The KJ facilitates its possibilities. They facilitate play. Or they can, anyway. Tonight I went to Pineapple Hill in Tustin, CA. They do karaoke 7 nights a week. On the weekends that karaoke is hosted by Jonah Snyder. He's an actor by day and a karaoke host by night. He hosts as an arm of the offerings of the bar. That is, the bar owns the system and hires the KJs. Most of the KJs I've encountered so far own and operate their own equipment, negotiating contracts with various bars around the area. At Pineapple Hill, the karaoke stays put and the KJ is but another employee of the bar.
As such, Jonah not only hosts the show, but helps the bar. He actively advertises the other karaoke nights, advertises the bar's food and drink, plugs for the waiters and waitresses, and assists in various bar management, from bussing the tables, to directing the customers in appropriate behavior. With this in mind, I find his hosting to be particularly interesting. He doesn't just perform as many other KJs do, managing the flow of the game, as it were (and he definitely performs in terms of singing some songs, here and there), but he also facilitates play in the same way a server facilitates imbibing, providing a service as a sort of concierge. However, his hosting style goes much further than that. He really cares.
I went to Pineapple Hill with a fellow grad student at UCI, Nick Persa. Nick does not play karaoke. He rarely attends karaoke and has no interest whatsoever in playing. More specifically, he does not sing in public because he believes that singing is not among his best skillsets. So though he was happy to join and keep me company, he was clear that he would not be singing. And then he got drunk. And so did I. And in our mutual drunkenness, while informing him of the song I would be singing next, he told me I should sign up for "Smoke on the Water." I had already signed up and, confused, believed he wanted me to sign him up for the song. So, I clarified, "Wait, for you?" and he responded in the affirmative, thinking I had meant that I would be singing the song for him, not that he would be singing the song. I shrugged my shoulders and delivered the request to Jonah.
I returned to Nick and let him know that I put him up for a song and his eyes widened. Then we hashed through how his request for me to sing a particular song turned into him being signed up to sing. He was flustered, but drunk enough not to be phased. Once his turn came up, he mentioned his hesitation to the KJ, who then tried to comfort Nick by pointing to me as his wingman for the song. Okay, I thought, I can do that. But I hadn't anticipated being Nick's assistant and didn't know the song well enough... and it showed. The song began and we were bombing. Badly. And just when it felt like we might not recover, Jonah grabbed his mic and sang along with us.
Jonah became our lifeline, bolstering both of us to power through until the chorus, where I, at least, was much more comfortable. Jonah saved our performance and in so doing helped us save face. More importantly, though, Jonah recognized the need to step in and save a new comer's experience. I had seen Jonah be encouraging, congratulate people, celebrate great performances, etc., but I hadn't seen him save a performance. However, I've also never seen a performance go down so quickly, nor had I seen someone so clearly uncomfortable at the mic move forward anyway. So, maybe this was an atypical moment, but I suspect not.
Thanks for saving the day Jonah. Thanks for recognizing that there's more context to a show than a simple performance.