Differences between open mics and paid gigs
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.
If you like what you are reading, please check out the entire series, From Open Mics to Paid Gigs.
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 differences between open mics and 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.
Think about this:
What are the gigs you want to book?
Make a list of the Top 5 Gigs You Want To Book.
- What type of gig is it?
- What is the name of the venue for each of your Top 5 Gigs?
- How much material will you need for each gig?
What would you do in this scenario?
The Local Comedy Show needs you to crush.
Some of the comedy show’s best customers complained about the comedy. These are people who return to the venue for other events. They look forward to comedy nights and were disappointed in the professionalism. These are people who like to hear your ideas and material so they can laugh at your punchlines. Therefore, the comedians who work this gig regularly would like you to not screw up.
One thing you can do to make your set more professional is to edit the parts that aren’t getting laughs. Examine your set and rank the 5 worst jokes from least funny to the absolutely least funniest joke in your set.
Are there 5 jokes in your set that are the least funny?
Can you get a few laughs and sell a few drinks?
Garrulous Greg, the Bartender
At the Local Comedy Show, there is a bartender that is a top performer for the LowCal Brewery. Greg is a leader in sales for most of the monthly contests. Last year, his best food and beverage performance increase was on comedy show night because he kept inviting customers back to the show.
Many of the people in the showroom are Greg’s customers and they’ve already asked him about the comedians on the show. It’s known that the customers like Greg, and that he doesn’t mind a few good natured jokes poking fun of his goofy mullet, as long as it sells a few extra beers and burgers. “Whatever it takes to make sure everyone has a good time,” is a common thing Greg tells new wait staff.
You’ve got 10-minutes to crush the audience with the best jokes for this performance. You are going to sustain laughter. And at some point, you might want to say Thanks to the bar and waitstaff.
Is there room in your set list for a few jokes that acknowledge the excellent service at LowCal Brewery?
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
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