PREPARE! I can’t stand watching open mic’ers get up onstage and fumble through an idea they had earlier in the day. The purpose of an open mic is to test your material out on a live audience to see if it works. Write it out. Edit it. Practice it alone. Practice it in front of a friend.
When I’m preparing for a stand up set, I practice the routine while driving. If I can get through the routine without any mistakes while driving, I know I’ll be able to handle the mental distractions that come from standing in front of an audience.
Some comics like to look “unpolished” and so they don’t prepare and they get onstage and they end up just looking “ungood”. Be good. Be great. Be prepared. (okay now all I can hear is Scar singing Be Prepared)
I would suggest you go without a group of friends, not because you might bomb, but because you don’t want to have a false sense of success. Your friends are nice. They will laugh to be kind, or because they know you, or they are nervous for you, or because they simply like your sense of humor more than a complete stranger does. But the goal of an open mic is to find out if your material works on complete strangers. Save your friends for later when you are doing real shows and need to pack the house.
Now let me tell you about my first open mic. I did my first stand up open mic after I had already been performing professional improv comedy shows for several years. I had a pretty good level of confidence in my ability to hold an audience and keep them laughing. Before doing the open mic, I performed my first stand up routine ever at my college’s family weekend talent show. I killed.
At the open mic (at the St. Louis Funny Bone) the first thing I told the audience was that I was engaged to be married. They booed me. I said, “Well that’s all I have to talk about so…” which got a bit of a laugh. Then I proceeded to do 3 minutes of jokes about getting married. The audience listened, but there weren’t many laughs.
My first open mic. I got booed. But I went back. Whatever happens at your first open mic, go back.
Nice to know that I’m kinda doing something right. I’ve been practicing and practicing, but I was starting to worry that I might seem stilted if I overprepared. Plus I really felt like I wanted to go alone, mainly because I don’t want my friends to see me fail. I’m excited about trying it, but I also have no illusions about it actually going well at all.