Hi. Briana here. Your friend and colleague. Your peer. Your buddy. Your fan.
I’ve been hitting up a few open mics in a great effort to get more involved in the stand up community and challenging myself. So far, I’ve done a handful and it has been a really great experience. I wanted to take a moment to dispel a little idea people seem to have about stand up comics once and for all.
Stand up comics are supportive, nice, open, kind, and funny people who love to laugh.
I’m not saying when you go to an open mic, immediately expect to have a room of people who are going to guffaw at you like a bunch of drunk non-comedians. That’s unrealistic and unfair. Comedians have a higher standard. Everyone who wants their 3-5 minutes on that stage spends a good portion of their free time studying, breathing, and practicing jokes. We’re going to have higher standards to get a laugh. We can’t help it. It’s what we do. If we think your joke is obvious- even if it would kill for a crowd of drunk hillbillies on a Saturday night- it’s not going to make a room full of comics laugh. And that’s not because they don’t want to. It’s because you have to do better.
If anything, comedians are people who love laughter more than the average bear. (And if I’ve learned anything from the Muppets, bears love to laugh) We’re trying to make a living out of laughter. We desperately want to laugh. We love laughing. We want you to make us laugh. Please. But in order to do so, you’ll need to do your homework.
I’ve been at a few open mics now where I see comedians start to get frustrated at the crowd. They make snide comments like, “Isn’t it great how supportive comics are to each other?” or “Great, a room full of comics. This should be great…”
Well, guess what, snide-commenters? You’ve got the worst attitudes ever and I hope you take some time to work on it before you go back onstage and blame me for your lack of preparedness. Because here’s the reality check: Comics are supportive of each other. I’m sitting in a podunk coffee shop sipping an expensive latte and quietly listening to you, aren’t I? I’ve left work early to make sure I can sit at the club and listen to you try out your material. Sure, I’m waiting for my time to get up, but in the meantime, I’m listening to you. You’re a comic. What more could you ask for than someone to listen to you? So don’t waste your or my precious time by blaming me for not being supportive. What more do you want from me? A back-rub and Hallmark card thanking you profusely for getting up and doing a rambling complaint about your insecurities with no foreseeable punchline or original observation in the entire tirade?
And sometimes, I’m smiling. Or chuckling. And that’s the most you’re going to get from me. No, tears are not forming in my eyes. I listen to and write tons and tons and tons of jokes every single day. I see the 1’s and o’s in your matrix pattern. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it, it just means know your audience. And by knowing your audience, you can curb your expectations.
I’ve seen comics blame a crowd of comics for being a tough crowd after the person in front of them had everyone cracking up hysterically. How can a crowd be that tough if moments ago we were all laughing? Maybe you’re just not doing as well as the guy before you. Ever think of that?
The second a comic makes a comment about how tough the audience is because it’s a bunch of comics is the second I want them to get offstage and stop wasting their time so I can get a chance to get onstage and practice the jokes I’ve been writing diligently at home, hoping I could get three minutes on a microphone in front of anyone to see how they do.
I’m certainly not saying people who don’t kill at open mics should give up immediately. Not at all. In fact, I think it’s really exciting and fun to be there while people are brainstorming their ideas out loud. It’s thrilling, in fact, to be there the first time a comic realizes a joke works. And it’s even fun to hear how the same jokes told every day can transform and hit differently in different rooms (because we all know the same comics frequent the same places to work on their set).
Maybe you had more confidence delivering that joke today. Maybe you were really nervous yesterday. Maybe you were having a great day. Who knows! Hopefully you can figure out the choices you can make onstage that will get you the highest percentage chance of getting laughs the entire time and eventually you can build your set with that. That, to me, is what makes open mics genuinely exciting and fun.
So don’t worry if you bomb. Don’t worry if you screwed up the wording of a joke. Don’t worry if you forgot something. Don’t worry if nobody is keeling over with laughter. Don’t worry if you don’t get a standing ovation. Just enjoy your time onstage and see what happens.
If you need everyone to laugh loudly and hysterically at your every breath, go do five minutes in front of a bunch of seven-year-olds, have a bag of candy with you, and promise them the person who laughs the longest and loudest will get the most candy. I promise you’ll get a great response.
So for the love of god my dear sweet fellow up-and-coming comics, stop saying other comics aren’t supportive of each other. Just keep working on your jokes and your voice, grow tougher skin, and relish in the fact that you’ve got a room full of people listening to you.