Do go to an open mic with a goal. Have a reason to be there. It doesn’t matter what the purpose is for being there as long as you have a purpose for being there. Work on a new joke. Change the wording of an old bit. Add inflection or movement to an existing joke to give it something extra. Run a 5 minute set to make sure you have the delivery and wording exactly the way you want it. Riff about an idea that popped into your head and verbally brainstorm it on stage. Set goals when you go to open mics so you feel a sense of purpose for being there.
Don’t go without a game plan. The reason many comics get frustrated with open mics is that the comics feel they are a waste of time. And if you go to a mic without goals set and work to accomplish, then they are a waste of time. Not only your time but every one at the mics time as well. Going up and just half-assing your set or taking the stage to just complain about how the mic is too long or that no one is listening is not only annoying to everyone there but it isn’t doing shit for your act.
Do pay attention to how other comics work ethic. Watch how other comics utilize their open mic time. Pick up good habits. Recognize bad habits. Watching others use a piece of equipment at a gym teaches you how to work out. See which way builds gains and which causes pains. Hard work and hunger are contagious. watch and ask questions of those who make strides each week. Stay out of the circles of those who waste time. It can rub off on you.
Don’t pay attention to the audience of an open mic. That isn’t a comedy audience. It is mostly made up of comics. Comics at mics who are watching won’t laugh like a regular audience. They are thinking about what they are going to do when they take the mic. They also don’t laugh because comics think in joke form so they aren’t surprised easily like an audience who doesn’t write jokes. Comics laugh at things they would never attempt. If comics are laughing at your set consistently at mics, you act is too weird for normal humans. The people that are in an audience at open mics who aren’t comedians are there for drink specials, wing specials, or because they went to a bar not aware an open mic was taking place. These aren’t comedy seekers. They are not laughers. You aren’t there to entertain. You are there to practice. That audience doesn’t matter. You can’t bomb or kill at an open mic. It is practice. Audience reaction isn’t needed to learn timing, delivery or cadence. Stage time is.
Do go to mics. There is NEVER a point in your comedy life that you don’t need to get better. Open mics aren’t just for new comics. Yes, that is where comics who don’t get booked yet frequent but stage time is stage time. Once you start getting work, you aren’t done. You have just begun. You need to continue to develop. To build more time. And if more accomplished comics go to open mics, it helps show the new batch of comics what they need to work towards. New comics watch vets work ethic. Vets watch young hungry comics and their drive inspires the vets to keep writing and husting. The mic should be a place to practice but also a place to leave feeling accomplished. Go in with that attitude and you will leave stronger.
Don’t disrespect open mics. Most comics look down at open mics. Because anyone can perform on them they think that makes them shitty. There are comics who don’t understand how to properly utilize them. How Not to Suck at Comedy has many articles on how to get the most out of open mics. But for the comics who haven’t read my book (bastards) open mics are frustrating. Those comics tell everyone open mics suck. But without open mics, there is no comedy. Without a watering hole for all the comedy animals to gather, where will we learn how to drink? (jokes, not booze) Do not go to open mics with the attitude that it is a waste of time. Be respectful of the light, of the comics on stage, of the venue and when you are on stage. If you believe open mics are beneath you, then don’t go. Because you are delusional and the hard working, passionate comics who are there don’t need that kind of toxic vibe messing with their creativity. respect the open mic.