Did another stand-up set last night, which went over pretty well. But you know that girl comic with the guitar, the one that I wrote about, who bombed to dreadfully uncomfortable silence and appeared to be one of those un-self-aware lunatics that so often appear on the comedy stage? She was there again. But last night? She killed. She absolutely killed. Even her song got huge laughs, bigger than any that I got last night. I didn't catch her whole set, but she appeared to be doing the same material in more or less the same way. This time, though, the crowd went for it, and the experience was completely different. Set against roars of laughter, her insane screaming, horrible singing, and bad guitar playing seemed intentional, self-aware, and hilarious.
It was a really striking lesson in the importance of the crowd. Why was the response so different? Was it because she went up later this time, when the crowd was more warmed up? Was it because she herself did not have to follow a depressing, unfunny MC who wore out pathetic-woman humor before she got there? Was it because she instead followed another guitar comic with actual funny songs that built up the audience's faith in guitar comics? Was the crowd simply more on her wavelength, or just plain more responsive?
In retrospect, I think her biggest weakness last time was an inability to respond to the crowd. Apparently she knows what she's doing in terms of her act, but when faced with a crowd that didn't get it, she was unable to engage them in a way that would set their minds at ease. As a comic, this is one of the tougher things to do.
Ultimately, every comic is at the mercy of the crowd, the dynamics of which are mercurial and inexplicable. Hearing laughter matters. Maybe that's why laugh tracks have lasted so long.