5 Surefire Hosting Tips For First Timers

If they’re any stand up comedians out there who are thinking of jumping into the waters of hosting but not exactly sure how it’s done, I got cha. Hosting is similar to stand up, but there are some subtle differences to consider. In order to be of help, allow me to offer these 5 (plus one bonus) tips for first time hosts.

1. KNOW THAT EVERYONE WANTS YOU TO DO YOUR JOB.

The audience doesn’t know what to expect. They took the time to get a sitter, deal with traffic, swallow the cover charge and drink minimum, so they really hope that they didnt do all that stuff in vein. The moment they sit down, nervous questions start floating through their heads.

Did we waste our money?

Are any of the comic going to single me out?

Can anyone tell I’m on coke right now?

Maybe not the third question so much. I live in LA so it’s not a stretch to assume, but the point is, the audience needs assurance that they’re going to have a good time. The job of the host is to be that assurance. No matter what.

The comics are depending on you too. Even the most seasoned vet wants their set to go well, and you are a part of that process. They’ve got their questions also.

Is this is going to be the night my go-to joke work bombs?

Is the host going to give me some sort of screwed up intro?

Can anyone tell I’m on Coke right now?

Again. LA. The point is, everyone needs you to be in charge. You are the center of the universe. But that doesn’t need to be scary, because of tip number 2…

2. KNOW THAT YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF FUN.

Like I said before, you set the tone of the mood of the room, and everyone is there to enjoy themselves. You’re the fun ambassador. That’s what this night is all about. FUN, FUN, FUN. It’s a room full of adults needing a socially acceptable excuse to set aside all the negative, stressful shit going on in their lives. Don’t even worry about being funny. Just be upbeat. If you say something unfunny, make fun of the fact that you’re joke didn’t work. If you’re not actually having fun, fake it. Why? Because the audience and comics will mirror your mood. If you’re having fun, they will.

3. MINE THE PREVIOUS COMICS SET FOR BANTER.

I don’t mean to steal from a fellow comic and retell their jokes in some hacky way. I’m saying if something a comic says or does affects you or hits home, pay attention to that feeling and share it on stage. If the joke caused you to have a certain reaction, there’s a good chance the audience had a similar one. If not, you could make fun of how it was “JUST YOU”

4. FIND A FRIEND IN THE AUDIENCE.

I was once asked to MC a hip hop show in the Inland Empire. I hadn’t had much hosting experience at the time, and being over thirty five meant that my appreciation of hip hop peaked with Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below, but the guy putting the show on was actually paying (a rarity in the Los Angeles comedy scene) so I kept all that to myself and went ahead and took the gig.

The venue ended up being a nice, spacious neon lit club that offered a green room for me and the rappers slated to perform to hang before hand. Luckily, the vibe was upbeat by the time the show started and the few small jokes I opened with worked. There was only one problem. The first performer that I introduced was tanking, bad. I don’t know if it was his first performance, but based on the audience’s reaction, it might have been his last. When an audience isn’t engaged, its awkward for everyone. In order to fill the space, the audience instinctively talks and interacts amosts themselves to fill the silence. It’s times like this that you need an audience friend. After ending his set in front of a club full of people not noticing that he is alive, the performer gladly handed me the mic and exited the venue like a fire had broken out. For a moment I stood on stage and was experiencing the same treatment from the audience. I found myself staring out at three different groups of people talking amongst themselves, not concerned about anything happening on stage. Instead of panicking, I lobbed a couple of jokes at the audience making fun of myself about how little I knew about any modern music. That got a spattering of laughter, which was all I needed. I zeroed in on the one person who was laughing the hardest and continued making jokes as if it were just me and him in the room. Eventually the people around him began to take notice to see what was going on and just like that, things shifted. I would be lying if I said that I won the entire audience over in that moment, but I had enough people on my side to stir up a decent amount of applause and energy to bring on the next performance. Which leads me to the next tip.

