The Assbuster doesn’t do “bringers.” The Assbuster is too concerned with writing brilliant shit, writing about writing brilliant shit, and fending off basic human contact. Thus, the Assbuster does as whole lot of open mics.
Open mics come in many types. Some are focused on poetry or music. It behooves the aspiring comedian to try a few of these, if only to break free of the scene and practice breaking it down for a new crowd. But, for our immediate purposes, we’re focused on the open mics that cater mostly to stand-up comedians.
They’re not hard to find. If you’re near a major city, start with Bad Slava’s directory. If not, find a pool hall or a sushi place that’s dead on Tuesday night, cop a PA for $100 on Craigslist, and start your own. Trust me – aspiring comics will find you.
Either way, know the rules. Live by the rules. Each one, teach one.
1. Know the Logistics
Get the venue’s number and call ahead. Show up early. Figure out the setup: Where the mic is, where the lights are, what the MC’s name is and whether or not you immediately loathe each other. Some places put out a first-come-first-serve list; others mix up the names and do a lottery. Figure out your spot, and whom you’re following, before the action begins. If you can, watch the show before you do it. It’s good karma, it gives you an edge, and the only good reason to do this shit at all is that open mics are mad entertaining.
2. Don’t Hassle the MC
Don’t ask when you’re going up. Don’t bust on the MC during your set. Hassling the MC is like fucking with a bus driver – it slows down the ride for everybody and everybody hates you. Respect the MC and the venue. You only get to bust on them when you’re a regular, and you’ll know when that happens. If you’re new or an obvious outsider, being decent will save your ass.
3. Watch the Other Comics
Watch at least the three preceding you. Take note of the styles they’re bringing and the topics they discuss. Your wildly original material will go over a lot better if you have some clue about the tone of the room. Also, watch a few comics immediately after you. My rule is four, but stay for at least the next two, and clap for their shit. It’s classy.
4. Nail the Basics
Don’t sweat your intro – cutesy intros are bullshit and, at open mics, credits probably do more harm than good. When you take the stage, remove the mic from the stand and move the stand behind you. Hold the mic under your chin, parallel with your spine, which should be as straight as possible. You’re at work now, champ.
5. Roll With It
Even if you know your material is crap, have fun with it. This takes a lot of courage, and you’ve got no reason to apologize. My buddy Priscilla describes open mics as “a really short band practice,” which is a great way to treat them. It will, for one reason or another, suck ass, probably. But that’s what it’s for. Get through it, have fun with your audience, and enjoy what you will. Don’t overanalyze the fuck out of it until later.
6. React To What Happens
Be prepared to deviate from your script. If someone drops a glass, acknowledge it. If someone heckles you, be glad they were paying attention (that’s rare at an open mic) and don’t mind volleying back and forth with that person for the balance of your set. It won’t go well. But it’s better for you, and the rest of us, than plowing ahead when you’ve already lost everyone. Ideally, it’s funny. In reality, it’s a conversation.
7. Don’t Be an Asshole
Too easy? Let’s do it anyway. Don’t go hard against the tone of the room – learn to play the room you’re in. Don’t trash the venue, figuratively or literally. Don’t make a mess for anyone else to clean up. Don’t scare people for no reason. It’s not punk rock. It’s stupid. People who organize open mics bust a lot of ass. Respect is due.
8. Hang Out
The Assbuster isn’t the best example of how to do this. But I recommend getting friendly with your fellow comedic travelers when you can. Stick around after your set, shoot the shit, and be relatively normal. That is, don’t talk about your set too much. Don’t ask people how you did. To quote a graffiti writer’s manifesto from the book Bomb the Suburbs, “You suck until further notice.” Their sets probably sucked, too, at least in their heads. Talk about something else. Some of these people are irredeemable garbage – the Assbuster will call them out and brutalize them in April’s installment – but most of them are people you’ll like, people who’ll like you, and people who can probably help you down the line.
Note: If you’re a male comic, don’t hit on female comics. At least not right away. Comedy is a wurstfest, and you’re nothing special until further notice. They get this all the time, more than you can imagine, and they’re not interested in you. You’re an assbuster – focus on the funny. If you’re a female comic, don’t humor these guys. But don’t fixate on this kind of treatment, the disproportions or the other shit stacked against you. You’re an assbuster – focus on the funny.
9. Tape Your Set
Every time. I recommend investing in an MP3 recorder. Your phone will likely suffice. When you’re on stage you’ll want to avoid analysis paralysis, which means focusing directly on the present moment and not letting anything else get to you at all. As soon as you’ve got that tape, you’re free to analyze the fuck out of every second of it, over and over. Listen to it twice, at least. Rethink everything: Pacing. Wording. Vocal projection. Hate it. Kill it. And let brilliance rise from the ashes.
10. Keep Doing It
Don’t freak out if you bomb. Don’t freak out if no one seems to like you. Don’t freak out if you kill and you’re afraid you’ll never nail it that way again. Show up for the next one. Do two tomorrow. It doesn’t necessarily get better, but you will.
Add your own in the comments! It’s the internet!
|Emerson Dameron is a writer, comedian and gentleman of the old school. He enjoys cats, oranges and the warm glow of a neon beerlight. Shadow him on his website or Twitter @EmersonDameron. He’s game for whatever.|