A Word About Open Mics

This may be a little too “inside baseball” for the general comedy fan. As part of our Death Mic 2017  open mic competition, we reached out to Erin Naylor, manager at Helium Comedy’s St. Louis club.  She gave us insight into how independent open mics can work to help comics develop material that’s ready for a comedy club.

So if you’re a comic out there on the grind, take note. And if you’re a comedy fan, this gives you some idea of what you can expect at a local independent open mic, vs. the more organized club open mic.

As a club manager/booker, how do you feel about independent open mics and their importance to a comic’s development.

I think they’re great! They give comics a chance to try out brand new/raw material that might not be ready to hit a club. Without sounding high and mighty, I don’t see them as competition. Simply because not many overlap with our mic. Also, our scene has done a very good job making sure to spread mics throughout the week. So, comics can hit as many as possible.

I definitely think they’re necessary in the scene.  Everyone who takes this seriously should have every opportunity to get as much stage time/practice as possible. Bonus, comics who run those mics have a unique opportunity to see how things look from our end of a show. In turn, they’re more respectful and appreciative of what we do on a larger scale.

Is there a difference between the material a comic may do at an independent mic vs. the material they should do at a club open mic?

For me, the difference is how tested the material is. Independent mics give you a chance to try new material in front of a semi-captive (usually intoxicated) crowd, which can usually give you a good first impression of how well a joke went over. Either you get their attention or you don’t. Sometimes that attention is negative, but you’re in a space where that’s really the whole point.

Material you bring to a club, you want to be at least semi-polished.  So, when you get people to come see you in a club setting, they can see you doing a solid set on a stage shared by national headliners.

We’re running a challenge right now for local open mic comics to get as much stage time as possible for the month of April. If a comic’s ultimate goal is get work in your club, what advice would give them for taking advantage of that stage time.

First off, I love the idea of this challenge. I would encourage comics to try this in general, not just for April and the contest. If you want to work in a club, you have to WORK on everything. We will put up newbies from time to time, but at the club we like to make sure we’re still putting on a show/comics we trust. When you do a few solid 4 minute sets here, maybe next time you get to do 6 minutes. As the material and trust grow, it goes up from there. If the only time you’re trying to get on stage is signing up for our mic, you’re missing out. I really think it’s advantageous to get out there as much as you can.

Don’t forget our competition showcase on May 11 at The Boom Boom Room. And watch Helium’s website for details about their annual Funniest Person in St. Louis Contest, which opens registration on April 25.