I thought about writing on the topic of
what makes a good mc, but a) that ground has been covered to death,
and b) I’m as much a rookie mc as I am a rookie comic. Instead I
thought I’d just write about my own experience.

With Taboo Comedy Club, which I
co-founded, and now Crossfire Comedy Club, I wanted to have a place
where the focus is on the performers, where they get as much stage
time as they deserve, where they feel appreciated. It’s my club, but
it is not my show. When I host my own place or at other clubs, it is
not my job to be funny. It is my job to get the crowd warmed up and
focused and then I get the hell out of the way.

Part of the appeal of founding a club
was to try to improve on what I felt were poor aspects of other clubs
I’ve performed at, and the same thing affects how I host an evening.
I’ve experienced hosts:

– that did nothing. “Hi everyone.
Welcome to the show. Your first comic…”

– that didn’t understand their job is
to be a cheerleader. “God, I’m so miserable. Life is just
terrible. Your next comic…”

– that did too much. “Before we
bring out the next comic, I’m going to ramble for twenty minutes with
some material I’d like to work out.”

And so on. Comics will complain to
each other about the host’s skills or lack thereof- never to the host
of course; see the title of my blog- but I just see it as the price
of admission. When I choose to perform at a club, I play by the
club’s rules. I may not like it, but I adjust my set based on the
circumstances I’m presented.

If I’ve done my job as host right, the crowd is
warmed up and ready to be entertained by someone that isn’t me. If
the comic completely eats it, I’ll do my best to bring the crowd’s
spirits back up before the next person gets on stage. If the comic
was great, I get the next person up as quickly as possible to keep up
the momentum. It isn’t rocket science, although I certainly
understand the temptation to be on stage longer.

Hosting does mean I am limited in how I
present myself on stage. When someone else is hosting, I can be
goofy or angry or try completely untested material or ramble or just
do whatever I want, but I have to be a cheerleader and sharp when I
host. I’ve made the mistake about trying out something new because I
was so eager to do so and ended up driving the crowd’s mood into the

Being a cheerleader, however, doesn’t
mean I can’t be the bad guy when the situation calls for it. At no
point should a performer need to waste time yelling at someone in the
crowd to stop talking or get off the phone or otherwise being a
nuisance. That’s the host’s job. I can feel like a high school
principal at times- “Don’t make me turn the lights on and off until
you start paying attention. I can stand here all night.”- but I
can be shitty so the comics don’t have to.

It wasn’t until I’d had a year under my
belt as a comic before I dared to host for the first time, because
talking to people in the crowd was, and still is, a tough thing for
me. I have a hard time talking to people in real life, too, though I
learned, with a microphone in my hand, I have a lot more control over
the conversation.

One night in particular, early on,
shaped me more than any other, both as a host and as a comic. I was
hosting at a club, went up first, the crowd was completely silent. I
brought up the first comic, the crowd stayed silent. I went on
again, tried to be high-energy, the crowd didn’t go for it at all. I
brought the next comic up, the silence continued, and I paced
backstage, thinking, “Ok, I need to bring out my best, safest
material to turn this night around.”

The club owner came up to me, pissed as
hell, and I thought he was going to chew me out for being a bad host.
Instead, he said, “What the fuck is wrong with this crowd? You,”
poking me in the chest with his finger, “have to be hard on them.
They have a job to do and they’re not doing it.”

And that’s exactly what I did. I went
up after the second comic tried and failed to get the crowd going,
and in the nicest way possible, I told them that they were to blame
for not laughing, not giving the comics energy, because the comics
were funny. I was an asshole to them, talking like a drill sergeant,
but it turned the night around. “It’s never the crowd’s fault”
is as true as “The customer is always right.” Sometimes a crowd
sucks and needs to be whipped into shape.