an interesting audience member and want to dig deeper into their whole situation or if your planned jokes aren’t quite landing and you want to get a couple of laughs before your set is over, these are two good instances when crowd work can help. The real beauty is that the answer to the question is ‘whenever the hell you want.’ You get to own the time you spend on stage and if you feel like doing some crowd work then, by all means, ask that man in the front why he looks like a banker from 1972.


Post by Jonathan Motney
Jonathan has been writing and performing comedy in the DFW area for over 5 years. He looks to continue contributing to the comedy world until he becomes unfunny due to age and/or fatherhood.

Post exclusively contributed to, All rights reserved.
Comedyville is a Comedy Club located in Downtown Montreal.

The opinions expressed in this post are solely those of the author.