Hosting - How are we doing? What could we do better?

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Hosting - How are we doing? What could we do better?

Postby acrouch » November 29th, 2005, 3:56 pm

In my early days of improv hosting freaked the crap out of me and I wasn't very good at it. Now it doesn't really freak me out and I'm reasonably adequate at it. I've been coasting at this point for too long.

I want to get much better at hosting. I want to take a cold audience and coax them into the warm waters of improv with charm and wit and openness (and maybe energy and intensity if necessary). I want to take a raucous audience and whip them into a stage-storming frenzy ready to take over the show and do it themselves.

I think it would behoove Austin Improv for many of us to develop our hosting skills as we're developing our improv skills. So let's talk about it here, and maybe do some workshops down the line.

What makes a good host? What do you do well as a host? What would you like to work on? What kinds of hosting compliment different shows?
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Postby Wesley » November 29th, 2005, 4:56 pm

I'd love to have a hosting workshop.
And I'd love to see as many ready hosts as players. I always like the dynamic when there are two hosts, especially if they approach things from slightly different angles. And some pairings (Crouch and Wallace) are classics. Besides, you gotta get up there and play occasionally!
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Postby mcnichol » November 29th, 2005, 5:42 pm

I have my preferences on ways to host (be super-energetic but down to earth; no schtick please), but I think there should be some key information that any host includes in running the show.

At the top:

-Thank them for coming to the Hideout and supporting live theater.

-Explain what they will see. this obviously depends on the specific show, but give a brief overview.

-Explain that it is improvised and no two shows are alike. This is the first and last time anyone will see this show (sounds obvious, but I've had enough people come up to me after shows and ask "So just how much of that is written down beforehand?")

-Quickly explain where to get beers, use the bathroom, to turn off the cellphone, etc. Some people just need to hear something to know it's ok or not ok.

Opening example: "Hey! Welcome to the Hideout Theatre, home of improvisation in Austin. How many people have never been here before? Just five of you? Ok, well, for the five of you and especially for the ones that didn;t raise their hands, what you're going to see tonight will be completely improvised off of your suggestion. The team will come out, get a suggestion at the top, and base a 30 minute series of scenes, games, and anything else off of that suggestion. And it's entirely made up on the spot. In essence, this will be the first and last time anyone sees these shows... exciting, yes?

The bathroom is just outside the door there, and you can bring as much beer up here as you like from downstairs. We don't have a drink minimum, but we encourage you to find your own personal drink maximum. Trust me, the more you drink, the funnier we are. And, finally, for those just coming out of a 10-year coma, please turn off your cellphones during the show. Drug dealers, silence your pagers.

Ok, is everyone ready? Closing out the show tonight will be the unstoppable house team Parallelogramophonograph, but up first, let's welcome Knuckleball Now!!!!"


At the end:

-Plug other shows going on that night, that weekend, whatever. Number one, it helps everyone else out. Number two, it lets the audience know that we are all together on this stuff AND that there is a ton more going on that just that one show they are seeing.

-Explain that everyone up on stage went through classes and that we offer them. Anything we can do to break down the invisible wall that separates the person that loves to watch improv from the person who wants to learn it is great. Make sure somehow that they know exactly how to find out about classes, whether you refer them to the website or (better) to a person they can talk to (likely, you).

An end of show example: "...Let's hear it for Parallelogramophonograph. Alright... Thanks for coming out tonight everyone and supporting live theatre. There are shows going on here all the time; later tonight is the Maestro and Fridays there is a great sketch show called Flubber at 8 o'clock. Check our calendar out in the hall there or online at hideouttheatre.org to see all the upcoming shows. And if you liked what you saw tonight, come take classes with us. Everyone you just saw up here went through classes and came out alive -- it's just as fun as it looks. See me after the show if you have any questions or would like to find out more. If you liked what you saw tonight, tell your friends. If you didn't, tell your enemies. Good night everyone!"

Again, this is jsut my opinion, but i think some of this could help bring some return customers as well as some new people for classes. That cellphone thing kills me too, so i have to mention that.
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Postby acrouch » November 29th, 2005, 5:45 pm

: ) I love it when cell phones go off in shows so I never tell people to turn them off.
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hosting

Postby erikamay » November 29th, 2005, 5:55 pm

these questions are bigger than i can toss in my two cents on during a work day (albeit a VERY SLOW one)...

first, a thought…

I want to take a cold audience and coax them into the warm waters of improv with charm and wit and openness


i think you (andy) are a really good example of someone who does this well. i am always at ease, feel welcomed and ready to enjoy myself when you host. you don’t push, upstage the improv or any of the stuff that makes me feel hinky in the audience.

[end of compliment]

[beginning of opinion]

something i would like to do better as a host - be more me, whether high energy (cagematch) or ed sullivan-style (three fer, concept shows).

i really adore great hosts because I like them as people or characters, and strive for that.

regarding whipping an audience into a frenzy -i think this is a combination of good old fashioned theatrics and MCing. and - little like salt – used sparingly.

a crazy WWF style host is totally inappropriate for a high-concept show. conversely, alan arkin would be a terrible cagematch host, imo. eventually, we as a group can figure out where everyone’s strengths and interests are on the hosting tip and pair them up with the right show.

