This article is part of a a series: From Open Mics to Paid Gigs.
- Explain why you are expected to crush at a paid gig.
Professional comedians sustain laughter.
The big difference between an open mic comedy show and a paid performance is the audience’s expectation of laughter. In the Local Comedy Show scenario, the comedians earned complaints because they did not generate enough laughter.
Pro TIp: Superior headliners expect their opening acts to crush a performance.
One of my favorite headliners has a habit of stopping me on the way to the stage and telling me, “You better crush, Bear.”
The best stand-up comedians I’ve worked with have an expectation that their opening acts and MC set atone of uproarious laughter. You make the audience laugh with a constant barrage of material and comedy that is distinct from other comedians. That’s why I expect the performers on my shows to crush.
On the contrary, some of my least favorite comedians rig the show with poor quality opening acts.
If you’re opening for one of these people, use your best judgement to crush accordingly.
One thing that new comedians do to transition from open mics to paid gigs is to develop a 10-minute set.
- In an open mic comedy show the comedians can make mistakes and fail to get laughs.
- For a professional stand-up comedy show, or paid gig, the audience expects you to be funny. I expect you to be very funny!
- Johnny Newguy Tip: As a young comedian in Boston, my peers and I over used the word crushed. After a set at the open mic, we’d say, “I crushed that set!” The other 4 people in the room would silently agree.
- Before I could crush an opening set, I had to develop a 10-minute set to perform on showcases.
- Some of those showcases were paid gig at the comedy clubs as an opening act.
- I would use my stage time at open mics to hone and develop material for the comedy showcases at the clubs.
- Over a 1-2 year period, I used my experience at comedy clubs to find out what was working and what needed fixing. I’d go to open mics, fix my act, and return to the clubs with more new material for the mid-week showcases and a hot set of honed material for the weekends.
Here’s some things you can do at open mics to hone your act for paid gigs.
Before the gig:
- Memorize your set.
Tips for Memorizing your set
- Repeat your set list out loud until you no longer need notes to know which joke is next.
- Practice your showcase set out loud until you don’t need notes to perform the entire routine.
- Practice a few sets adding in a moment where you thank the waitstaff.
- Rehearse a few sets and imagine the audience laughing. How often do they laugh?
- Rehearse a few sets and picture nobody laughing at your first 3 jokes. How will you get the laughs going?
Rehearsal Challenge: Practice an Interruption.
While you rehearse, try this realistic scenario. Walk on stage, grab the mic and start. As you begin your first joke, the mic cuts out during the punchline and nobody laughs.
- How will you get laughs after the mic is fixed?
- What will you to do get laughs while the mic is broken?
- People in the back can’t hear you. How will you entertain them while the manager runs to the stage to fix the mic?
What’s the difference between your open mics and the paid gigs in your neighborhood?
Now that you’ve read my thoughts about the different expectations audiences have at open mic comedy shows and pro gigs, it’s time to find out what you think. Scroll through these next challenges.
- If you like the practice scenarios, use these activities to develop your set for the Local Brewery Comedy Show.
- The best thing you can do is to think about how these scenarios apply to you and comedy shows in your neighborhood. Use this article to affirm what you know about the differences between open mics and paid gigs. Use the tips to develop 5, 7, or 10-minute sets for paid gigs and auditions.
In this article, you learned a few tips about organizing your set list so you crush gigs.
Here’s a few things you can do to build your 10-minute set into a set that crushes.
- Estimate the amount of laughter delivered by your opening jokes.
- Build a variety of opening lines. Rotate them as you rehearse at open mics.
- Edit out the jokes and words that aren’t getting laughs. If they are important, fix what’s broken to get enough laughs.
- Sustain laughter in the middle of your set with funny segues, transitions and killer punchlines.
- Develop a variety of closers, material that leads to a big finale of laughter.
- Start identifying material for YouTube videos.
I know one thing, you crushed this section!!! Hopefully, these activities helped you gain a better understanding of how to use open mics to develop a professional showcase set. Keep reading this series. If you want to jump ahead to a particular topic, that’s a smart thing to do!
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 #1 | Local Comedy Showcase
- Differences between open mics and paid gigs
- Developing enough material for gigs
- Comedy Writing Challenge
- Show Business Challenge
Scenario #2 | Getting Booked as an Opening act
- How professional comedians adapt their material to the audience
Scenario #3 | Getting Booked at All-Stars Comedy Club
- What’s a Media Kit or EPK?
- What to do when a comedy show booker says, “Send me your avails.”
- Adapting your set for comedy clubs
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Please share this article with comedians in your neighborhood comedy scene.