Why Open Mics Fail

Open mics are supposed to help comedians gauge jokes and build acts.  For every open mic that last for years, there are about 5 that fail after a couple of months.  Why? I will give you my opinion.

Let us start from the top.  There are many reasons someone will want to put on an open mic.  They need one in an area that has a lot of comedians, or maybe they are tired of the open mic they have been attending. Whatever the case, a mic could fail if the person that is running it isn’t paying attention to it.  Just walking into a place and asking to let comedians try their jokes there isn’t enough.  You have to be willing to let comedians and audience members know that there is an open mic.  That means weeks and months of social media work.  You have to remember that the average person may not have open mic comedy in their list of things to do with their leisure time.  They have to be told and reminded that there is an option that they can partake in.

If your mic has no comedians then it is just a really sad meeting.  A lot of times I see a mic get started and it was totally because the person that started it wanted one closer to their house and didn’t bother asking any other comedians if they wanted to go to another open mic.  If you are a fresh comedian, a bunch of open mics are great.  If you have been doing it a while you may not want or need another location to perform. Open mics can be a chore, especially in large cities.  You may have to sit through two dozen people before you get to go up for three minutes.  Not everyone wants to go through that almost every day of the week.  I feel a lot of these mics do not take that into account.  They just open thinking that comedians will just blindly show up and that isn’t the case a lot of the time.  Years ago, we had someone open a mic across town from where most of the mics were located.  It lasted all of three months.  One of the reasons it lasted three months was because people didn’t really live in that area and were not inclined to drive all the way over there.

The last reason I feel a lot of open mics fail is a biggie.  The establishment doesn’t understand what is going on.  Someone wants to start a mic.  They go to a bar that looks like it has a stage.  They tell the owner/manager that they want to do open mic comedy there.  The owner/manager is hesitant.  The owner/manager then gets told that it is free.  Then when the owner/manager actually sees what is going on, they want it to end because it drives away the customers they did have, and/or they are not making any more money with a bunch of comedians taking up space.  There is a disconnect between some open mic runners and the staff.  You have to lower expectations.  Tell them that it could take awhile to get an open mic up and running where comedians and audience members show up.  Let them know that there will be people there that may not know a joke from a taint.  That way when the people that own the bar sees someone up there talking about punching the elderly that they don’t freak out and shut everything down.  This is the job of the open mic runner.

The job of the staff of the open mic spot, need to understand that if they only had eight people in there on that night, they can’t expect 70 to show up for open mic.  They have to be just as willing as everyone else to let it grow.  Customers may not want to hear comedy so they may not want to come in those nights, but that is something that will happen if there has never been live entertainment there before.  Either the customers learn to like it, or they don’t show up, and they get replaced with people that want to see comedy.

Open mics will fail.  Just like a business or a marriage.  I think everyone involved with an open mic should be willing to do a little bit to ensure the success of it.  That means every so often letting people know that there is an open mic that they can see comedy.  You don’t have to put that on your social media all the time.  Just inform those you know and try to grown it through word of mouth.  Having open mics benefit everyone.  It is a place to have new comedians try it and a place for the rest to work and improve.  It can be a generator of income for a business.  Which makes the owners happy and leads to them not going crazy when they see a new person talk about dropkicking baby seals.

Mic Etiquette

For 95% of comedians, the mic is the only tool we have on the stage (unless you’re a stool humper, you have two).   The thing that makes our voices carry over the drunk masses should be treated with respect and dignity.  Here’s a bunch of rules I made up.

Stuff about the Stand:  The stand holds the mic, but some comedians use it like a stress ball.  Some comedians don’t like to remove the mic from the stand.  Some fiddle with it and slam it around.  That is fine, but if you notice when you have the mic in the stand, that the noise is travelling to the mic, then you should leave it alone.  It is distracting to hear ever tap on the stand while you are trying to tell  jokes.

Get familiar with the stand:  Is it a normal stand with a base and a straight pole, or is it one of those musician nightmare machines with eight joints and a bunch of knobs?  Well, get there early and give it a look so you don’t look like a fool playing with it.  All you have to do is walk to the stage and look at it.

Mic holding: I am not about to tell you how to hold a damn mic…ok I am.  Hold it somewhere near your mouth.  That is why you are holding a voice amplification device.  If you have it down by your waist, you will not be heard.  Now, sometimes the mic is “hot” (turned up too high) and the sound guy, or bar tender, isn’t around to fix it, so you may have to keep it away from your face, but that is the only case.  Also, if you are holding the ball of the mic, covering most of it, then you will probably sound mumbled. Rappers do it to look cool.  The eight people at this open mic already know you are cool.

