Some advice to newbies and open micers.

22 Jan
This is some unsolicited advice on how to do a better job as an open micer onstage.  I’d like think I know something about open mics as I do them and run one myself (for 7 years now).  None of this should pertain to the material they do.  Open micers will have to figure out what is funny on their own…  In no particular order…
1) Be professional when you get to the club.  Check in with the guy running the open mic.  Ask about any rules they might have pertaining to time, material, or anything else.  Be respectful and stay out of the way.  Most clubs don’t necessarily want to run an open mic.  Don’t give them a reason to not do it.
2) Watch where the mc/host goes up on stage.  This should be how you get up onstage as well too.  More than likely the host of the show has been there before and knows what he is doing.  Follow his lead.  Be prepared to get up onstage when it is your turn.  You should already know your order number so don’t be unprepared and be in the back when your name gets called.  There is not much worse that having the applause die before you got onstage because it took you 30 seconds to get up there.  Be ready to go!
3) If you take the mic out of the mic stand put the stand behind you!  Otherwise it is a distraction and/or impairs people being able to see you.
4) Put the mic near your mouth!!!  It is important for people to be able to hear you so it helps if the mic can pick up what you are saying.  Pretend the mic is an ice cream cone (it doesn’t need to touch your lips though) if that helps you.  Don’t cover the mic part with your hand.  This kind of defeats the purpose of having the mic in your hand.
5) Pay attention to the light/bell/or other signal that tells you your time is coming to an end.  NO ONE likes people who go over their time.  The guy running the open mic will think you are unprofessional.  The other open micers will think you are a more colorful word.  So unless your goal is to be that colorful word watch for the signal!  If you are dying, don’t try to dig your way out of a hole.  It won’t happen.  If you are killing, that is the best time to get off the stage.  Leave the crowd wanting more.
6) Don’t ask for more time.  Take what they give you.  If the open mic wants to give you more time they will give you more time. 
7) When you are preparing to finish, put the mic back in the stand and say to the crowd “My name is ——-. That’s my time.  Thank you very much.”  This lets the host know that you are done.  Hosts don’t like it when you goof around up there.  Make it clear that you are done.  Make sure the mic is back where you found it on the stage.  Wait for the host to get back on stage before you leave.  Shake their hand (fist bump, whatever) and leave the stage the same way you got on.  Go back to where you were sitting before the show started.
8) I suggest thanking whoever ran the open mic for giving you time.  It is good manners and will possibly make you standout from others.  There are more than likely dozens, if not more, open micers in your town that want time.  Why not seperate yourself from them by using good manners?!  Indicate that you would like more time and would want to get back on the schedule.  If you didn’t like the open mic still thank them for the time.  No need to burn bridges as you never know when another opportunity might come up.
9) After the show be sure to network (or at least talk to) the other open micers.  You never know if someone is going to start another open mic or do a road trip somewhere.  A good part of comedy is about WHO you know and not how funny you are.  This again goes back to my point about not being a colorful word.  You don’t have to be someone’s best buddy but you don’t need to be standoffish or aloof.  Often you can barter time on one stage for another when you get to know people.
10) I also suggest not getting drunk at the show.  This can lead to bad things.  I once saw a guy do an open mic and the proceed to get hammered during the rest of the show.  He started to heckle the headliner and eventually was asked to leave.  He was banned from the club for 3 months.  He learned his lesson but it was something that should have been avoided altogether.
11) TIP the waitstaff.  Don’t be a cheapass and ask for some water and leave the waitstaff with no tip.  Most open mic nights are free to get in or are cheap anyway.  Buy a beer/softdrink/food whatever and tip the staff.  They will think more of you.  And you want the staff to like you!
12) Don’t hit on the waitstaff.  They aren’t there for you to mess around with.  Some downfalls of hitting on the waitstaff are they will think you are a dick/creepy/a bother etc.  If you do manage to get lucky with one here are the things the inevitably will happen- they waitstaff will think you are a dick/creepy/a bother.  This is NOT to your advantage to engage in.
13) Bring your notebook/scraps of paper/manifesto with you to the club but try to avoid bringing it onstage.  Try to remember your stuff before you get onstage and work it out.  If you have to use your notes I guess go ahead and do it.  However I ask you when watching headliners how many of them use notes during their act?  Just asking…
14) Someone suggested to me that people smile more onstage.  It presents that you are more likeable and are having a good time onstage.  I do believe this to be true.  However there are instances where you might be working on a character that is not likeable or is cranky etc…  If that is the case go with it, but try and still be connected with the audience.
15) Stick around for the whole show.  Whether you are 1st or 21st it is good form to sit and watch and support fellow comics.  People have the decency to do it for you so you should do it for them.  Also it is best not to rag on comics when onstage.  This serves no purpose (unless you know the guy very well and/or are joking around and they know it).  Lots of comics have thin skins.  We are all just trying to get better.  Offer advice and support if you have any.
16) I’d would suggest avoid asking the crowd “How they are doing?”  More than likely the host has already done this and probably the other comics have too.  Just get into the material and go from there.  The audience already knows how they are doing.  As an open micer I would avoid engaging in dialogue with the crowd.  Stick to material!!!
17) Have a purpose on stage.  Say what you want to say.  Have a goal and get to it.  Don’t meander!  The crowd will lose interest.  Stick to the plan, work it, and get off.  Even if it is only a few minutes.  A good tight short set is better than a long meandering one.
18) Leave your douchebag friends behind.  You are responsible for them.  Clubs will hold you responsible for their behavior.  Do you want to be responsible for your drunk buddy Eric’s behavior?!  I doubt it.
19) Record your sets.  Whether you do this for audio or visual it will help you figure things out.  Study film like a football player would.  HOWEVER you DON’T nned to post all of your sets.  I have seen a lot of shitty sets from open micers.  I am not sure why they would want the rest of the world to see that.  Keep those to yourself instead.
Ok, I am sure that there are a lot more things that could/should be added but I thought these were some of the biggest points to make.  I hope this will be helpful to people so that there open mic experience can be a better one.  Hit stages when you can.  You only get better by doing it!

