Saturday, April 10, 2010

What's the best night to film?

That's a question I'm asked almost as much as why wasn't there a MANNEQUIN 3?

Multi-camera shows that film before live studio audiences (like BIG BANG THEORY and TWO AND A HALF MEN) generally shoot on Tuesday or Friday nights. That way two shows can share one camera crew (back in the day when there were that many shows). 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.


A Buck Short said...

My theory is they were all coming from shul.

AlaskaRay said...

I saw that show (thanks for the invite, just in case I forgot to mention it previously) and it was great.


WV: regasish - what you feel after that second serving of refried beans.

Dave said...

Wow. I direct shows in the Bay Area, and my experience is exactly the opposite. Friday night audiences seem looser and are much more demonstrative. Saturdays are far more of a crap shoot -- audiences have had a drink or two before the show and are generally kinda sleepy and quiet. (Sunday matinees are always older and it's anyone's guess. They're usually of one mind, though -- everyone is boisterous or quiet as the tomb.)