What’s a comedy anchor?
I can definitively answer this. Why? Because I made up the term. HA! Yes, making up words and then using them like they are an established “thing.” This kind of evil genius is usually confined to politics, but why should government employees have all the fun?
A comedy anchor is — and remember, I made up the term so brace yourself for some arbitrary defining — is someone in the audience you can go back to for callbacks, comedy, and interaction. Once in place, they are a reliable resource like an anchor is to a ship. Despite the arbitrary definition, a comedy anchor is very much a real thing.
EDIT: After a chat about this post with a magician friend, I want to make clear I am not talking about a running gag, though this is similar. A comedy anchor is (and once again, I get to define it lol) an audience member that can be referenced and interacted with multiple times throughout a show. While that’s similar to a running gag, it’s not the same. This person — the comedy anchor — becomes a character in the show.
Let me give you a real life, improvised example. I said to a woman in her 70s in the front row, “May I ask your name?”
Instead of telling me her name, she replied, “You may.” This got a big laugh from the rest of the audience, as her tone made it obvious she was messing with me.
I let the laugh ride, then immediately replied in tongue in cheek rant mode, “So, how long have you been an attorney? Or here I am, trying to be polite, and Her Royal Highness up here, is ‘oh, a peasant!” I know this reads dry in print, but it was very funny. And very importantly, the woman thought it was funny, because we were playing with each other.
I referred to her teasing a few times throughout the rest of the show. She became a comedy anchor for that show. My show was better because I had a comedy anchor.
What makes a good comedy anchor?
The anchor is established EARLY in the show. That means more opportunities for you to smartly use (not overuse) the ploy throughout the show.
It’s based on good-natured fun, NOT harshness. In the example I gave it was self-evident to everyone that I liked her and she liked me, so when I referred back to the interaction, there was no downside or meanness. If she was a heckler or awkward, then referring back to it makes the audience revisit the prior unpleasantness.
A good anchor is best when they WIN at the end. Late in the show while another spectator on stage was helping me, I leaned towards the anchor and said, “I apologize. He’s giving me a much harder time than you did.” Both spectators laughed. Winning at the end gives the anchor’s participation a bit of a story arc throughout your show.
Comedy anchors are best when PLANNED. The example I gave was unplanned, as I obviously can’t rely on that spectator response (“You may.”) in each show.
But what if you did plan a comedy anchor for your show?
What if a comedy anchor was a resource that was scripted into your show?
What if the callbacks to the comedy anchor were also scripted into your show?
THEN YOUR SHOW WOULD BE MUCH, MUCH BETTER.
Two Ways to Get Your Comedy Anchor
#1 Start writing. If there’s a running theme in my books The Show Is The Mother Of Invention and The Kids Know Best, it is the value of writing. Knowing is half the battle. If you know the value of a comedy anchor, you’re half way there to having one.
#2 Get Invisible Knots. (Yes, shameless product pitch.) My rope routine, just released, has a built in comedy anchor in the script, and will help you create other comedy anchors in your show.
Until Next Time,
PS: Surprise bonus sale!
If you go to Maweege, you’ll see there’s a sale on that, too! Maweege can incorporate a great callback to the comedy anchor established in Invisible Knots.