Got in a fight with the audience tonight.
Not a literal fight. Just a push-and-pull-back-and-forth-all-out-brawl for control of the room.
The crowd was split into sections - like cliques in a high school cafeteria.
There were the drunks. Unruly and loud, unfocused and proud. You just ignore the drunks.
There were the coworkers. A tight-knit group, out for their first work event together. It takes effort but with a little finesse the coworkers can be pulled apart for an hour or so.
The couples were there, on first or second dates, resting their high hopes for a good night out squarely on my shoulders.
And how could I forget the newbies? The noobs have never been to the theater before. They don’t know they’re supposed to turn their phones off. They don’t know when to be quiet and when to react. They don’t know how to behave, so you have to teach them.
Things happened tonight that have never happened before. I have a Plan A, B, and C for the most likely scenarios but I’m pretty sure we made it to X, Y, and Z before coming back to the beginning. As Murphy said, “anything that can go wrong will go wrong” - I just didn’t realize he was specifically talking about tonight.
I guess things didn’t go wrong - they were just different. When you get in a fight with the audience you have to pull out all the stops.
You duck. You weave. You dance around the ring, slowly closing in on the ultimate goal. You keep the drunks at arm’s length while simultaneously connecting with the newbies. You split up the coworkers and smile at the couples.
A well-crafted joke is a punch to the gut; a dramatic moment hits them like an uppercut. It’s an unending barrage of every trick in the book, but you still have to act as if everything is going according to plan.
And maybe it was. After all, by the time it was all over I was still standing.
And so was everyone else. A room of strangers, briefly unified in applause and mystery.
Got in a fight with the audience tonight. Went the distance and I won.