Do you find this funny?

Who put that there?

Who put that there?

Like the picture? Thought so. Let me tell you what happened last night on board the Serenade of the Seas.

I'd just finished my show. The band was playing, everyone was on their feet shouting for more and I was blowing kisses. In my moment of glory, just as I was leaving the stage (floating on a scented bed of self satisfaction, actually) I walked in to my microphone stand and tripped over. There might as well have been a bunch of bananas on the stage. Of course the audience screamed with laughter as I limped off thoroughly humbled. I'd blown one kiss too many.

So, how did you react to that story? Did you laugh at my misfortune or feel sorry for me? Your reaction will almost certainly give you away as a typical American or Brit. I say typical because what I'm about to say will irritate the exceptions.

I told that story to an American lady right after my show. I just wanted to make her laugh. She didn't. "Oh my goodness," she was concerned, "are you all right?" Not the reaction I was expecting. "Yes, I'm fine, it was just funny," I assured her but she wasn't convinced.

I went outside for some air and told the same story to a British passenger. He burst out laughing and ran off to tell his wife.

These reactions are typical and good examples of the differences in American and British humour. It's important for anyone performing to international audiences to understand what makes different nations tick. And by tick I mean laugh.

Here's another example. This happened just last week.

I've been telling (a true) story for years about a time a passenger inadvertently insulted me right to my face. The night after performing my Sinatra show I was sitting in the audience waiting for the next show to start. I started chatting to the guy sitting next to me and said, “Have you noticed how people always seem to sit on the end of the rows first when they come in to the theatre, and then spend the next 15 minutes having to let people squeeze in past them?” “Yes,” he said, “my wife and I were just talking about that.” “You know why they do it don't you?” I said, “Because it the show's rubbish they can just get up and leave!” “Oh yes,” he said, “we did that last night for that Sinatra bloke.”

I always tell this story in my show. It's true and gets a nice laugh. A week ago I was outside the theatre chatting to guests after my show and two young women came up to say how they had enjoyed the show. They seemed very earnest. One of them put her hand on my arm in a reassuring way, "You are wonderful," she said, "we felt just awful about what that man said to you." I was lost. "Which man?" "The man who said he walked out of your show. So rude and really, you're not awful." They'd completely missed the point. I tell the story because it's funny, self-effacing and as it happens, true. They thought I'd told it as a plea for sympathy. As if I'd do that in the middle of a show! Bless there hearts, but no.

A final example. When I work to British audiences I like to close with a quote from Dr Johnson:

"Taking a voyage is like being in prison. With the added risk of drowning."

Brits love this kind of dry, dark wit. Not Americans. "Did he say drowning? Why would he say that when we're on a cruise ship?" They simply do not get it and actually, with this particular line, they do not like it. It makes them feel uncomfortable.

Many comics revel in making their audience feel uncomfortable (listen to my Podcasts with Anthony Davis and Harry The Piano) but I'm not a comic. I sing nice songs punctuated with pleasant humour. Unless it makes everyone feel good I've no business doing it.

Lesson: Understand your audience; if it doesn't work cut it; and always, always remember where you left your microphone stand.

So what do you think? Do Americans different find different things funny to the British or is it just my imagination? Leave a comment and let me know.

Do you find this funny?

Like the picture? Thought so. Let me tell you what happened last night on board the Serenade of the Seas. Who put that there?

I'd just finished my show. The band was playing, everyone was on their feet shouting for more and I was blowing kisses. In my moment of glory, just as I was leaving the stage (floating on a scented bed of self satisfaction, actually) I walked in to my microphone stand and tripped over. There might as well have been a bunch of bananas on the stage. Of course the audience screamed with laughter as I limped off thoroughly humbled. I'd blown one kiss too many.

So, how did you react to that story? Did you laugh at my misfortune or feel sorry for me? Your reaction will almost certainly give you away as a typical American or Brit. I say typical because what I'm about to say will irritate the exceptions.

I told that story to an American lady right after my show. I just wanted to make her laugh. She didn't. "Oh my goodness," she was concerned, "are you all right?" Not the reaction I was expecting. "Yes, I'm fine, it was just funny," I assured her but she wasn't convinced.

I went outside for some air and told the same story to a British passenger. He burst out laughing and ran off to tell his wife.

These reactions are typical and good examples of the differences in American and British humour. It's important for anyone performing to international audiences to understand what makes different nations tick. And by tick I mean laugh.

Here's another example. This happened just last week.

I've been telling (a true) story for years about a time a passenger inadvertently insulted me right to my face. The night after performing my Sinatra show I was sitting in the audience waiting for the next show to start. I started chatting to the guy sitting next to me and said, “Have you noticed how people always seem to sit on the end of the rows first when they come in to the theatre, and then spend the next 15 minutes having to let people squeeze in past them?” “Yes,” he said, “my wife and I were just talking about that.” “You know why they do it don't you?” I said, “Because it the show's rubbish they can just get up and leave!” “Oh yes,” he said, “we did that last night for that Sinatra bloke.”

