Solid Advice From Comic I’m Working With In November In Toronto

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Big Band

Hey Nate:

Thanks for your note! I have spots open all the time.  You are welcome to attend & perform.  I’d love to have you out.  Bring 5 mins of prepared material & 2 guests  & you’re on.  9 PM start – get there around 8:30ish.

It’s fashioned after Open-Mic nights in L.A., Chicago, New York and other major cities…

1.) Potential comics sign up with me in advance via e-mail to perform at a scheduled show.

2.) You then take time to promote your appearance,  making tweets, e-mails, telephone calls, Facebook updates etc.  YES – you MUST promote your appearance at the show, to help get people out to watch! 10+ comics generally sign-up and perform.  Pro’s drop in & do time.  It’s a fun show.

The gig is a 2 person “bringer” – so if you drag out 2 non-comedian friends to sit in the audience & watch – I will put you on stage.  When everyone does that – the room is packed & it rocks!  The more folks you can bring out, the happier the bar owner is, & the more often I can put you on stage.  Help me build some traffic in the room on a Monday night & I will help you get on stage to build out your act.  Sound fair?

Personally, I hate performing with a lot of ‘comics’ in the room.  It sucks (like most ‘open mics’ do) – other acts are not real “audiences” – they don’t laugh at any jokes & they are too caught up in their own  acts to make a good “audience” for anyone else – so no one gets true audience feedback to new material.

That’s why I ask each performer to bring 2 ‘punters’ – i.e. BFF’s, relatives – neighbours –  someone – co-workers… (not fellow comics) to sit in the audience and support you & the other acts, (i.e. by watching the entire show), in  exchange for you getting your 5 – 7 mins of stage time.

There is no cover charge & no ‘drink  minimums’.  When you bring 2 guests with you, (and everyone else on the show does) all of the acts can get honest audience response to their material… & we have a real ‘crowd’ on a Monday night.  When all that falls into place, it’s really a good venue for telling jokes & working out bits.  Without that – it’s not so much fun.  I need you to do your part.

That’s the deal with this open mic room.

Those who bring no (ZERO) guests, but still show up & ask me for stage time really don’t get what I am trying to accomplish.  The show is produced by a comedian, for comedians.  I do not make money on this show, and in fact have spent money on prinitng & promotion. I want it to be the best open mic experience possible, for both novices and working professionals.

Show up with just your set list in hand, having made no effort to promote your appearance – & without any supporters out to watch you, you may lose your performance slot.  Help me get butts in seats & in exchange I will help you build out your act.

Why do I need to bring people?

Comedy without a real audience isn’t comedy, it’s some kind of freaky bad poetry. I encourage you to invite lots of people to your show.

Let’s be honest, the more people you bring to support you, the better you will feel during your set & the better audience response you will get to your jokes.  They will thank you for inviting them, and they’ll look forward to seeing you perform again!

So to be clear – stage time preference is given to those performers that bring 2 ‘punters’ (non comedian friends) to the gig, & who support all the acts by watching the entire show. (If you are a friend-less orphan, or from out of town, I understand it can be tough to get folks out, when all your folks are in a different city).

Some new acts are hesitant to try to get their freinds / family to come & don’t want their friends to see their “unpolished” acts… In reality – it’s hard to get strangers out to see an ‘open mic’ show (you are not famous, & no one has heard of you – or me).  We don’t “draw” the public out – but you will be a big “draw” for your friends & family – who will want to see you on stage & help support your budding comedy career) so work ’em all over to attend the show that you are performing on.

How do you promote?

Use Facebook, Twitter, e-mails, phone calls, & word of mouth.  It’s your show, you should be  pumping it up like crazy!  Also, as early as possible, (a month out is a good starting point). Give your guests / people plenty of “lead time” to plan to attend.  Also if you are on FACEBOOK, add me as  a friend and become a fan of my page – I will do the same for you!

If you are new to the Open Mic game, here are some Open Mic Guidelines to follow:  If you are an open mic veteran – you probably already know all these things & don’t need me to tell you… but once in a while crazy people show up – and cause chaos, so here goes:

1. Stay WITHIN your time limit. If you get “the light” – you must quickly wrap it up. Remember, it is not a sin for you to go UNDER your allotted 5 min. time.  (I don’t generally light anyone – but once in a while… I have to.)

2. NEVER tell the audience they suck. They might suck, but it’s probably YOUR MATERIAL & YOUR ACT that is sucking it.  They showed up & they want to have a good time.  They probably really want you to succeed.

So do your best & give it a good effort.  Try to make them laugh. Don’t bail out on a smallish audience.

3. The patrons that did show up want to hear jokes & have fun, so DON’T PISS THEM OFF!  Your objective should be to make them LAUGH.  My objective is to try out my new material, help the bar make some money (& stay in business) & keep our show running.  I don’t want performers to ‘walk the patrons’ from the room because of really offensive material or horrible attitudes.

4. If one of your bits is continually failing, LOSE IT. Employ the “three strikes – it’s out of the act” rule.

5. In order to leave a “good audience” for your next performer, don’t end your set on really vulgar or crude material. It’s difficult to follow. If you do that, you are creating a hole for the next guy to dig himself out of.

6. **MY PET PEEVE** Don’t chat loudly at the back of the room/socialize during another act’s set.  Pay attention to the person on  stage, and after the show ends – offer positive, constructive  evaluations.  Leave the room if you need to talk to your pals, or be on your phone / text.  Loud ‘table talk’ is distracting to those  seated around you – who are trying to follow someones carefully worded jokes, and enjoy the show.  Hopefully, they will show you the  same consideration when you are on stage.  Be  professional.


Also be aware: all stage time is precious, so use it productively.  Bring 5 mins of rehearsed bits – ad-libbing (spritzing / improv) i.e. ‘talking to the crowd’ rarely works at Open       Mics.

A. Avoid doing racist, sexist or homophobic material (especially if it is mean-spirited).  This is a restaurant, not a  comedy club.  Stolen material is, of course, unacceptable.  This  will get you “the light”.  You won’t be welcome to return.

B. Set length is five (5) minutes, seven (7)  minutes if you are killing it, MAXIMUM. “The light” may go on when its time for you to WRAP IT UP.  Going long (i.e. failure to stay within your allotted time limit) will piss everyone off & make you far less  popular when you want to re-book with me for future spots!

Consideration for available slots is given as  follows:

1. First to visiting professional comedians  &
2. to new performers who bring TWO or MORE guests

If  you blow off right after your spot & distract the crowd as you leave the
room, with loud & long winded good byes to your buds…(hugging folks,
high fives etc.), expect a pretty cold reception to your next request for more stage time.  Don’t be rude to the person who is on stage & performing.  The act on stage needs the audience to focus on them –  not to focus on on you, as you leave.

This room runs like a Co-Op… so please be considerate of the act who is on stage & trying to   get some laughs.  Don’t distract the audience.  If an act is on stage, please leave the room quietly & discreetly if you absolutely have to.

Thanks for your cooperation & a bigger thanks to all of you who already know all these things (& don’t have to be told).  You guys make running this night fun.

Russell Roy

Image courtesy of &

  1. Wonderful views on that!

  2. I’m curious, because I want to study creative writing in college. Thanks!.

  3. I was curious if you ever thought of changing the layout of your website?
    Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two pictures.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

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