My wife usually has very little to say to me in terms of compliments after even my best shows. I used to take it personally but I’ve since learned that for Germans, the absence of criticism is the highest form of praise.
A compliment is like a drinking problem: it’s best just to accept it graciously.
But some compliments mean more than others. Many comedians are familiar with audience members expressing not just thanks but gratitude after a show, saying that they “needed“ to laugh that night. What could be more thoughtful and nice? What is routine for me is a big deal for these folks. They’re not flying all over the place watching me perform each night. This may be the only time they see me perform. I try to think of each show as the Olympics – something you only have one crack at, if you’re extremely lucky.
Even – especially – open mic nights. I love when expectations are low: it’s easier to meet them.
But what I love most all about some of these compliments is that the humbly remind me that life sucks and the value of taking people’s minds off their problems for an hour or so.
Below are the six greatest compliments, ranked.
6 “I saw your show.”
This is the worst compliment of all time. Did people go up to John Updike and say “Hey, I read your novel…”? In plain English it means “I deigned to watch your show”. A typical grade schooler calls out “Present” with more passion during morning attendance.
5: “I hear they’re putting the funny guy on tonight instead of you, right?“
I got this just yesterday on a cruise ship, referring to the comedian advertised to perform a couple of nights after me. These guys. Dudes who give me this one (it’s alway a fellah) invariably say it as if they’re being so clever. Just showing up and kicking me in the shin would be a more welcome how-do-you do.
4: “I’m going to go home and juggle the plastic bags.”
Now this is a nice compliment. It has numerous iterations but what’s nice is that it references something specific from the show. As compliments go it’s like a trusty Toyota or my wife’s butt: nothing fancy but gets me where I need to go.
3: “You really made me laugh and I really needed to laugh tonight.”
It’s easy to take what you do for a living for granted. That’s why this one hits me like a lightening bolt. It reminds me, among other things, that what is routine to me is an entirely unique experience for the audience. For some this will be the only time they ever see you. I am grateful I am to have work that is inherently meaningful rather than one which is only subjectively so.
2: You made me pee my pants.
This one is oddly popular with middle-aged southern women. It’s adorable and I love it. Sometimes excitedly add add “a little” at the end, as in “You made me pee my pants a little!” As if that somehow makes it better. You peed your pants and admitted it, end of issue.
1: Laughing Too Hard To Form Complete Sentence
My all-time favorite compliment was a guy who saw me after the show and raised his finger with a big smile on his face. But then giggling quickly evolved into laughter then his laughter into near hysterics. Bent over, he finally waived me off and walked on to recover.
That was a nice compliment.