Audience that's "Too Played Up"

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Audience that's "Too Played Up"

Postby Spots » July 12th, 2014, 1:34 am

Tonight my friends had a show. Almost 40 audience members smiled and cheered during the opening. They were laughing but it felt a little forced.

Ten minutes in I look around the room.

Arms crossed. Legs crossed. Everyone a little rigid yet still engaged. People were forcing laughter and looking side to side for others to fake laugh too. And unfortunately, over two thirds of the people had this closed off body language.

Considering the level of engagement here's what this tells me about the state of the audience:

They want to laugh, they want to be part of something bigger... but unfortunately they are collectively too self aware.

Understand this dynamic is out of the audience's hands now. Something happened early in the show that put their guards up.

Maybe someone lied to them, or the host was a cornball. Perhaps insincere laughter triggered them to play it up. Maybe they just weren't placed under that spell of feelng like part of a group. What I call groupness, or "showness."

Something made the room feel uneasy.

These types of shows feel like more work. Because you're actively trying to get the audience away from their day to day concerns, and their sense of self. Audience members need to lose themselves.

Last night I checked again at 30 and 40 minutes for the same signs. Yep, the audience remained too self aware despite seeing an excellent show.


Here's how you identify if the audience is in this state. Simply do a head count of all the people who have physically closed themselves off. Is it abnormally high? At least half of the audience? Since humans are pack animals it likely will be everyone. Minus a few.

Arms crossed (or covering crotch) is bad. Arms crossed and legs crossed is very bad. People may also frame their face with one hand.

Here's how you fix it. The art of give and take. Fight your own pack instinct and DON'T mirror the audience. Disconnect from their energy. Fight extremely hard to be comfortable in your own skin and give the room some genuine energy.

Eventually you'll win a couple alphas over and the cracks will begin to show. The self image barrier will come down. People will join one another in laughter rather than try to force it.

But only genuine or charming energy will do it. Speeding up and cracking jokes will only make it worse. Plus it will look pathetic.

Just have faith the room is on your side and anchor yourself with something genuine, charming, and fun. And cross your fingers.


I'll post about some other audience states I've witnessed soon.
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Re: Audience that's "Too Played Up"

Postby happywaffle » July 14th, 2014, 9:36 am

I don't know that body language is a reliable indicator, and I don't know what the secret sauce is, but I do know this audience situation. Happens a lot with improvisers watching shows that they really want to support and like, and it isn't working. I laugh a lot, and sometimes I "catch" myself forcing laughter where a moment onstage really isn't that funny. The same thing can happen with a larger group.

Again, don't know that there's a specific way to win the audience over in this context, as opposed to other context (e.g. the audience is simply cold). But it's a real phenomenon alright.
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Re: Audience that's "Too Played Up"

Postby Spots » July 14th, 2014, 6:59 pm

Kevin, I find this one fascinating because unlike a cold audience, people aren't shifting around and squirming in their seats. They're not taking turns heading to the bathroom. They're not checking the time or their phones collectively.

They are helplessly trying to force engagement.

I'm taking some liberties grouping people together and it's definitely more of a vibe than a list of components.


Glad you see it too. I confess there's no fixing or controlling an audience vibe. But knowing your cold audiences from your played up audiences may help. Your best bet is with what happens before the show, and your opening.

This is one reason why having a talented host pays off in spades.
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