New Year's Eve Karaoke Hell: Surviving The Company Party

Does anyone ever bring props for karaoke? -- I Gotta Wear Shades

As I've mentioned before, my bar tends to have more singers than performers, so people don't often bring props with them (or feel comfortable stripping). I've had a few folks who thought they were real entertainers, though. One guy with a long beard pulled out some aviator shades and touched them each time he got to the chorus of ZZ Top's "Cheap Sunglasses." A lady sawed a cardigan behind her back as she shook her coconuts, evoking Beverly D'Angelo's bathroom performance of "Big Spender" from National Lampoon's European Vacation. And many, many people hold their frosty beverages high when songs instruct them to do so.

I've been in karaoke bars where house props like cowboy hats, oversized glasses and capes are used by almost everyone, and I've considered bringing a trunk of such items to my weekly show. Ultimately, though, I think my crowd is a bit too low-key to make it worthwhile, plus I don't want to be responsible for disinfecting everything or worrying about replacing items as the drunks break them.

Why do men with neck tattoos insist on singing Bob Seger's "Turn the Page" every time I go out to karaoke? -- All the Same Old Cliches

Stereotypes exist, my friend -- and they're not just for skin color, national origin or religion. After professionally hosting karaoke for more than a year and a half, I've become a bit of a psychic thanks to karaoke tarot readings. Sometimes I'm wrong, but here are some examples of how things often shake out in the places I've hosted (your mileage may vary):

  • Two or more women, over age 35 - "Shoop," Salt-n-Pepa
  • Guy with a faux-hawk and faded Chucks, under age 40 - "Santeria," Sublime
  • Super-drunk lady with lots of eyeliner, over age 40 - "I Touch Myself," Divinyls
  • Old dude sitting at the bar alone, over age 50 - "My Way," Frank Sinatra
  • Boy-girl couple that doesn't know what to sing, under age 40 - "Picture," Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow
  • Bachelorette party, any age - "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," Cyndi Lauper

So really, your neck tattoo guy plays right into the stereotyping game. Granted, I'd probably peg the dude to do Metallica's "Unforgiven" instead of Seger's "Turn the Page," but it all amounts to loud, mood-killing ballads either way.

The best part about karaoke, though, is that stereotypes can be broken. I live for the nights when Rap Guy sings "Would?" by Alice in Chains, or when Visibly Sad Lady belts out "99 Problems" by Jay-Z. You want to earn the crowd's approval as well as the KJ's trust? Then surprise the shit out of everyone and stop playing it safe.

As a Friday-night karaoke host at a South County bar, Allison Babka receives her share of drunken song dedications, occasionally makes people cry and even has been glorified by a singing psychic. She's considering adding "Call Me Maybe" to her personal karaoke repertoire, and she hates herself for it. Bug her with karaoke nonsense on Twitter at @ambabka, and use #rftkaraoke.

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