Find out how to be a bang common MC (and nonetheless receives a commission) : Correspondents 2022 – Chortle

by Stevie Grey
Just lately, plenty of newer comedy acts have requested me for tips about the way to turn out to be or enhance as an MC.
Contemplating myself to be a bang-average compere at finest; it’s onerous to not endure from imposter syndrome when selecting to supply recommendation, however that is what I’d recommend.
The primary piece of recommendation I give anyone who desires to MC, is to learn this Chortle publish from 2011. In it, Danny McGinlay completely nails precisely what’s required to be an MC.  This could suffice for anyone internet hosting their first few gigs.  Nevertheless, I’m now being requested to present recommendation to individuals who have already learn this text.
The following finest port of name could be to put money into your self.  Go on one of many many fabulous MC programs accessible. On the time of writing, there are fabulous programs run by Ben Van Der Velde, Martin Mor, Stephen Grant and Jon Pearson, to call a couple of).  There are additionally plenty of books.  Freddy Quinne has a actually good information and Dave Longley has a fantastic spoof model of this – which by telling you what to not do, affords nice recommendation on what try to be doing!
Additional to this, exit and purchase tickets to the golf equipment the place the most effective MCs could be discovered,  Go and watch Laura Lexx, Stephen Grant, Dan Nightingale, Barbara Good, Mick Ferry, Paul SmithNina Gilligan, Barry Dodds, Sam Harland and many others. The record might go on ceaselessly.
Although the above recommendation will cowl every thing {that a} new MC ought to ever want, the acts asking for recommendation nonetheless want a fast repair.  Sadly, there isn’t any silver bullet or magic tablet.  To turn out to be a greater MC, that you must always gig, be taught from every expertise and maintain writing. 
I’m conscious that no comedian desires to be informed to maintain gigging and writing; they need solutions and so they need them now! So I’ve been reflecting on my journey as an MC and the way I’ve been capable of enhance.  Through the years, I’ve watched so many nice acts and comperes who I’ve learnt from, and infrequently been fortunate sufficient to personally ask them for assist and recommendation.
These are the ideas I’ve discovered which ought to assist a brand new MC progress at a faster price. I’ve performed my finest to name-check all of the acts which have helped me, and I actually hope they don’t thoughts.
The Naked Minimal (And Smile)
If the viewers is sat down, dealing with the entrance, know what number of acts there are, what number of breaks, to not discuss or heckle in the course of the present, and also you because the MC be sure that all acts are name-checked and thanked on the finish of the evening, then you’ve got performed your job. 
It's the naked minimal, however you've performed it.  Being humorous is a bonus, however it’s best to at the very least try and be humorous.  If you happen to can't be humorous, be pleasant, heat and welcoming.  Dominic Holland informed me that even if you happen to hate each minute of what you're doing on stage, attempt to at the very least look as if you're having fun with it.  A smile will go a great distance.
You've Bought To Get It Unsuitable To Get It Proper
My worst ever gig was televised on ITV3 (in 2010).  To make issues worse, after being proven dying on nationwide tv, ITV had Ed Byrne and Brendon Burns analyse why it was so unhealthy.  Ed's parting remark was: ‘You’ve obtained to get it unsuitable to get it proper’, and that’s precisely the way to turn out to be a greater MC.
Take Danny's information and maintain gigging (it truly is the most effective reply – even if you happen to don’t need to hear it).  Ebook your self in to MC open mic nights, and maintain doing it. Attempt to enhance at each gig. 
Embrace the truth that so as to get higher, you will have to die on stage and be taught out of your errors.  Report your self, hearken to the questions you requested and the solutions you got; are you able to consider any funnier responses?  Likelihood is, you’ll hear the identical reply sooner or later, so it's all the time good to think about different doable responses.  Ask different acts what they assume and attempt to work with the suggestions.   Converse with the headliners and MCs that you simply're working with (most headliners have needed to MC sooner or later). 
Regardless of what it’s possible you’ll assume, comics are a number of the most beneficiant individuals I do know in terms of answering questions or giving recommendation. Numerous comics at the moment are placing movies of themselves MCing on the net.  Watch these, hearken to the kinds of questions being requested and solutions being given; attempt to work out what it’s possible you’ll say to their responses or the trail you’ll then attempt to take the dialog.
Improv is your good friend
In the summertime, I purchased an hour-long sesson with MC Ben Van Der Velde over Zoom.  This was a number of the finest cash I’ve ever spent in comedy. 
