Monday at SXSW: Lessons in Crowd Etiquette

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The Funny or Die-sponsored Run the Jewels set at The Belmont started like any other Run the Jewels set: with Killer Mike and El-P triumphantly taking the stage to Queen’s “We are the Champions.” But what followed was a little out of the ordinary: a warning from Killer Mike—delivered with a smile—that “if you try to come up on stage, we will beat you up.”

It was a reference to what went down a few hours earlier at the rap duo’s Spotify House show, where a man stage-crashed and tried to attack them, and weirdly, it reflected what would be a weird theme on Monday night: if you’re watching someone perform, don’t be an idiot.

This mantra provides a helpful answer to the question “should I try to get up on stage and throw a punch at Killer Mike?”, but it was also relevant to queries like “should I yell a Hannibal Buress joke out while he’s in the middle of telling a different joke?” and “should I try to outshine Tig Notaro while she’s doing crowd work?”. Notaro found herself dealing with a guy unable to simply demonstrate the proper delivery of “That’s what she said,” as well as a few audience members yelling innuendos to try to help him out, and Buress shut his interrupter down with a lengthy rant that concluded with “I hope you don’t achieve your top three aspirations in life.”

But despite the distractions, all three acts were (rightfully) met with overwhelmingly appreciative crowds. Notaro’s dry wit was in top form on Monday night, and she demonstrated why she was one of our favorite comedians of 2014. Whether she’s recalling unknowingly doing a set and picking up a check with a chocolate ice cream mustache or giving a play-by-play of her experience being patted down by the TSA, Notaro never hesitates to make herself the butt of the joke, and the audience never shied from laughing with her.

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And we don’t need to tell you Hannibal Buress is funny. If you’re somehow unaware of that fact, you’re woefully late to the party. But Hannibal Buress is really, really funny. (In fact, he was our number one comedian of last year.) A bit on his recent Lasik surgery led to some hilarious material about Stevie-Wonder-isn’t-really-blind conspiracy theories, and Buress was able to riff masterfully on working with babies who possess less-than-stellar acting abilities. He left the stage to a standing ovation, setting the tone for the lovefest that Run the Jewels’ set would become.

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Killer Mike and El-P have an uncommon ability to connect with their fans on an incredibly deep level—physical, spiritual, political, everything. A Run the Jewels show always feels a little like church, with fans chanting, dancing and soaking up the RTJ gospel, and Monday night was no different. There wasn’t a single down moment in the high-energy set, and when it was time for it to come to a close, the blissful crowd demanded more, chanting “RTJ” until the pair came back out for an encore.

Which is why it’s so unbelievable that anyone would want to try to punch them. Don’t be idiots, SXSW.

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