Saturday night I went to a local open mic that only had under ten audiences members there. A few other comics were in the crowd but the room still had under twenty people. I went there on a whim so I didn’t have much prepared. I was chatting with a buddy after our sets and he said this is the one stage where he doesn’t have any nerves about performing. He didn’t mean that he’s a nervous wreck at other venues, but I completely understood him. Over the years there have been open mics that are much more relaxed. Normally, it was the open mic nights at actual comedy clubs where I couldn’t relax which disrupts flow and sometimes new ideas. The nerves at a club are natural, there is a chance for paid work there.
As a comic, especially one who is trying to find his or her voice, it’s necessary to take risks on stage. Big risks, stupid risks, risks you want to forget you ever took. Risks you hope your fellow comics will soon forget so they don’t bring it up for years to come. ”Remember that time you had that sock puppet read a love poem in Bill Cosby’s voice?”
Unfortunately a lot of cities only have one place for open mic night, the comedy club. If that’s the case my advice is not to take such big risks that will permanently damage your reputation with the club manager. Instead, find a place to experiment (that’s the word I’ve been looking for) even if it means starting your own open mic.
This also works for first-timers. I’ve got lots of tips for first-time comics in Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage that come from the mistakes I see every week at open mic (and the many that I’ve made). So if you’re still on the fence about trying I’d say find a less formal venue than a comedy club and read my book.