open mics are “fun”

“COMEDIANS, You ever do so bad at an open mic, you can actually HEAR the light go off?
– by Alex C

Ok, so even though i’m considered a fetus in the comedy world, I must talk shit about open mics. (I guess i’m just venting.) Fuck it… I’ll say it… i’m bitter!

Lemme explain for those who don’t already know: an open mic is a live show where audience members (which are actually aspiring entertainers: comedians, musicians, poets) perform/practice their talents. With comedy, its basically a small, semi-private show held in a comedy club or bar at hours when the venue is not open to give “comics” (notice the quotations) a chance to practice their “jokes” for about 5 mins. The venue usually charges a few bucks or asks you to buy one drink. 90% of the comedians are amateurs & sometimes random people will sign up just because they need someone to hear them talk, which is as equally entertaining as it is creepy. Some aspiring comedians are actually pretty funny & if you’re lucky (which you won’t be) a professional comedian may stroll in, practice his/her new set & get the fuck outta there faster than you can say, “Anbesol!”

So what does this all mean? Essentially, its like fucking a blow up doll versus having real sex with a woman. Ever heard of the “fleshlight?” (Good, neither have I.)

The positives? You get stage time & can “network” with fellow new-comers. The negatives??? Here we gooooo!!! You typically don’t get quality feedback because the “audience” is actually just distracted comics waiting for their turn to shine. So while you’re up there practicing your new jokes or polishing your typical set, most of them are looking down fumbling through their steno notebook rehearsing their material. This makes it challenging for someone like me who feeds off the crowd & likes to improv. I usually end up putting in less effort when performing at a “bad” open mic versus an actual show because I am not willing to “turn it on” or “lose myself in the moment” like Eminem scolded me to do.

Newbies like me can get a few minutes on real shows as warm up acts if (A) you’re really good, (B) you’re good enough & know the host/producer or (C)  can bring enough people to make the club some money off of drinks. Aka “bringer shows,” which is a whole nother blog!

Open mics are usually very “cliquey,” meaning if you are just popping in every few weeks or for the first time, you will not know anyone. (I only do about two open mics per week which is nothing in comparison to your average new comedian.) After you’ve done a good amount of open mics & build confidence, I personally think you’re better off trying to get on a real show & trying a joke or two out mixed in with your material that works.

And most mics happen to consist of people you would never want to hang out. Unfortunately, this is a disadvantage because those very same dorks are your only audience. The very same audience you need in order to judge your new material. When at an open mic, any feedback is needed. A chuckle at an open mic can be a standing ovation at a real show. Matter of fact, a pen dropping at an open mic could equal a giggle at a real show. So get to know your dorks because they will provide the much needed attention needed. Need i say more?

Another issue is how unsupportive most fellow comics are. They wait their turn, do their material, then run off like a guest on Maury Povich who just found out Terrell is NOT THE FATHER! (Usually, they are just running off to another open mic where the vicious cycle continues.)

Probably the most awkward experiences are when the open mic is empty or has emptied out because your lazy ass signed up too late. I’m talking: like 5 people including the host. So imagine… you’re in a large, dark room with many many empty chairs while 5 people are scattered through out practically falling asleep. This was hard for me up until recently when I had a mental break through: I thought back to when i’m at a party or a bar & I meet all these random people from around world. I think, “hey, I made those 5 people laugh in that bar & 2 of them were from Portugal! So why can’t I make these 5 Americans laugh in a comedy club?” These awkward mics are what makes you perform so much better when its time to shine. The key is to engage as much as possible & force them to pay attention. Don’t let it bother you if you don’t do well because always remember: ITS JUST AN OPEN MIC! I suggest you avoid your written material when the room is empty because now is the time to practice improv. If the one guy in the flannel shirt & big ears is falling asleep… WAKE HIS ASS UP! (and so on & so forth.)

Since I started in January of 2010, i’ve “bombed” at open mics a few times, yet more recently did really well at many. I realize that its not actually possible to bomb at an open mic for any comic because lets face it… it was just an open mic. Considering the circumstances, you choose your fate. Luckily, I have never bombed on an actual show (yet). Gracias a dios! But if you’re one of those who often bomb on actual shows or “bringers” then you should really consider your hobbies, my friend!

I remember my first open mic. It was a cold, rainy January evening, I was a little depressed at the time due to some personal issues & decided I needed to try out stand up comedy. I walked into New York Comedy Club (the show already started), had no idea you were supposed to sign up (everyone knew each other), so I made my way over to the host & asked if i could perform, she hesitated for a few seconds (I wanted to spit on her), I then waited about an hour an a half (while sneakin in Heinekins from the corner deli) until it was my turn. I was 2nd to last & by this time 70% of the room had left. I was a little drunk but went up anyway & “did my thing.” (Or so I thought.) Honestly… I did pretty bad!!! Although, I got two strong chuckles from two separate jokes & a clap (or maybe it was just a cough), it was just enough satisfaction to make me try again mixed with enough depression to make me come back stronger.

So combining all the negatives aspects I spoke about is what leads me to believe the cause of so many unfunny new comics. The system is all wrong! For starters, you should not be doing too many open mics because you will lose the sensation of how to perform on an actual comedy show. You might want to consider hanging around the clubs looking for stage time or interning (working) for the club for a spot. Secondly, most open mics have a depressing “feel” to them, so where is the joy in signing up for one? How can we do our best in a place that is at its worst? I also don’t think they should allow public walk ins. There should always be an advanced sign up, preferably online. (Ya know? The information super highway!!!) I also don’t think performers should be allowed to leave early. They should have to wait & support each other. And every open mic should be a competition of sorts limited to 15 people per show. The audience should vote off who they enjoyed the least. At the end of the show, the least funniest 5 people should be banned from the open mic for about one month, giving them time to improve somewhere else (like at home or a bar mitzvah, for example).

This may all sound crazy or maybe even harsh to some but in the end, it will “raise the bar.” (Or “raise the comedy club,” if you will.) I know I may be talking shit here but it will benefit us all as comedians and/or audience members. I’m sure i’ll be the one to be voted off at some mics but that would make me want to try so much harder. I mean, like anything in life, it’s a jungle out there so why not do “survival of the fittest?”

Comedic Natural Selection…

NOTE: not ALL open mics are bad (just most)
**ALSO, if you post your stand up video on YouTube but don’t mention its an open mic, then you are a mo-tard. Let us know & stop trying to fool people that you performed at Comic Strip Live when in reality, you paid $14 to join their open mic. Yes, you got on stage but don’t be shady & make it seem like they gave you a real spot on a real show.


2 thoughts on “open mics are “fun”

  1. Your open mic idea about a vote-off is excellent. The way to pitch it to venues is that people sticking around will “force” them to buy more drinks, cuz let’s face it, people drink when bored and sitting around idly. I think you should push it.

  2. Sylvia Mina says:

    Alex it’s your stand-up friend from Canada!! I love your idea Open Mic idea, raising the bar just a little bit will go such a long way. Not just for the comics but for the bar/club owners. You did a perfect job of describing the ugly truth about open mic nights–it’s the exact same in Toronto and Vancouver.–you rock, Alex!!


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