9 Responses to “Some advice to newbies and open micers.”

  1. Alex Ritzema January 22, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

    Great advice. Concise and to the point. Thanks for the reminders!

  2. Don Lewis Barnhart January 23, 2013 at 12:46 am #

    Great information. I’m not a stand up and would have no reason to be on stage, but I enjoyed your tips. Well done…

  3. Brandon Johnson January 23, 2013 at 3:42 am #

    Probably some of the best advice i’ve heard in awhile, too often do i too see these mistakes being done. I’ve always wanted to do standup, I’ve always been the funny guy with my peers and have been told repeatedly to do so. Do you have any pointers on stage fright??. and maybe some advice on building material for a solid act, i have stories more so than punch-liners and slap jokes,….Any help?

    • stumccallister January 23, 2013 at 5:09 am #

      Welp a lot of performers have to deal with stage fright. Comedy is weird as there is nothing to hide behind. It is just you and your words. I would suggest finding a Toastmaster’s group in your area. They help people with public speaking. Some groups are free so google them and see what you can find. That will help you with your stage fright and will help with the story telling. Good luck.

  4. jp January 23, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    Amazing how 90% of what you’ve posted pertains to bands and musicians. Thanks.

  5. Greekfreak February 20, 2013 at 6:26 am #

    I co-host an open mic in South Korea and agree with most of this–however the issue with the notes is only a real issue when its blatantly obvious you’re staring at them. Having bullet points on a scrap of paper is perfectly acceptable when you’re trying to remember the order your bits go in, if you can find some way to hide the note. Usually on a stool next to your drink is the best way.

    We had one guy regularly come up with his iphone and scroll through it in between jokes. Brutally painful. And he was always guilty of doing his set and then leaving. Poor form indeed.

  6. Ryan Meehan March 4, 2014 at 3:57 am #

    Number six is (in my opinion) one of the most important because asking for more time annoys pretty much everybody involved. It gets you a bad rep with your peers – everybody knows who “That guy” on the local comedy scene is. And since he is trying to work the club owner or the individual who is running the open mic, it’s likely they aren’t very fond of him either.


  7. Lolyla March 26, 2014 at 12:09 am #

    Those are excellent suggestions! Thanks!

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