I always tell this story in my show. It's true and gets a nice laugh. A week ago I was outside the theatre chatting to guests after my show and two young women came up to say how they had enjoyed the show. They seemed very earnest. One of them put her hand on my arm in a reassuring way, "You are wonderful," she said, "we felt just awful about what that man said to you." I was lost. "Which man?" "The man who said he walked out of your show. So rude and really, you're not awful." They'd completely missed the point. I tell the story because it's funny, self-effacing and as it happens, true. They thought I'd told it as a plea for sympathy. As if I'd do that in the middle of a show! Bless there hearts, but no.

A final example. When I work to British audiences I like to close with a quote from Dr Johnson:

"Taking a voyage is like being in prison. With the added risk of drowning."

Brits love this kind of dry, dark wit. Not Americans. "Did he say drowning? Why would he say that when we're on a cruise ship?" They simply do not get it and actually, with this particular line, they do not like it. It makes them feel uncomfortable.

Many comics revel in making their audience feel uncomfortable (listen to my Podcasts with Anthony Davis and Harry The Piano) but I'm not a comic. I sing nice songs punctuated with pleasant humour. Unless it makes everyone feel good I've no business doing it.

Lesson: Understand your audience; if it doesn't work cut it; and always, always remember where you left your microphone stand.

So what do you think? Do Americans different find different things funny to the British or is it just my imagination? Leave a comment and let me know.

Let's hear it for cruise ship entertainers!

Time Out London

Time Out London

Pick up this week's Time Out London and turn to page 64 to find my 5 reasons to love cruise ship cabaret. Variety isn't dead, it's just moved to sea. Giving credit to the cruise industry is something I talk a lot about in the book. It gives great work to 1000s of entertainers and the guests onboard love it. Thank goodness the cruise industry is going from strength to strength.

The article's also online here.

Let's hear it for cruise ship entertainers!

Pick up this week's Time Out London and turn to page 64 to find my 5 reasons to love cruise ship cabaret. Variety isn't dead, it's just moved to sea. Giving credit to the cruise industry is something I talk a lot about in the book. It gives great work to 1000s of entertainers and the guests onboard love it. Thank goodness the cruise industry is going from strength to strength.

The article's also online here.

Time Out London

Cabaret Secrets in The Stage

Buy this week's Stage newspaper and you'll find a full page article by yours truly on cabaret for musical theatre performers. It's nice timing as the book is just available from all download sites and in paperback form at Amazon. I also chatted to Carl Wheatley at BBC Radio Humberside yesterday about the book and recorded an interview with BBC Radio Cumbria's Harry King for broadcast soon.

What has Simon Cowell got against cruise ships?

Amongst the genuine talent in every year’s ‘X’ Factor, the usual batch of hopeless hopefuls is paraded around for our guilty pleasure. Despite their various failings, I pity the contestant that should prompt Simon Cowell’s now annual criticism of being “too cabaret”, or “too cruise ship”.

Using cruise ships as a term of abuse is a predictable pastime for Cowell, but what’s he basing his opinions on? Has he been on a cruise recently? Does he know, for example, that Rihanna’s worked on one? How about Tony Bennett? Would he call James Taylor too cruise ship? They’ve all done it. Perhaps he’d be interested to know that Chicago is currently wowing audiences in a 1380 seat, state of the art theatre at sea. Too “cruise ship” for Mr Cowell?

We should remember that we’re talking about the man who introduced the British public to a Michael Jackson impersonator dressed as Darth Vader and the fleeting joys of Jedward. Two acts unlikely to be invited to grace the stage of any ship I know.

So what does Cowell mean when he says, “too cruise ship”? Tired lounge acts churning out wallpaper music? Maybe he saw Frasier Crane’s encounter with The Barracuda and thinks all cruise ship acts are washed up has-beens who spend more time working on their tans than their acts. Or maybe he cringed at the stale cruise director in ‘Out To Sea’ with an act cheesier than a fondue party. Well, yes, you might find a bit of that lingering in the recesses of some ships where the carpets are as old as the jokes, but it’s far from representative. Things have come a long way since the Love Boat.

Cruise entertainment presents some unique challenges. Audiences can be very mixed: young families on a budget, retired executives and people from all parts of the globe with their own cultural references and languages - each with their own idea of what constitutes good entertainment. With such a wide degree of tastes and expectations it’s often necessary to appeal to as many people as possible by presenting a ‘safe’ selection of inoffensive comedy, music and dance. Anything too specific risks alienating sections of the audience. Larger ships solve this by offering something for everyone in multiple venues. Choice is paramount and it’s easy to forget you’re on a ship at all. Celebrity’s Solstice class, for example, offers seven completely different entertainment venues. On any evening you could enjoy a classical recital, contemporary jazz, or a Cirque de Soleil style production show. It’s up to you.

To read more, download your copy of 'Cabaret Secrets' - the indispensable signer's guide on how to create your own show, travel the world and get paid to do what you love. Sign up to the newsletter on the main page right now for your half-off coupon.

Cabaret Secrets (c) 2013