Comedy In Purgatory: Ωpen Mics

by ANDREW KING

Open mics: the Alpha and Omega of stand up comedy. It’s where every comedian starts, and I have no doubt that it’s where several comedians have called it their end. An open mic has the ability to make you feel invincible, giving a high like no other. It can also crush your soul and make you doubt every decision you’ve ever made. Now, performing in general already can have those results, but with open mics… you’re doing it for free.

Here in Purgatory, where the majority of open mics are for musicians who want you to hear their brilliant covers they spent a couple of afternoons learning, comedy is considered alien, and it is often ignored. On the other side of that, however, is a great feeling of accomplishment if you can actually win the crowd. It’s not easy by any means, and depending on the location, the odds are heavily stacked against you. But it is possible.

There are different types of open mics:
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Bar Open Mics

Found here are TV’s blaring, people playing pool, drunks arguing over sports teams and more. Oh, and don’t forget the jukebox. What’s more fun than trying to win over a crowd who’s trying to drink away sorrows, the abandonment of dreams, or just another day at the office/coal mine? Trying to win over said crowd while the Ghostbusters theme is playing in the background.

I remember my first open mic at a dive bar. There was a puddle next to the microphone — to this day, I have no idea what the puddle was; I hope it was water. The place was packed, though, and another benefit of non-comedy open mics is that they give you more stage time. You get 10 to 15 minutes, as opposed to the traditional five minutes at a comedy club. You’re really playing to the musicians. If you can win them over, the crowd will usually follow. That open mic went well. Surprisingly well. I had heard horror stories from comics who had gone up there before. The next week I went back, I bombed like Hiroshima. You never know how an open mic will go until you’re up there.
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Coffee House Open Mics:

The smell of Colombian beans wafts through the air. Seats are filled with the young and extremely old. The young have their laptops and iPods synced with their consciousness; they’re drinking coffee and eating grilled cheese sandwiches. Wannabe scholars study vigorously, striving to earn a piece of paper that gives them permission to spend the rest of their lives beneath fluorescent lights.

And there are the old, sitting patiently with their guitars, watching the young with a smile. They see the young folks express angst and confusion in their own ways. They caress their guitars with a sense of nostalgia, remembering those lost years and how it felt way back when. Each strum, every chord, and all songs have a memory, and it doesn’t even matter that their old friend is out of tune. They long ago learned to appreciate the sound of an out-of-tune guitar and every little imperfection. It’s human.

The poets snap their fingers, the musicians play, and the comics… die.

The focused audience almost always consists of the other performers. Everyone else has their earphones, laptops and books to keep them occupied. However, just as the bar open mics go, coffee house open mics usually give a good chunk of time to work things out. It’s also quiet, making it easier to keep your thoughts together. A good place to work out an idea with no pressure. You’re free to experiment any which way you want.
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Comedy Club/Comedy Focused Open Mics:

Just do it. They’re expecting comedy. Best scenario of the three.

Simple as that. Oh, and on a side note: Don’t do “bringer shows.” Those are usually in the bigger cities. I’ve never encountered one here in Purgatory (for obvious reasons), but it just sounds crooked to me. (“I have to bring ten people and then they have to buy drinks too? How about no, I’ll go back to the coffee house and be alt.”)
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No matter the location, no matter the circumstances, every comedian will tell you to just get on stage as much as possible. Do comedy at karaoke, do comedy at a city council meeting (fun), wherever you can. You can’t find your voice if you’re not talking.
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“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.”

~ Shakespeare’s Henry V, Act III, 1598.

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