Living Room Laughs has put on hundreds of private comedy parties. Here's our best practices for setting up your in-home show or restaurant rager to be a huge success.
A SURPRISE SHOW
The audience should know there will be a comedy show at your party before they even show up. There’s nothing worse than when a group of friends is socializing, drinking, and having a good time and then, without any warning, the party host says, “Stop talking! Kill the music! Focus! It’s time for an unannounced comedy show.” Comedians call it an ambush show, and nobody likes to be ambushed. You want the audience seated, prepped, and ready to have a good time.
However, it’s fine if the comedy show is a surprise for the birthday person or the guest of honor. You can surprise one person, just not everyone.
On your invite, give the start time of the party AND the start time of the show. For example, “Drinks and light apps at 7pm, comedy show starts promptly at 8:30pm.” This way if guests come in more than fashionably late and interrupt the show, it'll be their fault, not yours!
It’s called standup comedy because the comedian is standing up, not the audience. Get your headcount and setup one chair per guest. Having people stand pulls focus from the comic and can feel uncomfortable. Like the audience members have commitment issues. “Maybe I’ll stay the whole show, maybe I’ll run away to Tahiti.” You want the audience comfortably seated, open, and ready to laugh.
THE FRONT ROW = VIP
Almost no one ever wants to sit in the front row. And yet, there's nothing worse for a comedy show than an empty front row. So sell it to your guests as the special VIP section. Or hide a stack of chairs that you don't put out until all the front row seats are filled. But fill 'er up baby!
EATING DURING THE SHOW
Chewing and laughing don’t mix well. While our comedians are hilarious, nothing competes with lamb chops. You want a focused audience so do the comedy show before, between or after courses.
DRINKS DURING THE SHOW
You want the drinks flowing freely, but without it becoming a distraction. Five minutes before the show starts, we make an announcement to use the restrooms and fill up your drinks. Permission to double fist granted. During the show, if someone needs another drink, they'll quietly get up and grab one, but please don't get up and run around refilling everyone's drinks every five seconds. Same for if there's waiters: if someone flags them down, great. Otherwise ask them to be flies on the wall. While your heart is in the right place, too much attention to refills pulls focus from the show.
This is not a Broadway show. Once the audience is focused and laughing and in a group-mind state, pausing for everyone to simultaneously refill their drinks or eat dessert ruins the flow of the show. And it’s very possible some of the audience will get so into their third serving of creme brulee they won’t come back to watch the second half of the show.
The ideal time for a comedy show to start is 60-90 minutes after your event’s start time. You don’t want the guests to be two, three or god-forbid four hours into your bash. At a certain point, guests become restless with too much alcohol in their system, making it harder for a focused show. And heckling more likely.
You brought professional comedians to you. Let them do their act and talk to the crowd when they choose. They don’t need your “help” with unexpected and unwanted interruptions.
If people are already grooving on the dance floor, they won’t want to stop and watch a show. It’s just a momentum killer. Pre-show background music is great, save the bass-dropping DJ for the post-show dance party.
The romance, the food, the side bets on if they’ll last. Amazing occasion, terrible place for a comedy show. It’s hard enough to get guests to listen to a few short speeches from parents and bridesmaids, you don’t need comedians telling dick jokes. Save that for the bachelor and bachelorette parties, or the post-wedding brunch.
Comedians like to focus before their act and get in the zone. Idle chatter with party guests they don’t know is the opposite of that. However, comedians love idle chatter after the show, when the audience is starstruck by the comedians’ talent.
DRINK/FOOD FOR COMICS
In an episode of The Apprentice, boxes of hot, delicious-smelling pizza sat in the office, ready to be eaten and the boss didn’t give his workers a bite. Talk about anti-motivational tactics. You want comedians to feel welcome at your event so that they perform great, and offering food is the way to do that. You can either leave something in the green room, or offer for them a plate before/after the show. It needn’t be shrimp or steak, but a little brie goes a long way.
It’s great to have the room ready for comedy with the chairs out and room for the stage. But stay open to us changing the locations of the stage and chairs, as we’ve done hundreds of private comedy shows and know what works best.
We love kids, they bring joy to our lives, yadda yadda yadda. They also change the dynamic of the show for the worse. Grownups look at the kids during punchlines and it can affect whether or not they laugh. Most parents ship off our their precious offspring to their grandparents for the night, hire a group babysitter for their basement or ask the kids to be watched by the humorless neighbor next door.
We love pets, they bring joy to our lives, yadda yadda yadda. They also make noise, run around and give some guests allergies. We recommend locking little Lassie in a separate room. Unless she’s a yapper, then have treats nearby and keep her in your lap.
Since COVID outdoor shows have become a thing that are possible, but let’s be frank: indoors is more fun.
The Outdoors has more distractions: birds chirping, a pretty view, your neighbor forgetting to close the blinds while changing. Also, laughter is contagious and indoors everyone’s laughter bounces off the ceilings and walls and feels louder. Outdoors the laughs can get lost in the starry night or your neighbor’s bush.
We’ve done dozens of outdoors shows and there are times when it makes more sense, like when your living room can’t fit everyone, but it shouldn’t be your first choice.
If you decide to do an outdoor show:
Have a rain plan: Either an indoor location to move to or large tents for your guests and the comedians!
Setup the tables as close together as possible leaving room for caterers (if you have them) or guests to walk around the table.
Have bug spray for the guests.
If it’s an evening show: Set up holiday lights or tiki torches to add ambience and soft lighting
If it’s a daytime show: Have sunscreen out and about