chapter  2
Interplay and the audience
Pages 25

Let us now look in some more detail at the notion of interplay and working with the audience in comic performance. As the playwright David Mamet notes, ‘doing the play [is] for the audience’ (1998: 4). As a (reflective) performer in comedy, you will be more reliant on gauging how the audience’s reaction to your effects provides a reliable measurement of their success or failure. You will be able to evaluate in real time whether what you are doing is working or not. Live comic performance relies on you, the actor, taking a more interactive approach, as the audience’s signalling of their engagement through their laughter provides a useful and instant indicator of the effectiveness of the onstage activities. In this way, as Michael Chekhov notes, ‘the audience is an active cocreator of the performance’ (2002: 146), and in a comedy, no laughter definitively (and sometimes very uncomfortably) means that no comedy is taking place when it should be! Comedy performance, then, requires you to adopt a form of ‘in-action reflection’ (Schön, 1987: 14) where you will monitor the instantaneous reaction to the activities that are being played out.