By: Jesse Tuttle | Twitter: @jessemtuttle | Posted: July 19, 2014
Is there such a thing as a stupid question? Yes, actually. You asking whether or not there are stupid questions is in, and of itself, a stupid question. Irony. I think. I've never figured out how to use that correctly. Anyway --- questions!
When running an open mic you will deal with a wide array of different people going on stage and almost all of them will have questions. How do I sign up? What are the guidelines? Why do my fingers smell? These are easily answered need-to-know type things that you should be asking.
But there are others. Oh, how there are other questions that turn someone who wanted to start a room for people to get stage time into a bitter performer who has lost their comedic soul. Questions like:
Q: I don't wanna be there early, can I just show up when I'm supposed to go on?
A: And right off the bat my insides are cringing. We should bump the entire list back one spot so if/when you decide to show up you can strut into the room while we call to attention with a "HEARYE! HEARYE!" that his majesty has arrived? Assumably allowing you to whip off your sunglasses (because it's 9:32 PM, so why wouldn't you have them on?) and toss your dated leather jacket to a bevy of groupies while you prepare to rock star the shit out of that room with unprepared material?
Or are you asking us to placate to your sensitive timing issues because you have a bro date at another bar and if you do indeed decide to grace the room with your farts that have not an ounce of odor - we are to get you on that stage, post haste! Not a second of your time shan't we waste! (Either way, no, you can not. That was a long way to go to say no, wasn't it? You can see how the remainder of this article is going to go.)
Q: When do I get paid?
A: HAHAHA (That's it. That's actually an appropriate answer.)
Q: Do I get free drinks if I perform?
A: Yes, if your friends buy them for you.
FOLLOW UP Q: Ug, this bar won't give free drinks to their performers?
A: Most places will give free drinks if you show up with a legal pad full of mediocre jokes and cute play-on-word stories. But this place *look around to make sure no one is listening* don't repeat this because it's just hearsay. But this place? I heard this bar makes more money off their drinks than with their No Cover Charge entertainment. I know, right!? All about the money to them damn high filutin' fat cats and their "wanting their business to make a profit." Corporate greed is the way of the worldÉ no two ways about it.
Q: When do I get to headline? (Asked usually after one/three times on stage)
A: When you book your own show and give yourself that much time. How do you think most people get longer sets? Because someone saw their first time on stage and thought they were talented enough to do it? You silly Pooh. It's either that, or years of work getting better until you actually earn headlining a showcase show.
FOLLOW UP Q: THEN I get paid!?
A: HAHAHA (Still, that question just makes me laugh.)
Q: Can I go over my time?
A: Your time on stage is the equivalent to a speed limit while you are driving. If your driving record is solid and you aren't screwing up any other laws, you can probably get away with going over a little without punishment. But, if you are still on a permit and there is a cop (or just a person that can suspend you from "driving" for a while) who is waiving a light at you to let you know you are about at the limit - how far are you going to go over?
There is a reason you can only go so long. There are other people on the list and the show is slated to run so long. The show isn't all about you. (I know. Life is hard and other people suck.) There will be other roads with much higher limits. Until then, stay in your lane and don't get any tickets.
Q: Can I go on last?
A: I get it. You're nervous and want more time to relax before jumping on stage. You want it to be easier when you get up there to help the anxiety. I understand that. But by asking this, I'm probably going to put you first. Not to be a dick, but if it's your 1st-4th time, you are probably slated to go first beforehand. Unless you brought a lot of people, then you will go next to last so your friends stay and the bar can make some money off drinks. Going last is reserved for someone with a good track record. Even on an open mic it's the last person the crowd will see before leaving and deciding if they want to come back. It's not personal, you might get the most reaction out of the crowd all night. But if I don't know you well then I don't trust you to make a solid attempt to close the show strong.
Q: Why are there so many rules? It's just an open mic. Who cares.
A: Simple. We get sick sexual pleasure out of our rules fetish. Our palms get sweaty when we ask people to show up on time. Our knees get weak when we ask you to come a little prepared and stick to the time given. Oh, OH! How the blood pumps to the lower half of our body when we ask you to just act like an adult and be the slight bit respectful to the people running the show that you get to perform on for free. Our hands start touching our no-no zones when we ask you to be courteous of the other performers who used to go up in front of three people every week to help slowly build to a full room that you now get to just walk in and perform in front of. We know, we have a problem over the perverse power we get having pretty laid back guidelines. We agree with you. We need therapy.
I like being helpful. I like answering questions from newer people signing up; running a room. That's kind of the job. If you perform in a room and the person running it treats you poorly because you ask questions, stop doing their room. They are probably a bitter, want-to-be performer who can't get booked elsewhere so they try to be a big fish in a small pond at open mics. But in fairness, they probably got that way because a lot of people asked all the questions above and it broke their comedic soul.