If you want to be a stand-up comedian, one of the best ways to get started is with open mic nights. Providing a low stress way to work on your act, open mic nights are great for up-and-coming stand-up comedians. The following ten tips will help your open mic night performance be a success.
1. Visit the Club - Go to your local comedy club to watch an open mic night a few times before you decide to perform. By visiting the club, you will better know what jokes will work well with the crowd. When you visit a club to observe an open mic night, get to know the club owner, the servers, and other comedians. You will feel more comfortable at the club during your open mic night performance if you are familiar with the surroundings.
2. Write your Set - Since you have visited your local open mic night, you should know the length of a typical comedy set. A comedian’s set at open mic night usually last three to five minutes. Write your comedy act before contacting a comedy club to book a spot in an open mic night. By writing your set first, you will not be rushed to come up with material for an open mic night set that is days away.
3. Call and Book a Spot - Once you have written your set, call your comedy club and ask for the person in charge of booking comedians for the open mic night. Sign up for a spot, verify how many minutes you will have to perform, and ask for any other information you may need.
4. Rehearse - Now it's time to learn your set inside out. Don't just read your written notes, rehearse your set aloud. Rehearse in front of a mirror or a video camera so you can watch it back. Some comedians find it uncomfortable, but it really helps to make you look more comfortable on stage. Practice in front of people, but don't rehearse in front of all of the people coming to see your act. You want at least some of them to react naturally to your performance, and they won't if they've all heard it before.
5. The Night of the Show - Arrive at the comedy club early on the night of your open mic night performance. Introduce yourself to the emcee or anyone else important to your performance. Find out how they will signal you to let you know your time is up. Many times, someone will simply hold up a sign that says you have one minute left. Other times, a light on a timer will flash in the back of the club signaling you to wrap it up.
6. Your Performance - Introduce yourself when you get to the microphone to start your set. If there is a microphone stand, and you do not plan to use it, move it behind or beside you, if possible. Speak loud enough into the microphone so that the audience can hear you. Don't yell, but you want to be heard. Microphones will only amplify what is said into them. They cannot make a mumbling voice just above the volume of a whisper loud and clear enough for a huge group of people to thoroughly hear and understand. Don't worry about hecklers. Do your best to handle those who think it's funny to interrupt your performance, but don't stress over them. Most of the best hecklers will save their comments for professionals and not mess with open mic night beginners. Thank the audience and anyone else applicable, including the club, after your set.
7. Don't Go Over Your Time Limit - Stay within your time limit and don't run into the time limits of others. By going over your time limit, you run the risk of not being asked back to perform. Other comedians work just as hard on their open mic set as you did, so don't ruin their hard work by using up their time. You wouldn't want another comic to use up your time. Besides, it's best to leave an audience wanting more than it is to stay too long at the party.
8. Make Friends With the Headliner - Many times, open mic nights are used as a warm up for the audience before a headliner performs. If there is a headliner at your open mic night, make an effort to make friends with them. Buy the headliner a drink or even a plate of nachos and sit and talk with them, but don't be annoying. The more friends you have in this business, the more successful you will be.
9. Keep Your Opinions to Yourself - Never critique other comics' jokes or performances and don't offer unsolicited suggestions. This is a quick way to be hated in the field of stand-up comedy, especially if the person you are critiquing is a better comic than you are. In addition, don't talk or brag about how great your career is to other comics. This will not impress anyone. Be impressive through your talent.
10. Review Your Open Mic Night Experience - Go back over your performance and rewrite your material to make it even funnier. Keep in mind the things that went as planned and the jokes that bombed. Ask for feedback from others, especially from honest friends you can trust to really give their opinion and not just tell you what you want to hear.
Once you have performed at one open mic night, get ready for the next one and start the process all over again. Each time you perform, you will get better at performing and your material will get stronger and funnier. Open mic nights offer comedians the best practice opportunity for performing in front of a live audience. Eventually, you will move from open mic night performer to comedy club headliner.