The nation is currently mourning the passing of the London 2012 Olympics, the largest live event ever to grace our shores. We couldn’t get enough of it. The excitement of witnessing human endeavour towards uncertain results, the jeopardy, the triumph and the failure of those efforts makes the greatest entertainment.
There is nothing so exciting, so unique an experience, than a live performance from artists, whatever their craft or talent.
Performing live is such a brave, balls-on-the-line, activity. Audiences know that. They also feel that.
It’s the ‘live’ element what provides that extra dimension, the additional thrill. It’s why we go to the theatre. Of course we know that actors on stage should have prepared for each performance. They’ve learned their lines, rehearsed what they are going to do and then they follow direction. But as soon as they are out there, in front of an audience, they’re exposed, anything can happen. It is often those unexpected twists and turns, the mistakes even, the responses to events out of their control, in particular, people’s reactions, that brings the special, the more memorable magic moments to a show.
Audiences become part of the event.
They are hugely responsible for when it goes really well or really bad.
Sharing that experience with performers is a special gift to members of an audience. You can’t really put a price on that. (Well perhaps you can, there’s always a ticket price, but the real value is undetermined until after the show happens.)
For live comedy, it is even more unexpected, unregulated and even more dangerous. Don’t we all like a bit of danger?
This ‘pure performance’ is something I heard Lorne Michaels speak about on a podcast called Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin. How much he adored the work he did on Saturday Night Live. He describes being terrified at every dress rehearsal, not knowing how it will all turn out, but then he recalls the experience of watching his comics ‘soar’ as being amazing.
This is a man with a career filled with hugely successful movies and TV series. Wayne’s World, Mean Girls, 30 Rock and Portlandia. But they have never given him the same satisfaction as a live show. Despite the sugary pill of them making him vastly wealthy, the endless time in production, planning and marketing before the eventual screening before audiences did not fulfil him in the same way.
I appreciate that. I’ve made some films. Errm ..not quite in the same league obviously. But the buzz I get from producing a live event and the immediacy of the reactions from an audience has to be one of the biggest legal highs since Miaow Miaow. I know for sure that the comics get that kick too.
And that high is also available to audiences, which is what makes any live comedy truly special – especially, dare I say it, the This Is Your Laugh shows I produce, where comics tailor material to special events such as birthdays or corporate dos.
But any live comedy show is both live and direct – and never to be repeated.