5. KEEP IT MOVING.

As host, your main job is to keep things upbeat and positive enough to bring on the next act. There have been plenty of times when I’ve left a stage having done well, only to see the host of the show take advantage of the newly warmed up crowd and do a whole other ten minute set. While I know a primed audience is pure gold to a comedian, the risk of losing the momentum is too high. If the comic you just brought up kills, make a quick comment or two and get the next comic up while the crowd is hot! It will make the show go by faster, which makes your job easier in the long run.

6. HAVE SOME ONE OFFS IN THE CHAMBER.

This calls back to the previous tip. Its always good to have a few lean “go to” jokes ready to help smooth the transition from one comedian to the next. As mentioned before, I’ve seen hosts stretch the moment after a comics great set too far, and lose the audience in the process. They end up trying out some new material that bombs or they make an off hand comment that either falls flat or offends someone. Which is why it might be a good idea to start working on a few one to three sentence jokes that have worked before. They’re win, win. If the comic before bombs, a few solid jokes will send the show the jolt of energy it needs to get back on track. And if you do a quick joke after a comic has killed, you get to snach a small portion of their spotlight and keep the show moving while everyone is in good spirits.

BONUS: KEEP IN MIND THAT PEOPLE ARE MORE WILLING TO PAY A HOST FOR A NIGHTS

Having had a full time job the entire time I’ve been doing comedy, I have yet to experience the “road”. That being said, the overwhelming majority of shows I’ve performed in or hosted have been in the Los Angeles area. LA is a great place to build a set and establish relationships, but if you’re looking to make a living here from Stand Up comedy, go ahead and stop looking. Not only do bookers here tend to not pay, but they often also require you to bring a large number or guests to the venue just to get the chance to perform. They treat the performance minutes themselves like they’re a form of currency. The next time I get a bill from DWP, I’ll call them up and day “Hey, I don’t have any money for you, but I can send over a link of me doing a solid ten at a Italian Vegan Restaurant in Silverlake. That should get me at least two weeks of heat, right? Hel..hello?”

My point is this, hosting is more work than just showing up, doing a set, then spending the remainder of the show in the back of the room getting blitzed while shoving nachos down your throat. Other comics have to be “on” for their set. You have to be “on” for the ENTIRE NIGHT. That gives you a little more leverage when someone asks you to host their show. If the person putting on the show has any common sense, they will understand the effort you have to put in throughout the evening and compensate you for your time. Pick a price for your services based on your skill level, and stand firm. People who put on shows are spinning a lot of plates behind the scenes to make things happen, so the last thing many of them want to do is actually host the show also. Take advantage of that, and tell them your rate. Even if its $50 to $100 to start. You’ll feel good after a night of heavy lifting if you have gas and grocery money in your pocket on the way home.

If you’ve never hosted before, hopefully these tips will be of help. Of course, nothing is set in stone and keep in mind that the great (and exhilarating / terrifying) thing about stand up is that each night is it’s own thing. There will be nights where the tips work like a charm, and other nights where audiences seem to decide in unison that they just don’t want to be there and respond to nothing. I will say however, then even the tightest audiences tend to respond to at least one or two of these techniques enough to keep a show moving. So enough reading. Get out there and let it be known that your hosting services are available. Shout it out from the digital mountain tops of social media and see what happens. Any experience adds knowledge and wisdom to your repertoire.

“THE ONE QUESTION EVERY COMEDIAN DREADS!!”

“Oh you’re a comedian! Cool! Tell me a joke.” Anyone who makes the mistake of being in public and admiting that they practice stand up coemdy will hear some version of the statement above. Guaranteed. Like death, taxes, and loud obnoxious pop music playing at grocery stores, its unavoidable.

