So you want to start doing comedy in the Salem Area?

So You Want To Start Doing Comedy In The Salem Area?

You seen em on Conan and Letterman, maybe at the Elsinore or Spirit Mountain or at Helium or Harvey’s Comedy Club in Portland, stand up comedy seems to be everywhere these days, and the mid-valley has it’s share of comedians.

Now you want to try your hand at stand up. Congratulations, don’t tell anybody. Maybe someone who thinks you are funny, but don’t go telling people you are a stand up now. You’ve got to see what it’s all about, you’ve got to see the sausage being made, you’ve got to come watch an open mic or two.

Open mics are where jokes are written and refined, in time, they will finished and snappy, but for now they are sloppy and long winded. You have to see this for yourself, and then realize, that if you want to take stand up with any degree of seriousness, you will be involved in a lot of nights at bars, clubs and coffee shops waiting your turn to try and make an audience laugh.

If you are still with me then now comes the good part, here is all you need to know before you get on stage for your first time.

1. Check out the list of open mics in Salem and Portland. If Portland is too far for you to go, you are going to have to start going to Portland and Eugene (and eventually Seattle, Tacoma, Spokane, etc) if you want to start getting gigs out of town. Don’t let that scare you away, I’d recommend not spending too much time in Portland till you have a little experience under your belt.

But just go to visit, observe the host and the comics and bring a stopwatch. Time people to see how long their sets are get a feel for what 3-5 minutes feels like, note how many jokes they tell. Watch to see if the host gives the comics a signal to “wrap it up”. That’s what we comics call “the light”. Respect that light! Nobody will like you if you abuse stage time and stay up too long.

2. You’ve got to write some jokes. Maybe you already have some, good. Take that stopwatch from step one and time yourself while rehearsing them out loud. Try to figure out 5 minutes worth of material and then try to memorize it.

3. Come to the open mic alone or with your trusted friend that knows you are going to try stand up once you have decided that you are going to go up that week and find the host before the show and introduce yourself. Find out what place you are in the list, ask about the light and be somewhere the host can see you when it’s getting near your turn.

4. You are probably going to be nervous and your instinct will be to get drunk to fight off the nerves, so I’m going to tell you this now, try not to be that nervous, it’s your first time and few people are that good their first time. Nobody is going to judge your future performances by your first one unless you say something to completely alienate the crowd. In other words, it’s not a big deal if you suck your first time, stand up is a process and it’s going to take a lot of practice to get good.

5. When you get called up to the stage, get on stage fast, the more time you take to start talking the more time the audience has to get bored with you. Decide whether you are going to leave the mic in the stand and adjust it to your height or take the mic out of the stand. If you go with out of the stand, move the stand out of the way and bring the stand back near the front when you finish. Avoid swinging the cable around, audience members will find it distracting. Don’t cup the top end of the mic, that causes feedback. Speak into the mic loudly and project your voice. Try not to pace and watch for other nervous tics you may need to work on.

6. Film the experience, even if it’s just with a smartphone or ipod. You need to see what worked and what didn’t  You can save them on youtube and make the videos unlisted so you don’t have to keep them on a hard drive and nobody can see them unless you link them to it.

7. Keep going, like I said previously, stand up comedy is process and it takes hard work and dedication to get really good.

I wish you best of luck and look forward to seeing you at the open mics.