So you want to be a stand-up comic? Good for you, Junior.  But it’s not like you can just head over to stand-up comedy headquarters and apply for a job.  That’s why the comedy gods invented open mic nights, a chance for you (and dozens of your slovenly counterparts) to try your hand at stand-up stardom for the price of two vodka tonics and potential public humiliation.  

It’s also a place to observe other comedy beginners in the wild. No less an authority than Judd Apatow recommends watching sets at open mics to fine-tune your stand-up. To get you started, here’s a field guide to 14 types of comics you’re likely to meet when you head to an open mic night.  

Comic With Strong Opinions on Free Speech... and Dick Jokes!

This libertarian comic works in the storied tradition of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, and Richard Pryor, holding fast to the virtues of the First Amendment while shaking a fist at the oppressive forces of censorship and Orwellian thought control. Also, his dingaling has a mind of its own, swear to Jesus!  If you could hear what the little rascal was thinking, it would probably sound a little something like this … 

Comic Who Lost In Fantasy Football

Several fantasy football leagues not only award a trophy to their champions but dole out punishments to basement dwellers as well.  The retribution usually involves some form of disgrace, like getting an ass tattoo of a hated rival’s helmet or spending 24 hours in a Waffle House.  An increasingly popular penalty is forcing the loser to perform five painful minutes at a comedy club.  That’s right, your professional aspiration is most people’s idea of punitive torture. 

Comic Overcoming Crippling Anxiety Disorder

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No better way to teach someone to swim than to throw them in shark-infested waters

Not all online therapists have good ideas.  A bad one involves sending poor saps with devastating social anxiety to comedy clubs to overcome their fears on a public stage.  We’re guessing the idea is “why entertain unfounded fears about social mortification when you can create actual memories that are so much worse?”  And never mind the folks who paid a $5 cover charge to watch you work through your sh*t on their dime.

Comic Who’s Above All This

This comic isn’t a beginner, OK?  Just working out some material before heading to Chicago this weekend.  As seen on Last Comic Standing, Conan, Inside Jokes, Netflix’s The Standups, and the Sir Laffalot podcast. Marc Maron says the comic might really have something. This last joke might have been a little over your heads, it's more of a Brooklyn bit. Here’s a story about opening for Ali Wong when the regular opener was sick.  Did she mention she's recording this and you might need to sign a waiver? 

Comic With a Ukulele

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Hey, it worked for Zoeey Deschenal

Comic with a Ukulele isn’t a musical comedian per se so if you’re expecting some kind of Weird Al experience, you’re out of luck.  But if you want a twee Wes Anderson soundtrack underneath gentle observations about how relationships are like instant oatmeal, Comic with a Ukulele fits the bill. Used to be Comic with an Acoustic Guitar, but Gen Z, you know?

Comic Who Didn’t See the Flashing Light

“You call those pleats? I’ve seen better pants on … hey, I’m just about done here, give me a sec. I’ve seen better pants on … Can I finish? I’m about ten words from the punchline … Come on, man, it’s ten words!  You let the stuttering guy have an extra minute, I timed it!  I know the owner.  If I don't get off the stage, you're bringing back the guy with the ukulele? OK, everybody, that’s my time!”

Comic Who Tells Nate Bargatze Jokes

Hey, this comic can always hire joke writers later, right?  For now, it’s delivery that matters so why not practice with the best of nonchalant jokester Nate Bargatze?  Have you heard his bit about community college?  “I went to a community college for an entire year and I don’t have one credit. The reason is I had to take remedial classes, which means ‘we have no idea how your high school let you leave. We are shocked and we’re going to look into it.’” 

Netflix

He writes jokes so amateur hacks don't have to

It’s funnier when Nate tells it.  

Comic Throwing Catchphrases at the Wall To See Which Ones Stick

“I know what you’re thinking -- this gal looks like a cross between Tina Fey and a Keebler elf! Boom-chaka-laka!   My life is like a romantic comedy--except there’s no romance and I ain’t laughing!  Kapowzers!  Forget one-night stands, I’ve got two night stands--on either side of my bed! Okey smokey, cantaloupey!”

Out-of-Jokes Comic Doing A Little Crowd Work

“So you work around here?  Yeah, what do you do?  Data entry?  That’s still a thing? OK.  You do that from home?  Yeah? You have any coworkers or a supervisor or … pretty self-directed?  OK.  Just … numbers, a bunch of numbers?  Yeah, OK. You dating or … OK. Pets?  A pet, you have a pet?  No?  Roommates?  Cool, what’s his name? Steve, OK.  Yeah, that’s … sure. How long has he been sick? (long exhale)” 

Comic Who Brought A Few Friends

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WE LOVE YOU, JOHNNY! WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Clubs love it when comics bring friends WOOOOO! to the show. If each of them buys two drinks HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!, it can make the difference for a profitable night. YOOOOOOOOOOOO!  Of course, you can overdo it WOOOOOOOO! by bringing too many well-wishers HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA who make your OK jokes sound lame YEAH JOHNNY! thanks to an overly enthusiastic reaction HAHAHAHAHAHA.  Raucous applause, followed by the sound of 14 people leaving at once. 

Comic In Need of a Confessional

So many of our best stand-ups mine private pain for our entertainment.  Hey, if it happened to you and not me, it’s hilarious!  It’s just that some open-mic’ers can forget to mix in the jokes along the way.  You left your fiancee three days before the wedding and you can’t get over the guilt? You fell for an online scheme and you’re tens of thousands in debt? Your mom has Alzheimer's and you can’t bring yourself to visit her?  We guess it’s … relatable?  But a punchline or two wouldn’t hurt. 

Comic Who Just Discovered They Have Hands

Sure, the comic has had hands for years.  But somehow, in front of a room full of strangers, they seem like alien beings with minds of their own. Do hands go in pockets?  Do hands make oversized gestures to drive home a point?  Do hands flail wildly because where did these things come from anyway?  Why do they insist on making shadow puppets?  

Comic In The Middle of Joker Origin Story

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I've got nothing left to lose. Nothing can hurt me anymore. My life is nothing but a comedy.

This sweaty comic seems to be in world of his own, erupting in nervous laughter when his punchlines don’t land. His glassy stare lands on random audience members, lingering for uncomfortable stretches as he mumbles through “funny” stories about his abusive parents.  Is he talking to himself now?  Does he know he’s on stage? Maybe we’d all better laugh, just to be on the safe side …

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