In what setting is a comedy album best recorded?

By | May 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm | 3 comments | News, Opinion | Tags: , , , ,

Though recording a comedy album of any kind is largely just a matter of capturing spoken word, the sound quality of the laughter is something to consider.

Last night I (along with more than 100 others) was lucky enough to watch Patton Oswalt run through the new special he’s recording on Saturday. Besides feeling like I’m part of some footnote in comedy history, Oswalt — when he mentioned that he was recording the new hour in a gorgeous and considerably larger theater in Seattle — got me thinking about the crowd noise effects the listeners’ experience of a comedy album.

In the packed back room of the Nerdist Theater, the sound of 100 people laughing, to me, felt better, than what I’d experience if I were watching an album be recorded at a venue like Carnegie Hall.

In fact, in a big theater, the acoustics of the space force the laughs to echo and consequently sound faint. On Louis CK’s most recent release, Hilarious, though it’s clear that he’s in a cavernous room of the Pabst Theater with hundreds of people in attendance, the volume of laughs remain relatively soft, the sound of laughs and applause presumably reflecting through the gigantic space. As a result, there’s just too much distance, which only highlights the fact that your really not part of the live experience.

The laughs at a small, tightly packed space seem louder, bigger, and more distinct. Kyle Kinane’s album, Death of the Party recorded at the UCB Theatre in Los Angeles, boasts laughs just as loud as Kinane himself. It’s much more personal.

Though the live experience can never be fully replicated, there are degrees, in which we can get closer or further from it, depending on production value. So, how would you like to hear a comedy album recorded? In a gorgeous concert hall? In a black box theater? Perhaps, in a dive bar with a stage?

Let us know in the comments section.

About the Author

Jake Kroeger

Jake Kroeger has dedicated his life, for better or probably worse, to comedy. Starting and continually running the Comedy Bureau, a voice for LA comedy, by himself, he also writes and performs stand-up comedy in LA and watches more live comedy than is probably humanly tolerable. He's been a daily contributor to Punchline Magazine, now Laughspin.com because he loves and believes in comedy so much. Said of Kroeger, "...without his dangerously insane, unhealthy work ethic, certain comics would not have any press at all."

  • Jacob

    I certainly prefer albums recorded in small venues. Dan Schlissel’s Stand UP Records boasts some of the highest quality production value in terms of comedy albums. This is in part due to most the the recordings took place in comedy clubs or other small venues. These recoding present little echo or feedback, sounding as if the comics were speaking directly into a recorder at a stutio as opposed to a club. It creates a more intimate experience as well as an overall more pleasant listening experience. The comic sounds like he’s in the room or car with you, as opposed in a theater. I wish the comics who reach superstrdom would still record their cds in clubs, just because the product they produce is better that way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Torkey.5.Keein Manfred Yon

    yeah, for a CD certainly, the smaller the better. I mean, podcasts work with a crowd of three, in ways they don’t on tv. A few TV stand up performances would be better in more intimate venues, but that’s just not practical hulking cameras and lights about. No, smaller, intimate (that is, all on the same page, feeling close to the action) trumps every time.
    That said, there is also the concern (I imagine) that comedians are essentially creating a definitive version of a show or indeed a greatest hits. With a smaller room, there’s more chance of it not getting quite the laughs it deserves because a) too many of the too few audience have heard it too many times or, conversely b) the audience does not enjoy that comedian enough to give the rich intimate laughter needed. Unfortunately, to fix one often incurs the other. A larger venue fixes this, with more laughter and a wider spectrum of people, but the atmosphere just isn’t as great. What’s a comic to do? 
    Also, have you given any thought to a hash-mash of clips from different performances from different venues on different nights? As technology leaps and bounds, perhaps it isn’t too far-fetched to make multiple (maybe hundreds, who knows) recordings over long periods at a high level to get that perfect blend. Who knows. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/Torkey.5.Keein Manfred Yon

    yeah, for a CD certainly, the smaller the better. I mean, podcasts work with a crowd of three, in ways they don’t on tv. A few TV stand up performances would be better in more intimate venues, but that’s just not practical hulking cameras and lights about. No, smaller, intimate (that is, all on the same page, feeling close to the action) trumps every time.
    That said, there is also the concern (I imagine) that comedians are essentially creating a definitive version of a show or indeed a greatest hits. With a smaller room, there’s more chance of it not getting quite the laughs it deserves because a) too many of the too few audience have heard it too many times or, conversely b) the audience does not enjoy that comedian enough to give the rich intimate laughter needed. Unfortunately, to fix one often incurs the other. A larger venue fixes this, with more laughter and a wider spectrum of people, but the atmosphere just isn’t as great. What’s a comic to do? 
    Also, have you given any thought to a hash-mash of clips from different performances from different venues on different nights? As technology leaps and bounds, perhaps it isn’t too far-fetched to make multiple (maybe hundreds, who knows) recordings over long periods at a high level to get that perfect blend. Who knows.