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26 April, 2017

Should Live Shows Ban Cell Phones?

Posted in : Culture Shock, Entertainment on by : The Pop of Culture Tags: , , , , , , ,

Should live shows ban cell phones?  I for one, am very pleased to hear that A-list artists are beginning to take a stand against cell phone usage during their live shows, an issue that as a professional entertainer has been bothering me for years.

Found on Google by Vulture.com

Found on Google by Vulture.com

Chris Rock Takes a Stand On Cell Phones

Chris Rock has a “no cell phone” policy during his current “Total Blackout Tour.”  When you enter the venue, you will be required to give your phones and other recording devices to staff members who will lock them inside of a pouch.  You will then be allowed to carry the bag into the theater, however, to use the phone, you will have to exit to the lobby and ask for the pouch to be unlocked.  You can use the phone in the hallway or outside, yet must have it locked back into the pouch to re-enter the show.

See the full article in the Orlando Sentinel here:


Others Are Getting Onboard the Cell-Free Train

Dave Chappelle, Alicia Keys, Guns ‘N Roses, Louis C.K. and Patton Oswalt have been vocal about their disdain for the distractions and other issues cell phones cause.  Chappelle and Oswalt have had each had shouting matches with audience members who were filming bits of their shows without permission.  Dave Chappelle has stated that audiences “cheat themselves out of the live experience” when they forgo watching his show to record it on their phones.

Comedians have to try their new material out on a live audience to perfect the new routine, that’s just the way it works.  As comics we are never sure if a bit will work or flop and the only way to know is by the response we receive from a living, breathing audience who is paying attention.  Even if the joke works, we will need to tweak it and work on it to hopefully make it funnier.   Why do you think great comics still show up at open mics; it’s so they can try new material.  The last thing they want is Billy from Omaha filming the new routine on his phone and then posting it on YouTube during the show.  Even if the joke works the first time and the comedian keeps it in his show, posting that joke on the internet robs the comedian of sharing it as a new joke later with ticket-buying audiences.

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Say Hello to Yondr

Yondr, a company founded by Graham Dugoni, provides the sock-like pouches, made of a wetsuit type material.  An attendant will place your phone in the pouch and lock the top in a similar fashion as a security tag in a retail clothing store.  You can feel the phone vibrate, it still works, however, to use it you have to leave the theater and have it opened by tapping it against a wireless device in a kiosk in the lobby.  Dugoni says they currently provide pouches for about 30 shows a week.  Here’s a link to learn more about Yondr:


Concertgoers use their cellphones during a Fifth Harmony concert March 23, 2015, in New York. The company Yondr created a locking pouch to hold phones during performances, creating a "phone-free zone." Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Concertgoers use their cellphones during a Fifth Harmony concert March 23, 2015, in New York. The company Yondr created a locking pouch to hold phones during performances, creating a “phone-free zone.” Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Educating the Audience and Cell Phone Etiquette

Kevin Hart kicks audience members out of his live shows if people are seen texting or filming.  At a Bob Dylan concert, my daughter and I attended we witnessed an usher berate a lady in the audience repeatedly who would not stow away her phone; finally, staff members escorted the lady from the theater.

Cell phones are still a relatively new cultural phenomenon, and cell phone etiquette has a long way to go yet.  Audience members seem unaware that we, the entertainers, can see you filming us, texting or tweeting or just ignoring us altogether for your phone.  The demographic for my audiences is very broad since they are made up of tourists from all over the globe.   10+ years ago if I saw an audience member take out their phone and use it I would call attention to it usually with a joke.  Now, I’d spend 55 minutes dealing with phone usage and five minutes doing the show.  I’ve adapted in several ways:

  • Shorter Routines
  • Timing Changes
  • Ignoring the Audience

Ten years ago one of my signature routines ran twelve-fifteen minutes long; now it runs five.  Decreasing attention spans have resulted in decreasing lengths of routines.  In the past ten years, my timing has organically changed as well.   I’ve adopted a fast-slow-fast style of timing that keeps the audience engaged and slightly off balance.  My onstage persona suffers from “Peter Pan Syndrome on steroids”.  I can be mischievous, silly and playful and blissfully unaware which is beneficial because it allows me to ignore whatever I choose including the usage of cell phones.

I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas about the pros and cons of cell phone usage during live events.


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