From a technical stage design, lighting and sound perspective, stand-up comedy is often considered one of the simplest stage performances to cater for. After all, if an act purely consists of a single individual largely standing in the same spot, then music, sophisticated lighting and an adaptive stage set-up are usually seen as unnecessary.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth, with the subtle elements of stand-up often requiring just as much attention as a multi-scene play. Whereas a theatrical performance often makes us well aware of the sound and lighting effects in use, the beauty of a comedy show is that the effects can remain hidden while still hugely accentuating the performance.

Of course, that isn’t to say the big, bold and dramatic can’t be brought out too! Using some of Britain’s top stand-up comedians, we look at the stage techniques they use for the screaming entrances, quirky routines and the bulk of their material. Once you’ve read this, we guarantee you’ll be looking a little more closely next time you see your favourite comic!

The Big Entrance

Favoured by Russell Howard and Live at the Apollo, the big entrance just isn’t big enough without the high energy music, flashing lights and smoking dry ice. During his ‘Dingledoodies’ tour, Russell Howard bounced onto the stage amidst the wild flashing of blue strobe lights and Kasabian pounding out of a sound system powerful enough to leave our ears ringing. It may have been an entrance more suited to a rock artist, but it suited the comedian’s personality.

If your venue is small to medium then effects best suited to large arenas won’t do a modest space justice, so a better option to create an entrance with klout is to dim the lights and then slowly bring the beam up onto the performer. Ellipsoidal lights are great for this effect as they are fitted with shutters. This means the lighting technician will have some control over the beam of light, so some parts of the stage will have stronger lighting than others.

This sort of effect is simple, relatively inexpensive and with the help of stage installation specialists, you’ll be able to fit the most suitable equipment for your space. Another effective technique utilised during Russell Howard’s performances is the use of floor and ceiling mounted spotlights used in conjunction (see above). Again, this is a great technique that can be used in venues big and small.

 A Splash of Colour

Gel filters might not always be the obvious choice when creating the lighting for a comedy performance, but if used well, this can achieve an impressive finish for a small investment. Jack Dee is one example of a comedian who complements his performances with coloured lighting, and a deep blue backlight combined with a simple follow spot at the front creates a simple but professional finish.

The Spotlight Scene

As you probably know, Lee Evans is a rather energetic comic! His performances are brought to life by his awkward movements and lively stage roaming, so the lighting at his shows needs to keep up with his energetic nature. If your venue is hosting a comedy act who’s likely to use the whole stage, then even lighting from numerous floor and ceiling spots should be used.

When ensuring the whole performance area is well lit, it’s useful to use the 3 point lighting system to divide the stage. The 3 point system basically means that each area of the stage is lit from the front by a single ‘key’ light. The second lighting source comes from a back light (angled high or low to avoid blinding the audience). The third lighting source then comes from the side to completely bathe the stage. This effect looks professional, creates ambience and most importantly, makes your whole stage the feature. Depending on the routine you may also need a large diameter spotlight too if the act creates a scene in which only they should be visible (see above).

We hope this has given you some inspiration for creating perfect comedy lighting for different styles. If you’d like any advice on creating a performance space for single or multi-use, get in touch with PG Stage.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.