Yes, it’s irritating, yes is annoying, and yes, I have to let it go. Here’s the thing. People mean well, they just don’t get it. I think it’s human nature to focus more on the final result rather than the process that led to the result. Think of the last time an elite level athlete did something that defied gravity, or the last time you heard your favorite rapper use the perfect combination of words to a beat that instantly transported you to another space and time. When we find ourselves experiencing people with exceptional skill doing their thing, it looks effortless. Of all types of entertainers, the creative process a stand up comedian goes through is the most misunderstood. To this day, my wife doesn’t understand why I’ll sometimes need an hour before a performance to go over the details of my set and get in the zone.

But you’re already funny. Just go on stage and be funny”, She likes to say.

What she doesn’t understand is that doing stand up isn’t just about being funny. It’s about being funny, in front of total strangers, ON DEMAND. When you’re with friends and cracking jokes, a lot of the work has already been done. They know you. They know your loves, hates, fears and desires. They are already aware of how you view the world around you so they are primed to laugh. With strangers, you actually have to “catch them up” to the point where they trust you enough to laugh. In order to do all that, people need to understand that what you do is essentially construction. It’s a process, and that’s all they need to know. After that, you shouldn’t have to spend too much time explanjng something that you don’t want to do. And remember, if they cant respect your choice after such a clear explanation, then you can always offer them the option to kick rocks.

PS, allow me to offer up some semi successful, previously used answers when asked to “Tell a joke” outside of a stand up environment. I start with “Hey, I’m off the clock!”, then add:

– If you had a friend who worked at the post office, would you invite her over, hand her a package then ask her to take care of it in the morning when she clocked in?

– If you had a friend who was a garbage man would you throw your empty soda cup in his face and say “You already know what to do with that.”

– If you had a friend who was a pilot, would you knock on his door at midnight and ask, Aye bruh, throw some jeans on and shoot me over to Dubai real quick.”

If you had a single, open minded homegirl who was a stripper would you… bad example.

OTHER SIDE OF THE TUNNEL

She hated this part of the time travel process, but it was necessary. The G’s pressed against her coal colored skin and stretched her cheeks back past the point of pain. It hurt. Bad. But it was worth it. She pictured his face to help block the pain of traveling through the quantum tunnel. He was on the other side. The man who loved her, then tried to have her killed. He tried to hide in the past. That’s what he does, but it didn’t matter. “I’ll find you.” She thought, as she pressed the accelerator on her personal transport cycle, gritting her teeth in agony. “No matter what era, galaxy, or existence known to man you try to go to, I’ll find you. You can’t hide from me.” She’s able to stand the pain because she knows a deeper pain awaits her in the other side of the tunnel. Her man. Her love, who she had given herself over to in every way, sent three enforcers to kill her an hour ago. But that was the mistake of men throughout the history of time, ego. He underestimated her skills. He didn’t know how hard she trained in combat rooms while he lay sleeping, spent from vigorous lovemaking. Something told her to never fully let onto how skilled she actually was. It was good that she followed her instinct. Now, two of her so called “friends” lay dead in her high rise apartment, one is splattered all over the promenade below. But the truth is, they were her friends. They had shared life’s highs and lows together, broke bread together, and now she had broken them. Her friend Kaya told her about Eric’s betrayal after she twisted her arm to the point of nearly breaking. When she gave up the info, she broke Kaya’s arm anyway and followed that move with a neck snap. “You’re next, you lying bastard.” She whispered to herself as she pressed the handlebar accelerator once more on her stolen cycle. She hoped her anger and pain was enough to push her into doing what she knew she must. As betrayed as she was feeling, there as a tiny part of her that doubted if she could go through with it. She quickly shook off the moment of doubt. Her old life was over. She knew there was no choice, he had made the first move. When the time came, She would have to kill the man she still loved.

The Best Harbinger Scene of All Time Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark

If you’re a fan of stories, and movies especially, there is a good chance that you’ve been affected by a “harbinger” scene. In The Writer’s Journey, Chris Vogler’s now legendary summary of the work of Joseph Campbell, the “harbinger” is described as a certain energy that comes over the story just before the hero begins their quest. That energy is usually embodied in a single character who is slightly more aware of the danger that the hero is about to face, and offers them a dire warning to take the journey seriously.

