Whipping The Audience Into A Frenzy Is Your Job, Not The Audience’s


There are two ways to get the response you desire of an audience: earn it or demand that they fake it. The latter is characterized by the badgering of the audience over their insufficient zeal.

I understand you need energy. But why not energize the audience by doing something energizing?

I recently performed in a show emceed by a very nice guy who constantly reminded the audience the urgency of being whipped into a frenzy at all times.  I’m not complaining about the rote “Please give a warm Jacksonville welcome to…” I’m talking about the show business equivalent to North Korea’s forcing its citizens to out-wail one another over the death of Kim Jong Il.

“How you doing, everybody?!?! C’mon, you can do better than that, people! Let me hear you say APCA!” The college students gamely supplied what the emcee was desperately seeking: empty cheering which vanished the moment they were directed their attention to the next bauble.

One of those baubles was me. My approach was not the emcee’s: I believe that if the if the audience has shown up, shut up and given you their full attention then you can’t ask more of them. My job, as an entertainer, is to evoke a certain response and then to shape it, be it laughter, applause or even nervous silence.

By the time I came to the stage the audience had been participating in this showcase/social experiment for several days and were now downright Pavlovian in their response. There might as well have been digital Applause signs flashing on each side of the stage. I had anticipated this (even the most obstinate can’t help learning a thing or two over time) so I knew long before taking the stage that my task was to get this Ticonderoga-class ship to stop on a dime and begin responding more naturally: that is, without prompting.

Audiences are you like you and me, though: if you do a thing worth watching then they will tend to watch it. The key then becomes maintaining their engagement.  My philosophy is that whether you’re a teacher, sword swallower, speaker or comedy juggler, you must strive to be be interesting every moment from beginning to end.  Some things naturally make doing so more difficult (a drunken heckler) while others make it easier (a 4-year old drunken heckler).

Am I nuts? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

Return to www.daviddeeble.com.


Small Coffee Shops Adopting The Fee-Based Business Model?

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Look around most coffee shops and you’ll see two types of customers. Let’s call them the Cuppa Coffees and the Cappuccinos.

The Cuppa Coffees are older and more likely to be male. They use terms like “tall” and “skinny” to describe their ideal secretary, not their coffee-based beverage. Even the term “coffee-based beverage” is alien to them. They drink coffee – and they’re lifers.

The Cappuccinos are younger and more likely to be female. Their favorite coffee-based beverages are more likely to be short stories with calories. They use terms like tall, grande, venti and skinny and are more likely to have an unhealthy relationship with caramel.

Lately I’ve noticed several small, individually-owned cafes try to increase their revenues by transforming the Cuppa Coffees into Cappuccinos. How are they going about this? By serving first-rate cappuccinos, world-class lattes and the kind of drip coffee one expects at a rural gas station. The message is loud and clear: if all you want to do is have a cup of filtered coffee you are not welcome here.

Starbucks – and larger coffee franchises generally – understand that most of the people who make the transition from filtered coffee to pumpkin spice latte have already done so. The small coffee shops I describe, on the other hand, seem to be adopting the fee-based business model of airlines: lowering the overall quality of their product in order to incentivize customers to pay fees (for carry-on bags, extra legroom, etc.)

Will it work? Leave your comments in the section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me perform my Unnatural Act.

Generating Buzz And Power Of The Unexpected

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Some time ago I was thinking of ways to increase my post-show merchandise sales. I’ve always felt a little uncomfortable when watching other performers attempt to reach into the pockets of their audience before the conclusion of their show and I had little desire to follow their example.

But then an idea occurred to me: what about thanking my volunteer during each show by giving him a complimentary edition of my dvd Look What I Can Do! (Not available online or in stores!) That way I could at least make audiences aware that I have merchandise without doing any kind of onstage hard-sell – or any onstage selling at all, for that matter.

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I kept it simple: after inviting my volunteer to return to his seat (to the audience’s applause, of course), I would produce my dvd and point out the following: “Now, Steve, here was sitting in the audience just like the rest of you folks, but then I plucked him out of the ether, as it were, and he found himself onstage in front of everyone with spotlight in his eyes and so forth. And I think he did a great job assisting me. So I’m going to give him a complimentary dvd of my entire show.”

Having performed thousands of shows throughout my life, I thought I had encountered every kind of audience response, from utter indifference to nervous laughter to hanging onto every word that comes out of my mouth in anticipation of more hilarity. But I had never encountered the response of audiences to giving something away unexpectedly.

I’ve given away countless dvds in this manner over the last couple of years and audiences always respond in the same manner, yet it never ceases to amaze me. How to describe it? They react to this unselfconscious act of thanking my volunteer (while making them aware of a thing) with… a gasp. No, not the kind of gasp that’s triggered by performing a dangerous stunt or boarding an airplane wearing shorts. It’s the kind of gasp that results from witnessing the unexpected.

It’s important to note that it’s the unexpectedness of the gesture rather than the magnitude of its generosity that generates the buzz: after all, though slick-looking, each dvd cost me only a couple of bucks to mass produce. (But even there, my volunteer discovers more unexpected surprises inside, such as a blooper reel and commentary feature in which I describe how I dreamt up each routine and so forth).

I always thought I should be able to create and sustain buzz by simply doing  great work. But great work my audiences and clients expect. A little gift for a volunteer for briefly helping me out onstage? That’s unexpected.

By thinking up ways to improve my merchandise sales I accidentally discovered a way to generate the kind of joy and excitement that every performer and salesperson seeks.

Naturally, if my volunteer so desires I’ll sign the dvd for him after the show. How’s that for a great way to start a conversation?

Thoughts? Suggestions? Leave your comments in the section below.

Return to www.daviDDeeble.com or watch me try out new jokes on a baby.