A great introduction can catapult your audience’s energy and focus and really get your act started with a bang. A bad intro – not so much.
Some years back I was sitting backstage at a large corporate function, talking with some other performers that were also on the bill that night. We started comparing “bad intro” stories, and I sat and listened, waiting to tell my story, for I thought that I had the absolutely worst intro story. As it turns out I didn’t! For those of you reading this who are not performers, you should know that you sometimes get a less than inspired introduction by the party’s host or emcee. To remedy this I started bringing a simple but effective introduction, printed in large easy to read letters, to every show. And I would spend a few moments with the person who was going to read it, to make sure they didn’t have any questions. However, all of this did not prevent the occasional mumbled, mispronounced and under-enthusiastic introduction I received. But one stands out as possibly the worst.
My “Worst Intro” moment happened at a show I did in Palm Springs for an International group of Veterinary Oncologists. (I know!) It wasn’t actually a bad intro; it was just what occurred right before the intro that made it bad. It was a group of about 500 and they were honoring individuals who had made great contributions to their field. The gentleman that was going to introduce me told me that they were going to be honoring a man who had done remarkable work with the orphaned and abandoned animals in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. When he received his award the awardee was going to show a short video he had made, then I would be introduced. The man received his well-earned reward and then asked them to roll the video. Here’s where things got a little dicey. His video was a heartbreaking montage of stranded and abandoned animals, and the music under the video was Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up’. (Click video to hear it.) At one point in the video a dog holding on to a wooden board was shown floated downstream. Most of the 500 audience members, including me, were tearing up and some were SOBBING! And justifiably so.
When the video was over the awardee thanked the audience and the host took the stage. As he was introducing me I realized I had 5 seconds to come up with something to say after I ran out on stage. Should I just ignore the fact that the audience and I were still wiping up tears, or was I going to make a bridge comment that would help the audience get ready for some comedy and magic? Here’s what I said: “Well usually the audience cries at the END of my show, not at the beginning.” Not great, but not bad for 5 seconds.
Back to the backstage trading of stories, and as it turns out the other performers on that night’s bill, “Comedy Sportz” had a story that made mine seem quite unremarkable. They were once hired to perform their show for a corporate crowd of about 1500 guests, and when the President of the company got up to introduce them, he first announced that there was going to be a massive downsizing in the company. He then proceeded to name some of the names of people that were indeed going to be let go. Some of them were IN THE AUDIENCE. The group was horrified! Some were standing speechless, some shouting, and some were running out of the ballroom crying! When he was finished, the President calmly said, “And now, the hilarious improvisational antics of “Comedy Sportz”!