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First off, I just want to say thank you to everyone that has been reading these articles and giving me feedback. One of things I love more than performing is writing, so this has been a great outlet!
In my last article I spoke about open mic formats and etiquette and went on a small tangent about why we should be tipping the staff. Then I thought: why don't I ask people who would know better than me: The Staff. The hosts, the venues, and bookers have a much better sense than I do.
In this article, I speak with several professionals about the importance of supporting the venue.
Excerpt From Previous Article:
1) Response to Full Previous Article in Which I Asked for Feedback and Tidbit #1
Thank you Niki Luparelli!
Niki is not only the host of the monthly open mic at the Bull Mansion in Worcester, MA, but has also opened for Jane Lynch, has held the prestigious "Comic in Residence" at the renowned Comedy Studio, and has had her comedy featured on AMC. Not only great feedback, but packed full of experience.
February 15, 2018 Boston Museum of Science Planetarium
To further discuss the importance I turned to the bar manager from a weekly open mic I frequent at Alchemy in Providence, RI:
Windsong Hadley has been booking and supporting comedy in venues she has been affiliated with for over ten years. Some of the more recent venues were Benchwarmers in Massachusetts, Firehouse 13 in Providence, and currently Alchemy. Notable comedians she has had the privilege to be a part of hosting include Kyle Kinane, The Trailer Park Boys Sam Losco, Randy & Mr. Lahey. At the start of 2018, she will be opening a new venue, Askew in downtown Providence stating, "I intend on booking six to ten comedy shows per month."
Yes, Windsong is her real name despite my autocorrect trying to tell me it's wingding.
It's Windsong, not Paint With All the Colors of the Wind.
I had her answer a few questions; here are the other tidbits:
Martin: 2) Why do you enjoy hosting comedy nights?
Windsong: Jeez, where do I start lol... so many reasons. I enjoy being a part of the cultivation and creation of all artists and entertainers. Not only in comedy, but in all forms of art, whether it be music, literature, art, photography, etc. I absolutely appreciate the process and the hard work that performers must put in. There are so many talented individuals out there that just need or want a little help or support in regards to exposure or in the development of their performance. So Open Mic Nights, while not only thoroughly entertaining me lol, gives all comics whether new and up and coming or skilled veterans, a creative forum to work on new material, develop their jokes, improve their layout and delivery, and it offers a space for networking amongst other comedians of all different levels of experience. Everybody has to start somewhere.
3) Amateur or not, Open Mic is very raw, untested material. Who watches and why?
Open Mics are raw, untested material, which is another reason I love them. They haven't been censored yet. While maybe not always starting completely PC, it gives you the opportunity to witness comics groom their material into a PC performance. I, however, tend to be a fan of the less PC comedy lol. Currently, the majority of people who support Open Mics are the comedians. However, through marketing, I would love to see more spectators come out to watch these Mic Nights. Not only to benefit the venues, which ensures the longevity of the Open Mic Nights, but also because it develops a following or fanbase for comics on a local level. Open Mics also offers a night of free entertainment for those people on a budget.
4) What would make an open mic night successful in the eyes of the venue?
Often, I combine Open Mics with other events in the venue, so it minimizes the pressure for the Open Mic to support the costs of opening the doors to the venue for the night. None of us are in it to make a million dollars. We just need to cover costs. So in my opinion, an Open Mic with 20-25 comedians is perfect. If everyone just purchases one beverage or item, even a soda, it helps sustain the event. I totally understand that struggling artists rarely have a lot of money, so I would never require a purchase for a comic to sign up, but a moderate number of sales does help convince owners and management to continue to book the smaller comedy events.
5) What is the biggest nightmare you have seen happen during a Mic and did that affect your decision to keep doing it?
