Thinking of all this because Abbi Crutchfield suggested this as a guest post:
Open mics are an essential component of getting stage time, especially for less established comedians who do not have immediate access to being booked on shows. In addition to being an opportunity to grow as a comedian, they are a chance to get to know fellow performers, learn about new or existing shows, or get excellent accounting advice.
Nothing hurts your chances of establishing professional relationships more like leaving early. Even bombing on stage can be forgiven if you showed respect off stage. It follows the same bleeding heart logic robotically announced to you at the top of the night, "Do for others what you would appreciate when you're on stage." Sure there's no heckling, no writing, no staring open-mouthed, nostrils flared which are always appreciated, but seeing people duck out immediately after their set is a signal. To the host it sends the message that you had a horrible time and can't wait to leave, to the comics it sends the message that you think you're better than them or don't care what they have to say. I don't even want to imagine the hurtful message you're sending the chairs.
If you need to leave early, let the host know ahead of time. If you receive an unexpected text that takes you away, or if you have a two-hour commute back to your parent's house, live your life. But be mindful of the conversation it creates in your absence, the one that represents the positive feedback you could have received about your set or better yet--the chance to do less open mics and get on a booked show.
Slight problem. I often leave mics early. So my response:
interesting. i'm guilty of that sometimes.
why do i do it? i find mics to be insufferable. like they really drive me crazy. they sap my will to live. but i need stage time. so what do i do? do i stop going to mics? do i sit there and pout and fill the room with negative energy? or do i just force myself to smile and pretend i don't hate something that i hate?
i try to stick around for at least a few comics after i go up. i agree it's the polite thing to do. but overall, i figure it's the luck of the draw. if i go up late and a lot of people have left, i understand and figure it'll work out by me going up early another time.
Why do you hate it so much? I'm not being naive; I'm asking. I used to hate mics that were interminable, had hosts who would pick on any real audience there, or producers who would hog the stage. Not only was I getting home late, but I was spending hours being miserable. The unfunny comedian issue wasn't that big a deal for me. At the very least, the inanity is entertaining. But that's a bad mic. How awful can it be to stick around a good mic and glean ideas / laugh at buddies / impress producers of other shows? (By "good mic" I mean conveniently close to where you live or lasts short enough for you to enjoy home life, features people at your level or genuninely working to hone the craft, has an attentive crowd or draws a civilian audience, friendly, respectful vibe).
As host of a mic, I see younger, inexperienced comics who are so self-interested or embarrassed about bombing that they bolt after their set. One guy in particular would leave immediately after his set so often I had to put him up towards the middle or end so as not to spook the other young comics and create a domino effect. There's never a good reason to stick around a bad mic, just a little hope in staying and getting something out of a good mic.
Most comics at open mics are bad. And I hate bad comedy. It pains me. It's like going to a concert where a bunch of people are playing instruments that are out of tune. It's like nails on a chalkboard except the chalkboard is my brain. If I sit through too much of it, it takes away my love of standup.
And maybe the thing that pains me the most: A lot of these people are interesting. At least in some way. I just wish they'd go up onstage and talk. But instead they write these silly jokes that mean nothing and aren't really funny. At least if these people said what was actually going on in their minds or in their lives, it'd be somewhat compelling. Instead, it's just ten more jokes about the phrase "no homo."
Most GOOD comics at open mics are bad! All early ideas are weak because they're undeveloped. People try to write in joke format in an effort to make sure whatever their idea is will be funny. Your problem is with content. Are they REALLY that annoyed with unicorns? Or are they just referencing unicorns because they feel it makes them absurdist?
The real life stuff--yeah, I think there's more humor in truth, but if that's delivered from a hand holding a shaking piece of paper you couldn't care less about it anyway. The mic isn't bad. The people on it aren't lost causes. It's the bad attitudes that kill it. The funk creeps in like The Blob. The kind of mic hopelessly dreadful folks should be on is the one at Gotham that requires you to offer constructive feedback to each other. Because then someone who wraps themselves in mic chords is told "don't wrap yourself with the mic chord." For the record, I am told I have an unusually high tolerance for bad comedy.