Why Is the Same Performance Great One Day and Terrible the Next

Some psychologists believe outside factors account for the wide vari ety of humor appreciation from different audiences receiving identical humor material (as at a movie). The rule is that you can not hypnotize nor amuse an unwilling subject. External factors like bad weather, current news (the stock market went down sharply), or temporary physical irritations (the air conditioning broke down or the show started late) increase audience tension and take precedence over our initial desire to take a vacation from reality. No performer wants to face an audience daring him to abruptly change their mood.

Audiences are really something else. When you're apprehensive and show a little fear and doubt because you're not getting any laughs, man, an audience will eat you alive. They sense fear, and it's like being in a confrontation with a wild animal that senses you're afraid. In both cases you're doomed.

—Richard Pryor

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