Whether it was a vaudeville act in an old movie, Miss Piggy on Sesame Street, or Bugs Bunny in a cartoon, I always enjoyed watching someone “get the hook.” It made me laugh. To “get the hook,” if it’s an unfamiliar phrase, is when a musician—or actor, dancer or comedian—is yanked off stage with a long hooked pole in the middle of a performance due to incompetence or, in general, causing the audience misery.
Have you ever gotten the hook? It may not have looked like the Bugs Bunny routine. But let’s say you were invited to perform a five-song set on someone’s show. You prepared the heck out of those five songs for the weeks leading up to the gig. You started your set and, after three or four songs, the show host stepped in and said, “Thank you very much. Next up tonight is….” As a show host, I’ve been guilty of having to take away a song from a performer’s set list to make sure the show ended on time. It’s not fun—for anyone.
Last week, the opposite of “get the hook” happened to me, and I can share a bit of advice as a result of my experience. I was slated to perform the last half hour of a fundraising event. So I prepared a set appropriate for the event and timed it to be thirty minutes. Toward the end of my time, I noticed that—with the donation part out of the way—the crowd started gathering around the stage just hanging out listening to me sing. After my last song, the crowd wasn’t budging, so the MC said, “ Keep playing, Diana. Do a few more.”
‘Do a few more?’ I thought. I had only really polished the songs I intended to play in my 30-minute set. So I said, “Sure. Be glad to.” We’re performers, right? That’s what we do. I had recently had a rehearsal with some other musicians I sometimes sing with; so many of those songs were fresh. After singing two more, I looked around—and actually said into the mic, “Is anyone getting the hook?” Everyone laughed. Then the audience started clamoring, “Keep singing,” and “Play more.” I looked at the MC. He nodded to continue.
After playing for over an hour, the event finally started to wind down. And I learned a huge lesson. Don’t worry about the hook that might pull you off the stage sooner than you expected. That’s just life. Be prepared for when the reverse happens—when there’s no hook and you’re asked to stay and play… and play…and play. Be ready for that!get