Last night I went to two open mics in Austin, Texas that could not have been more different. The first one was the fairly prototypical comedians-only open mic at a small club. These kind of mics definitely have value, but I think you have to be careful not to form bad habits with them. Often times, when it’s only other open-mic comedians in the audience, you have to take things really far to get a laugh. And the jokes you tell that garner a laugh at that mic would only generate awkwardness at a performance with a crowd full of regular citizens.
So, it may sound weird when I’m doing comedy, but when it comes to these types of open mics, I’m really trying not to focus much on whether the other comedians laugh or not. I would like it if they did. It’s always preferable to get a laugh. But at the same time, if I have a joke that I know is funny and I’ve seen work countless times on a crowd and I just want to iron it out, it’s more important to me to get the timing and wording right than to get a laugh from another comedian.
There are also jokes that I do want to see if I can get a laugh from. It’s fun to test out stuff that’s a little more raunchy or offensive at these kind of mics. And even though it was just a few open mic comics that weren’t there to laugh at other peoples’ jokes, I actually quite enjoyed my time on stage. I had six minutes, which was more time for me to use silence and work on my timing. I’m realizing more and more than I like to use silence in my sets. I’ve noticed that a lot of the comedians that don’t do as well have this kind of nervous “please like me” energy about them where they feel like they any amount of silence is a sign of disapproval from the audience so they ramble and they ramble and they ramble. I’ve noticed the comedians that are in control and getting laughs on stage are the ones who don’t care about the silence. There is a confidence about them. One comedian made me laugh really hard because the audience was a bunch of open mic comedians and they weren’t laughing at anyone, and he told his joke to silence and then just said “fuck you guys, you suck… I’ve been on television.” in a very nonchalant way. It looks like an egotistical statement on the page but the way he said it so casually was perfect and highlighted the situation beautifully. The audience did suck and he was actually really funny, and he knew it.
So, using silence is something I want to work more on when I perform. There was one point of my set that I, personally, enjoyed. I asked the crowd if anyone has anxiety, and nobody raised their hand or said anything. So I said “wow, you’re just calm all the time. I wonder what that’s like. And then it was completely silent and I said “it’s fine… I don’t need to talk, I’ll just sit here in my anxiety for a while.” And I did. It was a powerful moment for me to just stand on stage for a few seconds and not say anything at all, welcoming the silence. I think if you’re not afraid of having those moments, it gives you a tremendous amount of power on stage.
Overall, my set went really well. I actually did get a surprising amount of laughs and my stage presence was much better. I came up with a joke earlier in the day that was incredibly stupid but I thought was hilarious that I told. I had no idea if anyone would find it funny, but someone in the audience bust a gut laughing at it and it totally made my night.
The second mic was on 6th street, downtown, which is a total shit show. It’s understandable, because what kind of person goes out on a Monday night to get hammered? Someone who is a shit show. That’s who. Anyways, I navigated through the downtown chaos and into this bar, then up onto the roof, where the open mic was taking place. It was a beautiful rooftop bar with a big stage, a loud mic, and a huge crowd. Not something you usually see at an open mic. It was exciting. It was so cool to see so many people out, let alone watching open mic comedy. I say, “watching.” Most people were just talking and hanging out like they would at a normal bar. One comedian played on the chatter perfectly. He got on stage and just said, “If you hate black people, keep talking amongst yourselves!” He murdered for the three minutes he was up there. He had me dying laughing. He had a lot of people dying laughing. It was awesome to see. I love it when someone goes up and just murders. That’s why we are all there. To try and make people laugh. It makes the show better for everyone when the other comics do well.
I was 36th on the list, but I was probably more like the 50th or 60th person to get up. I’ve noticed that there comes a point in the night at these popular open mics where people who aren’t on the list come in and bump the people who are, and if you’re past a certain number, you’re probably not getting up. Or if you do, it’s right before the bar closes at two in the morning.
I don’t want to go into the politics of stage time and all that right now. It’s just part of comedy and nobody really likes it, we’ll leave it at that.
The good news is, I got on stage! They knocked the sets down from three minutes to two minutes, so it was a quick one, but every opportunity is a learning experience. My set went pretty well. I got a lot of compliments on the two jokes I’ve been working on the most, so that was nice to hear. I hit the timing on one of them perfectly this time. I felt like I was a little early on the punch line the last couple of times out, but I got it right this time. On the other side of it, the two minutes was so short that I tried to cram in a few one liners at the end. They didn’t go as well because I rushed them. I learned that even if I only have a couple minutes on stage, it’s important to get the timing of my jokes right rather than try to tell as many as possible. Three jokes told the right way is better than six jokes told the wrong way.
I realized on my drive home that it would have been a perfect opportunity for me to pull out one of my parody raps. It was the absolute ideal situation for it, and I didn’t even think of it until after. It would have been fun, but I’m thankful for what I learned about not trying to tell as many jokes as possible, and I don’t think I would have learned that lesson if I pulled out the rap. Overall, it was an awesome night. I had success on stage, made progress with my jokes, and learned from my mistakes. And that’s all you can really ask for.