Hosting is not for everyone. Sorry.
Just because you want to host,
doesn't mean you can.
Published in June 2021 | Free Standup NYC
Article by: Andrew Bayroff
“Hey everyone, how are you doing tonight?”
Familiar words spoken to the audience at the start of every comedy show by your host. Your comedy sherpa if you will. Holding your hand and guiding you through the show making sure everyone enjoys themselves. Like a host of a dinner party, they are not the main attraction, they are there to make sure things run smoothly—whether or not they are. However, I don’t care if you’re a true headliner, veteran comic, or twenty years in, not everyone is cut out to host.
A host is defined as: “a person who receives or entertains other people as guests.” The host of the dinner party takes the coats, directs people to the food, drink, and yes, the bathroom. And lay down some ground rules, like, “please keep your voices down in the hallway.” This is akin to the host of a comedy show. You’re there to greet the audience, make sure everyone feels welcome, and offer a few rules for the night, like, “please keep your voices down while the comic is on the stage.” And do it with a big smile on your face. And, sure, you have material ready to go, but stow it for now. They don’t want to hear your story, not just yet at least. Talk to them, warm them up first, that’s your job.
Some comics whom host don't understand the relationship between them and the crowd. They either don't care or, haven't hosted enough to appreciate the connection. Some rush into their material, begin picking on people, or so flippant about the show as a whole, they've sullied the experience before it even began. If the first thing a dinner host did was make fun of you, not sure you'd be willing to stay. Imagine the audience is your family, friends, new acquaintances and your job is to show them a good time.
Being the host uses a different muscle vs one of the comics on the show. As a comic, you’re on stage for 5, 10, 20+ minutes. Sling your jokes, get some laughs, and you’re done until your next set. The host, on the other hand, is there for the entire show. They make a connection, a relationship with the crowd. The host deals with the audience no matter if they liked you, loved your jokes, or wanted you banned from the stage. They are there to clean up, or, build off the energy you created. The host is dad, mom—and the bouncer if needed—all in one.
A host needs to think on their feet. The comic that’s late, the comic that never showed up, the comic who “needs to leave by 8:30”, and is telling you right as the show begins (don’t be that comic). Think of a host as someone is juggling an apple, sharpened knife, and perhaps a fully fueled chain saw. Sometimes the show runs smoothly, while in others, everything seems to go wrong at the same time, and if you’re not savvy or experienced enough, you’re going to get cut.
Here are a few ground rules as you host a show. These are by no means a complete list, but they will do for now:
Keep the show moving
Know the names of the comics, get them right
The comic that just went up killed, no one needs to hear your grandmother joke. Keep it moving
The comic that just went up bombed, well, bring out grandma
Control the chit chat, hecklers, Instagram selfies
Work with—and not against—the staff
Male hosts, please do not use the following introduction: “Coming to the stage, your first female comic.” Or anything else that demeans or in any way calls out the comic that puts them in a bad light. You may not always know every comic, make each one feel welcome to the stage.
If you are also the booker/producer: accommodate the comics best you can
Also, know when to flex your hosting power. If a table is rowdy, wait, they may calm down. If not, make your announcement to “keep the noise down” to the entire crowd, no need to call out any one person just yet. If you lambast someone too early, you may lose the crowd. However, if the same person/table continues to break your rules, you gave them a fair warning. Once you get the audience on your side, they’ll be with you no matter where you take them.
If you think you want to start hosting, my advice: Watch those that are good at it. Watch how they open the show, introduce the comics, how they act in between each comic, and how they close out the show, including any show/venue announcements.
Mark Anthony Ramirez
"I don’t care if you’re a true headliner, veteran comic, or twenty years in, not everyone is cut out to host.