Lessons in: Knowing your audience

As much as I hate when strangers talk to me, I like to think strangers love when I talk to them. Especially when I’m trying to be funny. Everyone likes a random joking stranger, right?

Sometimes, I succeed and get a laugh, like when I joked I was carrying a machine gun to an airport security officer in Come Fly with Me. Sometimes, I bomb and get nothing, like when I suggested to a group of tourists on a mine tour that someone should demonstrate how the ancient portable toilet worked in Mucking.

Let’s hold constant that everything I say is hilarious and analyze the audience as the variable (so Hilarious joke + Audience = Laugh or No laugh) in each of the above situations:

Situation #1:

Audience = Man, late twenties or early thirties, serious job in safety and law enforcement, cute.

So: Machine gun joke in airport security line + Audience = Laugh.

If the audience had been: Woman, late forties or early fifties, serious job in safety and law enforcement, not cute.

Or, really just: Woman.

Then I’d be in jail.

Situation #2:

Audience = Family of four with children aged 5 and 7; two foreign males, late twenties, wearing fanny packs.

So: Toilet demonstration joke + Audience = No laugh.

If the audience had been: Cooler people.

Then I might have gotten a laugh instead of concerned looks and parents pulling their children closer to them for some reason.

There have been some other instances where I’ve misjudged the audience and got no laughs.

Or, I just wasn’t funny. Nah, can’t be it.

Buying a headboard

At JYSK, you can buy a do-it-yourself headboard. It basically consists of 8 upholstered squares you screw together and hang on your wall, creating the illusion of an actual headboard. If you need a visual, check out My Date with theVERYsinglegirl for a picture of my bed AKA where the magic happens (seriously, I’ve done many a card tricks alone on that bed).

Last summer, I brought the headboard set to the front of the store where a smiley, pimple-faced teenage boy greeted me at the cash register. We exchanged pleasantries and gushed about what a great idea the do-it-yourself headboard is. He said, “It’s nice because the size is adjustable, so you don’t have to use all of the squares if your bed is smaller.”

“Excellent point!” I exclaimed. I lowered my voice. “And that way, if things get kinky, I have extra squares to replace the torn ones…” And then I burst out laughing at my own joke.

The look of horror and the lack of laughter signalled that he didn’t get that I was joking, so I back peddled. “I’m totally joking! Trust me, my bed sees no action!” Unless you count when I find an errant sunflower seed.

Not helpful.

Yuk Yuk’s: Meant for professionals

Yuk Yuk’s is a Canadian stand-up comedy club chain. I attended a show with some friends (FYI, the comedian was Gerry Dee before he became famous* for his CBC show Mr. D) and we had to wait in line before they let us into the main room. The lobby was pretty small, so the line had to spill onto a set of stairs leading downward to the basement. It was really dark and spooky-looking at the bottom of the stairs. Lots of cobwebs and I think a broken chair.

*Canada famous.

As new people joined the line by walking to the bottom of the stairs, we all squished together so the new person didn’t have to stand in the dark, spider-infested scene from a horror movie at the bottom. As a newcomer to the line surveyed the situation, he said, “Yikes, looks pretty sketchy.” Another guy in line said, “Yeah, I think there’s a hobo down there,” which got mild laughter.

Without hesitation, I added,

“No. I killed him.”

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Crickets.

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More crickets.

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Really? Fictional hobo killing = Not funny? Since when?

One of my friends brought her brother who hadn’t met me before, and he henceforth knew me as, “Oh, the girl who said she killed a hobo that time at Yuk Yuk’s?” That’s right. I’m a legend.

Or sick. No, let’s go with legend.

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Now, let’s learn the lesson in both comedic failures:

Situation #1:

Audience = Teenage boy, wearing an apron, probably a virgin.

So: Kinky sex joke + Audience = No laugh. And visuals he’s probably still trying to undo from his mind.

If the audience had been: A pervert.

Then it would have gone somewhere!

Situation #2:

Audience = Men and women, young and old, lined up for a COMEDY SHOW (for crying out loud!).

So: Hobo killing joke + Audience = No laugh. And uncomfortable shifting and scared glances exchanged among the crowd.

If the audience had been: A bunch of hobo killers.

Then the stairwell would have exploded in uproarious laughter! I imagine hobo killers to be a jolly bunch.

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So the lesson I hope you take away from this exercise is that if a joke doesn’t get a laugh, it’s not because it’s not funny. It’s because you’re telling it to the wrong audience. And they are stupid. It’s what I tell myself every time this happens. It happens a lot. Come to think of it, I seem to bomb more than I succeed. Huh.

Don’t take my advice.

theVERYsinglegirl

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5 comments

  1. MissFourEyes

    Kinky sex joke= Always funny.
    Toilet demonstration joke= Always funny.
    We should try Kinky sex joke+Toilet demonstration joke sometime. I fear it’ll lead to at least one restraining order. Stupid audience.

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