Sound effects are like salt. A sprinkling makes the food tastier, but a fistful can send you vomiting in the toilet.
Twice, I have been a victim of overeager sound operators. (They sometimes call themselves DJs, music spinners, sound-men, or sound technicians). Whatever their name was, the ones who upset me had a penchant for drowning the audience with sound effects.
I arrive at the party and set up my sound system, not intending to use the sound system hired by the client. That should be crystal clear to the sound technician he’s going to switch off his sound system while I’m on stage performing.
He doesn’t get it. Without consulting me, he plays on his amplifier musical accents (cymbals, short drumrolls, toink and boink effects) every time I drop laugh lines.
The first time the sound-man plays an effect, I look his way and give him a Mel Gibson quizzical look. I presume he understands the meaning of the gaze and will stop playing sound effects, but he is dense. He plays boinks and toinks again after my next punchline.
With a big smile in my face (an effect for the audience’s sake), I look at him with eyes glowing like embers. “I’m in the middle of an act here!” I tell him, loudly, into the microphone.
I see a glimpse of one of my assistants go to him and whisper something nasty in his ear. So he stops.
That was many monsoons, torrential rains and floods ago. Last week, in another venue, I unfortunately worked with another sound-man. He possessed the same eagerness to play sound effects.
The same thing happened. I set up my sound system, and the sound guy played a sound effect when I started my show. Not boink or toink sounds but canned applause. He had played it all afternoon, during the games. The party host didn’t mind, so I didn’t think the applause effect was something to worry about.
Until time came for me to perform. I found out I thought wrong.
You guessed it. The sound freak played the canned applause as I entered the stage. Again, I saw my assistant whispered something in his ear, and the canned applause stopped playing from thereon.
You think I’d be happy?
Think again. I was not. The audience died before me. First, it went into coma. Next it stayed in the comatose stage. Then it withered and died.
How could I be happy when everyone in the audience turned into zombies and the walking dead? Do zombies laugh? Do the walking dead clap their hands?
The silence was unnerving. I rushed through my show and stormed out of the stage, dejected.
I was convinced the show bombed. I felt it flopped big time. I looked for my samurai sword in my roll-on table and contemplated hara kiri. Fortunately, I never owned a samurai sword.
But then several guys from the back of the room came up to me and congratulated me for an outstanding show.
They said it was funny. They proclaimed my tricks were amazing. They professed enjoyment in watching the show. Could they have my business card?
I was confused. How could the show be great when nobody’s laughing and clapping during the performance?
I had an epiphany. After hearing the reason for the scarce applause, I felt rejuvenated. Glow came back to me.
Moral of the story: don’t let the sound technician play a canned applause all afternoon. It just teaches the audience not to clap.