(related aside)
a hosting trick i unabashedly co-opted from andy st. clair in chicago was getting the audience to clap before the team takes the stage. not only does it help the audience get in the mood, it creates such a great, supportive atmosphere for the team taking the stage. Use it if it appeals to you.

In so far as training goes, the scheduling committee (Andrea, Dave, Rachel and me) discussed holding a hosting/lighting workshop over the next two months. Although it originally seemed more instructional, I think a roundtable/workout form might work better. People could get up, try stuff out develop their own style.

beyond the hosting persona business, I think there is a more critical element that is key. every host should be plugging all the shows in the building at the end of each and every show. if you are hosting a 3fer, invite everyone to stay for the cagematch for 3 bucks or whatever. pack that sh*t in, especially if they are already there. tell people about the shows that are going on in the building even if you have nothing to do with it.

grow it grow it grow it.

holla a-town.
e
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Postby kaci_beeler » November 29th, 2005, 8:34 pm

I would thoroughly appreciate a hosting workshop (and a lighting workshop too, for that matter).
I am actually deathly afraid of hosting. I think about it and I start to get extremely nervous. I don't think this is a good way to feel about it, and would like to change this.
I used to host almost every single drama club event at my old high school, and while I could do it, I always felt as though everyone disliked me and wished for my quick disappearance. Of course, this could be completely irrational.

Gaining confidence and likabilty onstage all while being able to rattle off all the necessary information would be a goal of mine.

Maybe every improviser should memorize Hideout show information, like waiters with their daily specials. (maybe most of you already have)
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Workshopping

Postby cargill » November 30th, 2005, 9:31 am

I wonder if we could do a hosting, lighting/sound and Dream sequence workshop one weekend afternoon at the Hiddeout. From what we learn, we could draw up a document containing all of the things the hosts need to remember to plug when hosting, all of the lighting and sound equipment could be labeled and the dream sequence interviews could be outlined.
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Postby deroosisonfire » December 1st, 2005, 2:57 pm

i really like the idea of a roundtable discussion on hosting. there are lots of successful ways to host and i'd like to hear other people's thoughts about that.

a few things that have been bouncing around my head lately are the following:
- tell the audience we need them to give suggestions because we're there to please them
- if hosting maestro feels a little stale, maybe you could try something totally different. use something other than bonnie to warm up the audience. share your intro with someone in the lighting booth who's using the mike. make your entrance via jetpack. you get the idea

and related to hosting games instead of a show, i was trained to get the suggestion first and then intro the game because it gives the players an extra 30 seconds to think about their characters, etc. nobody here intros that way - is that a conscious decision?
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HOSTING WORKSHOP IN JANUARY

Postby Dave » December 1st, 2005, 4:15 pm

The scheduling committee will be putting a Hosting Workshop together for mid-January


Details to Come!
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Postby mcnichol » December 2nd, 2005, 12:06 pm

deroosisonfire wrote:i really like the idea of a roundtable discussion on hosting.


I agree! I'd like to hear what everyone thinks about things that work, things that don't work, etc. in a group sort of way. Maybe one weekend day we can all meet and chit chat about it...
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Group Hosting Workshop

Postby cargill » December 2nd, 2005, 3:39 pm

I wonder if we can all meet up at the Hideout on a Saturday and discuss the things we would like to see from hosting: plugs, announcements, special events and how we see the hosting style be presented. This way we all have a equal part in workshopping the Austin Improv Community hosting?
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Hosting tips

Postby starkserious » December 4th, 2005, 7:00 pm

I've probably hosted several hundred shows in my improv career so far. Plus I've hosted many stand up shows and the one thing I know for certain is every audience needs to be warmed up. Sure some audiences come ready to laugh and enjoy the show, but often they need to be warmed up and the host can do that. It's just a matter of relating to the audience and telling all the things they need to know like Erika mentioned earlier but it's since the host is the first person engaging the audience it's good if he/she can get the audience having a good time ASAP. One of my favorite comedians, Eddie Gossling, http://www.comeddie.com/ started his career as the House MC along with another great friend and comedian Laura House...www.laurahouse.com/ and I used to watch how playful they were with the audience. They made the audiene feel good and showed them it's ok to laugh and have a good time. It made it easy for the other comics to follow them and have a good show. If the host doens't warm up the crowd then the first improv group has to do it. And sometimes trying to warm up the crowd is like taking a grenade for the rest of the acts. If you've ever had to warm up a crowd you'll know what I'm talking about. The upside is it's very gratifying to get them on your side and and ready to enjoy the rest of the show. The Host/MC slot is underrated and and often doesn't get the respect it deserves.
Terrill...ific!
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P.S."If you don't have a sense of humor, It's just not Funny."
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