When you start comedy, a lot of the pro’s will tell you how important it is to be good at hosting. When they’d tell me this, I didn’t know if it was true, or just propaganda to get me to be okay with warming up the crowd for them. However, over the years I have learned that it is true. That a good host really makes the show. That hosting gets you the strongest fastest. It gives you the opportunity to go on stage the most, and grow the most. And that there are some simple do’s and don’ts you can do as a host to make the show exponentially better or worse.
1) The host is the owner of the show, in most audience members’s eyes. I’ve taken note of statistics ever since I started, I’ve noticed that when I just do a set on a show (don’t host), and I do well, people will come up after to me and say, ‘great set’. When I host a show, and do a good job, people come up after and say ‘great show.’ See the difference? They attribute the show’s success or failure to you. Know and understand that responsibility, and know that your hosting duty is not just about your set but it’s about the show as a whole.
2) Be warm and welcoming. When you host, you are the ambassador, the tour guide of the show, the one who is letting everyone in. Think of it like your own house party. We want to go to a party where the host is warm and welcoming (and funny and interesting ideally, but the first two are more important). So, smile, be nice, don’t berate the audience (I’m astonished at how many hosts I’ve seen be mean to audience members and ruin the whole tone of the show). I already follow this as a general rule in comedy, but it applies even more to the host, because it’s on them to set the tone for the smiles and laughs that all the comedians on the show would like the crowd to have.
3) Energize the crowd. As the host, you control the crowd’s energy. You can tell them what to do. And if they don’t follow suit, you can either let them be or really urge them to do it, which is encouraged. Even if your comedy is low energy, you can still energize the crowd, by asking them to clap, and make some noise. Ideally, you do it right when you get on stage, to train them to be energetic. Then you do your set, which is nice if it’s high energy, but if not, no worries, as long as you are doing a decent job and being funny, try to close strong, and then at the end, say okay everyone let’s clap it up to start this show. And then tell them that when you bring up comedians, that you want them to clap and go wild. And when they slack on it, call them out, and demand more. They came to this show for a reason. They want to have a good time and help you help them have a good time. So help them help you help them by telling them to give it up for the comedians.
4) Be a host first and a comic second. Let go of your schtick, your character, your stupid self image and just suck it up for the show. You can do your thing, don’t get me wrong, but do the hosting stuff first. Come out, energize the crowd and be nice, and then go into your abrasive abortion bit. “Look, my set just isn’t good for hosting.” Fallacy. Anyone’s set can open the show. It’s your other areas of hosting etiquette that will make up for your unsettling material.
5) For most crowds, cleaner is better up front, if you can. Most crowds are good, clean folk, who will get weird about sex jokes too early in the show, when they are still sober and not warmed up in the belly. That said, hosts that work cleaner up front, build a stronger foundation for the show, by not isolating anyone in the room. Okay, sure, there are degenerate crowds that love dirty sh*t up front. I’m talking about *most* crowds, especially in clubs and theaters. And club bookers look out for hosts who work clean as well, but you should already know that. And again, if you don’t have clean stuff, fine, doesn’t mean you can’t host. Just saying if you have clean stuff that’s funny, for the sake of the show, do it. If you don’t care about optimizing the show, and just wanna do what you wanna do, then just do it. And if you are hosting a bar show, a whole different set of rules applies.
6) You only get to make fun of the other comedians if the audience likes you. If they don’t, shut up, they won’t laugh.
7) If you are gonna do time in between comics, make sure it’s good. This is a rule I violate a lot (see 8), but you wan’t to keep that energy good, so don’t bring the audience down between comics, keep it going.
8) Run your own show somewhere and host it. That way you make all the rules, you can do as much time as you want, run the light, and make it literally your show. You can violate 1-7 and still have a good time. But the same rules still apply if you want to have a good show.
Not only are good hosts very bookable, but the stronger the host you are, the faster you move up the chain. A good host will make a good headliner. No doubt. But a good headliner can suck balls as a host. Remember that. So let’s give it up for our host and emcee __(insert your name here)__.