Nigel Downer is a Toronto Mainstage alum and director of The Bob Curry Fellowship Showcase.
Landing bigger and better stand-up gigs is about more than just having an arsenal of gangbuster grandma jokes. If you want to get in good with open mic and showcase hosts and producers, there’s some basic etiquette you need to master.
#1 First Impressions are Critical
If you are contacting the host or producer beforehand, get to your question quick — and make sure you’ve read any available info on the show. You may not realize it, but there are 20 other jokesters that have asked the same question: How many minutes do I get? What time do we show up? Is sexist material okay?? Usually, these are answers you can find online or with some logical reasoning. The easier you make that first conversation, the easier we think you are to work with.
#2 No-Shows Will Book No Shows
If you don’t show up, you are drastically hurting your chances to ever get another slot. Your absence may go unnoticed at an open mic once or twice, but playing hooky for a showcase can do some major damage, no matter how “crappy your car is,” or that “public transportation failed you.” Of course, legit emergencies come up– just make sure to contact the host or producer in advance, and don’t make a habit of canceling.
#3 Be a Good Audience
Open mic rooms suffer when comics are nose-deep in their joke books, waiting to go up. If you want people to watch and listen to your set, do the same for others. You’ve done that “Dating is hard!” joke a million times. If you don’t know it by now, it’s too late, anyway.
#4 Stop Talking During Other People’s Sets
On the flip side, save your bits for the stage, and let the comic that’s up take the focus. You might be on the other side of the bar, but your voice carries every time. That goes double if ventriloquism is part of your act.
#5 Don’t Mess With The Equipment
I have replaced 3 stands, 2 amps and more mics then I can count. Your “mic chord as a whip” bit might be hilarious– but if you break the pricy equipment, you probably won’t be doing said “mic chord as a whip” bit at that venue… ever again.
#6 Don’t Take Off Right After Your Set
When you leave right after your set, you are basically saying the show is now beneath you after you performed. If you have another open mic to get to, try to hang out for a few other comedians, at least. Hosts notice who stays and supports others. Those are usually the comics we throw open spots to.
#7 Stop Hovering Over The List
The host needs to stay close to the set list to see who’s coming up and make any necessary notes. When you repeatedly invade their bubble because you keep forgetting who you perform after, you aren’t winning any friends. Same goes at karaoke night.
#8 Say Thanks
It’s funny how few comics personally thank the person that booked them for a show. This means that the people that do express their appreciation really stand out as stand-ups… and will be asked back again and again.
Andrew Thorp produces and co-hosts The Second City Training Center’s Open Mic, Midnight Melt and various shows with The Stand-Down and Thorpedo Productions. He also teaches Stand-Up in The Second City Training Center’s Youth Program.