Enduring the process of figuring out how to sign up for open mic can be more painful than a first-timer’s experience on stage. Why is the guy in charge already mad? The show hasn’t even started. His job is a tough one because he’s trying to put together a professional show with a room full of amateurs. There are new people every week and most of them are clueless.
Beginner comics can be very delusional. Imagine new people walking into not only a new job, but a new career and trying to establish themselves in the first few minutes. Toss in the fact that most of them are guys in their early twenties who have more DUI’s than college credits. Sometimes they show up in crazy outfits with wacky props and crack what they consider a joke five seconds after shaking hands. They brought two dozen people to the show who they guarantee “will drink’a couple of buckets!” and they want to know why they only get four minutes of stage time. Meanwhile, the guy in charge is trying to find a way to shuffle the other two or three dozen loyal, though sometimes thinly-talented regulars onto a list that will hold a show together. There’s a lot going on, so don’t blame him if he’s a little too busy to chat about your hopes and dreams.
Often a professional comic is the one left with the duty of organizing this mess. He’s not doing it because his career has taken off. Successful headliners don’t fight over this honor because they’re either making money at a gig or able to take a night off. The guy running open mic doesn’t have this luxury so instead of going to the game with his friends, he’s stuck explaining what the light means to a clown who thinks he’s going to be Andy Kaufman and a large black woman with three stage names.
If you’re just starting out, don’t try to be funny during the pre-show meeting. In fact, don’t even talk. If you have any questions, just ask one of the other comics who looks like they belong. The guy running open mic should only hear you from the stage and if you have any potential at all, you’ll eventually get his attention.
This first dose of showbiz is only the beginning to the rudeness you’ll encounter along the way up the comedy food chain. If you start taking things personally this early on, you’ll be in therapy long before you’re successful enough to afford it. Brush off whatever rudeness that might be targeted at you and after a few months you’ll start to be annoyed by these new guys who strut in thinking they’re God’s gift to comedy, too. In the meantime, go give a big fat tip to the bartender who has to hear the show every week.
For tips on how to evolve from an open mic comic into one who earns money and eventually a living, try reading my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.