There’s a moment in an episode of Comedian In Cars Getting Coffee where Steve Harvey talks about telling a young comic, who’s about to face a tired audience, to open with his closer. It’s a joke about bananas. The comic opens with his usual stuff and gets eaten alive.
Recently I’d wanted to change things up. I wanted to start stronger. In recent sets I started with B or C material and then, once everyone was keyed into my cadence, I went to A stuff. This was stupid. I wasn’t starting off strong and as a result the audience was barely with me by the time I got to my big closer material.
So I tried I tried Steve Harvey’s advice. I started with a joke I know always gets a laugh.
And it worked!
I started with “Dating is hard…especially when you’re married.” And I got a laugh. It put me at ease. Like, “alright, one down, let’s keep rolling.” It put the audience at ease too.
Until I open my mouth, every one of them is thinking, “I hope this guy’s funny.” And once that first joke’s out there, they relax. “Okay. He doesn’t suck.” They’re on board!
The funny thing is that all my other material got bigger laughs too. Once they were relaxed and listening, they had a stronger response. And that made me more confident in my delivery, which made the jokes better, which resulted in bigger laughs… etc. You get where this is going.
Next time you’re in a rut and wanting to punch your stuff up, try opening with your closer. Always tell the banana joke first.