I encounter a lot of comics on the New York City comedy scene.
As diverse as the NYC scene is, there’s one common bond we all share that we have to experience in order to earn our place: open mics.
Open mics, no matter your level, are a resource that is essential to build your material and your performance as a comedian. We may not like going to them, but we have to do them in order to get better.
The real questions come into play. How often should you actually be frequenting mics? Is there a “magic number” that only a few of us know?
Here are my thoughts.
The “magic number” is based on your personal needs.
Going to mics is something comedians do for a variety of reasons. You may be working on a set, working out new material, networking, socializing, or a mixture of these reasons.
For the purpose of this blog, let’s focus this on performance and material.
I often see comedians doing 15 - 20 mics a week leaving them burnt out and negative about doing comedy. Additionally, they will have no prospects of a show that week and they only do it just to do it or to prove themselves to others.
I did a “60 Mics, 60 Days” challenge in Fall 2019 just to see how I fared averaging a mic a day and I learned a lot in terms of my personal number and how I respond to the grind.
My current life is very busy. Beyond performing and producing, I work a full-time job and maintain some kind of life outside of comedy.
Before the challenge, I wasn’t committing to open micing as much as I should. I’m honest with myself about that. I was pulling maybe 4 - 5 (shameful), but now I have found my personal average for actual growth needs to be a minimum 7 open mics and I have kept that average since then; that number also increases based on whether I am performing on a show and need to sharpen a set.
That number is different for everyone and is really based on how much energy and time you have to do mics.
You gain nothing from burning out.
I have found if I’m not preparing for a show and I’m just excessively doing mics, I burnout so much quicker. The full-time job isn’t helpful for that and that may be why those in certain situations can do more mics; however, if you end up feeling the burnout, that means how much you are performing isn’t actually helping you and you’ll only resent doing comedy.
There was one week I pulled 15 mics and I did 15 because I had the time, but looking back I actually performed worse and felt it during that week. I was exhausted, getting home late, and just existing. By the twelfth open mic, I wasn’t absorbing anything from my efforts.
It’s kind of like when you build muscle. Overworking the body is not going to help your gains...it will only break you down. Comedy (like any performance) is a muscle and it’s only a matter of time before you reach a breaking point.
You have to strategize yourself with open mics.
Like anything, a strategy is key.
If you’re trying to grow as a comedian, you have to approach mics with a specific goal. Some goals might be:
- “I want to practice an act out”
- “I want to project my voice more”
- “I want to stop saying ‘ugh’ and “ya know’ so much”
- "I want to practice crowd work”
- "I want to work out a new bit”
Whatever it is, create a strategy for that growth with each open mic. You’ll get more out of 6 - 7 mics where you actually worked on developing yourself versus that 12 - 15 mics where you didn’t have any focus.
Just remember, open mics are necessary, but you don’t need to beat yourself up if you can’t average the same as the next comedian. It all depends on where we are personally with comedy and your situation. Your personal growth isn’t something you should measure against others just because it’s perceived they’re doing better.
Go at your own pace, but do strive to find some consistency.
Got questions or something to add? Comment below and tell us your thoughts!