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How to Perform Stand-up in an Arena –by Russell Peters

This guest post was submitted by international superstar comic Russell Peters…

Gee, I wish I had this blog post when I first did arenas. I’m actually jealous of young comics who will read this and not make my same arena mistakes.

Performing for the King of Jordan is one beast, taping your first DVD is another (don’t get me started on recording your fourth DVD…fourth is the worst), but killing in an arena or arena-like setting is harder than a Karuvaattu kozhambu on Sankranti! (ZING!! Sorry, Mom!)

But you know I’m a lover of the people. So against my agent’s, manager’s, and Carlos Mencia’s request, here’s tips on how to perform in an arena…

Make the room feel small

Arenas are HUGE, but a proper comedy room is small. Pretend the room isn’t an arena, but rather a large to mid-sized theatre. Think Carnegie Hall from the eyes of a midget – now double that. Place a stool on the stage to make it feel “clubby”.

Appeal to each and every audience member

Your audience just paid upwards of $250 for a ticket, they deserve to laugh. Even those who just paid $80. You need to appeal to the lowest common denominator, which means dumbing down your material. Master what I call the “Triangle of Joke Telling”: DICK – ETHNIC – GAY. Start with a dick joke, then a solid 90 minutes of ethnic stereotyping, close on a gay joke. (Then, RAKE IN THE CANADIAN $$$ !!!)

Sell T-shirts

19,000 people x $35 = You can soon quit this comedy shit and start doing FILMS. Not movies, but FILMS.

Do as many arenas as possible

You know what they say: Practice, practice, practice. Just get up there! If I didn’t take the arena plunge years ago, I’d still be stuck doing fucking concert halls. Never turn down an arena. (Even Baltimore-based arenas, Dane!!)

Clear the mic stand

SIKE!! There is no mic stand, you’ll be using a wireless over-the-ear mic. I recommend the WR8UN42 from Sony. (Much better than than WR8UN20, see my detailed review on CNET)

Embrace the applause break

One symptom of arenas is the lack of laughter and rise of the applause breaks. Embrace it. It’s probably your audience’s first ever comedy show, those idiots don’t know they’re supposed to LAUGH. HA!! And be sure to call it “football” not “soccer”, your audience will find this relatable.

Be animated

You can’t just get up there and tell jokes, you gotta move around. People expect a song and dance. You want the go back in row ‘ZZ’ to see you – on the Jumbotron. Bring visuals on the stage: props, puppets, melons, a guitar, fake brick walls.


Do you know what ‘Fuck’ sounds like over 500,000 watts?? Just imagine the acoustics, “FFFFFFFFUCK!!!” It will KILL! You’re already probably laughing now.

Have fun

Don’t forget this one! Enjoy yourself up there, you’ve earned it! Or maybe you haven’t. But BE SAFE! Wear a condom. Cause you’re gonna get SOOO laid. <|;-) <---Winking Indian with turban Look out for my next post: How to Perform at Open and Closed Air Stadiums during Super Bowl Halftime Shows


Author Description

Phil Schwarzmann

I'm a writer, stand-up comic, and author of “How to Marry a Finnish Girl” (Gummerus Publishers, 2011). Better! Funner! is where I write. Poorly. More of my jibber-jabber at:

Buy my fucking book! (please)


Phil’s debut humor book, “How to Marry a Finnish Girl” is out now on Gummerus Publishers.

About Better! Funner!


Better! Funner! is a blog written and curated by Phil Schwarzmann. You’ll find funny original pieces, some not-so-funny pieces, plus stuff that made Phil laugh from around them internets. Enjoy!