One half of Christmas For Two highlights the pitfalls of audience participation
Say it with me: audience participation. The comedian's friend. The punter's dread nemesis.
I used to love a bit of, 'You with the top, what's your name?' But these days I'm not so sure. As a solo stand-up you can pick on people without fear, but with a double act you're picking for two.
And this year I have managed to make my friend and Christmas For Two co-star Amy's life considerably worse with my appalling choice of audience participant.
Even given a sizeable crowd, I will manage to pick the Exact Wrong Person. Not just your classic Bad Audience Participant (stags, hipsters, middle-aged women with ethnic jewellery), but a pickee so perfectly inappropriate it's almost poetic.
Some months ago I pointed at someone in the audience and said, 'Oh my god Amy slept with someone who looks exactly like you last night!' It was Amy's teenaged brother. I'm told homelife has been awkward since.
At our monthly clubnight, Comedy Back Rub, I selected someone for Amy to give a back-rub to. It was Amy's ex-boyfriend. When I'd managed to stop her crying I promised I would do better next time. A month later I made a particularly eager punter give Amy a massage 'as a birthday treat.' It was Amy’s stalker.
At our first festival show however, I felt confident. There were very few dudes in the audience for a start and Amy had coached me with flashcard photos of her family, ex-lovers and stalkers.
One karaoke-themed sketch later and Amy's life was in tatters. How was I to know her friend literally has a phobia of singing? Like, she couldn't even handle that I was singing near her, let alone bring the harmonies. Amy has since been quietly dropped from house-sharing plans and must continue to live at home, avoiding eye-contact with her bro.
I've agreed to cut most of the audience participation in the show until things blow over.