Audience participation online and in a traditional comedy settings, stand-up or improv, can be easily compared in a venn diagram- but no one has done it yet, so I guess it’s not so easy. But lucky for you, you have me and I am going to make you a venn diagram with words. That’s right without circles and strictly sentences, because visuals are hard. So lets get started.
Audience Participation on Twitter
From Jay Rosen’s The Social Media Reader, The People Formerly Known As The Audience “who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another—and who today are not in a situation like that at all.” If we apply Rosen’s concept to the Twitter Comedic Audience, it says that the audience traditionally relied on the comic to feed them content (jokes), but with the way social media works the audience or followers also become the comic. Rephrasing Rosen’s initial intent of Social Media's role as a new media- comedic writing once belonged to established comics and now Twitter comics have a hand in creating their own content. As well as developing their own audience. This creates what Rosen calls a ‘citizen-to-citizen’ dynamic, as the flow of information or jokes is now from audience member- to- audience member. Social Media sites like Twitter have allowed the former ‘audience’ to become the viewer and the creator.
In a more abstract sense, the difference between Audience Participation online as oppose to ‘Crowd Work’ in Traditional Comedy maybe attributed to “always being on” as Danah Boyd puts it in The Social Media Reader, Participating in the Always-On Lifestyle. In a traditional comedy shows there is an end, but in the online world it is a continual connection to the Tweeter and the follower, and visa-versa.
Audience ‘Crowd Work’ in Traditional Comedy
Contrary to Audience Participation on Twitter, traditional comedy- the audience is simply on the receiving end of a joke, unless the comedian does ‘Crowd Work’. Crowd Work is simply the audience participation but, unlike the the audience on Twitter, has a limited speech within the entirety of the comedy show. Audience participation may be asking the audience for a suggestion in an improv show or pull-something from the crowd in a stand-up. The audience has a role in traditional comedy but it is secondary, the audience online has a much larger purpose.
Both Boyd and Gladstone from Cracked.com ‘s article, 6 Ways to Not Suck at Stand-Up Comedy, agree that each medium of comedy are used for a small group. “Many who blog and tweet are not writing for the world at large; they are writing for the small group who might find it relevant and meaningful. And, realistically, the world at large is not reading the details of their lives. Instead, they are taking advantage of the affordances of these technologies to connect with others in a way that they feel is appropriate,” Boyd states. Comedians online understand that their jokes will not be customary for every Twitter handle out in the online universe but they use their, literal, following as their stage. Customary stand-ups also understand this concept as you need to know what material you are using for a specific crowd. On a social media site a comedian’s voice and style has already been established by other followers/comics. When a comedian’s voice is initiated he/she will may find it hard to reach other audiences who find the particular comic’s persona. And so a Twitter comic will tailor their jokes to bring in more audience members/followers.
Gladstone puts it best, “Although you might polish your set, you need to tailor your material to the people you're trying to get a laugh from. I'll admit that I don't really like that. I like telling jokes the way I think they're funny, and if I didn't think that I was a better judge of that than anyone, I probably wouldn't have the balls to go on stage in the first place. Still, that's the wrong attitude. No one asked you to get up there. No one likes pandering, but if you want these people to laugh, you might have to meet them halfway, at least.”