Regardless of having MCed for years, an hour with Ben taught me the way to take the usual improv guidelines (‘Sure And…’, Escalation, Provides and many others) and apply them to MCing.  All of a sudden, I wasn't simply asking: ‘What’s your title, the place are you from, who’re you with, what's your job, are you a pair?’, I might have a look at an individual and invent a wholly new id for them.
Once you intersperse this with their real-life solutions, there could be massive laughs coming from the juxtaposition between the outlandish life I’ve bestowed upon them and the way they really stay.
Due to this fact, I can heartily suggest newer acts to be taught the essential guidelines of improv (after which take Ben's course).  With the ability to work with any topic and attempt to make a joke out of it’ll assist be sure that no two MC performances are the identical, and also you'll be getting massive laughs from the room, fairly than having to depend on pre-planned materials.  Every part within the room is an ‘Supply’ and you should use all this to generate materials.
Being primarily based within the Midlands for the previous few years, it's been an absolute delight to see how Scott Bennett works a room.  Usually, his first jiffy consists of taking every thing we are able to see and highlighting the comedic elements of them.  Primarily based on the identical improv ideas laid out by Ben, every thing is an ‘Supply’: the stage, the venue, the sunshine fittings, the seating, the peak of the ceiling, the journey to the venue.  Crowds usually admire it if you’re doing materials particular to that evening or that room. 
Strive your finest to work with something which you could see or any solutions the group could give to your questions.  Sam Harland is a superb MC who performs the sorts of gigs that ship shivers down my backbone (sportsmen’s dinners, golf golf equipment and many others). Nevertheless, he makes it look very easy. 
Sam as soon as informed me that his key to audiences like that is to handle the individuals and the room first, have a look at the viewers and inform them who the stylish ones are, the noisy ones, the troublemakers, the swingers and many others. Announce if there are any lookalikes within the crowd.   The trick is to get the viewers on aspect earlier than making an attempt materials. 
The opposite nice tip I learnt from Sam was to have a ready line for something that will ceaselessly happen at a comedy membership: individuals go to the john, stroll previous the stage, drop a glass, individuals speaking. With the ability to deal with a state of affairs occurring in a room and get fun from it’s a very helpful ability for any MC. 
In the same vein, there may be additionally a time and a spot for inventory put-downs; if you happen to genuinely can’t consider the rest to say however know of a well-trodden line that may get you out of a state of affairs, then you possibly can use it and transfer on. I’ve even seen TV celebrity comics ask noisy audiences in the event that they learnt to whisper in a helicopter.
Discover Out Who Needs to Discuss
This can be a little gem I found by watching Barry Dodds.  In your opening gambit, ask questions that elicit a cheer or a response from the group. Connoisseurs of comedy won’t significantly just like the ‘Give me a cheer if….' line of questioning. 
Nevertheless, by asking an viewers to cheer if, for instance, they've been right here earlier than or are from this city, the individuals who actively need to make noise and take part will reveal themselves.  Choose these individuals. 
Additionally have a look at physique language. Individuals with their arms crossed or not making eye contact, most likely don't need to be the centre of consideration.  It's arguably finest to decide on somebody who appears to be like like they need to chat to your first interplay, and don't go in all weapons blazing, as a result of different viewers members will most likely be much less more likely to confide in you in the event that they assume they're going to get grilled.
Be Assured And Pure
Earlier than he was a YouTube star and promoting out arenas,  I had the privilege of gigging in Liverpool when Paul Smith was the MC. 
The factor that struck me that evening was simply how in command of the room he was.  He had simply constructed up a tonne of momentum when a bunch of younger girls turned up late, with their seats proper in the course of the viewers.  Regardless of having all this momentum, Paul slowed proper down, and simply chatted to the women as they obtained to their seats, asking actually trivial but lighthearted questions comparable to, what did you’ve got to your tea and what bus did you come on? It felt as if we'd been invited to a celebration at his home and these had been a few of his mates. He welcomed his friends with small discuss, sat them down, and bang… again to full throttle. 
I wrote to Paul the following day to ask for recommendation about taking part in the identical rooms over and over.  His response was to solely use materials if it was really needed.  Spiky Mike of Funhouse Comedy as soon as informed me that within the opening part, it’s possible you’ll typically discover that the viewers aren’t actually going for crowd work, or appear reluctant to need to have interaction with any questions.  It’s at this level that that you must use your materials, in an try and heat the group up for the opening act. 
