Open mics are one the most important and distressing periods all fledgling comedians go through. It’s important because comedians need to learn to get over their fear of bombing, deal with the lights, handle being ignored, face abject failure, cope with their anger, all in the quest to learn to be funny.
If that didn’t discourage you, this will. Open mics are equally distressing. The comics running them often don’t care about anything, but their own stage time. They’re held in loud bars with drunken hecklers or in empty coffee houses. The audience is usually other comics working on their material while waiting to go up. There’s no front row because the comics sit as far from the stage as they can. And the regular customers are having loud personal conversations without any regard for the performers.
Yet, those who want to be comedians will go to one or more open mics every night of the week.
So here are several comedy tips to turn these nights of horror into just nightmares.
Comedy Tips 1: Read the Situation
When you get to the open mic evaluate whether or not it’s possible to do material. Some actually have comics who listen to the other comics. Though rare, if this miracle happens, try some material to get a read on it.
If it’s the usual with no one listening, then do not do material. Doing material in an unproductive environment will only discourage you. There are other comedy tips choices you can make to fill that stage time which is better for your growth as a comedian.
Comedy Tips 2: Practice Being Honest
You’re already on stage, nervous, in the spot light, and in front of people, even if you can’t see or hear them. Give up doing material and rant. Be prepared with several topics you have negative judgments about. Then go on a stream of consciousness tirade of opinions and personal insights.
Doing this allows you to not give a damn about whether the audience laughs or not. Instead focus on being brutally honest. If you offend someone…good, that means someone is listening.
Real comedians are looking for their honest comic voice. This is your chance, with no consequences to your comedy career, to learn to be honest on stage. In fact, other comics may actually listen because they’re also trying to get honest.
Comedy Tips 3: Riff with the Audience
If there’s any audience, take this opportunity to learn to do crowd work. Again, there are no consequences to your career as you’re at an open mic. There’s probably no one important in the audience.
Stand-up comedy is the scariest live art form in the world. Within stand-up comedy, riffing is the scariest thing to do on stage. You’ll be doing the scariest of the scariest. Open mics are the perfect place to overcome your fear of riffing.
I tell my students, “If what you’re doing on stage isn’t working, do something else.” Anything else, even if it doesn’t work, is better than continuing to do something that’s not working.
Reading the situation, practicing being honest and riffing with the audience are two of the best alternatives to use at open mics when it’s not worth doing material.
Do you have any other comedy tips to do at open mics?