The Stooge

Part of the Take Control of the Hole series to help you become a Talkaoke Host

Being a good Stooge

What we call The Stooge is an assistant to the Talkaoke Host, sitting around the table for the entire session. This is a huge help for the Host especially if they are new to hosting Talkaoke. To begin with, it is easier to learn as team, with one or more Stooges looking out for the main Host. You can then swap around and repay the favour. Being a Stooge is a good way to observe what works and doesn’t work as a Talkaoke Host and develop your own style.



Meat on the Table

You have several roles as a Stooge. Primarily you are there so that the activity appears fun and popular. You give the Host confidence and are ready to talk at all times. Be ready to have something to say if the microphone is put in your face. The first priority is to say something and the second is to say something that will help the conversation.

Your body language is crucial too. Even for an experienced Host the trickiest moment is getting the first people to come to the table. People will sit down more readily if it looks like you are already having fun and your conversation is open to others. Sit forward on the table. Try to appear alert. Make eye contact with those around you. Don’t look at your phone or the time.

You are not a plant!

Although we refer to the role as “Stooge”, you can be open to everybody about your role in supporting the Host. There is no need to be dishonest. However you must avoid having a conversation that is too cliquey, using jargon or saying anything that refers to specialist information, unless you are certain that everyone in the room will know what you are talking about.

Creative Connector

The concept of linking is hugely important in Talkaoke. Help the Host give insights by linking the current stream of conversation to previous threads or to the central theme of the event. It is very common for those commissioning the Talkaoke session to have hotspots of topics that they are interested in. They may have an agenda they would like to get across. As a Stooge you can conjure links between some of the apparently disparate threads of the conversation and weave them into a seamless flow. Linking is a useful skill as it helps us approach subjects from an unexpected perspective- the more creative and leftfield the link the better.

Agent Provocateur

Saying things that are unexpected or provocative as Stooge makes the conversation more compelling. Being provocative is not the same as being antagonistic. Unlike the Host whose objective is being as neutral and unopinionated as possible, your role as Stooge is to throw surprising conjecture into the conversation. You can take sides. Don’t worry about being consistent in what you say. It is rare that you are challenged at all, but be prepared to defend yourself if you are.

Voice of Reason

The Host should refrain from adding information or opinions into the conversation. In some situations, especially with young people or a non-expert audience this may leave a dearth of received knowledge. In these situations it will fall to the Stooge to add facts or stories to the flow of conversation. Although it is The Host’s job to ensure mutual respect and kindness between participants, it’s The Stooge who can overtly contradict flawed thinking, misconceptions, bigotry, chauvinism etc.

Cheerleader

We all need affirmation, even Talkaoke Hosts! You may need to give the Host encouragement, or assist the Host in encouraging others. Be generous with your verbal and gestural support. Call for a round of applause when the session is over!

Punchbag

Most probably you will have to do the most work as a Stooge at the beginning of a Talkaoke session, when the conversational flow is slow and clumpy. As things warm up, your role will change- see above. Be ready to suffer some abuse. Just like the host in the centre of the table, it’s not about you. You are a prop to get the conversation going. you may be called upon to provide facts or information about the event, or link the conversation to themes or topic hotspots. You may need to be the butt of a joke. But you may simply be ignored. Don’t take it personally. It means the conversation is going well.

If Talkaoke is going well and there is a good flow of conversation, you may feel that your role is done as a Stooge and you can step away. Do still keep an eye on the Talkaoke table as the situation could change fast. A new Host may still need reassurance that you will be there to save them if something goes wrong.

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