The First Laugh

“Batman and Robin” starts with a big, long, flashy intro. The first line you hear is Robin saying “I want a car. Chicks dig a car.” Then Batman says, “This is why Superman works alone.” That first punch lets you know this is just a comic book movie. Don’t take it too serious. (And, man, did they not take “Batman and Robin” seriously as a movie.)

The first drop of Splash mountain has this same effect. Big set up, small drop, big laughs, catch your breath, the rest of the ride then payoff.

Humor is an oil for entertainment.

That “first laugh” for Batman was written and edited by a team. The “first laugh” of Splash Mountain was engineered by experts in amusement park rides.

That first laugh is so important because the build up can be so much, you have to let the “audience” catch their breath.

As a stand up, that first laugh haunts me.

Sometimes I have to go on after a hard working comedian who has just gotten the entire audience to absolutely adore the for 20 to 25 minutes and wants to prove to the club they should headline. Sometimes I’m following an amateur who has gotten the entire audience to question why they came to a comedy show on their night out… for 20 to 25 minutes. The audience has the posture and facial or expressions of “Please don’t leave funniest guy on the show” or “I’m funnier than this whole entire place and anyone that has performed here ever!”

Then it’s time for me. I always ask for simple intros. I don’t like a major build up. Because no matter what the host says about me.

It’s that first laugh that matters.

That first laugh lets the audience know they can loosen up. It also lets me know how loose the audience is willing to get.

While I’m getting ready to perform, I take little notes on premises that the previous comics may have touched on. I listen to see if they fall close to anything I might bring up. I look at the crowd and try to determine if they are “sweet hearted”, “rowdy”, “skeptical”, “true comedy fans” etc., so I can rearrange certain jokes. I look into the audience to scope out audience members that look like they might be a problem, are reluctant to laugh, are too talkative and I let myself know to avoid them until I’ve won the audience over.

But all that preparation doesn’t matter more than that first laugh. I get more info from that first laugh than anything else I’ve prepared. That first laugh lets me know, “It’s going to be fun” or “It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

That first laugh haunts me. I think about it a lot.

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