I love open mics. It is like the salon of old timey France. You can talk to people, work out and exchange ideas. For those that don’t know, an open mic is a place that anyone can go and basically practice their craft. There are music open mics and poem open mics and mixed open mics where you just got up and do whatever you want to do. I have done them all and I prefer doing just a straight comedy open mic because then you are in there with like minded people. There is nothing wrong with doing an open mic that is not comedy oriented, but if you are just started out and can find an open mic I would suggest that so you can get a good gauge on your material.
People go to open mics for many reasons, but I think open mics are made for artist to practice their stuff and to get better. Instead of staying home and not getting audience feedback, the open mic helps you see what works and what doesn’t. An open mic is basically a lab where you, the scientist, go and experiment. I do have a couple of suggestions for comedians though. First, if you are just starting out you will want to adhere to the rules of the mic. That is find out what the rules are. If they don’t want you to say the C-word or the N-word (And you know what those words are) then you have to prepare for that. Also you want to know the time allotted. A lot of open mics, especially in a big city, have a lot of comics and not that much time, and they can not afford to have you do 10 minutes. If you go over the time you may be asked not to come back. You have to understand that stage time is a valuable commodity to the comic that is starting out and it is taken seriously when it is betrayed.
If you are just starting out, the open mic is also a great way to get to know other comics and get aquatinted with the staff or owner of the place the open mic is being held. This is the second most valuable part of open mics. Comics talk to other comics and if you are good, your name will get out there and you can get more opportunities to perform (some may even be for money!). Keep in mind that it works the other way as well, if you are breaking the rules or not at a level to go further than your name can get out there just as easily.
I want to take this time to dispel a couple of myths about open mics. If you are an audience member and you thought you were going to get a live version of premium blend (A comedy central show that might still be on), you are mistaken. This is where comics work on material. Some of it may work, some of it may suck, but it is a necessary part of comedy. You have to take that into account when you are going to an open mic. People will fluctuate wildly from week to week because they may be working on new material or sharpening old stuff.
Another myth is for comics. You don’t always have to do your “A” material at an open mic every time you are there. A lot of comics like to do there good stuff when they are at an open mic for the first time to be established as a good comic and that isn’t a bad idea, but if you are going there regularly, then you should not be doing that all the time. I see that as a waste of valuable time. You could be using that time to work on being a better comic, then showing everyone that you are a good comic.
Personally, I go to open mics to work on new stuff and to hang out with comics. Spokane has a tight knit group of comics and I consider them friends. So, I get to do new material in front of my friends every week (sometimes more than that!). Because I go to open mics a lot I get a lot of stage time and can polish jokes and just hang out. When I am in Seattle, it is mainly the same way. Sometimes I go up and do my good stuff so I can show people that I am not an beginning comic, but have been doing this for pay for 9 years. I feel weird doing this, but it is necessary to get in with the comics that are out there booking shows and knows club owners. Next week we will talk about the comics that book shows. Thank you for reading!