"Never cut a tree down in the wintertime. Never make a negative decision in the low time. Never make your most important decisions when you are in your worst moods. Wait. Be patient. The storm will pass. The spring will come." -- Robert H. Schuller
On my list of chores for this month is pruning a flowering cherry tree. We discovered last winter that some of the limbs were dead. However, we couldn't tell for sure which limbs were dead and which ones were merely dormant. Now time has passed and the tree is in bloom. Now I can easily see which branches need to be cut off because they are the ones without blossoms.
The same principle holds true for routines. If a routine does not get the response you want in a show, don't remove it immediately. It is hard to tell what caused the failure. It may be a flaw in the routine or it may be some other condition. I learned when I worked at Raging Waters, an amusement park in Southern California, that I didn't get as much response from crowds on extremely hot days. I knew from comments following a performance that people enjoyed the show. However, during the show they didn't have the energy to respond verbally or to laugh the way an audience would normally. Eliminating material from my shows based on the response to those performances would have been a mistake.
There are many things that can dampen response. For example, I have noticed that if audience members are seated too far apart there is less applause and laughter. If people are seated close together the response becomes contagious and they react more as a unified group and less like scattered individuals.
This principal is particularly true with new routines. If a new routine does not work at first you can't tell if the basic idea is bad or if you just haven't learned to perform it correctly yet. When you perform something for the first time feeling nervous is normal. However, for something to succeed you generally have to perform it with confidence. When I would develop a new juggling trick I could do it repeatedly in practice, but would fail the first few times in a performance due to being nervous. The nerves threw my timing off just enough that I missed the trick. Ironically missing the trick in performance, recovering and finishing the act to good audience response helped overcome the nerves. Knowing that it didn't matter if I missed the trick allowed me to relax and I succeeded.
What is true about juggling is also true about comedy. Comedy is based on timing. When you are nervous you naturally tend to rush which means the audience does not have time to think and react the way you want. If something does not get the response you want, and you let that worry you, the timing for the rest of your act will suffer. Deciding an audience doesn't like you can become a domino effect causing your act to rapidly cascade and fall flat. When something goes wrong in a show, don't make the decision that the show is dead. Give that performance and your relationship with that audience time to blossom back into life.
It takes time to determine if an idea is dead or just laying dormant waiting for the right conditions. Try a new routine several times in different shows. Give it time to blossom. Then if nothing happens, prune it out of your act.
How can you determine if something is dead or dormant? How can you allow time for something to begin to bud and blossom? How can you delay making decisions during a down time?