- Learn how professional comedians use open mics to develop material
Let’s put your act through the late night TV audition crucible!
When a professional comedian needs to develop new material, one option is to hit the open mics. At an open mic comedy show, the expectation is that people are trying comedy. Sometimes a joke fails, which is okay at an open mic.
- Comedians try new jokes, act outs, segues and call-backs to develop material.
Developing enough material for gigs
In this article, I’m going to share some strategies that new comedians use to develop material. If you’re performing stand-up comedy at open mics, you can adapt these tips to your neighborhood comedy scene.
Here’s a few things that you can do:
- Perform. If you can get on stage and perform a few times a month (or week) then you can work on reading the audience, delivery, eye contact, stage presence, comfort, being in the moment, ad libs, act outs, tags, call-backs, stepping on the gas, slowing down, honing material, and so many fun ways to build laughs and crush your stage time.
- Practice. To prepare for my first late night television show, I rehearsed that 4.5-minute set at least 3x a day (while auditioning for movies and sitcoms, touring comedy clubs, and working as the warm-up act for a rival late-night TV show). Practicing helps me transition from rote memorization into pure performance. Knowing my material helps me use other skills like voice, projection, and act-outs to convince the audience that I’m making everything up as I sip beer and casually crush with tons and tons of big laughs. You can practice a 10-minute set a few times in an hour.
- Be professional. The comedians that get my attention for a paid booking are the people doing the work to be funny on stage and make show business easy off-stage. If I’m trying to book you, then your jokes were memorably funny. To get hired, that generally means that I think you are going to solve problems and get laughs. I’ll expect you to go along with any of the terms that I agreed to, including content requests, stage time, and customer service to my client. When I book you, you’ll crush the gig with funny, original material, and you’ll crush back-stage and speedily provide Media Kit artifacts like publicity photos, short bios, a description of your act, video, or whatever else the gig requires. Finally, I know this is a lot to grasp. Crushing short bios isn’t easy and it’s not likely to hold you back from getting hired. When I need or want to hire a new comedian, there’s an expectation that they’ll need some time to assemble these things
My favorite comedians have new jokes that are memorably funny.
The challenge for new comedians is developing enough material for gigs. If I want to freshen up a set, there’s a few hours of old material to pair with new jokes. A new comedian needs their old material. When I was a new comedian, I needed my bad jokes just as much as my good jokes because there were no other jokes to choose from until I wrote them.
- If you are playing the same open mic, try developing new opening lines and closing material so you can figure out which of your jokes are most appropriate for each audience.
- Try writing jokes and throwing them away. Getting a laugh on a short-lived topic helps me improve my show. Throwing the joke away and bringing a new joke to the next show is what entertains repeat audience members. To build on this skill, I’ll try to add more jokes onto my throw-away joke. Every tag, call-back, and act-out helps me get better at performing live comedy, and throwing the material away challenges me to be able to quickly break down a topic and crush it with tons of new jokes.
We’ve gone over a few ways that comedians use open mics to develop material. Now, it’s time to focus on your act. Use the joke writing and comedy show business challenges below to hone your 10-minute set into a 2-minute showcase of material that crushes.
Congratulations! You completed this late-night TV audition challenge!
In this simulation, you were challenged to quickly consolidate your act into a 2-minute showcase set.
- When you’re choosing between jokes to keep in a set or discard, you’re working on skills that help you hone material.
- Selecting jokes for a showcase set helps you adapt your material for a specific performance.
- Now, you’ve got a fresh look at things you can work on at an open mic.
Let’s look to the future. What would you do if you had an opportunity to record a 10-minute set for YouTube?
If you’re enjoying this article, please scroll down for links to the series.
START HERE: From Open Mics to Paid Gigs (Series)
- Moving from Open Mics to Paid Gigs
- How some open mic comedians get booked for paid gigs
- What do you need to get booked for paid gigs?
- One secret to getting booked for your first stand-up comedy show
Scenario | Local Comedy Showcase
- Differences between open mics and paid gigs
- Developing enough material for gigs
- Comedy Writing Challenge
- Show Business Challenge
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