The community of open mike comedy acts is extremely diverse. Young, old, gay, straight, posh, political, deranged, delightful, neuro-divergent and the rest. There are but a few common denominators among this extraordinary population of performers.
Among them is courage. It takes bravery to get up on that stage and try and make a room full of strangers laugh. Remember, courage is not about never being scared. It is being scared and doing it anyway.
It strikes me that another shared trait is that prior to performing stand-up, these impressive people loved being the audience for stand-up.
There are a hell of a lot of benefits that emanate from having the stones to try stand-up comedy. Even more good news for potential comedians, there are very few barriers to entry.
In order to achieve those benefits, the budding comic really has it laid out for them.
Wherever there is an open mike night, there is an opportunity to perform. Once the budding comedian arrives at the venue, the promoter will provide the stage, lights, microphone and PA system, fellow funny people, a bar and (hopefully) an audience.
Certainly, some effort still has to be put in by the person wanting some stage time. Think up ideas. turn them into decent jokes. Memorise. locate mikes to perform at. Apply to perform and when the answer is “yes” then there is a need to block out the time and travel to and from.
Yes. The above is partly simplistic. The “Think up ideas, turn them into decent jokes…” line is entirely reductive. That’s the hard part. Yet it comes as a true challenge waaaay after performing those first few times.
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e-book to help new acts navigate the scene and transform those ideas into proper gags. Just click on the images and links.
It’s locating a show and booking a spot that is pretty darned easy. As is the time and travel commitment.
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The way to those ripe rewards resulting from “giving it a go” is more straight-forward than many comparable hobbies or skill-building missions.
One might wish to join a sports team, such as rugby. What would a budding scrum-half have to do to get hooked up and on the field? Surely they’d need to contact a local club, make an appointment to come and watch, have a chat. Then perhaps have a try-out session. Join training. Acquire the right “kit”. Fight for the right to play. Block out the appropriate time and commit.
How about wishing to add a new life-skill? What’s the process for, say, a wistful painter to get moving on their ambition? At very least, purchase the canvas, paints, brushes and easel. Maybe locate, and pay for, classes. Time and commitment.
Maybe performing in a band has great appeal as a creative and social pleasure? In which case, go and find the correct range of musicians. Convince them to unify. Agree on the “direction”. Hope you all get on. Only rehearse when all 5 members are available. Write, edit, drop and save your written songs. Rehearse like hell. Find gigs. Travel to gigs. Time and commitment.
The blooming open miker need not buy any equipment. No coordinating schedules of several people. No auditioning. No consulting on artistic “direction”.
The first time I performed stand-up, I wrote my virgin under-powered set the same afternoon. Over the previous years of simply being alive, I had developed funny stories, drawn some wry observations, delivered ranty complaints about silly things and more. It really wasn’t custom-made for the stage but it allowed me to fill the 5 minutes performance time. Just to get the feel for it. To just do it.
The first performance(s) is not about getting rolling belly laughs. That simply is not going to happen. Such a mammoth reward comes only with experience.
The first performance(s) is about crossing the psychological rubicon, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, impressing oneself, taking the biggest step to fulfilling a personal challenge.
Failure to get regular laughs in early gigs is entirely possible. And in the final analysis, no one will care but you.
When I was a kid, it was quite clear that if I wanted to “sell” a notion or a plan to my mother, the odds of success were immensely increased if I packaged it as an “educational” opportunity.
Performing stand-up is riddled with “educational” opportunities. Not necessarily the kind my mother would have accepted.
Now, this could be the point where I quote the renowned shoe maker and the Greek Goddess of Victory, to implore all creative and bold folk, “Just do it!”
However, that feels like it does not do justice to my passion for this open and rewarding opportunity. It is more informative, and appropriate, to write “Just do it. And gain some of the following benefits…”
There is barely a place or an interaction that does not benefit from a humour-injection. Developing funny ideas, having jokes to tell and knowing how to tell them are lessons in improving familial, social and romantic relationships. Also helpful in the workplace. Not so much for undertakers, public executioners and pimps.
Educate oneself in feeling glows of personal pride. There’s a lot of fear and trepidation associated with getting up on a stage and speaking to a room full of strangers. Once it’s done, there is a terrific welling of self-esteem for getting up the guts to do it. When you start getting laughs, even more so.
Clear your mind, heart and soul. Get it off your chest by telling the world “what you reckon”. With laughter. And not a “comments” section in sight.
Enjoy the fact you are really being listened to. After all, the performer is under a spotlight, has amplified sound and is the only person facing that direction.
Take heart in the massively increased prospect of getting a crisp taste of “feeling like a rock star”. Odds are, if you are not an international musical star by now, it’s not happening. However, the utterly ineffable surging joy of crushing a gig and having the crowd in stitches is realistic and achievable (with the right help and effort).
Forge a path into a new social scene. There are some very cool people in the open mike scene and anyone who performs is quickly accepted into the community, whether or not they are yet good at comedy. While the new performer will try and make these people laugh, they’ll try and deliver laughter right back. Fast make funny and fascinating new friends.
Writing for the stage. Performing on the stage. The focused experience will boost any style of writing. The skills of delivery reach far into the domains of public speaking, presenting, seducing… even talking your way out of a police arrest (sometimes).
The list could go on. Perhaps ever more tenuously, but there are ample future benefits. However, let us not forget one of the most basic pros of performing comedy. Bragging rights. Just as we are all scared at the prospect of performing (the first times and beyond), so is everyone who hasn’t ever done comedy. It is typically a point of interest, and sometimes of considerable respect, to mention at a dinner party that, “I do/did some stand-up…” Just be ready for, “Tell us a joke, then”.
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For me, the finest reward from being funny on stage is hearing the crowd go “aaah”. Feeling that unleashed laughter. Any comedian who has experienced their personal notion transform into belly laughs from a crowd will affirm, “This is why we do it”.
Ultimately, this is why you, your nervy friend, your colourful mother or your cocky mate in the pub should all give open mike comedy a go.
What’s the worst that could happen? No laughs for an excruciating 5 minutes! No one but you will really care. Besides, it can be quickly fixed with some classes and perseverance.
What’s the best that could happen? Experience the scintillating joy of getting laughs, a little taste of being a rock star. Establishing cool new friendships. Considerably improved confidence and self-esteem. Enhanced writing and social skills. Bragging rights (use very sparingly). Being in a room with people aiming to make you laugh. Maybe, just maybe, a glorious and well-paid career. Many years after that first gig.
Enjoy the experience. Have fun. Speak your truth. Soak up the laughter. Welcome to open mike comedy!
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