How to be better at performing on Zoom shows

This is only for comedians who have adjusted to COVID-19 shelter-in-place times by moving their giggle-skits onto Zoom. As most of us have discovered, it’s a different format, a different energy, and you can see some really funny comics tell jokes to complete silence.

I’ve been coproducing a Zoom show for a month. We routinely get over a hundred audience members, the shows have been going well, and there are definitely some ways a producer can create the best potential situation for audience and performers.

As a comic, though, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of doing well.

1. HAVE A BETTER MIC.
Literally anything is better than just using your laptop mic and yelling in that general direction. Spend $50, get a handheld USB mic, learn how to plug it in and make it work on Zoom, and you’re already ahead of the pack. You can find a lot of back and forth online about what the best USB mic is, but do some research, read some reviews, and find something in your budget. It’s worth it.

2. PLUG YOUR COMPUTER INTO THE MODEM.
I’ve already seen a lot of instances where a comic is starting a joke, the setup is great, their writing is great, and they get to the start of their punchline…and lock up due to a bad internet connection. Get an ethernet cable, and an adapter if you have to (if you have a Mac they’re called dongles) and plug that shit in directly.

3. DO A TECH CHECK BEFORE THE SHOW IF YOU NEED TO.
Nothing more fun that dealing with all the technical aspects of running a Zoom show, and having a comic login 3 minutes before showtime and ask if they can check their fancy new video/mic/screenshare/etc. Using these new tools is totally cool and I’m all for it, but I’ll bet any producer would be happy to have you login 10 minutes before they start having the audience login to make sure your stuff works. I know I am.

4. WEAR HEADPHONES – WIRED ONES.
I know they don’t look cool, or you don’t want the wires getting in the way of your dramatic act-out. But echo and feedback will ruin your set, and anybody else’s sets you happen to crank up your computer for. I know it sucks, but just use them.

5. WRITE NEW JOKES.
That hot bit you were doing in January about Tinder maaaaaaaaybe won’t resonate right now. Neither will that great bit about Spirit Airlines, since most of us would really love to be able to board a shitty-ass Spirit flight and go to Des Moines for a casino gig. The audiences I’ve seen react best to relatable material about what’s happening right now.

6. SWITCH YOUR VIEW TO “GALLERY” FOR YOUR SET.
This enables you to see the audience who have their cameras on, even if their mics are not, and see their reactions. We don’t get to be in the room and look in their eyes and hear the laughter directly, but you can see what they’re doing, how they’re reacting, and if they have a weird stuffed animal collection (SO MANY PEOPLE DO, WTF).

7. WATCH A FEW OTHER COMICS.
We’re all trying stuff out to figure out what works. Show up before your set, or hang out after and watch a few other comics, see how they handle it, and get some ideas. Also, we can support each other in these weird-ass times.

8. DO YOUR SET IN A QUIET ROOM.
Seriously. Shouldn’t have to say it, but I do. Tell your roommate to stop shredding on guitar for ten minutes, ask your spouse to stop watching Better Call Saul on full blast, close the window if they’re running a bandsaw outside your home. It’s just better if it’s quiet!

Okay, the end. Go get ’em, Tiger!

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