Monroe Martin knows a thing or two about NYC audiences—he plays at some of the best comedy theaters in New York
, night after night, and he knows exactly how to get the best out of them. We caught up with the gravel-voiced comic before one of his sets at The Stand
(home to regular shows from the likes of Judah Friedlander
) to find out what New York has taught him about comedy. How different are New York audiences to those back in your hometown?
New York is different from Philly because there are a lot more foreigners that come to the shows. In Philly, there’s no one from Sweden or Spain. How do you deal with an audience that might not speak English that well?
I realized I had to get more general, speak in more broad terms. You have to find a level that everyone can meet on, like, everybody gets relationship stuff, everybody gets race-based stuff, everybody gets political stuff. So as long as you’re very broad and you’re not talking down to them, everybody’s going to laugh when they’re on the same level. What else have you learned from New York audiences?
If you can kill here, you can kill anywhere. That whole slogan, “If you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere” has some truth to it. If you can kill in New York, not just get by, but legit get belly laughs in New York, you’ll have no problem getting belly laughs in Arkansas or in freaking Canada, like, they’re ready. I’m sure Canada’s going to be flattered by that comparison.
Yeah, they’re gonna be super polite! So are New York audiences more demanding in general?
Fuck yeah! If you’re doing a mainstream show, they kind of allow you to take your time a little bit—they’ll listen to you for the first 30 seconds to see if this is going anywhere, but if ya’ll don’t click in the first 30 seconds to a minute then you got a lot of work to do. Then you got the art audience, they’re more happy with the abstract and smart jokes, so they allow you a lot. If you can’t get a big laugh for the first three minutes at an art show, people will still be like, “Hey man, you’re fucking awesome.” And then you got urban—with an urban audience, you got three to 13 seconds to make them laugh. If you don’t make them laugh in 3 to 13 seconds they don’t give a shit, they’ll be like, “Alright, next comic!”