At the end of every set, every time I do stand-up comedy, I bow to the audience. I’ve done this for years. Most people don’t notice. No one has ever asked me about it. And very few consider the significance. But, I do it for a reason.
Obviously, I bow as a gesture of thanks. I’m grateful the audience took time out of their lives to sit and listen to my words. I bow to those who did more than listen, who put in the effort to pay attention, respond appropriately, and offer me the benefit of the doubt.
I bow to those who *didn’t* interrupt my time on stage, those who *didn’t* spend the time rudely checking their phone, and who *didn’t* act like animals while in public.
I bow to those who decided that stand-up comedy is an endeavor that is worth their time and money, whether they enjoyed my performance or not. Even if they hated me, we have common ground in that we believe in the value of stand-up comedy.
But, I also bow for another reason.
As many of you know, during my show I have a tendency to berate the audience. I misdirect them and chastise them for their valid emotional responses (that I intentionally caused). On an extremely surface level, a spectator might think I am picking a fight with the crowd. I am. But it’s a play fight. We’re playing. It’s the equivalent of squirt guns and water balloons. Yeah, we’re fighting, but just for funsies. Certainly, I’ve encountered audiences who didn’t want to play. And, with other audiences, I’ve gone too far; played too rough. Usually, though, we play approximately the correct amount and walk away delighted.
Regardless of the audience response, I bow at the end. It’s a little Easter Egg, a hidden clue within the performance, to indicate that I respect those in attendance. To tell them it was all just a show. A staged presentation of a reality that has now evaporated. It’s a way for me to say, “I was just playing. I like you. Thank you for playing with me.”