Even though there have been many of these scenes in our modern era of cinema, there is one scene that sticks out in my mind the most. It’s from a movie that is structured so well that referencing it has almost become a cliche…but I’m going do it anyway. It is the classic adventure tale Raiders Of the Lost Ark. This movie’s “harbinger” moment is actually a continuation of the energy that was built up in the scene preceding it when Dr. Jones and his colleague, Marcus Brody, meet with CIA agents who are looking for information about a mysterious and mystical object from the Old Testament in the Bible known as The Ark of the Covenant. The Ark of the Covenant has piqued the interest of Adolph Hitler, and the CIA agents come to Jones and Brody to find out why Hitler might be after it.

In the scene that follows the meeting, we are given a rare glimpse of Indy’s home, which is cluttered with books and antiquities. He is scrambling around his living room in preparation for his journey to beat Hitler to The Ark. Marcus Brody enters to tell Indy that the CIA has approved of his mission. Marcus is handed a glass of champagne to celebrate and he quickly finds a seat among the mess, while Indy goes in and out of the room gathering his luggage. Marcus’s demeanor is a stark contrast to Indy’s almost childlike enthusiasm. For years, this has remained one of my favorite scenes in the entire series, and here’s why:

THE WAY THE SCENE IS SHOT

The entire scene plays out in virtually one take. Since there are so few cuts in the scene, the juxtaposition of Jones’ energy vs Brody’s stillness causes tension throughout the scene. The two men represent the two sides of the us; one being the desire for adventure and new experiences, and the other being the need to feel safe and secure.

Above, and continuing on, is a series screenshots taken throughout the scene. As you can see, due to the use of an extremely wide angle lens that would make Hype Williams proud, the image is bent, meaning that no matter where anyone is, everyone will be in focus.

Spielberg uses this wide angle to build tension by dollying in past Indy, lowering the angle and allowing us to focus on Brody’s concerned expression. Brody is taking the role of the mentor in this scene. He reminds Indy, and the audience, of the spiritual significance and power that the Ark has. He tells Indy of his concerns about seeing him go after an object that has only been connected to stories of death and mass destruction. He even reminds Indy that “It’s like nothing you’ve ever gone after before.”

The focus then turns back to Indy’s confidence and enthusiasm as he pats Brody on the should and crosses the room. He grabs something from his desk, which is later revealed to be his gun.

This is where Indy’s naivety is revealed. It’s here that he gets a glimpse of the lesson that he will learn throughout his quest. When Marcus finishes expressing his worries, Indy laughs it off and says he’s not interested in “Ghost stories and the boogie man.” He is only focused on the personal gain and glory that would come from such a monumental archeological find. It is this moment where the only cut in the scene takes place.

As Indy comes back to the forefront of the room, and he unravels his pistol from its cloth, Spielberg cuts to a close-up of the gun. This is to remind us that even though he might be outmatched, Indy is more than capable to take on the task at hand.

The moment is cemented with the final shot before the scene ends. Indy causally tosses the gun into his suitcase, and it falls right next to the two iconic pieces of his wardrobe, his whip and leather jacket.

The Power Of Piles

Hey folks!

Every now and then, while navigating the ever raging waters of life, I happen to stumble upon a little piece of insight. A nugget of wisdom that I can take from a recent experience that originally caused me pain, embarrassment, or confusion. These moments can come from a trip miles away from home, or right in your own living room. The following is a retelling of an incident from the latter…

I promise you with all of my heart that my wife and I are neat and clean people. However, it might be hard to agree with me if you were to visit our apartment on the wrong night. Sometimes in the middle of the week we’re both tired and could give a damn about where our clothes land after we’ve peeled them off and tossed them away like its our last night at Burning Man. Maybe we’re subconsciously shedding all the bullshit one encounters after spending the best hours of the day dealing with douches at work and swerving to avoid vehicular douches on the drive home.

