Open Mic

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This weekend I went to an open mic comedy night. The room was abuzz with a variety of different faces and voices. Each of us tagged along to support one of the acts. Together we created a small sea of nervous friends and relatives. It’s unusual to find many performances outside of school musicals in which the audience feels possibly more anxious than the performers. 

It was an aura with which this particular bar seemed to revel in. The thick stench of stale beer, clearly the product of willful neglect on the part of the bar’s manager, thickened that anxious anticipation and perhaps even held it there perpetually, baked into the floorboards. 

I arrived on my own. The bar was in Greenwich and I, living in North-West London, very rarely travelled to that corner of town. I’ve been supporting my friend John in his stand up career for the last four years since his third ever open mic night. I had gone to visit him having promised to see him for a few months now and having not had the opportunity.

It was one of those weird sorts of social situations where you realise you are going to a social event alone for the most part. He would be with the performers for the largest part of the evening and I would be having to navigate a social space without a friend to lean on. A few years ago the thought of this would have sent me into a great and terrible panic with my social anxiety causing me to feel under threat in that sort of situation. However, having now spend a few years working on myself and becoming more at ease in these environments I wasn’t in the least bit nervous. 

I have to stress that the comedy club was packed. It was full of all sorts of people from all over London. The event itself was the biggest I’d ever seen John perform at. An open mic comedy night generally consists of a series of amateur stand up comics getting up on stage to perform their material for around 5 minutes each. This particular event had about 10 performers. 

It can be both extremely painful and rewarding to watch an amateur stand up. The lows can be cripplingly, painfully low but the highs are electric. It’s ok because everyone is there to support so if the performers fail it’s not such a big deal but it still doesn’t make up for the pain of a joke failing to connect with an audience. The silence can be all too much for both audience and performer. It’s a test of comedians’ strength to see how they can keep a show going after a joke falls and many of the newbies have not yet mastered this skill. 

On the flip side if a comedian does really well. If they are explosively good the audience reaction is electric. It’s a very special moment to be a part of. Seeing a new comedian set a crowd on fire with their words and spirit can make you feel like anything is possible. 

I of course was nervous for my friend’s performance. He’s been good in the past but he’s also been very bad. When he came on stage, however, he instantly charmed the audience with his candid personality and connected humour. He totally won the room and was seen as one of the best performers of the night. 

On a personal level, it was so great to see how his craft has evolved and how he has evolved as a performer. It just shows that if you love something and you work at it, eventually it pays off. Going out to stand up comedy is a great social experience because of how unique an atmosphere it is. If you’ve never been to one I recommend you go and if you’d like to take part in stand up comedy they’re a great place to start. 

Photo by Redd on Unsplash

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