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Thou Shalt Not Be A Douche: Open Mike Etiquette Part 2

November 9, 2010

Welcome back to part 2 of this week’s theory post on open mike etiquette (part 1 found here).  Today we’ll cover 7 more tips to help you avoid…

I wish this was me and my friends.

8 ) Try to stay for the rest of the show after you perform

Not always possible, I know, but it’s nice to stay for the whole show. It sucks to be the last performer and the crowd has dwindled down to you and the bartender. At the very least, stay for a couple of sets after yours. You like stand-up comedy, remember?

9) Don’t brainstorm onstage


An open mike is a great place to work out new material. Note that I wrote “new material,” not “errant thoughts.” At open mikes I will definitely follow the muse, working out very fresh material onstage.  However, for the sake of everyone’s sanity, I try to organize the thought a little before doing my set, find some lines to anchor it.  Otherwise, you’re basically forcing an audience to watch you brainstorm, which is a writing process, not stand-up comedy.

10) Shake hands with the MC when you take the stage

Unless you’ve got clammy hands, no hands, leprosy, or truly hate the MC, it’s a good rule of thumb to give your host the old Kentucky shake down when you take the stage.  I’m talking hand shakes, son.  Most MCs expect it, and you’ll create an awkward situation if they go for a shake and you ignore them.

11) Reset the microphone stand

I wouldn’t have thought of this starting out unless I read it in a book, because it’s very subtle. Leave the microphone and stand the way you found them. If you are abnormally tall or short and adjusted the height, change it back. If you moved the stand off to the side, return it to center. A bonus of this reset is that it’s a non-verbal cue to the audience that you are wrapping up.  Good form, chum!

12) Don’t rip on the audience (unless they ask for it)

This kills me, and I see it SO often. An open mike is dead. It’s bomb city and we’re the municipal council.

Bomb City boasts a progressive recycling program, a wicked huge pool, and negative 15 chuckles.

Some comics take a bomb with grace, others turn into weird angry babies, lashing out at the audience for daring not to laugh at their brilliant material. What I hate the most, is comics who start ripping into the crowd, insulting the people who actually did show up. Thanks, douchebag. You are making sure the few people who tolerate amateur comedy will be terrified to ever come out again.

13) Try not to chat or work on material during the show

I break this rule occasionally. Sometimes an idea comes, and I simply must write it down. From previous experience, I know it will be gone by the end of the show. Likewise, if a comic who is a good friend enters the venue during a set, I might briefly fist bump (as I do) to say hello.

Don’t forget to explode it, you guys…

Sometimes, if I’m really psyched, I’ll go for the chest bump:

It’s all love, Dubbie

But other than that, I try not to have a conversation or immerse myself in a set list during someone else’s act. I want them to watch my set, so it makes sense to return the favour. Another point to consider, (though fairly unlikely), is that writing during another comic’s performance might give the impression that you’re stealing material. If you just gotta have a chat, make sure you move to the back of the venue, or better, to another room, so that you don’t distract from the performance.

14) Don’t tell people what is or isn’t funny

By all means, interact.  Offer suggestions and feedback to other comics (I know I appreciate honest feedback), but avoid the newbie mistake of branding things “funny” and “not funny.”

I can remember one occasion where I had a decent set at an open mike, and a new comic approached me with a compliment. I thanked him, but he went on to tell me exactly which comics that night were funny, and which were not. It was ridiculous to hear him branding extremely gifted, veteran comics who I admire, as “not funny.”  And this from some bum who’d just bombed his own set.

Here’s a coincidence: after a month, I never saw that guy again.  The last time I did, he was sitting alone, obviously ostracized and miserable.

Sad, sad Keanu…

Well, there you go. I felt a little weird writing this post, because I’m no authority on stand-up.  But I try to follow these rules of etiquette, and they’ve never done me wrong.  As always, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Drop a comment if you have other etiquette points to add.

We’ll end off with a look at a breach of news anchor etiquette:

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2013 11:19 pm

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    • August 15, 2013 11:08 am

      Nope, just sign up for an account with – it’s all fairly point and click and you can pick a theme to get you started.


  1. Been awhile… « Premise PUNCH Tag – Joel Buxton's Stand-Up Comedy Blog

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