I was at The Stand on Saturday night and saw Marina Franklin excel at a comedy skill that's often overlooked - being a badass emcee. She confidently told accessible jokes while stragglers were seated and everyone placed their orders, she teed up the room perfectly for the first comedian and deftly transitioned the energy of the room between each comedian on the really diverse lineup. And I was the only one in the room who noticed, because the cherry on top was that she made it look effortless to the crowd.
Hosts are often overlooked or devalued in comedy. Often a show's producer will take on that burden or the role will fall to the least experienced act. Hell, we don't even have a host at The Comedy Store (shut up, yes, I just said "we" there still).
And part of that is because most comedians haaaaaate hosting. Marina, included. She explained her dislike is due the fact that you can't work out new material or even your favorite material and in New York, if you're hosting all night (2-3 shows), it's a grueling experience. Josh Adam Meyers, who was suffering the curse of competence and thus the king of hosting in LA when I met him, echoed the hatred of the job.
Going into more detail about the challenges of emceeing, Jeremiah Watkins explained, "When you host, it's your job to create the best show possible for the audience. You can't be selfish. 99% of the time, the audience is not there to see you. You are there to make everyone else look good."
And for a group of people who spend their whole career crafting a performance where they are the focus, many of whom probably suffer some kind of narcissistic personality disorder, that can be a bitter pill to swallow.
But there are a few brave souls who not only excel at hosting, but actually enjoy it. And Ardie Fuqua is one of them. He hosts most of the shows at The Comedy Cellar and their sister club The Village Underground and I have never once heard him complain. Ardie makes the crowd feel both at home and excited, Some of us were discussing how some hosts are like docents leading you through MoMA and others are more like circus masters. Ardie is definitely the kind standing in the center ring with a top hat on. He keeps the energy up, even on the late late show and interacts with the crowd well beyond the standard "Where are you here from?" or a forced joke about your job.
So, next time you have a great time from start to finish at a show, thank the host as much as all the acts you loved.