Here’s another installment from our resident pro, Bob Abdou with “Ask the Pro.”
I have read most of your stories and adventures on your career, you seem to always mention open mic, what exactly is that? – Fred M, California
Good Question, I have experience at performing open mics since 1996. Open mic is not for the faint of heart, it can be cruel, cold and leave you wanting to quit the business immediately. On the flip side, open mic can be a great source for networking. Some advantages of open mic is that it will give you stage experience that you will not get performing in your living room. It will let you know what it is like on stage, setting up, tearing down (and in a hurry). Open mic will reveal your weak points in your act that will allow you to be better disciplined, edit your material and give you more confidence.
There are different types of open mic sessions: music, poetry, comedy and variety. Most open mics are performed at bars, coffee houses, libraries and other retail locations. Wherever the venue, whatever the topic, the number one factor for performing open mic is “LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. If the stage is near the front door, the pool table, the restrooms or anywhere there is foot traffic, my advise is don’t waste your time going. The worst location will over power any good intentions.
When performing for open mic music, it is best to have songs to sing so the emcee will see you are keeping with the theme. The same is true with open mic poetry, perform a poem with your puppet with some comedy woven in the routine is a plus. Open mic comedy is the best venue for vents but that too has its pros and cons.
When performing open mic comedy be prepared to perform very late, You will find yourself performing to an empty audience and be by yourself before and after your performance. Comedians will look at you as fierce competition and will give you the silent treatment. The biggest downfall is cigarette smoke, either inside the club or outside the doorway, when you get home the cigarette smoke will follow you. If cigarette smoke bothers you, don’t go to open mic, you will hate it.
One suggestion for open mic, no matter the theme, is to keep away from doing kiddie material. The audience is adult, mostly students and they are there to hopefully watch the open mic session. If you do school jokes or kiddie routines, this will only sabotage your time and put a damper on your enthusiasm. I am not talking about doing x rated material, it is best to always talk adult to an adult audience. Clean adult comedy does exist and our acts can prove that.
Arriving early to an open mic will not make you perform early. Some open mics have a lottery and the emcee will choose who performs when. Open mics also start late, some sign up at 8pm and the show starts at 10pm. The room will be filled at the beginning of the show only because most of them are the performers and their friends. Once a performer is done with their set, they will not always sit and watch your routine. They are usually seen smoking outside or chit chatting with others and you are left performing to empty seats. Sad to say, we are forced to watch what they do, it should be a courtesy that they should watch what we do but that is only in a perfect world. If you are not comfortable performing for 3 audience members at 12:30 in the morning, then don’t do it. I personally believe that the show does NOT go on, just go home. One way I have found in performing early is to tip the emcee, yes it will cost to perform but starting early allows me to have a large crowd and I get home at a decent hour. Try to remember the bartenders name and mention to tip him when you are on stage, he could be a big help to you in the future. As performing vents, we need as much help and stage time as possible.
A review on the Bad & the Ugly
*nobody pays attention to your act
*be prepared to be ignored
*nobody helps with your music or sound
*you perform at the wee hours of the night
*you get heckled and nobody does anything about it
*bad stage location, be prepared to be ignored
*your time is cut short or you get bumped
*you are told your set is done, get off the stage NOW
*you smell like cigarette smoke
*with the wrong audience, you cry all the way home (yes, I have)
*you are not welcome to come back, they won’t tell you but you will know
*the emcee doesn’t care about you, your dummy or your career
*it is not worth complaining, open mic is what it is
A review on the Good
*you will meet other entertainers that you can network with
*you will see what other entertainers do on stage, so take note.
*you will learn stage presence, this is vital to any performer
*you might hear something funny, so take note
*you will learn using a mic, mic stand, this is vital
*you will learn the positioning of your set up,
*you will learn where and how to bring out the puppet
*you will learn how to deal with a real audience
*you will learn what jokes feel right, keep them
*you will remember your lines better
*with the right audience, you will smile all the way home (yes, I have)
*take a photo, especially if the stage is really cool
(see photo, this is an open mic photo with Humpty Dumpty)
In life, we should try anything once –
Open mic is like the swimming with sharks – what doesn’t kill us will make us better.
All the best,
If you have questions for Bob, be sure to send them to us.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2011 by Dan Willinger
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What a great job Bob has done here with his providing such tremendous information regarding open mics , wherever they might be held; even beginning presentations elsewhere. Bob’s many years of learning his craft & testing “the waters”, shows in his comments. Anyone starting out in performing should read Bob’s lists carefully. Wonderful job Bob !