by Robert Berry
Sacramento is an amazing city for comics, with several comedy open mics in all sorts of different types of venues, nearly every night of the week. Sacramento Comedy Spot has been running an open mic for over 15 years. Whether you’re someone that wants to try out comedy for the very for the first time or a seasoned vet that wants to work on some new stuff, we’ll provide a great stage, audience, and crowd that’s actually there to see a comedy show, all of which can help you get your set in great shape! This is your handy guide to open mic success.
HOW TO SIGN UP TO PERFORM
Keep in mind that every venue runs their mic a little differently, but here are some pointers that are pretty universal. Typically, signups for an open mic occur about 30 minutes before showtime. Unfortunately, there are often more comedians that show up to perform than there are spots for on the show. Typically, the host of a show will come out with a sign-up list and will collect the names of people that are interested in performing. After 15 minutes or so, the lineup and order of the performers will be posted. Here are some handy tips to help you deal with this portion of the open mic.
- Show up early and be ready to go at the sign-up time. If signups are at 7:30 and you arrive at 7:35, chances are very good that you might not get on the show.
- If you’ve brought a paying guest, let the host know. It’s not guaranteed, but typically performers that bring paying members of the audience will get consideration above those who don’t.
- Be prepared to perform at any time during the show. You might be #1 or #20 on the list. There are so many factors why a host may determine the order, but they are not personal. Someone’s gotta be the last one up when there are fewer people in the crowd, and, sometimes, it’s going to be you.
- Be patient. The host will get your name and get to you. Getting ahead of someone who’s waiting to give their name won’t help.
- Be gracious when you aren’t selected to perform. It’s a numbers game. The host is trying to put a great show together to give new folks a chance to perform and put some seasoned veterans on the lineup to make sure it’s a great show for all. If you’re not chosen to be on the show, just try again. It’ll work out eventually.
Here are some handy tips that will help you make the most of the experience.
- See the light! Respect the light! Obey the light! Don’t run the light! There’s a red light in the back of the club, right in front of the stage. When you have one minute left in your set, it will turn on for a while. When that minute passes, it’ll begin blinking. At this point, no matter where you are with your joke or set, wrap stuff up, thank the crowd, and leave the stage, because you’ll be played off with music and your mic will be turned off if you continue. 20 comics adding just one minute to their set can add up, so we gotta keep it moving.
- Getting cut off by the light happens to everyone. It’s part of learning how long your set is going to be. Don’t be embarrassed. Look at your set and see what you can do to make it more time-efficient next time. Maybe the extra crowd work you did threw you off. Maybe you didn’t plan for all those extra laughs. You’ll get them next time.
- If you don’t have enough material, you don’t have to go your full five minutes. Simply say, “That’s all I have tonight. Thank you.”
- If you have any difficulty seeing the light, please let the host know, and we can give you some other time cue.
- Be nice to the microphone. Don’t cup the head of the mic into your hands. Talk about one inch from the mic. Don’t hit the mic on things. Don’t twirl the cord, and as tempting as it may be, never, never do an actual mic drop. You’ll damage the mic, the PA system, and your chances of performing again.
- We’ll have a stool for you on stage to set a phone, notes, or drink on. It’s important to stay hydrated.
- BE READY! It’s a great practice to be in the wings backstage while the performer in front of you is on stage. Their five-minute set might end after two minutes, so don’t be that comedian that disappears after their name is called. If you’re skipped, you are off the show, and someone else may take your spot.
- Your spot is not transferable. If you want to trade spots with another comic, ask the host first.
- If you feel like you don’t want to perform after the lineup is posted, tell the host. You don’t get to select a replacement. They may already have someone on standby.
- Do your own material. Stealing jokes is a great way to get a bad rep quickly. This isn’t karaoke.
- We do not censor material, but harassing the audience, staff, or performers will not be tolerated. We do a good job watching out for disruption, and hecklers are rare, but feel free to ask for help if someone is causing trouble, and we’ll deal with it for you.
LEARN FROM THE EXPERIENCE
Sacramento Comedy Spot offers stand-up classes monthly. Our classes will give you insight into writing jokes and creating a set. You don’t have to take a class to be successful, but for some people, it’s the help they need to finally get on stage. No matter what, nothing can replace just getting on stage and learning by doing!
- Record every set you can. That being said, please try to find a way to do it that isn’t distracting to the audience. Bringing Francis Ford Coppola with you and three cameras is not going to go over well.
- Learn by bombing. All comics bomb. Maybe all or part of your set didn’t get any laughs. Maybe it was the crowd’s fault. Probably, it was your fault. This will happen to every comic occasionally, forever. Decide what you want to adjust and try again.
- You don’t have to do new material every time you perform. Just because a bunch of comedians have seen your stuff a few times doesn’t mean the crowd has. You’re playing for that crowd. That being said, there’s a special thrill to making jaded comedians laugh, but often, they’re a twisted bunch that enjoys misery, so don’t try to please them!
Sacramento Comedy Spot is a great place with a great sense of community. We pride ourselves on having an open mic where you can work on new stuff, but also show off to a good crowd. If you want to dust off your golden greats, or you have some stuff you just want to work out, have fun with it! We’d be honored and thrilled to have you!