The 10 Major Fails of Starting Stand-up Comedians

Ask Ash: What do I need to know to do an open mic?F1000007

1)      Don’t write what you think people will laugh at.  Write what makes you laugh.  Rehashing topics that your favourite comedians joke about is called hack.  You’ll be more real and more surprising to the audience if you share your original take on something new.

2)      It’s called a microphone, it can amplify your voice so everyone in the room can hear it BUT it’s not infallible – you need to know how to use it.  Make sure it’s close enough to your mouth to catch the sound, but not so close as to distort (or fuzz) it.  If you don’t know how to hold a mic or use a stand, ask for pointers.  It’s not a bad thing, actually it’s recommended.

3)      Arrive early to the show.  If you have questions for the host / producer, try to email them ahead of time.  If you need help with the equipment (mic stand / mic / gtfots light) it’s best to ask before the show starts AND best to do it before the audience begins arriving.  The last 10 minutes before a show starts are very busy for those putting on a show, and they’ll be less able to politely answer your questions then.

4)      Know your place in the order, whether you know ‘which number’ or ‘who you follow’, be ready to go to the stage.  You should have a foot on the stage by the time the host is saying the last syllable of your name.

5)      Sit in accessible spot, if there’s a change to the running order you should be easy to find (without disturbing the show).  Don’t sit up front.  Most hosts do crowd work, and the default is to talk to people in the front row – which almost always turns out crappy or appears fake when it’s an act on the show.

6)      Prepare.  Don’t wing it.  Know your jokes, or at least the punchlines.  Few things grind a set to a halt like a long set up without a punchline.  Admitting it, though, can save you.

7)      Don’t overwrite.  Know what the jokes sound like, say them aloud to yourself as you’re editing them.  Somethings look great on the page, but sound awkward when spoken.

8)      Edit.  Don’t try to fill the time, try to get as many laughs in as short a time as possible.  Most open mics appreciate comics who volunteer to do shorter time.

9)      Keep to time.  If you plan on going short, let the host know (usually while the act before you is on, but also prior to the show start).  That way they can curb their bathroom / smoke break to be sure they’re ready when you’re getting off stage.  Don’t go long.  You see the warning light, get off.  On a show with 12 acts, and each act does 2 extra minutes, the entire show is almost an extra half hour longer.F1000013

10)   Remember, the audience is there to laugh.  All you need to do is give them the excuse.



About Ash

Paul Ash is that special kind of person who sees the best in everyone, except himself. His self loathing comedy is peppered with rural charm and big city cynicism. This “muppet king of comedy” has been described as the “encyclopaedia of funny” and has an over ten year relationship with the Festival Just For Laughs, the world’s largest stand-up comedy fest.