Basically, catch us on the wrong Wednesday and you’d think the nice couple you thought you knew is actually squatting in the apartment you visited and is now forced to kill you for realizing it.

Since we aren’t murders and actually pay to live in our apartment, we decided to do something about the messiness once and for all. One Saturday morning, I cut my wife off in the middle of suggesting we go to our favorite diner for breakfast.

“Nope. Not today baby. We need to clean this damn apartment!”

Before she could protest or offer a brilliantly delivered put down, I darted out of the room, yanked the vacuum from behind the door like a young King Arthur pulling a sword from a stone, and began going over the living room carpet like a madman. The newly laid lines of cleanliness left in the vacuum’s wake mixed with the crunching sound of debris being collected in its tank filled me with satisfaction. Little did I know, my joy was short lived. The sound of the long brush on the underside of the vacuum began to change. It seemed to be struggling to more. I then noticed the cleaner was no longer picking up the debris on the carpet. The vacuum was broken.

“Wow”, my wife exclaimed while sitting at the kitchen table watching me work.

I know you were raised by a black woman from the south, cuz that’s the only way you would know to automatically grab a broom and start sweeping the carpet like that!”

I was in no mood to laugh since my tank top was now drenched in sweat and I was making very little progress with the carpet. All the while, My wife had her viewing spot on the kitchen table.

“It’s ok, my Daddy’s not tripping. Just tell him the vacuum is broken.”

Before I could respond, there was a knock on the door.

Damn!” I yelled out loud, and then immediately slapped my hand over my face.

My wife’s eyes are the size of saucers.

All I could think to do was whisper, “Do you think he heard?!”

The question was cut off by another knock on the door. I answered and offered him a friendly hello with as much forced casualness as possible and let the tall slender man inside.

“Hey”, he said, then casually strolled to the couch and took a seat. I’m always impressed with the level of class that previous generations have. This respectable man eased back on the couch amongst pure chaos and acted as if he was relaxing in a suite at the Hilton.

While his demeanor was casual, I did notice his careful gaze taking in the scene in front of him.

Hoping to intercept a moment of embarrassment, I blurted out,

“Sorry, the vacuum’s broken.”

“Oh”, he said “And you tried to sweep?”

“Emphasis on the word, tried.”, my wife felt the need to chime in.

“Let me see the broom.” He said.

I handed him the broom and he began to sweep. Not in the paniced, haphazard way that I had, but in a much more careful and measured way. Instead of trying to take on the whole carpet at once, he focused on one section and made the debris into a small pile.

“See”, he said in an offhand way. “If you just do one little pile at a time it’s easy.”

He handed me the broom and I was able to finish the job and make the carpet look semi presentable again. My father in law left about an hour later and after seeing him to the door I turned and looked at the carpet to take in the minor moment of victory. A moment that came to a sudden halt when my wife said,

“I was about to tell you to do it like that.”

With a mischievous grin, she kissed me on the cheek and skipped into the bedroom. I swore I could hear the slightest hint of a giggle as she closed the bedroom door.

Since then, I have been able to use this little experience as a reminder. When I get overwhelmed by an ever growing to-do list or I have trouble meeting a self emposed deadline. Just like those individually collected piles of debris on the carpet, I will not try to picture the entirety of an assignment as a whole but will instead tackle it one section at a time. All it took was for a grown man to need to be shown how to use a broom.

– G

FLASH FICTION: All’s Fair

Hey folks. Thanks for checking out the site!

There is probably an infinite number of inspirations to write a story. A personal incident, someone else’s creative work, or the actions of a soulless coward who steals someone’s savings and lays waste to entire families just to afford to buy a summer home in the hills. We’ve turned on the news and seen these hustlers being hauled off to prison. We’ve seen the tearful interviews where defeated looking victims confess to trusting their future in the hands of a silver tounged confidence man. Yes there are some that are punished for their deeds, but what about the ones that aren’t? Im sure for every Bernie Madoff we see, they’re plenty others we don’t. What about them? Do they find peace and serenity when night comes? I’d like to think not. I guess this piece of Flash Fiction is me hoping that those who get away with doing people harm for personal gain never really get away scott free….

