Meeting new people isn’t always easy. But for Dan Vetrano, who has been incorporating audience interaction into his stand-up for over ten years, meeting new people during a set is a source of comedic innovation unlike any other. I chose to live in the moment myself by failing to write any questions for my interview with him. We ended up chatting about his upcoming class at Good Good, Interacting with the Audience, which will teach students about how to sharpen their audience interaction skills. That involves, he says, an ability to both gain and lose control, a clear mind, chocolate, and perfectly timed sneezes.
Interacting with an audience must take a lot of focus. Do you ever meditate to prepare?
When I am about to go on stage to do stand-up, especially if I know I want to talk to the audience, I will sometimes take deep breaths. I might have a piece of chocolate to cheer myself up and get my endorphins going. I wouldn’t say I meditate but I will be encouraging people [in the class] to get out of their heads and clear their mind and be in the moment. I think that’s a big part of it.
So there are certain nights when you want to communicate with the audience more than others. What are the factors that lead up to that choice?
A lot of times you can see, when you’re waiting to go up, that the crowd just wants to be talked to so badly.
What does that kind of crowd look like?
Just like me! They’re craving attention all the time. They’re just the type of people that like comedy but assume it’s going to be interactive. Those are the people that don’t necessarily want to heckle and ruin the show, they just want to be a part of it. They want to feel special. They’re easy to get a laugh from because any time you interact with them and engage them and make them feel like they’re a part of it, they are happy.
The dynamic between the audience and a stand-up is that there’s an active role and a passive role. But part of communicating with the audience is that those roles are sort of flipped, or at least you’re playing with them.
Yes. You always want to be the dominant one. You need to show that you have control of the room. I think that there’s something fun about being self-deprecating in crowd work where you are empowering an audience member but you’re also still secretly controlling the room. It doesn’t come off as dominant but it is dominant.
So even when you’re giving up control, you’re still in control.
Yeah, being in control without seeming like you’re being controlling. It’s something that we’re definitely going to cover [in the class]–how to walk that line and find that balance.
Have you had any particularly weird moments interacting with an audience member?
One time during a comedy competition, I was telling a joke and somebody sneezed as loud as they could. I continued the joke for about another 5 words, then I paused, said “God bless you” and immediately continued the joke and I got a round of applause laugh break for perfectly timing my ‘bless you.’ So I like to think that I can bless a person after a sneeze in better timing than anyone.
You can catch Dan Vetrano’s show Get Work every third Saturday @ 8:30 PM.
Dan Vetrano’s Interacting with the Audience class starts on Monday, October 21st. You can enroll right here.