Monday, March 13, 2006

Tuesday or Friday?

Multi-camera shows that film before live studio audiences generally shoot on Tuesday or Friday nights. That way two shows can share one camera crew. I’ve been asked which of those nights I prefer and why? My answer is Tuesday and it stems from my first foray into playwriting.

A hundred and ten years ago my writing partner, David and I wrote an evening of one-act plays. It was more of an exercise really. We did four one acts in four different comic styles. The small theatre scene in LA was booming at that time. Melrose Ave. had ten or fifteen 99 seat theatres, one more charming than the next. To get to OUR theatre you continued east on Melrose until you heard gunfire then you turned right. Once you got to the first building that wasn’t on fire you turned into the lot and you were there. The 5th Street Studio theatre on 5th and Western over a pizza parlour. We were practically on Broadway.

Our shows ran Friday and Saturday nights for a month. We wanted to close before the summer and any riots. Amazingly, we had good crowds. (These are the same people you see on FEAR FACTOR.) On the first Friday night things were going great. Each act worked. Lots of laughs. The finale was an all out farce – people running in and out of doors, hellzapoppin’. It was 45 minutes long. For the first half hour the audience roared and then suddenly…they just stopped laughing. We couldn’t believe it. The last fifteen minutes (the big wild finale) was greeted with stone silence.

David and I were so thrown we didn’t know what to change. So we decided to just leave it, watch carefully the next night and see just where the play goes off the track.

On Saturday we had another good house. (Must’ve been a GREEN BERET convention in town.) The farce started, the laughs started, we braced ourselves…but this time they didn’t stop laughing. All the way through. In fact the laughs were bigger at the end.

Tremendously relieved, we concluded we just had a bad crowd the previous night (all of their cars had been broken into and they were bummed) and left the script alone.

But the next Friday night the same thing happened as the previous Friday. At the half hour mark the laughs stopped. But on Saturday night they were there wire to wire. And this pattern continued throughout the run.

What it taught us was that Friday night audiences are tired. It’s been a long week, they’ve just come from work and at a certain point they’re just pooped. Saturday crowds had a day to relax.

Since then we’ve always shot our shows on Tuesday nights. It’s the middle of the week, it gives people something to look forward to, and most importantly, they have more energy.

I’d feel bad for those four Friday night audiences but hey, they got home alive. You can’t ask much more from theatre in Los Angeles than that.


Anonymous said...

i've noticed the same is true when performing standup. friday nights are always a tough crowd. not only are they tired, but they're more easily pissed off about the two-drink minimum. and the alcohol doesn't help take the edge off. it makes them good and mean.

Anonymous said...

FRIENDS used to start filming at 3:00 on Friday afternoons and generally ran until 1:00 in the morning. Knowing that they were going to probably lose most of their audience (even with FRIENDS, who's going to want to park their butts in seats for up to 10 hours or until all their lower extremities go numb?) the producers would bring in more audience members in shifts throughout the evening. Kind of like rotating stock in the fresh produce section at Ralphs… But most of the audience were fans from or out of town who had waited months for tickets, so they were happy, even if it was to see only half (or a third) of an episode....