As the year winds down, a lot of comics will reflect on what they accomplished on stage in the last 12 months. Then set new goals for the upcoming year. But, sometimes we are leaving the year on a stale note. We feel like we didn’t get as much accomplished as we thought we would. We don’t feel as confident about our act or where we stand as we thought we would. We didn’t have a ton of gigs in December, so we are starting to feel like we aren’t being considered by bookers the way we thought we would. And, if we are going to take strides in this new year, we need to change things. We need to stop being down. We need motivation. And you will find all the inspiration you need in January. At open mics.
I know. You think I’m nuts. Open mics aren’t inspiring, Pat. They are sad and vacant of life and hope. Maybe you saw them that way in November. And that is probably because the only people at those mics were the 7 comics you see every day and that one lonely man who goes to open mics to watch the way 70 year old gay men go to local theater. But, that was November. This, this is January. This is the most wonderful time of the year. Because open mics will become as packed and full of excitement as malls were in December. People waiting for their big moment. It’s new comic season!
While you sit there, reflecting on the past year of comedy for yourself and what you could of done better, many people who aren’t comics are doing just the opposite. They are making their bucket lists. They are telling themselves this will be the year that they finally chase their dreams. That they take chances. They will finally try their hand at stand up comedy. Their family and friends encourage them. They tell the dreamer that they will go to their first show. They buy them comedy books for Christmas to help them get ready, like How Not to Suck at Comedy. The aspiring comic is full of hope. And that delusional human is about to come to your usually boring mic. And they are bringing joy, excitement, annoying questions and at least 10 new audience members with them.
I know some comics find newbies annoying. And I think the main reason for that is that the longer you do comedy, the more you forget what it was like to start out. How open eyed and nervous you were. How you couldn’t stop thinking about what was going to happen instead of thinking why didn’t something happen. Being around new comics makes me remember. Their passion to try comedy becomes contagious, if you let it. Instead of watching them and being mad at how they don’t know how to hold the mic or don’t know what it means to get a light, just watch them. Watch them smile when they get that first real laugh. A laugh from strangers. That euphoric feeling we all got the first time we got that first laugh, you can see on the new comic’s face. Let yourself feel it too. Clap for them when their set ends. Don’t get mad that they told a joke from Family Guy or that they did a Arnold Schwarzenegger impression. They don’t know better yet. Enjoy their innocence.
Being around new comics, for me, is like when Rocky lost to Mr T and had to get the eye of the tiger back. So Apollo brought him to his gym. The gym was full of hungry, young, up and coming boxers. And when Rocky was around them, he got that feeling again. It reminded him about all the hard work he used to put in. When January comes around and I see all the new comics taking that first step, it reminds me of when I felt that way. And I feel passionate again. I feel inspired. I get focused.
Go on stage and do your 5 minutes. Try new things. Then say thanks when the brand new comic comes up to you and says “Wow! That was awesome.” And don’t get mad when they ask how long you have been doing it. Talk to them for a minute. I mean, yeah, it might inspire them and make them continue hitting mics and strengthen your comedy community and all that rah rah jazz. But what it will really do is make you feel good, because someone full of hope and dreams watched you and now wants to be able to do what you just did. Even if you thought what you did wasn’t good. To them, it was amazing. You have come along way since your first time. Sometimes, we need to be reminded of that in order to continue to come even farther.
So, take this last week of the year to set comedy goals and write some new jokes. Then, make sure you go hit a couple open mics as soon as you can in the new year. Post about the open mics on social media before you go. That way, if there is someone who has been wanting to try comedy for the first time happens to see it, they go. And you both can inspire each other. They can get that feeling for the first time. And you can get that feeling back.