Equally, I discover it helpful to carry out at the very least one little bit of fabric within the first part, simply in order that the group are used to listening to one thing that isn’t fully about them.
At the moment that I gigged with Paul, in 2017, he was writing 90 minutes to 2 hours of fabric a 12 months, to permit for repeat customized to not have heard the identical tales.  He additionally believed that if you may make the fabric sound as pure as doable, as if you’ve got simply considered it off the highest of your head, it’ll move higher and never look as if you're out of the blue attempting to be the funniest particular person there. 
Attempting to intersperse crowd work with materials could be jarring, so attempt to make it sound anecdotal.  If an viewers member works as a dentist and you’ve got materials about enamel, that could possibly be your excellent in-road to that materials.
Hush Actually Does Work
I've all the time been good at placing power right into a room, however not so good at taking it out if it's rowdy.  Karen Bayley was the primary act I noticed use the ‘hush’ approach and she or he completely nailed it. 
I’d introduced her on to absolute bedlam.  Positive they had been completely happy to be there, however they had been too completely happy, screaming, shouting, speaking.  Karen stood there for the primary ten seconds fully nonetheless, finger on her lips after which shushed the group.  The gang who needed to listen to, additionally shushed.  Inside 20 seconds, the entire crowd had been silent and prepared for comedy, and so the good materials started. 
This goes again to the boldness proven by Paul Smith, however you need to show that you simply're in cost.  Don't attempt to communicate over the group as a result of quickly, you'll be shouting over them and they’re going to even be shouting.
Don't Lose Your Cool
Within the movie Rising Solar, Sean Connery’s character had the road, ‘if you happen to resort to violence, you’ve already misplaced.’  With MCing, you additionally actually need to maintain your cool.  If you happen to begin laying right into a crowd or a venue, there’s probability you’ll throw the prospect of getting gig away.
By shedding your mood, you can even make the gig more durable for the opposite acts.  This may be extraordinarily attempting, as there could also be persistent hecklers, no safety, a dodgy PA system or worst of all, a crowd who’re fully detached to something you try. 
Nevertheless, you’ve obtained to play with what’s in entrance of you.  If the group assume you might be rattled, they may sense it and the hecklers could odor blood or the awkwardness within the room could also be amplified additional. 
The identical could be stated about getting into too onerous on a heckler: you possibly can take it that one step too far and discover it tough to return to the gig you had been having. Strive to not be an excessive amount of like Jimmy Carr or Frankie Boyle in your interactions!  Preserve smiling, maintain it gentle and plough on with the present.  
At all times Go away The Stage To Applause
This can be a actually small however useful tip however each time you permit the stage as an MC, there ought to be applause. The obvious is while you introduce an act onto the stage, it’s best to encourage the group to clap them on – which successfully serves as them clapping you off. 
Nevertheless, on the finish of a bit, it’s good so that you can additionally depart on applause.  If you happen to’re about to go in for the primary break, you possibly can say, ‘we’re going to have a break now, we’ll be again in quarter-hour, please take your glasses again to the bar….and may we now have one other spherical of applause to your opening act’ to deliver closure – and so you permit while they’re clapping.
Purchase A PA, Run Your Personal Gigs, Write Your Edinburgh present
This looks like a extremely apparent suggestion however so few acts seem to really do it.  When you’ve got your individual PA system (and a mic and lights), you possibly can put by yourself present.   You’ll be able to MC all of those exhibits and be taught by having to play the identical rooms over and over.  This can even provide you with an perception into the world of the comedy promoter, and the way onerous a few of them need to work to get bums on seats. It would simply make you realise why some promoters hate it when an act seems to exit of their solution to offend the viewers! 
Having your individual gigs will pressure you to jot down, as a result of except you’ve got impeccable improv expertise, you’ll most likely need to have one thing ready up your sleeve simply in case your whole crowdwork falls flat.  If you happen to run one gig a month and write a brand new 5 minutes to trial at every gig, you’ve got basically written an hour through your MC gigs. When you’ve got a number of residencies, you should use these to refine the brand new materials you’ve got written for the opposite mc gigs.  You may even use the MC gigs to trial materials for an Edinburgh present.
And people are my high ideas for anyone wishing to enhance, I hope anyone finds them helpful.  Simply keep in mind that these are expertise that must be practiced and honed.  Be ready to die and embrace failure. 
• Stevie Grey is the founder and resident MC of Flat Cap Comedy, which run comedy exhibits at a number of venues within the East Midlands.
Printed: 14 Jan 2022
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