I heard one of the best ways to get into stand-up is to attend an open mic. The only problem is that those scare the shit out of me. Any advice on how to survive an open mic?
Open to Mic-ing
Dear Open to Mic-ing,
You have absolutely come to the right place.
Open mics are terrifying, I’m not gonna lie. It’s is one thing to make jokes to your friends, have a supportive online comedy community (cough, GOLD), and even prepare a set. But, it’s another thing to try that material out for an audience of strangers. I GET IT.
The audience at an Open Mic, unlike a real show, consists of comics, meaning they are slightly harsher critics than people who came for the sole purpose of laughing. Stay with me though, because open mics can be a place to find your comedy community, learn which jokes work, and get killer advice (similar to the kind of advice I’m throwing down now).
Here’s Avery’s Guide to Surviving an Open Mic
Start by figuring out what kind of mic this is.
Yes, there are different kinds because comics love to mess around. You will either have to sign up beforehand or just show up to be added to the list. Either way, show up early. (I’ll say more on that later.)
- Some mics are “Show and Go”, meaning the earlier you show up, the earlier you go.
- Some mics are “Bucket Mics”, and like the lottery, your name will be drawn out of a hat to see when you go on (Harry Potter much?)
If you can, email or Facebook message the host to figure out what the deal is. They are normally super nice and very used to answering questions!
You get to the mic in an outfit you love.
With you are a notebook and pen, water bottle, gum, and anything else to make you comfy and confident.
I definitely recommend getting there early, ESPECIALLY if it’s a “Show and Go.” I’ve gone as late as #36 in an open mic and it definitely becomes tougher to get laughs as the night goes on.
You will see a bunch of other comics conversing. Now, this is gonna sound crazy, but it is a perfect time to introduce yourself. They all had a first mic once, and understand how weird it can be. Be open and honest “Hey my name is _______, this is my first mic here. What are your names?” If you can find a girl, find her, but unfortunately, I am usually not so lucky.
Listen and Learn and Laugh.
The mic will begin, and it is an amazing learning opportunity. You get to see other comics doing the thing they love.
Take notes on things you like.
Be an active audience member.
Nothing is worse than the guy who is on his phone the whole time waiting for his set but not listening to anyone else. Don’t be that guy: Treat the other comics the way you want to be treated on stage.
The host will call your name.
Time to get on stage for whatever the allotted time is.
I would recommend either filming yourself if possible or using voice memos to record.
Use your notes! Do whatever is most comfy for you.
The time goes by so fast despite all the nerves leading up.
The host will ‘light’ you, normally by showing you their phone flashlight, when you have about a minute left. Once you wrap things up, thank the audience for listening and run off the stage. You did it!
Now it’s time to sit and relax, support the other comics until you have to leave.
If you can stay, it’s nice to stay because it sucks when people leave before your set. But also you have a life and staying for a 3-hour mic can be grueling. Try to get some of the comics Instagram handles to grow your community. Most comics are happy to share.
Then treat yourself to a yummy snack.
Listen back to the audio of yourself. No one likes to hear themselves talk but it’s important.
Write down what jokes got laughs, if even just a couple.
Write down which jokes didn’t go as well as you expected.
Write down whenever there’s a lull. Critique yourself but not too harshly, only to improve.
You are so amazing and funny and can only get better!