The mic is your friend, don’t hurt it!: I don’t know why this is a thing, but people beat the hell out of mics.  They slam em against their legs, they pound on em.  They throw em, and swing em around.  Don’t do that! Microphones, good microphones, like almost every comedy club has, is not cheap.  If you have a bit where you beat a microphone up, then just go to Amazon, and buy a three dollar mic to abuse.  The mic should not be an expense for the club.  This is extra true for bars and other places that may only pull out their mic but every once in awhile.  If you mess that one up, they may not have another one, and you are left with a dead mic.  Look, I get that you saw you favorite comedian beat a microphone up, but they can probably pay to get it replaced.  You probably can’t afford to do a mic drop, so don’t do it.  Mainly because you are not the only one that has to use it later.

It may seem like a silly thing to write about, but people have been asked not to come back to a spot because of how they beat up the mic.  That is like being a janitor and destroying the floor polisher.  Show the people running the place that you have respect for their equipment.  You don’t want that to be the reason you are out of future work.

 

Comedian Pet Peeves: The Third One

If you haven’t read the first one, or the second, you should check those out to see if I hit something that bothers you as a comedian.  Here are some more of not just my pet peeves, but a lot of comedians I have talked to over the years.

The Attention Whore:  We are talking about audience members with this first one.  This is the person that can’t stand that their friends are enjoying someone other than them.  They always thought they were the life of the party, but are too chicken shit to get on stage.  They will do any and everything to get inserted into the show even if it means making an ass of themselves.  They don’t care that they are embarrassing their friends because fuck their friends who suddenly paid money to hear this person tell jokes!

The No Notice Cancellation:  This sucks donkey balls.  This usually happens with bar shows where they either don’t give a damn about the entertainment, or the establishment caught the manager embezzling money and they are so busy with that they forgot to tell you they don’t have money to pay you.  It sucks more if you are trying to connect shows together so you don’t have to sleep in your car or call up that one night stand from three years ago, and beg to sleep in their garage.

Over Promisers: That may not be a word, but this is a thing.  Usually involves a promoter that has never promoted anything before.  They want you on their show because you are one of three comedians they know.  They say you will get a meal and a ton of money and a BJ, and 400 people said they were gonna show up.  You get there and there and only his family shows up, you get a lukewarm redbull as a meal and the BJ he promised was from is asthmatic aunt.  You have to blame yourself a little bit for this. You got suckered in by the promise of sexual favors and now you have to drive four hours back home.  At leas the redbull will keep you up.

The Promise Of Exposure: Can’t pay your rent or car payment with it, but people love to try to pay you with that.  I am not getting exposure from a bar in the remotes of South Dakota.  A talent scout isn’t coming to Medford Oregon. Some times it is a real possibility that something else will happen if you do the show, but mostly it won’t. People who ask you to work for exposure must have the largest assholes.  Only someone with that much shit in their lives can possibly think that exposure is this thing that artist eat up like Ramen noodles, which is what you will be eating a lot of if you keep doing all this work for exposure.

 

 

What A Major Club Will Do For Your Local Scene

The Spokane Comedy Club (SCC) has been operating in town for almost a year, and in that year, it has transformed comedy in the area.

One of the biggest ways that SCC changed the area was just in the visibility of comedy.  Before SCC, a very small number knew about the clubs that came before it.  For years I would have people ask me where I perform, and when I told them that there was a comedy club in town, they would have a shocked look on their face, as if I told them that I am actually a little person standing on another little person’s shoulders.  It was frustrating because all of your attempts to get comedy in the area to be recognized seemed to be for naught.  The clubs before SCC just didn’t do a good job at advertising.  Just putting a sign up in front of a bar saying comedy doesn’t work as well as it did before.

Having a big club in town means you will have more people trying to become comedians.  People see the club, and then think this is their way to stardom. This is always a good thing because usually those are the more vocal people that will get word out that comedy is going on.  This leads to more packed open mic line ups, but it means they will get their family and friends and co workers to come see them.  This works out like a grass roots advertising campaign.

A weird thing happened to the scene about 9 months after the club came to town, a lot of the more seasoned comedians stopped coming around.  It was weird because, here we are with a club that is being packed, and the people that stuck it out in shady open mic dens are no longer to be found.  I hypothesized that it was because the talent level of what the new club wanted discouraged these comedians to a point that they no longer come out.  That is quite sad because this is what all those empty shows were all about!  You are about to be rewarded now, and you stop coming around.  It is heartbreaking.

If there is one negative to having a major club hit our scene, it has to be with independent shows.  Before the club came to be, there were a lot of independent shows around the town.  Eight months after the club?  80% of those shows disappeared.  I think what happened was all of these comedians that were putting on these shows thought that they would be working the club, when that didn’t happen for a lot of them, it left a hole in independent shows.  Don’t get me wrong, there are guys that were still producing shows when the bottom fell out, but not at the level that is was before the club came to town.

The club has given me, personally, a lot more exposure.  I get to perform a lot more private shows for a lot more money because people have seen me at the club.  I also get chances to perform with some really big names in comedy because of them and that increases my chances of working with them in the future. Having a club of this nature in the area did good things for me as a comedian, and I think for the whole of the Spokane area.  This area has so many people, and the fact that no one was serving them top notch comedy was almost a crime.  Now that the club is approaching one year, I think it will do better things for our scene.