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Breaking In to Stand-up: Organizing Your Own Comedy Open Mic Night

A Do-It-Yourself Approach to Stand-up Comedy


Breaking In to Stand-up: Organizing Your Own Comedy Open Mic Night
Photo by George Doyle/Getty Images

So you want to break into stand-up comedy, but you're having trouble finding stage time even as an emcee at the local comedy club. What do you do? Well, while you keep trying to get on stage at the club (and you should keep trying), continue to work on your live act by finding an open mic to perform at.

If there are no open mics near you, take matters into your own hands and set up your own open mic.

Here are some tips on setting up your own open mic night:

  • Find space. Do some searching in your town or city and find a coffee house or bar with a decent performance space. It doesn't have to be a stage, just a spot that's open and visible to the patrons.
  • Get the ok. Talk to the owner about a night that might be good for an open mic; maybe it's a slow night, and you can suggest that an open mic might help bring in some customers. Don't promise that you'll deliver anything, though.
  • Choose your theme. Maybe you'll want your open mic to include a variety of acts: music, poetry, that kind of stuff. Maybe you want to keep it strictly focused on comedy. Make sure you choose ahead of time and are able to advertise it as such; you don't want a bunch of people there to hear a poetry reading without knowing that at least you will be performing a set of stand-up. Your audience should have an idea what to expect.
  • Get the word out. Your open mic will only be successful if you have both participants and an audience. Surely there are others in your position, looking for stage time but not finding the right venue at which to perform. Advertise your open mic at the location where it will be held, but try and find other places to advertise, too. And since comedy is always better with an audience, you'll want to recruit as many friends and family as you can (once your set is ready, that is).
  • Figure out the money. Maybe you'll want to run your open mic night free of charge; the experience and time onstage is reward enough. If you decide that there should be a charge, figure out if you'll want to negotiate a percentage of the door sales with the venue. Maybe you'll just want to offer the proceeds to the venue; it might make your open mic a more attractive proposition. Keep in mind that it may be difficult to get people to pay for an open mic night. Until you've had some success and word of mouth gets out, you may not want to charge admission.
  • Choose your structure. Most open mics are run by first come, first serve sign-up sheet, but you're certainly not locked into that structure. It's your night; you can set it up however you like. If the night is entirely comedy, you may want to determine a specific order. Either way, you should have an idea of how you want to organize things ahead of time. It will help the night run more smoothly.
  • Work on your performance. Since the goal of organizing your open mic is to get on stage, you'll want to be sure you're ready. While you're not likely to get discovered performing at an open mic, it will help get you in fighting shape for the club circuit.
  • Not only will holding your own open mic give you a chance to perform, but it will also give you experience working with business owners (which could come in handy when dealing with club promoters), some valuable experience in self-promotion and will allow you to start making connections with other aspiring comedians and artists.

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