In its review of Mr. P Patrice O’Neal’s latest and final album, Slate reminds us that at the end of his career, Patrice liked to open his sets with an extended series of crowd work. He makes it hilarious, and he makes it look easy.
It is not. New comics, do not try this at your home club.
You only ever want to open with this much crowd work if you’re a veteran who’s so damn good at it that it’s guaranteed to turn out funny.1 Otherwise you run the very real risk of losing the audience completely before you’ve even started in on your actual material–which they will no longer be paying attention to, by the way, filled as they now are with intense homicidal loathing by your continued presence on stage.
In other words, only do this if you’re incredibly talented and have certified adamantium GODZILLA-BALLS. Patrice O’Neal was, and did.
While we’re on the topic of Patrice, two more quick links…
First, here’s a post about “>Patrice O’Neal’s Harassment Day proposal, which includes a video that I’d strongly encourage watching if you’ve never seen him.
Second, courtesy of my friend Jay Hollingsworth, a podcast withBobby Kelly, Dane Cook, and friends remembering their friend Patrice. It’s touching, funny, and includes some amazing anecdotes from a special recent & Anthony tribute show, where it sounds like every major comedian in the NY/Boston/Philly corridor showed up. As usual, it sounds like Dave Attell was the funniest off-the-cuff mofo in the room, even in a room filled with all-star comics.
- Or if it’s an open mic and you’re experimenting with failure — which actually happens, and isn’t just me making a joke. A lot of comics experiment with bombing on purpose for a variety of reasons: to see if they can recover, to see what it feels like, etc. [↩]