Comedy club etiquette

I recently watched Michael Richards on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. I adore him, long before Kramer he was Stanley Spadowski in UHF and Fejos in Transylvannia 6-5000, a comedic genius.

He mentioned the "incident" from 2006 and it took me a minute to realize what he was referring to. One quick google search and I remember the headline "Michael Richards racist rant".


I hate hecklers.
Comedians are such fickle creatures, and there's nothing on this planet worse then a heckler. Not even a moment of racist slurs. 

Then I remembered I wrote an article after leaving the comedy club I worked at for a year, about how to behave at a comedy club, cause I was so fed up with the whole scene. The experience was surprisingly, an eye-opening study on human behaviour. 

Here it is:

"So you got bad service at a comedy club...." 

Having just left my position managing an anonymous club in an anonymous city, I feel I could provide you with some insight into why you received bad service at the comedy club, knowing nothing about you, the club, or the service.

To start, let me explain what a comedy club isn't. It's not a restaurant. It's not a theatre production. It's not a movie, or a rock concert. It's an entirely different beast and should be treated as such.

Restaurants are open all day and evening, with a revolving door of guests. Often there's a rush at lunch and dinner, but it's generally a staggered event. You get seated where they put you, sometimes you can suggest a table you'd prefer. A server comes around once you're seated and serves you food and drink. A restaurant is a perfect place to have a great conversation with your party.

At a theatre you line up to get in, maybe line up to get a drink and can even pre-pay to get a drink at intermission, a great system to avoid line-ups. Then you enter the theatre and sit in your assigned seats without tables, located based on your date of purchase or the ticket price. Talking during the show is generally frowned upon.

At a movie theatre you line up to get in, line up to get popcorn, and take your table-less seat wherever you like based on how early you arrived. Talking during the movie is frowned upon.

At a big concert you line up to get in, line up to get some snacks and a drink, then take your seat located based on your date of purchase or how much you were willing to spend on said ticket. Applauding and shouting and talking is generally permitted, usually encouraged.

The Comedy Club

The club is only open for the shows; one or two shows a night (an early show and a late show).

The guests line up at the door, then the doors open and anywhere from 10-300 people enter the club at one time where they're seated at a table. Being seated at a table doesn't automatically mean you are now in a restaurant. This is because 300 people just came in.

Comedy Clubs have pre-arranged seating plans based on the time the ticket was purchased. 

However, 75% of the time, the guest tries to TELL you where they want to sit. An attempt to sit them at the stage, and there's an outcry.

"I don't want to be heckled!"

"You mean you don't want the comedian to talk to you?"


"Ok, well then you'll have to sit back here"

"That's too far away! I won't be able to see!"

"It all sounds the same - from everywhere in the room"

"I want to sit right HERE"

"I'm sorry, you can't sit there."

"Why not?"

"Well, you bought your tickets yesterday and the person whose sitting there bought his 3 months ago. "

 Angry customer – bad customer service – bad review.

Depending on the size of the crowd this seating can sometimes take awhile (see: 300 people all walked in at once). Especially since so many people want to negotiate their spot.

Getting served can often take a little longer then a restaurant for these reasons.

"Where's my server?"

"Everyone just came in at once, she'll be over as soon as she can."

*eye roll* Angry customer – bad review.

The show begins, ideally, after everyone sitting has a drink in front of them.

The comics go up and they try their best to make you laugh. They judge you, the audience. If you're laughing a lot, they're validated. If you're not they're shitting their pants and planning ways to kill themselves later. If they sense you're uptight, they may try to shock you with an anal joke. If you're being rude and on your phone, they may make you part of their act.

Here's the number rule for a comedy club.

THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW - *try telling this to a group of people who have been drinking and have forgotten there's even a show on

THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW -* The people talking never realize they're being disruptive but everyone else in the room has

THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW  - *Often when a staff member tells you to stop talking, there has already been numerous complaints from other customers.

This otherwise simple rule is actually quite difficult to explain to people in the room. They do not understand - they are at a table, with their friends, surrounded by food and drink, and it's dark. It's just like every other bar they've ever been in and not being able to talk seems absurb.

But this is because they have forgotten. They are not in a bar, or a restaurant. They are in a comedy club. When you talk, you are missing vital parts to jokes, so you're not only ruining it for yourself, you're ruining it for the person you are talking to. If everyone were to talk it would drown out the comic entirely.

So I will say it one more time. THERE IS NO TALKING DURING A COMEDY SHOW.

Sometimes people like to have a few drinks before the show cause it's their big night out. Telling a drunk person they're not allowed to talk is almost always going to end in disaster. Kicking out a disruptive guest can also ruin an otherwise good show and make a comic very angry.

Actually, there's a more important rule then not talking. The more important rule is: DO NOT TALK TO THE COMEDIAN.

Do not try to add your two cents to a joke, do not tell him/her you liked his/her joke, do not tell him/her he/she's not funny (a popular one), do not talk to him. I don't think I should have to explain this any further because if you've gotten this far in my post, then you care enough to know.

Last call happens before the show is over, so the servers have time to get around to everyone. It goes like this: last call, payments, clean the room, reset the room, reseat the room, next show.

Payments sometimes take some time because everyone wants to pay with a card, and split a bill, and do all the things that have become the norm in a restaurant. The people with cash throw their money on the table and walk out.

After the bills are paid some guests sit around in their chairs chatting and drinking, unaware that there's another show coming in, despite being told by the MC.

Once the final stragglers leave, the staff do an impressive sweep of the room in record time and do it all over again.

So what did you get out of this, what rules can you follow when going to a comedy club? I made you a list.

How to be a good customer at a comedy club.

1. Sit where they seat you, and say thank-you.
2. Remember it may take up to 15 minutes before you get your first drink. Just pretend you're waiting in line while you sit comfortably. Maybe take the time to chat with your party as you won't be able to later.
3. Watch the show. Laugh. Or don't. It's up to you. Just don't talk or use your phone or interrupt the comedian.
4. Pay the bill with cash, thank your server, shake the comics hand and thank him then exit the room.

As for Michael Richards, I believe the group he yelled at came in late, ordered drinks loudly, then yelled at him that he wasn't funny. And he was sick and tired of the whole charade. 

Pinky and the brain.

This year, I think I’ll prioritize brain health.  I’ll sleep a bit more, learn to give it some rest by turning it off for periods of time....