I'm here all week. Try the veal.
I have to preface this by saying that I'm not a comedian nor have I ever been at the mic in a comedy club. Quite frankly, I don't think that your average punter wants to here a nine minute comedic rant which might involve such esoteric subjects as politics, utilitarianism, downdraft carburetors and epistemology Kantianism. No, they want to hear mother in law jokes, vaguely bawdy stories which include innuendo and straight up swearing.
If I were to stand upon the small stage, treading the boards under the presidium arch, I suspect that I would encounter a darkened room of silence and possibly find the odd flying glass which would impolitely prompt me to leave. However, just before that tulip glass would have shattered into ten thousand pieces and brought forth a river of crimson, had this been a film or on television there would also be either a tumbleweed, the sound of crickets chirping or the noise of someone coughing. This post looks at the relative merits of all three.
I shan't explain what a tumbleweed is because that might be the beginning of a self referential spiral which could lead to the formation of a micro black hole; so before this explanation disappears into its own gravitational orifice, I should explain how the device of the tumbleweed is best executed.
Tumbleweeds suggest an environment devoid of all life. The sight of a tumbleweed is usually associated with deserts and mesas. If one saw a tumbleweed merrily bouncing across the stage of a comedy club, the tumbleweed itself would be the source of much merriment and mirth because of a juxtaposition of place even though the poor Charlie behind the microphone would probably be tanking badly and need the theatrical hook to pull them off stage.
Of these three, the tumbleweed is the kindest of the comedic silence indicators because it's just so daft. It would also help if the tumbleweed was accompanied by the sounds of a light breeze as well.
This is almost always in response to a joke which has been cracked, or after the comedian as asked for audience participation and has got nothing. Tumbleweeds weeds indicate a general quietness but the sounds of crickets represents an active abandonment. Either the audience has walked out through boredom or they are being really quiet.
The sound of crickets is more of a forlorn sort of sound than the bounce of a tumbleweed. If a comedian gets cricket sounds, then they are doing badly. Their jokes have failed.
This has to be about the worst possible noise for a comedian. The sound of people coughing indicates that they actively hate the comedian and actually resent their presence. Perhaps there might be some other act which follows or else they're just waiting for the appropriate time to bring forth boos. Either way, coughing lets the comedian know that the audience would rather be somewhere else or they wish for the comedian to be somewhere else. This is one step away from the audience telling the comedian to go somewhere else and if they're not feeling particularly polite, they might even tell them how to get there. Put it this way, the audience would be far ruder in telling the comedian how to get to somewhere else than if the comedian had asked how to get to Sesame Street (or Amarillo if you happen to be older and want a different cultural reference).
Now there was a point to all of this. The question which I'd been posed is why don't I go into comedy. The truth is that while I might have a lightning quick wit, dashing good looks, an ego the size of Texas and the ability to write profundities and witticisms about subjects both sharp and banal, I'm actually as funny as a cow stuck in a barbed wire fence. I'm sure that if I was on stage, I'd get tumbleweeds, crickets chirping and coughing as well as that glass flying through the air.
Comedians who find themselves hosting radio programs, or on television, or packing out venues, are able to do so because they possess talent, ability and practice; I hold none of those things. In fact it was my mum who said it best: "You're not funny, you're stupid". That might not have been incredibly encouraging and it might have been dream shattering but having shattered dreams is better than having a flying glass shatter on the side of your face.