Matt Besser’s Strategy for Camera-Wielding Audience Members

Filed Under Improv, Stand-Up Comedy

A while back I talked about the frustrating trend of comedy show attendees filming performances. I did a little research for a followup, writing Matt Besser and asking them how they handle this at UCB LA. He said:

This isn’t something that I’ve really heard a lot of complaints about in the LA theater. In LA the theater is not that big so it would be easy to spot someone doing that so maybe people don’t do it as much. Sometimes people will do it in Asssscat and I guess we don’t care because we’re not doing written material. On the other hand, I had a guy tape me when I was doing my one man show in North Hampton MASS. It’s 30 seconds of part of one of my bits and it’s totally out of context so I’m not sure make any sense, and then it cuts to me doing my outro where I plug my CD and website. So that’s a pretty lame representation of my show.

If comedians told us that it is a regular problem then we would have our theater manager patrol the audience a little more. If we saw someone taping then we’d ask them to stop and cut off a finger (not a thumb). If they did it again we’d cut off a hand. A third violation is when we then cut off the hand of the mother of the perp.

Matt’s punishment strategy is sound I believe. Even douchebags love their mothers.

But Matt’s got an even better attitude about it, perhaps stemming from his improv background. Check out this recent


performance where he actually gets up close and delivers the address about his dog Martin Luther King and his dream for the audience member’s camera, heightening the conviction of the bit.

It’s not necessarily something stand-ups could do, but it’s a brilliant example of a talented player using what’s in the room.

Edited to take out the Australian referrence. It was in the YouTube video but apparently is not accurate. Thanks for the correct, Jouster!

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Posted by Jouster on 04/05  at  01:31 AM

That video is actually from a regular Monday night show in Los Angeles in a restaurant/bar called What’s Up Tiger Lily?  The other performer is Harris Wittels, who is also a writer on The Sarah Silverman Program.  No idea why Australia is mentioned in the title.

Posted by Fifi on 04/05  at  07:49 AM

Yes this is my vid, i’m an Australian tourist is why it was taken.

I put the title stand the f up australia, as to NOT keyword spam the comedians on youtube, for my family around Australia to watch purpose only.

I’ve seen shows like this (on youtube funny enough) about L.A comedy nights, and this is one of the 1st things i wanted to see while i was visiting the USA, thanks mostly to the acts i’ve seen on youtube..

(And the reason i know of the Improv in L.A… youtube…)

I’m sure some SOB’s do tape these shows trying to make money off them, the majority don’t.

Mine was a personal vid made for my own memories of my time in another country, and to show my family the things i’ve seem.

If acts do not want vids, address this at the door when they enter the club.. simple..

These guys included my taping into their act, included me into their act, the entire audience loved it and i walk away from that club being huge fans of these two comedians and everyone back home will think they’re hilarious and love it that these guys COULD have jerks, but were great about it instead.

It was an experience all positive that i’ll never forget.

Just keep in mind most people tape a litle of a show for the memories, and you should make it work into your act to create a fan base instead of reacting negatively to it..

And i have no idea how my vid was found, i don’t mention the guys, so i’ll blame Dough Benson .. ;)


Todd Jackson
Posted by Todd Jackson on 04/05  at  10:32 AM

Hey, Fifi- Thanks for your comment.

I just wanted to make clear, didn’t mean to slam you for your vid. It’s obvious that Besser didn’t mind, so there was no worries there.

There’s a few people who won’t shut off their cameras even after being told not to tape the show. Those are the “douchebags” I referred to in the post.

I’m sure there’s a level of personal sharing going on here for people’s experiences, but there’s a lot of comics who are working on new material at times at shows. Stuff that’s ready maybe for that audience, but not for the larger public of the web. Once that gets out there, they feel frustrated that a new joke or set has gotten out before its been perfected.

To me, when you buy a ticket, you’re buying a seat to witness a performance, not to archive it for later viewing. The comedy belongs to the creator of it and they should decide how/when to share it. With the web, many of them are being a lot more liberal about it.

You make a good point about why you wanted to go to LA Comedy - because you saw it on YouTube. There’s definitely a value to getting stuff out there.

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