I love it whenever someone who comes along to one of my events and says they love the compere. Firstly, because the compere is often me*. Secondly, because “The Compere” is such an integral and often underrated part of a good event.
Nearly every kind of event with an audience needs a compere – comedy night, open mic, cabaret show, conference, networking event, awards night, training session, weddings etc. They all need someone to keep things in order between the main acts and events. Someone who can keep the energy up, keep people feeling what they need to feel at that event.
The only kind of event I can think of that can roll along compere free is a music gig or festival, where the feeling is usually ‘I’m fine standing in the rain as it’s only 5 hours until Kasabian is on’.
But apart from that, you can tell when an event is gagging for a compere.
I’ve been to events, often cabaret nights for charity, where there’s no one compering. There’s a lot of good acts but no one to lay down the ground rules. So, the audience chats when they shouldn’t. There’s no one to introduce acts. So, the flow of the night is constantly rocky. There’s no one to reassure people a drink-and-piss-break is coming. So, people get up and grab a drink as-and-when they like.
There’s no one commanding the audience’s attention.
It’s also apparent when you’ve got a compere and they’re either still learning or a cynical/tired/arrogant-piece-of-shit. I’ve seen some comedians do the “Who are you? What do you do for a living?” business and then do nothing with that information. They don’t even attempt to make a joke or use that to make the crowd feel a part of the event. “What was the point of even asking?” thinks the audience.
But, got a good compere? Then it’s pretty likely your event is gonna be good. They offer consistency while the mania of a live event unfolds. Got a great one? Even better. You audience will remember them, adore some of those little moments they created, so they’ll remember your event and what you do. It might even make the difference in convincing the audience to come again.
Here’s the one reason why I think an audience loves a great compere. I gave a little clue in that last paragraph, when I mentioned about creating moments.
A great compere will remind the audience why they came to an event. The audience could have easily stayed in and watched a million things on Netflix, so they should be rewarded for the fact that they’ve come to a live event, to an exciting space away from home.
They might do little extra things that seem off-script. It could be simple. Like a response to a good question, a comment on something an act or presenter said or a quick reaction to a situation e.g. a drunken heckle or a very loud spilt drink.
A lot of what pretty successful comedian Ross Noble does is compering, but playing with the combined imagination of his audience and himself. Another great example is Dara O’Brian, who comperes for the first 10 minutes of one of his live shows.
Great comperes are focused on the live event as well as their own content/material. They do things to help the audience feel like they are in the present moment, rewarding them for investing their attention solely on this and away from other things. And I do mean this in a mindfulness/Power of Now sort of way. I’ve felt it myself while compering events, I really love feeling in the flow of a moment.
And I truly believe audiences love this too.
*Y’know, I’m having a phase where I can’t tell what is or isn’t a humblebrag anymore. But I do know that that second sentence is a something a dick would say. I can accept that. Because I am one.