What Do You Guys Want To Talk About?

Hi!  I'm Jake!

A couple weeks ago, I ran into a strange phenomenon. Four comedians, within the same week, asked the crowd "So... what do you guys want to talk about?"

When I heard this question, I immediately thought the answer "Nothing.  Get off stage."  The crowds thought the same thing.  If they had previously had any trust in that comedian's set, they had now lost it.

Here are several reasons why "What do you guys want to talk about?" is a stupid question for a comedian to ask:

  1. It indicates you don't know what you should be talking about onstage.  You're asking the crowd what you should talk about because you don't know. A professional comedian does know. It's your job to bring prepared material to the stage and to deliver it. That's your job.  You're not doing it.  If you don't have anything to talk about, get off stage.  Let somebody else use the it.
  2. You shouldn't ever ask a question you are not prepared to handle.  That doesn't mean you need to know the answer, but you need to be prepared to handle it. See reason 1: obviously you aren't prepared.
  3. When you are on stage, you are on the spot. Just like you clearly are not prepared to be on the spot, audiences typically don't like being put on the spot either.  Sure: if you ask them a yes/no question they can easier answer it with applause, groans, boos, cheers.  But ask them an open ended question and they have to think.  They didn't come here to think.  They came to drink- and possibly laugh if you present the opportunity.
  4. Look: I know it's fun to improv and some amazing comedy moments come from your organic reactions to the surprises a live show can bring.  That is fun.  But good improv requires a good setup  that starts off that interaction so you can have a good reaction.  "What do you guys want to talk about?"is not a good setup.  If you want to do some crowd work, you have to give them something to work with, a concept to latch on to. Even "Who here is celebrating a birthday" is a better question.  At least there might be a birthday involved. At least they'll have something to celebrate- besides your departure.
  5. Whenever you ask "What do you guys want to talk about?" it's like you are stretching for time.  Fortunately, there are typically other comedians on the show.  No need to stretch. Just leave. You're not a hostage up there.  You can go. Suddenly, you turned the crowd into hostages, though.
Anyway, I am sure there are plenty of other reasons why "What do you guys want to talk about?" is a bad comedic choice.  If any of you comedians ever find yourself about to ask that question, just leave. Use a tried and true bit, end with a laugh, and leave.  Or, if you don't have that tried and true bit, give a round of applause for the wait staff or the host- and leave. Or don't do anything- except leave.  It would even be funny if you ask "What do you guys want to talk about?" and then when the crowd doesn't respond, you just leave.  I guess what I am saying is, just leave.

What do you guys want to talk about,
Bye!  I'm Jake!

P.S.  Seriously.  What do you expect to happen when you ask that? Someone will throw out a topic and you'll suddenly generate 20 minutes of genius material out of the blue?  Sorry.  Not going to happen.  Just leave.