A series of live performance experiments researching performer-audience-audience interaction. Stand-up comedy, for science!

These experiments aim to be the empirical contribution to the argument I’m building in my PhD on ‘liveness’. They are designed to expose the ways in which performers and audiences interact with each other. If the ‘liveness’ of live events is best accounted for through consideration of interaction between those present, these experiments should give me evidence one way or the other.

I have chosen to ground this series in the genre of stand-up comedy. A solo performer, a spotlight, and you’re set. It has to be one of the easier sells to recruit audiences, too. But there’s much more to like than that, from how identifiable smiling and laughter are in audiences to exploring the working knowledge of comics where 'warming up’ an audience is central to the success of the act.

There have been three experiments so far –

  • Comedy Lab #1 - Live Performance vs Recorded Performance
  • Comedy Lab #2 - Spotlit Audience(s)
  • Comedy Lab #3 - Human vs Robot Performance [led by Kleomenis Katevas and part of Hack the Barbican]

– and at the time of writing this project page I’m working on the analysis and academic write-up, current abstract below.

You can read the diary posts about the gigs these live performance experiments took listed on the right hand side of this page, or view all comedy lab entries via the tag.

We staged an experimental programme to gather measures of audience response in the context of live stand-up comedy, subject to manipulations that will attenuate the interactional availability of performer and audience. The gathered corpus of sensory data and knowledge of experimental manipulations was then used to explore various hypotheses about the experiential contribution of interaction at live events. In gaining a better understanding of the dynamics of the interactions amongst those present at live events, we hope to both progress concepts seen in Performance Studies such as liveness, presence and autopoeisis and guide Human-Computer Interaction practice as technological interventions become ever-more central to the conception of live events.