‘Why don’t Rastafarians go on canal barge holidays?
Because the dread locks.’
I did my first set at a Gong style comedy night the other week. The one I did (The Blackout in Greenwich) gives you 2 mins to get started before you can be voted off. I believe at some of the others like King Gong people can get voted off straight away – in some cases before they’ve even reached the mic. Presumably that’s on the basis of the judges not liking their shoes or something which seems remarkably unfair. Unless they’re Skechers in which case fair tackle.
Anyway, at The Blackout after the 2 mins were up I lasted about 12 seconds. I think it would have been told to get off quicker but one of the judges dropped his sign.
It made me realise how unreal the open mic circuit is in many ways. However bad or ill-advised your set is at an open mic night generally people will be supportive, but in the gladiatorial area of a proper comedy gig you’re just not going to be afforded the same support. Of course that’s the point – open mic nights are meant to serve that precise purpose but you could easily mistake them for the real world if those were all you did, so it’s good to be periodically reminded otherwise.
I imagine it’s similar to how driverless cars work perfectly in lab experiments where the road grids are regularly organised and the environment is controlled, only to crash into a lamppost the first time they get onto real roads because some dozy cat wanders into their flightpath. Cue lots of lab coated technicians standing around trying to figure out how they factor a ‘dozy cat’ into their algorithms.
I wasn’t too disheartened anyway.
At the other end of the spectrum I’ve done a couple of open mics recently where literally the entire audience has consisted solely of the other stand up comedians on the bill, which is as far removed from a real world environment as you can possibly imagine.
Perhaps this might be a good point to discuss the topic of ‘Bringers’ nights?
Some open mic nights require you to bring someone along as a condition of performing. Many comedians vehemently hate this concept and whilst I agree they are a pain – there’s only so many times you can convince friends and family to come along – personal experience has been that these nights are generally the best ones to perform at.
At a basic level there’s just more people in the room which helps the dynamics plus as some people are there in a non-performing capacity, to support a friend or colleague and potentially enjoy the other acts, you get a far more real world reaction.
It is a struggle sometimes though to rustle up that Bringer. Luckily there’s a helpful Facebook group for swapping +1’s with fellow comics and some nights allow you to be your own bringer by coming as an audience member at previous weeks shows.
Its good to have both kinds of nights out there though – I tend to use the non-bringer nights as a chance to try really new stuff where I just want to hear how the words sound when said out loud and the bringer ones for more developed material where I’m more concerned with the reaction it gets.
And that’s comedy science.