I’ve never been involved in any other open mic scene, but Portland is amazing. There are more venues than you can shake a stick at and most nights you can do two or three in a night (maybe four?). If you’re as picky as I am, you can pick and choose where you want to perform. The plus side of multiple open mics is obviously getting tons of stage time. A minor criticism (which I’m also guilty of) is that after a comedian finishes her set, she is OUT OF THERE! Which often leaves you, the host, the bartender and a drunk too wasted to leave to perform to. I wouldn’t advocate fewer open mics, but I might. Maybe one four hour mic would be better than three open mics of two hours each which often overlap or conflict. Or daytime/earlier open mics at bars and venues that are dead before 9pm (will someone please think of the children/old people?) Or a bus/transportation service specifically for standup comics, which would also have an open mic. We might need an open mic cooperative. Venues are usually sensitive to the fact that other open mics are happening (WHY? A little Darwinism might not be a bad thing).
Also, an all ages venue for open mics for the kids? What do you say? It might be painful to watch, but David Brent painful, not getting hit by a truck and surviving painful.
And venues: THANKS SO MUCH FOR CLEAN RESTROOMS AND NICE BARTENDERS!
And comedians: Please shut up! during other comedian’s sets. Does this really need to be said?
If you disagree with anything here, feel free to send along a rebuttal. If there is a venue not listed it means I’ve either not performed there or I just don’t like it. If you are a fan of unlisted venues, feel free to send me an off-line message and I’d be happy to discuss my objections.
Five out of ten Portland comics had their first performance at this venerable institution. And if Kevin Michael-Moore tells you you’re funny, consider it an honor. Pros: The owner might tell you you’re funny. Great, big, open room, great crowd (who aren’t all comedians), brings A-list Portland comics, nice bar. Cons: I don’t know, I have a bar crush. I’ll get back to you.
I love this open mic. The audience isn’t just comedians and you really feel like you made it. Pros: You get to wait in the green room before your set. Most prestigious comedy club in town. Cons: It’s very difficult to get on the list.
Great open mic, great atmosphere even to just hang out and chill. Pros: Pre-show signup. Cons: Pre-show signup. Signup is 12:01am the day of the mic. Chances are you’ll get on the list, but you might have to wait until toward the end of the show to perform. But what else do you have to do? Don’t love this neighborhood. Almost guaranteed that you will see flashing lights and a friendly shakedown from a homeless person. But this is a typical “bad neighborhood” in Portland. It simply isn’t.
One of the most accessible open mics in town. Cool stage, great atmosphere, $2 PBR. I really like the 7:30 show, signup starts at 6:45pm. Pros: You’ll get on the list for the 7:30 show. Period. Cons: You may not be so lucky for the later shows, but again, you probably will and you’ll have a great time.
Maybe my current favorite. Pros: Beautiful room, great stage, clean venue, no pee on the floors in the restroom, $2 PBR. Cons: Wish it opened a little earlier before the show. Standing outside will be considerably less fun once winter hits. Wish it was lighter in the room. I’m not a huge traditional lounge fan. I like a clean, well-lighted venue.
This semi-legendary venue embraces whole-heartedly the concept of the dank, dark and cavernous bar-old-school dive bar, but great drinks, great food and friendly, cool staff. Pros: You will get on the list. You will have a good time. People will be very nice to you. Cons: The comedy area is like a long, dark, spooky hallway with a pool table to break up the limited space (okay, okay, it’s not exactly a comedy club). It’s a little noisy in the bar area. Televisions annoy me and there is a giant one playing sports. The crowd is almost exclusively comedians, which makes laughter unlikely. Occasionally the first comedians are not very skilled, which kills the room. At least on one very memorable night. Turn on the heat, please. Maybe use the cool back room for performance instead? Saw a show during Bridgetown. It was intimate and you really got the feeling you were in on something special. Feels like you could be watching Shakespeare.
If you want a classic, slightly classy, bar experience, this might be the classiest joint in town with a full bar (Can a bar that can’t mix a martini still call itself a bar? It’s olive juice, gin and vermouth, in case you weren’t sure…). So, as I said, they make killer martinis like they love that drink more than their children. Pros: Great martinis, cool Portland hipster vibe. Cons: The room is set up so that you’re guaranteed a sore neck watching comedy, no matter where you sit. Even for an open mic, the format is a little loose. Please keep rants to five minutes or less, especially drunken, repetitive ones. I’ll update this comment if it tightens up going forward and some folks sober up.