Comics are funny... pun intended... which does eventually include some drama, but no, it has never swayed my decision or even crossed my mind to stop hosting or booking these events. I think it goes without saying that eventually when dealing with artists or entertainers, as a venue, we will have to cater to some ego or drama. But I never take it personally, which is why I am not a fan of censoring comedians. I feel that each entertainer is really representing themselves. It's their five minutes. Their reputation and behavior is their own problem and will dictate their own personal success. I am only trying to provide to forum and the space for them to express themselves. I will say, as a spectator, it is painful to watch a comedian try to dig their way back from a bout of bad crowd work or some misplaced politically incorrect statements. My heart goes out to them in those moments.
6) What are your expectations for the people who sign up at the Mic?
I keep my expectations low for Open Mic performers (I save the high expectations for showcases). Like I said, I understand everyone is working on their material. However, in that regard, I do expect all people that sign up to have an actual interest in the process and work that their fellow comedians have put in. By this, I mean that I am not a fan of random, drunk customers thinking they are gonna take a whack at stand-up at an Open Mic because it's looks so "easy" and their friends tell them they are "funny." I want everyone to respect the art of it, I guess. Comics take time to write down their material, improve it, seek advice on it, practice it... I want that to be respected by everyone that signs up, not mocked. This is probably my one and only rule for the stage. However, hosting is a different story. I look at the host as a representative of my venue. Therefore, I expect a certain level of professionalism from that position.
7) Have you ever tried comedy? Does that change your perspective on it at all?
I will admit, I have not taken the plunge and gotten on stage yet. I have hosted multiple comedic events. I have a profound respect for the work and the courage it takes for comics to get up there. I am writing down material and do plan on making my debut when I open my new venue. I've been promising the comedians for three years this will happen, and soon it will.
8) You have seen a lot more open mic comedy than the average new comedian. Do you have any tips?
I think the best tip I could give a new comedian is to attend these Open Mics, whether it is one of mine or another fellow comics. Ask questions and advice! Most comics are willing to help new comedians; They can sympathize with them. Many times a joke is funny, and all it needs is a little guidance on structure or delivery. Networking at these events will give new comics the opportunity to meet people that can give them spots on showcases throughout the region. Be a part the comedy community.
9) In case somebody doesn't know, what's the proper way to tip on a drink/food?
Proper way to tip on a drink: As a bartender, I am a firm advocate of customer service. Good service equals a good tip from me. However, standard would be $1.00 on a single drink. 15-20 percent would be ideal on large orders. Personally, I also tip based on the number of trips/requests I ask the waitress/bartender to make. For example, if you order tap water three times that equals three drinks. If they have to run to kitchen several times for extras, such as dressings or mayo, added gratuity is appreciated. If you have an extreme customizing request in regards to the beverage or food, it's nice to tip extra for the inconvenience. It is a case by case basis. Overall, a tip is "Gratuity." If your bartender/waitress was attentive, efficient, and accommodating, then be "grateful" and remember they only make about $4.00/hour. $4.00/hour isn't paying anyone's bills!
>>> From a bartender to a Performer, here's a tip: Be the bartender's best friend!!! They are your cheapest form of marketing!!! If you make a lasting, good impression, bartenders talk to many people, people who come to watch comedy shows. How many times have you chatted up a bartender at a comedy event and they told you about the great/bad comic they saw/had there last week/month/year? Remember how you want to be remembered!!!
Thank You Windsong! Look out for Askew in 2018!
The final tidbit comes from fellow working comic Dennis Mello (Rogue Island Comedy Festival, The Comedy Connection), also the host of Alchemy and the upcoming shows at Askew.
10) You can always buy a drink for someone else.
Even if you don't drink, you can always buy a round for someone else.
Good advice even if it might be his way to get free drinks.
Grab a drink for someone that you want advice from or maybe just really appreciated a punchline. Either way, it's helping the scene by helping the venue and maybe even your set.
- Even if you don't drink, buy a soda or round for someone else
- Comedy is a long game, so hang out for a while.
- Do what you can to support the space you're in.
As always if you want to geek out on more intricate comedy articles, please check out fellow comic Pat Oates' articles on Laugh Staff.