Proper Comedy Mic Technique

There’s no “correct” answer – it’s a matter of preference, but be deliberate about it.

If keeping it in the mic stand

  • Remember righty tighty, lefty loosey.
    Adjust the mic stand to your height, don’t contort your body into weird shapes to fit the existing mic stand’s height.
  • Use both hands for emphasis, and minimize the amount of time you’re holding the mic stand.

If taking the microphone out of the mic stand

  • Look at the audience while taking the mic out of the mic stand. You don’t have to stare at the stand. Believe in yourself that you know how to take out a mic. Or better yet – practice it in advance.
  • Pick up the mic stand by the middle.
    You want your hand where it’s thicker and the two pieces connect. Do not hold it higher, as that’s how mic stands tend to fall apart.
  • Make sure to move the mic stand behind you.
    Don’t leave it in front of you as that creates a psychological barrier with the audience
  • The microphone should be at a forty-five-degree angle to you. Don’t put it directly below your chin on a ninety-degree angle or horizontally on a hundred-eighty-degree angle.
  • Make sure you hear yourself amplified loud, but not so loud that it hurts the audience’s ears.
  • Move mic closer when whispering, pull mic all the way away when screaming.
  • Don’t cup the top of the microphone like a rapper, it will create bad vocal distortion.
  • Don’t play with the wire at the bottom of the microphone, bad things will happen.
  • Don’t nod too much, makes you seem nervous.
  • Don’t play with the mic cord, it’s distracting and makes you seem nervous.
  • Talk slower than you think you should
  • If you’re doing crowd work to someone specific, look at them. Otherwise:
  • You should look 2/3rds of the way into the audience. So if the venue goes 10 rows back, look into the eyes of the people in the 7th row.
  • Don’t look all the way to the left or all the way to the right of the audience, as this makes the people on the other end feel left out. Only look 2/3rds of the way to the left or right. So if the room is 20 seats wide, ignore the last 4 seats in each direction.
  • If you’ve taken the mic out of the mic stand, put it back in as you’re starting your last joke.
  • Don’t wait after saying, “thank you, good night,” to turn around, find the mic stand and start putting it back in as the emcee is approaching the stage. This looks awkward.
  • If you’ve forgotten to put the mic back in the mic stand, just hand the microphone to the host and let them reset the mic stand.
  • Smile and take in your applause. Wait in the center of the stage until the emcee has returned and shaken your hand. Then leave. Don’t run off stage until the emcee is on stage.

What To Do If I Get Heckled?

You’re performing your prepared jokes, when all of a sudden, someone in the audience yells something out. What do you?!? Oh, and you have one second to decide, no pressure!

First, make sure the comment isn’t just someone muttering in the front row that nobody else heard but you, as you can often ignore such minor interruptions.

Next, repeat what they said into the microphone. This gives your brain an extra second or two to assess the situation and makes sure everyone in the audience heard what was said, which increases the odds that your response will get a big room laugh.

Next, quickly figure out what kind of “audience member yelling things out” interruption it is you’re dealing with, then respond accordingly.

  1. Someone responds to your jokes by saying something out loud that they think is helpful to the joke (but almost always isn’t)
    Acknowledge their suggestion and either riff off of it, say something witty or show how it’s unfunny and sarcastically thank them
  2. Someone doesn’t realize your statement or question was rhetorical and that they weren’t supposed to actually answer it
    This is similar to #1. After you acknowledge the comment, start taking shorter pauses than usual between setup lines so they don’t jump in again. Some audiences are more A.D.D. than others and can’t handle any silence, especially if it’s right after a fake question.
  3. Someone says something along the lines of “Jesus Christ” or “Oh God” when you do an edgier joke
    You can either smile and laugh extra without really addressing it. Or you can say something along the lines of “it’s gonna get worse.” Or admit  “You’re right, that’s a rough one” and then make your next joke even edgier. Showing the audience you understand you’re crossing the line, and then crossing it even more can cause a bigger laugh because going further after apologizing isn’t expected.
  4. Someone is drunk and just yelling out sounds or words that don’t make any sense
    Admit to being genuinely confused about the sound, maybe even mimic the sound, but don’t give them time to respond. If they do respond, it’s usually so nonsensical you can just laugh or stare at them and then move on without another response. You can always make a comment about them needing another drink too. The key here is to get back to your material ASAP. The audience tends to tolerate these kinds of heckles less than any other, so you can ignore it after the first time and talk over them.
  5. Someone yells out, “You suck”, “I’m funnier than you”, etc.
    This is what most people think of when you mention hecklers. These are also the least common ones. In this case, it matters if the rest of the audience has been laughing and is with you, or if they’ve all turned on you. Assuming the rest of the audience likes you, try to agree with the heckler while one-upping them. Don’t resort to insulting them unless they’ve yelled out more than once.
  • Don’t get too mean, too quick
    If you acknowledge the situation and respond with something that isn’t too mean the first time, they’ll usually stop. A lot of times the person (and rest of the audience) thinks they’re just being helpful (situations #1 and #2 above) so they don’t understand why you went from likeable to jerk.

    If you don’t have a witty in-the-moment response something like “Thank you for your opinion sir, I can take it from here” or “Ok, no more alcohol for that one” usually works for the first interruption.

    Don’t get mean, call the audience member names or tell them to shut up until they interrupt for a third time. And make sure the rest of the audience is against them at that point.
  • Ignoring the problem makes it worse
    If you ignore the first comment, then they’ll almost certainly say something else. Plus the audience starts wondering why you haven’t responded to the comment and while they’re thinking about that, they stop listening to you and your next joke.

    If you respond to the interruption and the audience member says something again, try to not respond directly. Stare at them for a second or two and then say “annnnnd back to me” or just a “that’s nice.”
  • If the audience member or audience in general has already been chatty before you
    Some audiences are just talkative and want you to talk and interact with them instead of just listening to you do material. This isn’t really “heckling,” this is crowd work, even if you’re not the one who decided to start it. When you’re trying to work on new material having to spend time talking to the audience can get annoying but you just gotta go with it. It’s also important to make it seem like the interruptions are “fun” and don’t bother you.
  • If the comedians before you were doing so much crowd work that the audience thinks it’s supposed to be a back-and-forth
    Sometimes the comeidans before you talk to the crowd so much, the audience starts chatting with all performers, even those who just want to do material. In such an instance, you want to be extra nice when responding, as this is how they were trained and will be confused if you verbally attack them.
  • Use the improv rule of “yes and”
    Agree with whatever the audience member says and then add some additional information. This usually works because if you seem defensive, you’ve lost. Even something like, “You suck!” can be turned into “Yes, I do suck. And you can’t afford me. Why are you propositioning me anyway?”

Heckling is just like with the rest of stand-up, you best learn by doing it. It still helps to read, ask questions and be prepared, but you need the actual game reps.

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