Monday, April 16, 2018

The Art of Emceeing Part 5 - Logistics!

I've waffled on about the wibbly wobbly stuff so far, but this last post is about the GUBBINS! The stuff that makes a show work.

Intros: Most producers ask performers for intros, or bios. I generally read them, then ignore them.  Instead, I do this:
  • Turn up early enough to watch the tech rehearsals. After, have a chat with the performer about their act and their character. Find out if they are wedded to their bio or hate it (most of us would rather be branded than write a bio!) Agree on a wording. Generally, especially if a performer is on more than once in an evening, I focus on introducing the act, not the performer. This is what the audience cares about. And I use a form of words that suits me and comes naturally out of my mouth. If you can't own it, change it but make sure the performer is OK with it. Nothing stinks more than an Emcee using the performer's bio or provided intro to throw them under a bus, and I see this fairly often.
  • Notes - I have a terrible memory, so I take notes on with me. I have a lot of A5 sparkly cards which are handy as if the order of the show changes, I can just take on the one I need. For competitions which have all that complicated stuff, I generally take a clipboard. I always have a black Sharpie with me so I can print notes nice and big and clear as with big eyelashes and without decent light I can hardly see a thing!
 ...sparkly cards
...or an attractive clip board...
Audience warm up:  People have paid money to come see a show. It pays to warm them up as they need your permission to be responsive. But it needs to be a fun warm up, and the whole thing of making sides compete, or saying, I can't hear you, louder! is frankly lazy and hackneyed. Unless you can put a really funny spin on it which could be a huge triumph!
However you do it though, it needs doing. Different art forms have different conventions for audience behaviour and being loud and raucous is a rare requirement. A loud and happy audience really feeds the performers and that inspires them to do their best. 

Hecklers: At all times, it is important that you are the one in charge! I've Emceed over 50 shows and never had any trouble with hecklers. I've HAD hecklers, but they've never given me trouble!
First things first: get to know your venue staff. Find out what they consider acceptable behaviour and let them know what you do. Make sure you've got each others' backs. Another thing I found out by accident is to go out and talk to people. One out of town gig I did, I ended up having to put my face on in the ladies' loos. This led to meeting all the women in the audience and having a great chat with them, them warning me who was going to get plastered and give me trouble. So when I was on stage and the woman in question began to play up, I threatened by name to put her over my knee and spank her. It was hilarious and she calmed down and everyone enjoyed it. Noone lost face, and I find that this is an important thing. I throw shade but it's always pink not black if you know what I mean.
If you turn on an audience member, you run the risk of losing the rest of them as they cannot help but think that it could have been them. Antagonising an audience member can result in a boring exchange that derails the show. 

Audience Interaction: Do it, it's fun! Just make sure that it's not just the VIP tables at the front who get included, and that if you have an exchange with someone, make sure you convey their side of the conversation to the rest of the room so everyone is involved. It's usually pretty hard to hear what people yell from the audience or where it came from. So shoot your answers right to the back. Give everyone a little love.

Bits and bobs:  
  • Talk to the performers back stage, but make sure you have a spot you can go to have quiet time if you need it. I find that I am in a unique position to build trust with them and that can really help a performer about to get their kit off! Even seasoned pros like to know you have their back.
  • Respect a performer's character. Don't bring up their day job, or their cat. That is not a part of their stage presence, unless agreed and for a specific reason. It's not your job to out people on stage. No surprises. I've been introduced as owning a craft shop, when Constance is a life coach!! I had to point out that the Emcee had mistaken me for my dressmaker!
  • NEVER stick a mic under a performer's nose without getting their permission before either of you goes near the stage. 
  • NEVER touch a performer on stage. EVER, unless it is prearranged. I confess I did swipe my finger through the chocolate sauce on a performer's chest once when they had left the stage so I could lick it off as I walked on stage, but I did ask!
  • NEVER make comments about their body or what you'd like to do to it unless it is a banter prearranged with the performer that will be genuinely funny. 
  • NEVER get drunk. If you are not sure you can have that glass of wine and keep totally on your game, save it until after the show. We are there to entertain the audience not to be entertained ourselves.
  • ALWAYS remember, pretty much any mistake will be forgotten within minutes. If we don't get to make mistakes we never learn. I have done and said some truly, nervewrackingly STUPID things onstage. It's one of the reasons I can share this with you, by experiencing what not to do.
Make it fun for everyone and they will love you and have you back, the audiences will come back, and everyone wins.

Thank you for reading my little series about being a good Emcee. I am very honoured to be nominated for Favourite Emcee again this year at the Golden Garters, having won it last year. the other nominees, Lily Loca and Miss La Vida, are absolutely fantastic Emcees whose work I respect enormously! And how cool to have an all female line up of nominations this year!!

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