Your First Time
It’s your first open mic. You love comedy, you’re nervous, your friends told you that you are funny, maybe they are in the audience. But comedy looks easy, and you’re funny, right? Here are some things that any comic can do to make their first open mic experience better.
CHECK IN WITH THE HOST
Find out who is hosting the open mic and check in with them well in advance of the show. You’re brand new. Nobody knows who you are. If you aren’t sure who the host is feel free to ask the other comics. The host will be a person who is well known by comics at the comedy club. If you don’t know who the comics are, look for the malcontents in the back of the showroom.
DON’T GET TOO DRUNK (OR HIGH)
Some of us need liquid courage. If you’re one of these types make sure that you live within walking distance of the club or have a ride sharing app on your phone so you will get home safely. But also limit your consumption before the show. You’ve probably been telling your jokes into a hairbrush for weeks, but if you haven’t been doing it with a five-drink buzz, your performance will probably be worse in front of a crowd.
HAVE WRITTEN MATERIAL
You’re not going to change the world of comedy in one night. You’re not a brilliant savant who can walk in, sit on the stool (don’t sit on the stool, by the way), and riff on what happened to you today in perfectly formed jokes. Have a plan for the material you want to do. Write it on a sheet of paper, in your cell phone, etch it into stone, whatever device you prefer.
MOVE THE MIC STAND
Moving the mic stand to the back or side of the stage doesn’t seem like a big thing, but audience members can be distracted by it and your body language may look like you’re hiding behind it. For comics in the crowd (people who may become your peers) leaving the mic stand front and center is a dead giveaway that you’re brand new to comedy. Walk up to the mic, pull the mic out of the stand, move the stand to the back of the stage, step up to the front of the stage and start telling jokes.
HOLD THE MIC CLOSE TO YOUR MOUTH, BUT NOT TOO CLOSE
When have you ever spoken into a microphone? Comedy clubs use live performance style handheld mics which sound best when the comedian has the mic about three inches from their mouth. If you’re yelling you can subtly move the mic further from your mouth. If you’re yelling very loud you may not need the mic at all and may hold it to the side. If you’re whispering you can move the mic closer so it is not too quiet for the audience.
DON’T EXPECT PERFECTION
If your first open mic set doesn’t go perfectly, don’t let it discourage you. Most comedians bomb on their first set, and the ones that do well end up bombing down the road. We all bomb. Your favorite comics fail constantly. And if you think everything went perfect on your first set, you’re wrong.
RECORD YOUR SET
One of the best ways to get better at comedy is to record audio of your set, and listen to it to analyze where you may improve, what punchlines work with the audience, and to be able to experience the set without the adrenaline of performance running through your veins. It’s also fine to record video, but for the love of god don’t post your video online. Years into comedy you may be able to look back on these recordings and see just how much progress you’ve made.
BE POLITE TO THE STAFF
If you’re aspiring to be a comedian, the staff of a comedy club and the other comics are your future coworkers. Be polite to the wait staff, bartenders, other comedians, and club management the way you’d be polite to a hiring manager at your day job or the admissions department at your college. They may not have the ability to book you at the club, but they can probably tell whoever is booking that you’re a jerk.