The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is still rumbling on, with performers from around the world showing off the results of months or even years of hard work! The Fringe is a big event for many performers, but for comedians it’s absolutely essential.

While the Fringe is undoubtedly the biggest comedy event around for a great deal of stand-ups, the rest of the year is usually spent touring endlessly around all kinds of venues with different stage set-ups. Unlike theatre groups, it’s often down to the venue to sort out lighting and sound arrangements for comedians.

This isn’t always the case of course: The Mighty Boosh, for example, rely on an array of sets and lighting to transport the audience to their surreal comedy landscape. A comedian like Stewart Lee, however, is more likely to rely on simple lighting that doesn’t draw focus away from the act itself.

In this post, we’re going to highlight some of the areas to think about if you’re planning to host a comedy night, a one-off show or even a major comedian anytime soon!

What kind of event are you hosting?

Stand-up comedy shows can vary massively in scale, with some relying on vast stages and complex lighting and others needing nothing more than a stall and a spotlight.

Often, the difference between the two setups will be the profile of the comedian performing. For an open mic night or small performance, a spotlight and a few simple stage lights to flood the stage will suffice. For larger performance, you’ll might to need incorporate LED stage lights, coloured gels and more advanced lighting setups.

Sound-wise, it’ll largely depend on the size of your venue. The audience should be able to hear the comedian no matter where they are sitting in your venue, so make sure you have speakers that can carry sound throughout the room. Usually, a well-designed sound system for stage will suffice.

Getting the right setup and choosing what to add and subtract usually involves a bit of negotiation with the acts themselves. Try and get a rough idea of what they’ll need for their act, but don’t be afraid to speak up if they’re demanding too much. Similarly, if you think their requirements aren’t going to suit the act, make some sound and lighting suggestions.

What does the act involve?

Stand-up comedy comes in many forms; surreal mini-plays, observational humour, black comedy, satire and so on. Each of these sub-genres of comedy demands a different approach to lighting and sound: a bleak comedy set filled with gallows humour wouldn’t be suited to the kind of multi-million light extravaganza boasted by stadium comedians!

Again, you’ll need to make contact with the act to determine what kind of show they’re putting on and what consequences this’ll have on your setup. There is one lighting consideration common to all comedians, however: don’t blind them with your lights!

What do the audience expect?

Most comedy audiences don’t go to a show to be wowed by avant-garde lighting schemes and disruptive sound; they just want to hear what the comedian has to say and have a laugh. This means lighting and sound for a comedy show should be relatively understated, making the comedian the focus of the performance.

Make sure the comedian is well-lit so that audience members across the theatre can see what’s going on; lighting the face is especially important as facial expressions play a big part in a lot of comedy sets! Sound should be clear and crisp, while loud enough so that everyone in the audience can hear the act.

For more information on stage lighting for performances, get in touch with PG Stage.

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