Saturday, I visited one of 4 sold out performances of the stand up comedian Jerry Seinfeld here in Tel Aviv. The setting: 10,000 people in a covered basketball stadium with poor acoustics. Here are some of the things that Jerry did to get through to the crowd. And was interesting to see how effective he was in comparison to the warm up act who had less experience.

  • Timing of punch lines. Know when to keep the flow of words going, know when to pause, and when you pause, pause for a really long time to let a point sink in with the audience.
  • Immediately build a connection with the audience. This is more than speaking 1 word of Hebrew, and more than showing how you appreciate the country. Seinfeld build an entire series of jokes about the experience of fighting traffic and crowds to go to a major event (and leaving it). It created an instant bond with the speaker, but also a shared experience between the members of the audience. This was a good set up for the later sections in his show that often were derived from material targeted at a US audience. Started to throw these types of jokes into the crowd right at the beginning would not have gone down well.
  • Fake eye contact, there was now way that Jerry could see anyone in the audience because of the lights, still he was moving his eyes around and holding them left, right, front, and back as if he was connecting with a member of the audience.
  • It was interesting to see how Jerry ended the show with a punch line, and then boom, said goodbye and thank you, walking of the stage immediately after. There was no time for the "well, this was it..."

Still, you could see that the whole 1 to 1.5 hours without a break is pretty tough even for someone like Seinfeld. You could spot when he was "in the moment" and where energy levels were dropping.

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