Hosting the Party
“Hosting is hosting the party. It’s the most important skill in comedy & you’ll always host shows your whole career. You get free drinks although very little poon.” – Jesse Case.
Jesse was a regular at Kirkland’s Laughs Comedy Spot when I was first getting started. He had been on Last Comic Standing, and plenty of other credits that I’m forgetting at the moment. He was a very funny comic and was always working on new material.
I was hosting shows but I wasn’t sure what I was doing. I was confident in my jokes, but as a host you have to go up and make announcements, you have to warm the crowd up, introduce the other comics and you have to make the other headliner feel welcome. Looking back, this is one of the best opportunities to find your voice. You have to be natural, energetic, entertaining and you’re responsible for the outcome of the show. Some cities actually pay the host more than the feature.
One weekend night, Jesse was either featuring or doing a guest set. In between shows he pulled me aside and gave me some tips on hosting. It’s less about being funny, but more about making sure the audience is having a good time. It clicked. I asked him to write it in the book and this is what he came up with.
When you learn to host a show in comedy you can do ANYTHING. He gave examples. Jay Leno, John Stewart, even some wacky DJ named Bob Rivers are the HOST of their own shows. They know how to set the tone and seamlessly integrate segments and keep control if things go wrong. Many of those guys were comedians first. Hosting the grammys, hosting last comic standing. There are so many hosting opportunities if you learn to do it right.
In Seattle the least experienced comics are thrust into the hosting spot. Followed by guests and features and headliners. It doesn’t pay as much, and the girls won’t notice you as much. But you gain the respect of the comics and the clubs which are all important in the grand scheme of things.