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Recording Comedy is No Laughing Matter

Anthony Leo's 800 Pound Gorilla Media is an AV production company that specializes in recording and shooting comedy specials.

Anthony Leo
Anthony Leo.

Nashville, TN (February 1, 2023)—Anthony Leo originally founded 800 Pound Gorilla Media as a comedy record label, but has since morphed it into an AV production company recording and shooting comedy specials.

Leo has now been doing audio and video production in Nashville for 16 years. “We do albums, shoot comedy specials; we aim to be a supportive service for every stage of a comedian’s career,” he says.

Comedy venue recording isn’t like capturing a room for music, he explains. “You want to grab stereo ‘pockets’ around the room, where the crowd mics don’t pick up too much of the comic’s voice through the PA. If there’s too much of the comic in the crowd mics, you can’t raise the crowd level without also raising the comic’s echo; that’s why some comedy albums sound like they were recorded in a tunnel. The PA is almost your enemy.”

Added to this, the production team has to work within the comic’s preferences for their project. “Comics get to select where their specials are shot, because they know the venue and their audience. We have to find places to mount mics for good capture without showing up on camera.”

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Recently, Leo’s team recorded a Leanne Morgan comedy special at the Lexington Opera House in Lexington, Kentucky. One set of mics was placed above the highest balcony, angled down 60º to pick up the seats clearly. To capture a wide crowd sound on the main floor, his team had to mount mics on the theater’s ornamental columns. Once placed, the mics had to be ready to go, and stopping the show to replace batteries wasn’t an option.

“I can throw two Lithium batteries in the Lectrosonics HMa plug-on transmitter and it’ll run phantom power for almost five hours. That’s fantastic, because we have to turn them on, make sure everything’s good, and then they open the doors, seat the crowd, run the opening comics, do announcements and deal with various delays. I don’t have to worry about losing a mic toward the end of the headliner’s act, when the crescendo is happening.”

Leo uses Lectrosonics for the comic’s primary and backup handheld mics, including the Lectrosonics HHa handheld transmitter with HHC or HHVMC capsule, as well as a lavalier with SMQV Belt-Pack transmitter to capture the comic when they go off mic or use the handheld mic as a prop.