Hi! Thank you so much for the website and great tips on open mics.
I am an older comic and lost my standup comedy virginity four weeks ago at Kelly’s Olympian. I picked Kelly’s because it starts at 4PM. I wish open mics started earlier, more starting around 7pm rather than 10pm or later.
A new comic suggested the following: Do your set and go home and if there are more than 20-25 people on a list, go home. Recently at Funhouse, trying to be polite, I stayed two hours and watched all the comics. Bad experience at Funhouse and I probably will not return.
What are your thoughts on this advice and my experience?
NOC (Newer Older Comic)
Thanks for the email. Congratulations on losing your comedy virginity! That’s a great accomplishment and it takes guts.
Kelly’s is one of my favorites because of what time it starts as well! It’s a chilled out room and it’s less intense than several of the other open mics. There is no other comedy show that starts earlier. There used to be a showcase called Comedy for Breakfast that started at noon on Saturdays, but that just closed and it wasn’t an open mic anyway. Unfortunately, you’re choosing a hobby that occurs in the late hours. I have considered starting an open mic or showcase that happens during the daytime, but I suspect it wouldn’t succeed because people are just conditioned to see comedy in the evenings. One of the most successful shows is called Midnight Mass. That’s what we’re up against. If you’re an early to bed, early to rise type, a tough vocation just got tougher.
How you approach comedy really depends on what your goals are. If you’re in it to win it, you’re going to grind it out, hit 2-4 open mics per night, 5-7 nights per week and treat it like a full time job. I did that for a while and I tell you, waiting around for two hours, three times per night is a killer. If you have the endurance and want to be great, it takes years of that.
If you’re just dabbling, then pick and choose a couple of open mics per week. I encourage you to try to be flexible and check out every open mic out there-even the ungodly late ones-for the experience alone. You’re going to see things you wouldn’t normally see and have something to brag about to your lame friends who are NOT as cool as you, clearly. I disagree with going home if there are 20-25 people on the list. If you’re out to do comedy, then stick it out and perform. I really liken standup comedy to sports. If you love tennis and you have to wait an hour for a court, then you wait. Fair warning: hard core comedians do not take kindly to dilettante interlopers who see a comedy special and decide they can be a comedian. Respect the craft, no matter what level of comic you are.
Last night I went to Funhouse Lounge just to watch and not perform. It’s actually a pretty fun open mic to watch. But if you’re performing, it feels more like a job, with the stress and angst that goes with it. I’ve heard of many starting out comics having a bad time at Funhouse Lounge. The crowd is mostly young comics who don’t seem to laugh very much. If you’re a good to great comic, it’s a good to great room. But if you’re just starting out, it can be a bit demoralizing. I find the Brody open mic to be the same way. I will say, don’t let one bad experience put you off a room. Funhouse is a Portland open mic staple and if you want to advance in the comedy community, you have to perform there.
As far as hanging around open mics after you’re done performing, here is my advice-if you feel like staying, stay. If you feel like leaving, leave. It’s extremely nice when comics hang around and support other comics. But it only takes one bummer performance to turn you off of comedy for the night, if not longer. Some nights you’ll be in the mood to see some comedy, especially if some of the big boys and girls are on the open mic list. Other nights, it might take every ounce of willpower just to get out your door, hang around and then perform. Some comics literally sprint out of the room after they perform. This used to bother me, but now I get it. Your brain only has so much capacity to withstand raw, open mic comedy. I almost said raw, open sewage. Sometimes it feels like that. But one man’s shit is another man’s fertilizer.
A great open mic for you to try is Common Grounds, which is the second Wednesday of every month. It’s low stakes and seems to attract an older crowd. This is nice for us older comics because our material may not connect as easily with the twenty something whippersnappers, who overwhelmingly dominate the comedy scene.