I love the beach. That’s why I chose this place, so I can lay in my bed and stare out the paito door at the infinite blue waves below. Hell, why not? I can afford it. Sure some people had to lose their savings to get me here but hey, better them than me, right? That’s the way of the world. I’ve lived long enough to learn that if you’re not the one doing the taking, you’re the one getting taken. I covered my tracks and anticipated every move before they even realized that what hit them. You don’t ask to join the game of life, you’re thrown into it without a rulebook, and like some sadistic video game you have to play your level over and over again until you learn the lesson and advance to the next floor. Some of the people I took from never got wise, and the game started them back at zero. Take the widow Mrs Jones, who still hadn’t learned not to trust a silver tongued fox with a smile and an airtight contract, so now she has nothing. I call it a punishment for staying nieve and not stepping her game up after hubby checked out. Some people are superior, the end. I see the gulls squaw and glide over the waves through the window and I feel like I’m about to fade out. Maybe after seventy two hours I’ve finally figured out the right combination of wine and ambient that will allow me to sleep. Like one of the waves through the glass, sleep is mercifully washing over me. The world begins to fade out in my vision and my eyelids weigh fifty pounds. Just as the cover of sleep overcomes me completely, I see him. The man in the black suit standing in the corner of my bedroom. The pleasure of sleep is snatched from me and I shoot up with my heart pounding and sweat collecting on my brow with my favorite revolver in my left hand cocked and ready to go. I jump out of bed and turn to see what I already knew I would see, nothing. No assassin waiting for a chance to take me out, no avenging spector biding his time take me to oblivion. No, just my mind playing games. My mind has been real fuckin playful in the three days since I got here. I walk to a nearby dresser where a mound of white powder sits from a party earlier this evening. I figured a good ol fashioned drug fueld romp with a few locals would put me in a relaxed mood, but looks like that’s not the case. I cut myself a thick line of powder and snort it up hard with a rolled up hundred. A shot of adrenaline shoots through my body and I instantly feel better. I feel alive. I’ll be fine. Sleep can wait. Fuck sleep, and fuck the people who a little bit poorer now because of me. Think I care if your spoiled good for nothing kids can’t go to college? So what if you can’t go on vacation twice a year or your your medical bills don’t get paid. Its Darwin, plain and simple. Adapt or die. That’s why I’ll always win, because I understand that principle in my bones. So what if sleep doesn’t come easy, nothing in my life ever has. I’ll adapt. I think I hear footsteps just outside the door. I grip my revolver hard and place my finger on the trigger. They think they can get the drop on me! Ha! Go ahead and try motherfuckers. I hear them whispering, plotting behind the door. I don’t give them anymore time. I yank open the door and unload on their stupid asses. The smoke clears and I blink and laugh. I dont think the statue in the hallway is gonna make it. One of my bullets blew it’s white porcelain head clean off. As far as I can see, this half naked, representation of some long dead Greek guy is the only casualty here. The place was empty. No voices or people at my door after all. That’s fine. Never liked that fuckin statue anyway. At least I was ready. All always be ready. After my next bump, my anxiety leaves and I’m again reminded that I’m the superior one here. That’s why I was able to get away with it. I’ll always win. Wait a minute, what was that sound?

From the personal logs of Dr Mark Robertson, professor of scientific activities at Pomona Valley Jr College.

Experiment day 4:


Subject is responding favorably to foreign DNA.

  • Noticeable spikes in nocturnal behavior.
  • 35% increase of visibility in zero light conditions.
  • Intellect and social skills noticeably increased due to the fact that subject has surpassed my level of followers on Snapchat.
  • I’m not jealous. Seriously
  • end of log