I’m going to make a prediction. I predict this entry gets more hits than any other previous entry even though less than 5% of most open mic nights are populated by women. Although most of the advice in this entry is for women, there are still a few tips for the guys as well, so read on.
In my book I consulted my friend Maria Shehata for some pointers (and warnings) for female comics. Maria has frequented the stages of New York and L.A. and has even appeared on Comedy Central so she knows what she’s talking about. For the specifics in this entry I consulted some other female comics who wish to remain anonymous because they probably already have enough stalkers.
(Note: The following is based on the many email communications I had with female open mic comics, so if you disagree, blame my anonymous sources…or just go punch yourself in the face.)
First the disadvantages that ladies at open mic will have to overcome. Other than the awkwardly aggressive male comics trying to get phone numbers, women are often stereotyped as not funny. At some open mics, most of the comics aren’t funny so if there are women who perform that risks making the stereotype worse. If there are two women on the show and they both suck they’ll be remembered more than the dozen guys out of fifteen who also weren’t funny. Whether you’re male or female, your’s still a beginner. Men also cringe at the thought of what women are going to talk about on stage. Periods! Abortions! More periods! If I were to advise a female beginner I would say stay away from these things, but for a different reason. The same reason I would advise a male beginner to avoid the typical beginner topics of masturbation and other dick jokes. This is all explained (here it comes) in my book.
Another disadvantage brought up is the lack of female mentoring in the comedy community. There are PLENTY of male comics who will try to mentor (court) the “cute little ladies” and eventually take one on the road with them whether they’re ready or not (they’re not), but how many local scenes have women who are good enough to mentor but aren’t always on the road?
There aren’t as many famous female headliners out there so a lot of times a newer female comic will get accused of trying to be one of the few who are successful. She’s trying to be Kathy Griffin. Just because she talks fast? As mentioned in a previous post, comics will often try to emulate a pro before they find their voice, especially early on.
I do have one quote from Amy Milton (a St. Louis open mic comic who has the most well-written jokes I’ve ever heard for someone who’s only been performing for only six months). “One of the rudest things a male comic can do to a woman at an open mic is to apologize for saying something rude.” In other words guys, don’t get all politically correct just because there’s a woman around. They’re comics, they get jokes too. If they didn’t then they wouldn’t be there.
Let’s be honest, in a male dominated business appearance counts. Other than pharmaceutical sales, what business that should be gender-balanced as far as opportunity, is so advantageous for women when they’re attractive? I don’t blame the women who have taken advantage of this, I blame the men doing it (Especially whoever renewed Whitney for a 2nd season). Whatever they do will garner attention. If they can overcome the male crowd member thought process of “There’s no way she can be attractive and funny,” with a solid few minutes up front, the stereotype will go away for that show. (Won’t it?) Yes, there are going to be some idiotic members in the crowd who don’t like you, but dumb crowd members affect us all at some point.
So to sum up the advice…Guys, don’t hit on (there’s a difference between talking to and hitting on) or apologize to female open mic comics. And ladies, it might be a steeper climb to the initial success, but once you get to a certain point that momentum is in your favor.