The glass is Half Full (Frontal)
I’ve been a fan of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee ever since I watched Sam go on the hunt for an Eddie Eagle costume in a 2016 segment highlighting how easy it is to get guns in this country (spoiler: red tape keeps the costume at bay, but uncertified Sam comes home with guns for everybody).
Full (Frontal) disclosure: I even applied (several) times to be an intern at Full Frontal during college — Sam’s take-no-shit attitude resonated with a terrified, Trump-era, 20-year-old Miranda. So I jumped at the chance to see a night of comedy with the staff from the show, whoever it was. The players ended up being Mike Brown, Sean Crespo, Alison Zeidman, Mike Rubens, Mohanad Elshieky, and Samantha Ruddy. (Those last two are recent guests of GOLD!)
Throughout the show, cheers could be heard from the Full Frontal staff not performing, all hunched together at a table in the corner. The support for their team was palpable. The comics ranged from correspondents to digital media staff to writers.
Mike Brown, a correspondent, hosted the event and did an excellent job of managing hecklers throughout the night. At one point, he even pulled a power move and bought a drink for a guy who apparently looked miserable the whole time. As the comedians took the stage, it dawned on me that everyone had a different standup style and that this show’s microco(medy)sm reflects the community at large. Allow me to break it down for you, lovely reader.
The Topical Jokester
This kind of standup tells jokes like it’s second nature to them: Setup, punchline, breathe, again. The laugh per minute ratio is typically stellar because there are no long-winded stories.
These jokes are based on real-life topics that everyone can relate to, like current events, media, dating—anything that makes the audience feel included. This kind of set includes the comic’s hot takes, but not very many personal anecdotes. The goal is to point out things we all see and laugh at this darn world we all have to share.
The Topical Jokester is always quick, smooth, and well-rehearsed.
The Conversationalist is immediately charming because they are purely themselves on stage–insecurities and all. Their set is like talking with a friend. But this time, your pal lets you in on their most embarrassing moments and doesn’t shy away from a little light-hearted self-flagellation.
Throughout the set, the audience grows to care for The Conversationalist and appreciates the compassion because, well, it can be hard to feel nowadays. What’s sneaky about these comedians is that they can slip in a soapbox moment or two once they get people on their side, and this is where comedy for social change thrives.
The One Man Show
The One Man Show is a hoot. As tried and true “class clown”-types, the moment The One Man Show steps on the stage, their persona will draw you in.
Is this exaggerated character their real personality? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, The One Man Show uses their acting skills to take you on a journey with a beginning, middle, and end. Plus, if you’re lucky, they’ll introduce you to different characters along the way. They sometimes veer off the path to explore something funny, but will always come back to the story at hand.
At worst, The One Man Show is off-putting, chaotic, and will lose the audience’s attention. At best, they manage to hold the audience’s attention even when they are not laughing, because the story is so compelling and/or ridiculous. When done right, The One Man Show is impressive because it relies on situational comedy (what is funny about the story overall) and acting chops as opposed to individual jokes.
The Truth Teller
The Truth Teller is a controversial kind of standup because the audience has to be respectful and all-in for it to work.
The Truth Teller is open and vulnerable, sharing very personal (and sometimes dark) tidbits about their own life.
Beware: there’s a fine line between putting a comedic spin on sad things and putting a sad spin on comedic things. And it often depends on the room—an audience of empaths™ will find The Truth Teller’s vulnerability refreshing, but an audience of drunk tourists may feel it’s dampening their good time.
Under the right conditions, The Truth Teller can bring a room together like no other, and may just reach someone who needs to hear them.
The Dead Pan
The Dead Pan is typically someone who is already a little awkward in real life but has grown into it, enchanting audiences with their nonchalant hilarity.
If you’re someone who gets laughs when you aren’t even trying, The Dead Pan’s vibe may be right for you. In the same way we are attracted to those who seem disinterested, the even tone and nonchalance of The Dead Pan reels people in.
If you don’t seem to care whether or not you’re getting laughs, you’re probably going to get laughs. The Dead Pan does not engage with hecklers or do much crowd work; their material is smart and speaks for itself.
The Imagination Train
All aboard! The Imagination Train is a whimsical standup that asks the audience to jump inside their wonderfully weird mind and see things through their perspective.
Many of their jokes start with: “Imagine if…” or “Just go with me for a second…” When the audience is willing and able, a world of possibilities opens up.
Unfortunately, if your audience is too drunk, too distracted, or generally disinterested in doing the work of imagination, you may lose them. The Imagination Train requires patience and extreme clarity on the comic’s part, especially when words are your only medium.
If you find yourself attracted to this style but your sets often derail, you may want to lean into improv or sketch comedy, where alternate realities are the name of the game.
All this to say, standup comedy fosters a broad range of styles, so if you’re feeling stuck, try switching yours up!
Even the professionals experiment to see what works for them. My biggest takeaway of the evening? That the Full Frontal Team came out to support each other because community makes comedy what it is.