Quotes from comedians about working as TV audience warm-ups

Vanity Fair profiles some of the legion of stand-up comedians who work the trenches largely behind the scenes of sitcoms and talk shows in “Warm-Up Comics: The Funniest People in TV Who Are Never on TV.”

Seth Herzog, pictured above in the Wonder Woman costume he has managed to work into gigs for years now (#tbt holler!), is one of the few warm-up comedians who’s privileged enough to also appear onscreen regularly in bits for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Here are quotes from Herzog and other warm-up comedians in the VF piece by Melissa Locker.

Cory “Live” Almeida (Dancing with the Stars): “You’ve got 800 people that you need to stand and cheer and scream and go nuts. You need to make sure that they’re on your side.”

Kevin Bartini (The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Nightly Show): “I do the first half of the warm-up doing what I call my flight-attendant speech. It’s the same thing every night, and it’s specifically the things that the producers want me to relay to the audience.”

Seth Herzog (The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon): “You have to figure out how to get the audience excited, energized, engaged in a short amount of time.”

“My big trick that I’ve developed is to tell them very frankly, ‘You guys are pretty much the worst audience I’ve ever had.’ I say it half-seriously, half-jokingly, and it totally works. They get very insulted. They don’t want to be the worst audience. So they start faking it, and even if they’re faking it, it’s fine.”

Sabrina Jalees (MTV’s Nikki and Sara Live; Comedy Central’s The Half Hour): “Warm-up is like lube. What you’re doing is setting the audience up to enjoy whatever it is that you’re warming up for. [You want them to be] on the edge of their seats.”

Jared Logan (The Colbert Report and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver): “I definitely need all of the skills in my comedian toolset. Crowd work is essential, and crowd work is very, very hard to get good at, [because] you’re letting the audience talk. You’re improvising. You’ve got to be kind of Zen about it to be good at it.”

Roger Lundblade (2 Broke Girls): “Trying to keep an audience up after hour number seven is crazy. It’s like Stockholm syndrome.”

Ryan Reiss (Late Night with Seth Meyers): “A commercial happens, you go out, and then next thing you know you’re out there for 10 minutes, and you’re like, This is odd, and then you see the cameramen sit down. When the cameramen sit down, you’re in trouble.”

Mark Sweet (The Big Bang Theory, Coach, Everybody Loves Raymond, among others): “My job as an entertainer is to engage the audience, hold that energy, and then give it back to the stage, and keep that going for three to five hours.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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