How do I find a comedy open mic night near me?

One of the most common problems for people starting in standup is finding somewhere to perform. Bigger cities will usually have a lot of comedy open mic nights, but it can be harder to find spots if you don’t live in one of those places.

The first thing I learned was that it’s actually pretty hard to find open mic nights through Google. The reason for this is that the scene in any area will change a lot over time, and keeping an up to date list of nights takes ongoing effort. So if you happen to find a website listing local comedy nights, there’s a good chance it will be hopelessly out of date (although I try to keep an up to date list of London open mics, I’m sure I’ve missed some). Also the people who run the nights often don’t make web pages for them because it takes a lot of effort. So, in this case, Google isn’t your friend.

Facebook is going to be more helpful. The people who run open mic nights are much more likely to create a Facebook page to promote it (because that’s easier than building a web site) and this is usually where you’ll find information about how to get a spot.

You’ll also find that in a lot of areas there will be Facebook groups for local comedians, which will be a good place to find nights. Either that, or more general local groups that have information about all open mic nights in the area including music, poetry, and other bullshit. You might also find anything-goes nights that let comedians, musicians and others perform on the same bill.

So, the short answer to how you find a comedy open mic night near you is to search on Facebook. You’ll find pages for the nights themselves, or local groups that will point you in the right direction.

Another option is to use an online open mic directory. There are a few sites in the UK that can help you find spots around the country – although they don’t always have the most up to date information because the open mic organisers don’t add the details of their own nights.

Some of the UK directories I know of are:

Open Comedy – Focused entirely on stand-up comedy, and not just for open mic nights. Worth signing up if you’re interested in getting involved in the business.

Open Mic Finder – Covers all types of open mic nights, but seems to lean more towards music than comedy.

Spotlz – Seems to be some kind of spot booking service, one or two London nights use it but there’s not a lot of information on the site and it doesn’t seem to be very popular.

Open Comedy is the best of the bunch as far as I can tell, but your mileage may vary.

Gig 50 at the Cavendish Arms

At Battersea Power Comedy last week. Despite appearances, I am not actually punching myself in the face, just gently stroking my beard.

I hit a small milestone this week,  my fiftieth open mic spot, a little over a year since I did my first one. I’d hoped to get closer to 100 by now, but real life gets in the way so I just can’t do as many gigs as I’d like and I’m resigned to the fact that I’m only going to be able to do one spot most weeks.

I was glad to be marking the occasion at Comedy Virgins at the Cavendish Arms, because I’ve had a lot of good nights there since I got started. Last night was no exception, the room was full (thanks in part to Mouch bringing half the audience with him) and almost every act was on form, nobody bombed terribly.

I got called up at the end of the night as the penultimate act. Under normal circumstances the energy would be flagging by this point, especially since Comedy Virgins tends to be a long night, but the room was still buzzing close to the finish line.

The act before me was an Italian guy who had his moments, but he tried to do some crowdwork with me* which just ended up being awkward and went on too long, and he did a couple of slightly  racist bits about gypsies which made the audience uncomfortable.

As it happens, I’ve recently discovered that my dad was of Irish Traveler heritage, and since I was on right after this guy I really felt like I should try to do something with this. So I dropped my planned opener and improvised some stuff about me being a gypsy, and while it wasn’t particularly funny I think the crowd enjoyed the serendipity and the fact that I addressed the issue, and I got a small cheer for my effort.

Last week I promised myself I wasn’t going to use a set list, but I wimped out at the last minute and scribbled just a few words on my hand to remind me of the structure of the middle bit of my set. I didn’t have to look at it much and once I got into my stride I felt a lot more comfortable than I have at recent gigs, and that made my delivery feel more natural too. The audience seemed to go along with me and I got some decent laughs all the way through.

The only problem was that because I improvised my opener my timing was all over the place and I got the one minute warning much sooner than I expected, so instead of wrapping it up with my usual closer I finished on a bit that usually goes in the middle. It’s a perfectly serviceable bit but the premise is better than the punchline, so it’s not strong enough to end a set on.

All the same, I was happy with how well it all went and I left the stage feeling like I’d done a decent job. I really need to ween myself back off hand-notes again though – I think the trick is to use progressively fewer and fewer words each gig until you don’t need anything at all.

I’m on holiday again next week, and then I’ve got spot back at Battersea Power Comedy  on the 6th of September.

 

*Tip for newbies, if you’re going to do crowdwork don’t pick on other comedians, because they’ll just try to be smartarses and derail your set.

7 Minutes at Battersea Power Comedy

I didn’t gig last week because I was in Nice with my trotters up, but this week I had a spot at Battersea Power Comedy. My bringer was Pauline Stobbs, another act I made friends with a year ago when we got started together. She’s currently spending some time in Australia, but was back visiting the UK for a couple of weeks so it was a good opportunity to catch up.

A few of the registered acts dropped out, but it was still a decent night because one guy brought a load of friends and a couple of people wandered in from the bar, so there was a reasonable audience. The night was a mixed bag of experience levels, a few very new acts and a few more polished guys – some of the people who stood out for me were Michael Eldridge, Kazeem Jamal Faturoti-Edwards, and Daniel Mahony.

At the moment I’ve got a good chunk of material (probably close to 10 minutes) loosely around the same theme of being a dad, and before every gig I decide which bits I’m going to use to make up five minutes, usually starting with the same opener and closer but mixing up the middle. Since there were a few dropouts the MC, Zach Dills, wasn’t being too strict with the time-keeping, so instead of sticking to the five minutes worth of bits I’d scribbled into a set-list on the back of my hand, I did as much of the stuff as I could remember. 

I think it ran to about seven minutes and it mostly seemed to go well, although I tried the riskier of my two openers which only seems to work about half of the time, and this was not one of those times. I rearranged my closer a little, because I’ve noticed that part of the story often gets a bigger laugh than the main punchline, and I want it to end on the biggest laugh. It worked well enough, but I should probably try properly rewriting it so that it hangs together a bit better. 

Because there were a few dropouts and the lineup was looking more sausagey than the Chariots Sauna Summer BBQ, Zach offered Pauline a spot. Considering she only had a few minutes notice and hadn’t gigged for over six weeks, she did a solid job of delivering some of her best material from memory. 

This made me realise what a bell-end I am for always relying on a set-list on the back of my hand – sure my brain is old and fucked, but I’ve got enough well-worn material now that I should be able to fill five minutes without needing notes. 

I’m challenging myself not to use notes from now on unless I’m trying out a completely new set. This starts next Wednesday, when I’m on at the Cavendish for my 50th spot.

In other news, I’m going to San Francisco with work for a week in September and I’ll have most of the evenings free, so I’m currently researching open-mic nights in the city with the plan of trying to do as many as I can while I’m there. 

Gig Count: 49